Ruth is amazing. Naomi is amazing. Boaz is amazing. What a breath of fresh air after reading Numbers and Judges! Ok, now having said that…
Is it Ok for a woman to proposition a man? I’ve often thought that a woman is able to flirt and let her intentions be known, but a man’s first step as a leader and as a man is to get past his fear and take initiative. And here in the book of Ruth, she makes her intentions clear.
It’s fascinating in that she is just caring for her mother-in-law and not pursuing a man. But when Naomi realizes that Boaz is her kinsmen-redeemer, she sees how she can care for Ruth.
The Kinsmen Redeemer
For a pause, a kinsmen redeemer is linked to a Levirate marriage (Deut 25:5-10). It was critically important that a man’s name and family line continued in Israel. If someone died prematurely without a son to carry on the last name of the family line, then it meant his line was extinguished. Forever. Something that was terrible.
To stop this from happening, the Lord had them institute a Levirate marriage. If a man died, that man’s nearest single relative was to marry the widow. They were to have children together and the first son would carry on the name of the dead brother. Then any future sons would belong to the man who married the widow. The man who married the widow was called the kinsman redeemer as he redeemed the family line of the deceased man.
Boaz, the Second in Line
Naomi realized that Boaz was a potential kinsmen redeemer for Ruth’s deceased husband Mahlon. So she instructed Ruth to go lie at the feet of Boaz and when he woke, to ask him to spread his garment over her. Now that wasn’t a literally spreading a garment over her (although he did do that), but it was a figurative way to say will you cover me/marry me as my kinsmen redeemer?
Boaz was amazing at Ruth because she didn’t pursue young handsome men, rich or poor men, but he, somewhat older than she was. He agreed immediately that he would do right by her, but first he had to check with another. There was a closer relative who was by law first to be offered as a kinsmen redeemer.
That man was offered property of the deceased family and he said yes. But then Boaz reminded him that if he took the property, then it meant he was also claiming he was the closest relative and therefore needed to take Ruth as a wife. At that point, the man said no.
So with that before the witnesses, Boaz announced that he would take the property and also marry the widow, Ruth. They sealed the deal with the exchange of the shoe. That is the same as today where many things are sealed with a signature.
The Children of Naomi
Boaz took Ruth and together they had children. In fact, it was not just any children they had but Boaz and Ruth were the great grand-parents of King David. They were also ancestors of the Messiah.
But it wasn’t just about Ruth and Boaz so much as it was about Naomi. Which is why I still think this book should be called “Naomi.”
Look at how this text ends:
“Then the women said to Naomi, “Praise the LORD, who has not left you without a family redeemer today. May his name become well known in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. Indeed, your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Naomi took the child, placed him on her lap, and took care of him. The neighbor women said, “A son has been born to Naomi,” and they named him Obed. He was the fatehr of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4:14-17).
Did you catch that? “A son has been born to Naomi” (v. 17). This isn’t about Ruth and Boaz, but about the redemption of Naomi.
Naomi had suffered bitterly going to a distant land to survive a famine. Her sons had intermarried with the Moabites who while distant relatives (Moab was the son of Lot (Gen 19:37)), were also hostile and enemies of Israel (Num 21). Both her sons had died and at that point, she felt like the judgment of God was heavy upon her. She returned to Israel in shame and bitterness of heart.
But there was great, great redemption from the Lord. He would redeem her in a mighty way by placing her in a family again (Ps 68:6). She would have a daughter-in-law that was so noble and faithful that it was said of her that she was better than seven sons (Ruth 4:15), a HUGE compliment. And she would have grandchildren to hold in her arms (Ruth 4:16).
If that wasn’t enough, she would be the great-grandmother of David and ultimately the Messiah. Her name would live in.
The Breathtaking Redemption of God
Naomi’s life was so difficult, so hard, so filled with awful and bitter events. But the LORD saw this woman in the land of Israel where sin and mayhem abounded, but he saw her heart, lifted her up and placed her in high places. He redeemed the years of hardship with his greater glory.
What a beautiful story of redemption on so many levels. And the way this story ends with her genealogy leading to King David, it’s the exciting whisper of heaven of greater redemption to come.