|Painting by Antonio Cortina Farinos [1841-1890]|
At this point in the story Naomi stepped in as the matchmaker for the welfare of her daughter-in-law by suggesting Ruth go to the threshing floor. While sleeping at his feet could be interpreted as an immoral step, Naomi knew that Ruth was "a woman of noble character" (3:11).The uncovering of his feet was an Israelite ceremonial act. It was common for a servant to lie at the feet of the master and share a part of his covering. By this act, Ruth was informing Boaz that he could be her kinsman-redeemer by finding a near relative to marry her or marrying her himself.
A kinsman-redeemer was a relative who volunteered to take in the extended family. The law provided that a widow could marry a brother of her dead husband. This was called a "levirate marriage" (levir is the Latin word for a husband's brother) and is stipulated in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. If there were no brothers, the nearest relative to the deceased husband could become the kinsman-redeemer and marry the widow, but it was not a requirement.
Boaz, being an honorable man, knew that he was
not the nearest relative, but he was willing to go to the nearest relative, and if that man did not want to marry Ruth, he surely would.
Boaz praised Ruth for being willing to marry an older man like himself rather than a younger man who was not a relative. She had shown loyal lovingkindness to her first husband, Mahlon, by being committed to Naomi and seeking to carry on his family name (4:10). Boaz praised her for being a "noble woman." This is the same Hebrew word that describes the woman in Proverbs 31.
The nearer kinsman had the right to the property for sale (Leviticus 25:23-34). In order to qualify as a kinsman-redeemer, one had to be able to pay the redemption price. The nearest relative wanted to pay that price until he learned that Ruth was part of the bargain. That was too high a price for him to pay because it might endanger his own estate. Some have speculated it was because if a child were born through his union with Ruth, that son would have a right to his own estate and that wealth would be transferred to Elimelech's family.
Regardless, the way was clear for Boaz to redeem Ruth, the Moabitess, and make him his wife. He could pay that high price. The passing of the sandal symbolized Boaz's right to walk on the land he redeemed as his property (Deuteronomy 1:36; 11:24; Joshua 1:3; 14:9).
The Scarlet Thread of Redemption
This story has both historical and symbolic significance. Historically, Ruth and Boaz became the proud parents of Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David, and this line would continue to the Eternal King of all kings, Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-16)!
Symbolically, it portrays a kinsman-redeemer (Boaz) coming for his bride (Ruth). This is a beautiful picture of Christ, as our kinsman-redeemer, coming for His bride, the church. Jesus paid the high price for our redemption!
You have probably read this quote on a bumper sticker:
"Well-behaved women seldom make history."
This implies that women need to misbehave if they are going to make any progress in the world. The quote was written by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in a 1976 article about Puritan women.
In the article Ulrich is lauding "well-behaved" women because they have quietly and humbly woven the fabric of history without a word being said about them in print. (I read A Midwife's Tale: The Diary of Martha Ballard by Ulrich, and she makes a similar point.
Ruth is an exception; she was very well-behaved AND her name is the title of one of the history books of the Bible (an honor given to only one other woman: Esther)! In addition, she is one of the few women in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1).
She embraced Israel's God, showed loyal lovingkindness to her mother-in-law, exemplified humility and purity in her interactions with Boaz. God rewarded her with His loyal lovingkindness by giving her a kinsman-redeemer. Beautiful!
We can make "quiet" history and change the world by our gentle, patient, humble ways. Ruth is such a good example for all of us.
Lord, Thank You for sending our Redeemer, Jesus, who paid the ultimate price for our salvation, by His death on the cross. Lord, give us the character of Ruth through Your Spirit working in and through us to bring glory to You. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.