A Study of Ruth 4:1-12
When we were elementary children, we had to learn vocabulary. What does pledge mean? What does allegiance mean? Republic? Indivisible? When we commit our lives to Christ, we enter God’s school—the School of the Bible—and He has some vocabulary words for us. We don’t need to avoid those words, but to learn them—words like salvation, justification, atonement, grace and—redemption.
Redemption in the Law of Moses
These are common words today. We talk about redeeming frequent flyer miles, and we talk about whether a particular athlete can redeem himself after a poor performance. But how does the Bible use these words? To redeem means to purchase back something that has been lost.
Leviticus 25:25 says: If one of your fellow Israelites become poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold.
When Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, they divided up the land by tribes, by clans, and by families. A piece of land was to stay within its family, generation after generation, typically going the firstborn. If I ran into hard times and sold my land, I was losing it for the future generations who would come me. So the law made provision for my relative to redeem it and to restore it to me.
The process was complicated when a young man got married and died without leaving heir. So there was another provision in the law, which is called the Levirate Law.
Deuteronomy 25: 5 says: If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will be blotted out from Israel.
If a man married a woman and died without children, his name could disappear from the genealogical records of Israel and his land would be sold. So a provision was made for an unmarried brother or close relative to step in and become her husband so that the legacy and inheritance would continue.
Sometimes these two laws became linked together. And that brings us to the book of Ruth, as we pick up our study in chapter 4.
Redemption in the Book of Ruth
Verse 1: Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate…
The town gate in many ancient villages was a wide area in the wall that surrounded the city and it often had rooms and places where meetings could be held.
Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down.
Verse 2: Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek.
In other words, she is bankrupt and is about to lose the land.
Verse 4: I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”
“I will redeem it,” he said.
In the book of Ruth, the Hebrew words for redeem and redemption occurs 20 times. It is truly the theme of this book.
This other man said he would exercise the right of redemption from Leviticus 25, and he would keep the land in the family. But now, Boaz said, “By the way, there is one other thing. The right of redemption triggers the levirate clause, and you also have to marry the Moabite maiden, Ruth.
Verse 5: Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property. At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”
That’s what Boaz wanted to hear. And here we have an ancient parenthesis because even in the days of David and Solomon, some of the customs had become obscure. (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)
The story of Ruth was probably written long afterward during the days of David or Solomon, so the writer give us a parenthetical statement explaining that in the days of the Judges, if I agreed to sell you a piece of land, I would take off my sandal and give it to you, apparently signifying that now you had the right to walk on that land and not me. It belongs to you.
Verse 8: So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal. Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion, and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!” Then the enders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”
Ruth experienced redemption. Redemption means to purchase something back that has been lost. And what did she acquire through redemption? She acquired three things.
- A Lost Inheritance in verse 9: Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion, and Mahlon. This guaranteed that this prized family property, about be lost forever, would now remain in the family of Naomi and of Ruth.
- A Loving Husband in verse 10: I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess…as my wife. Ruth was about to become the bride of a loving and wealthy and godly husband.
- And a Lasting Legacy in verse 11: May the Lord make the women who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel.. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.
When we are redeemed by Jesus Christ, we acquire our lost inheritance. We acquire a loving husband—we become the bride of Christ. And we acquire a lasting legacy. Our lives have significance, and we find the purpose for which God made us.
Redemption in the New Testament
The theme that is introduced in the Law of Moses and illustrated in the book of Ruth is brought to fruition in the teachings of the New Testament.
- In Luke 2, Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, took Him to the temple to dedicate Him. And when they entered the temple courtyards, an elderly woman named Anna gave thanks and began speaking about the child to all who were looking forward to redemption.
- Romans 3:23-25: …for all have sinned and falls short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood, to be received by faith.
- Galatians 3:13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a cruse for us, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us….
- Galatians 4:4-5: But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
- Ephesians 1:7: In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.
- Titus 2:14: (Christ) gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify to Himself a people that are His very own.
- Hebrews 9:12: He did not enter (the Most Holy Place) by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
- 1 Peter 1:8: For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
Jesus Christ redeemed us from sin and hell and judgement—He redeemed us from slavery by His own precious blood and in Him we acquired our lost inheritance, a love husband, and a lasting legacy.
One of the best ways I know of trying to convey the excite of what this means is by thinking of what it would have meant to a slave who was redeemed from bondage. Think of how people felt on New Year’s Day in 1863 when President Lincoln signed the Proclamation of Emancipation.
Civil Rights activist Frederick Douglass was among 3,000 mostly African-Americans who gathered at the Tremont (Baptist) Temple in Boston.
I was in Boston and… an immense assembly convened in Tremont Temple to await the first flash of the electric wires announcing the…proclamation if it came; and if it did not come, to speak our minds freely; for, in view of the past, it was by no means certain that it would come. The occasion, therefore, was one of both hope and fear…. Every moment of waiting chilled our hopes and strengthened our fears. A line of messengers was established between the telegraph office and the platform of Tremont Temple, and the time was occupied with brief speeches…. But speaking or listening to speeches was not the thing for which the people had come together. The time for argument was passed. It was not logic, but the trump of jubilee which everybody wanted to hear. We were waiting and listening as for a bolt from the sky, which should rend the fetters of four million of slaves. We were watching, as it were, by the dim light of the stars, for the dawn of a new day. We were longing for the answer to the agonizing prayers of centuries…. We wanted to join in the shout of freedom and in the anthem of the redeemed.
Eight, nine, ten o’clock came and went, and still no word. A visible shadow seemed falling on the expected throng…. At last, when patience was well-nigh exhausted, and suspense was becoming agony, a man—I think it was Judge Russell—with hasty step advanced through the crowds, and with a face fairly illumined with the news he bore, exclaimed in tone that thrilled all hearts, “It is coming! It is on the wires!” The effect of this announcement was startling beyond description, and the scene was wild and grand. Joy and gladness exhausted all forms of expression from shouts of praise, to sobs, and tears. My old friend Rue, a colored preacher, a man of wonderful vocal power, expressed the heartfelt emotion of the hour, when he led all voices in the anthem, “Sound the loud timbrel o’er Egypt’s dark sea, Jehovah has triumphed, His people are free.”
Perhaps you need redemption today. Receive Christ as Savior. Don’t delay. If you have been redeemed by blood, never stop celebrating it.
Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb
Redeemed through His infinite mercy.
His child and forever I am.