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To the City Gate and Back (1)

Ruth 4


I.          THE MEETING AT THE GATE (Ruth 4:1-12)

Lesson Thirteen

Victor M Eskew




A.   The chapter begins with these words:  Then went Boaz up to the gate… (Ruth 4:1a).

1.     He had made a promise to Ruth, saying:  I will do to thee all that thou requirest… (Ruth 3:11).

2.    Boaz fulfills his words.  He is an upright man.  He is a man who can be trusted.


B.   The chapter could be entitled:  “To the marriage altar and beyond.”


C.   The story climaxes in this chapter.  Who will perform the duty of the kinsman-redeemer?  Will Boaz be blessed to marry Ruth?


D.   The Outline:


i.             THE MEETING AT THE GATE (Ruth 4:1-12)

ii.            THE MARRIAGE OF BOAZ TO RUTH (Ruth 4:13-17)

iii.          THE MENU OF DAVID’S GENEALOGY (Ruth 4:18-22)


I.          THE MEETING AT THE CITY GATE (Ruth 4:1-12)


A.   The Invitation of Boaz (Ruth 4:1)


Now Boaz went up to the gate, and sat him down there:  and, behold, the near kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such an one!  Turn aside, sit down here.  And he turned aside, and sat down.


1.     Positioned at the gate

a.    “As he had promised (3:13) and Naomi had anticipated (3:18), Boaz immediately took action to remedy the plight of the two widows” (Stewart, 140).

b.    “The gate” was extremely important to the cities of that day.

1)     Military checkpoint

a)    Watchmen on the tower above

b)    Guards stationed at the gate below

2)    The elders sat at the gate to discuss critical issues and decide legal disputes.

3)     A place where business transactions were made.

4)    A social gathering place where residents gathered to discuss the latest news and gossip.

c.    Many of the residents worked outside the city’s walls, thus they would pass through the gates in the morning and again in the evening.

d.    Boaz took his position at the gate to wait for the near kinsman.

2.    Providence of God

a.    “’Behold (hinneh) captures the attention of the reader (1:15; 2:4; 3:8) and conveys the immediacy of the near kinsman’s arrival” (Stewart, 141).

b.    NRSV:  No sooner had Boaz gone up to the gate and sat down there than the next-of-kin, of whom Boaz had spoken, came passing by.

c.    God again appears to be working in this situation.

d.    “When this man walked out of his door this morning he had no idea that he would soon be confronted with having to make a life-changing decision.  One way or the other, his decision would change his life forever and it would change the lives of Boaz and Ruth forever too.  The man had come by and with him came the direction of the future for all three and Naomi also.  His decision will affect the course of all history.  He could have no idea of all this when he came to the gate this fateful morning” (Peipman, 253).

3.     Petition of Boaz

a.    Ho, such an one!

1)     This is an expression that conceals the name of the individual.

2)    It was similar to our English expressions such as:  so-and-so, what’s-his-name, and Joe Blow.”

3)     Two reasons for concealing his identity.

a)    To avoid bringing shame on the near kinsman’s descendants since the man shunned his role as a redeemer.

b)    The man’s name was not worthy of being perpetuated since he would not perpetuate the name of the deceased.

b.    The petition requested the near kinsman to sit for a while.  The man gladly complied with the petition.

1)     Was this a friendly conversation?

2)    Was this some type of business matter?

3)     Did this involve some type of legal issue?


B.   The Involvement of Witnesses (Ruth 4:2)


And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here.  And they sat down.


1.     Ten men

a.    This was an important number to the ancient world (10 Plagues, 10 Commandments).

b.    Ten may have been the legal number required to form a legal assembly.

2.    Elders of the city

a.    The word “elders” meant “bearded ones.”

b.    It could denote the old age of both men and women (Gen. 18:11; Exo. 10:9; Deut. 28:50; Josh. 6:21).

c.    “…it most frequently appears in the plural and refers to a distinguished group of men who have social, political, and religious functions” (Stewart, 144).

d.    Willis attributes to these elders the following four characteristics:

1)     They are usually senior members of important families within their communities who are well acquainted with business transactions, legal decisions, and community customs.

2)    They are usually wealthy, but generous toward the needy and hospitable toward outsiders.  Their economic ties within the community make it possible for them to enforce rulings.

3)     They are usually admired for their speaking ability, being able to persuade others and reconcile enemies.

4)    They are usually well respected for their high moral standards, setting an example for others to follow.  (as quoted by Stewart, 144).

3.     Sit ye down here.  And they sat down.

a.    Boaz acts according to the Law and the customs of his people, ensuring that these matters are legally established and there are no questions or doubts” (Stewart, 145).

b.    It would have been interesting to know just how the near kinsman was feeling at this time.  This was certainly no casual conversation. 

1)     If he were a business man, he may have been accustomed to such a gathering.

2)    If he just a common laborer, he may have been somewhat concerned about the proceedings.


C.   Information about Redemption (Ruth 4:3-6)

1.     Real Estate (Ruth 4:3-4)


And he said unto the kinsman.  Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s; and I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people.  If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it:  but if thou will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know:  for there is none else to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee.  And he said, I will redeem it.


a.    The cause

1)     Naomi had a parcel of land to sell that had been her husband’s.  Note that he refers to Elimelech as “our brother” to establish the kinship that existed between them.

2)    This land most likely had lain fallow while Naomi was away. 

3)     Having returned and now settled, she needed to sell the land to a near kinsman.

b.    The courtesy

1)     “I thought to advertise thee.”  To inform, literally, “I would uncover your ear.”

2)    Boaz then exhorts the kinsman to buy the land.  Peipman believes that Boaz exerts some pressure for the near kinsman to buy the property. 

a)    The words:  “Buy it.”

b)    Points to the inhabitants of the city.

c)    Points to the elders of the city.

d)    If this man will not do it, Boaz has the responsibility to do so.

e)    Boaz acts like he really needs to know:  “then tell me”

f)    None beside thee – in other words, he is the first redeemer, the first with the obligation to provide relief to Naomi

3)     Stewart sees some differences as he hears Boaz telling the near kinsman of his interest in the property.

1)     He opens the door for a refusal if the closest kinsman is not interested.

2)    He takes the pressure off by informing him of his interest as the next kinsman in line.

c.    The choice:  “I will buy it.”

1)     Since Naomi has no male descendants, the land would not have to be returned in the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:8-17).

2)    The land would be an asset and would provide him some future profits.

3)     He will be doing what is right in the eyes of the elders.

4)    “His response adds suspense to the story because the reader anticipates Boaz as the redeemer” (Stewart, 151).

2.    Ruth (Ruth 4:5-6)

                             a.    The Requirement (Ruth 4:5)


Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his in-heritance.


1)     Boaz now reveals that Ruth is also part of this transaction.

2)    Question:  Why hasn’t Ruth been mentioned until now?

a)    Offering the land first enabled the redeemer to save face.  He did

agree to redeem the land, even though he could not take Ruth.

b)    Boaz knew that this was a more difficult component of the trans-action.  He knew that the addition of Ruth might complicate things.

3)     To raise up the name of the dead

a)    If redemption was not available, the memory of the dead man – including his personality, deed, achievements and honor – may be lost forever.  This was considered a tragedy in Israel (I Sam. 24:21; II Sam. 14:7; 18:18).

b)    NOTE:  Part of raising up the name of the dead meant that the inheritance that was being redeemed would ultimately return to the child produced by the levirate marriage.

4)    Boaz also tempers this part of the transaction with

a)    The fact that Ruth is a Moabitess

b)    She is the wife of a dead man.

                             b.    The Refusal (Ruth 4:6)


 And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance…

1)     The words, “I cannot” mean “I am not able” or “I do not possess the power.

2)    Why?  “Lest I mar my own inheritance.”

a)    Mar

-       Strong (7843):  to ruin, decay

-       BDB:  to destroy, corrupt, go to ruin, decay…to be marred…to be injured

b)    The near kinsman did not want to spend (lose) money for land that would be inherited by the son he would father in Mahlon’s name.  By spending the money, he would be sacrificing part of his personal estate.

c)    Gow:  “What most likely deterred the near kinsman was the reali-zation that the whole business was going to put him to consider-able expense, thus depleting his resources which would normally go towards the upkeep of his own property.  He would have to pay the redemption cost, look after two widows, sire and provide for children who would not be his own, and they would inherit the property, which he had redeemed, in another’s name.  This was all rather more than his brotherly kindness, and possibly his resources would bear” (As quoted by Stewart, 159).

     c..   The Rights (Ruth 4:6b)


…redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it.


1)     “Redeem it for yourself” gave the land and Ruth to Boaz.

2)    Remember these words were spoken before the 10 elders of the city.

3)     “Redeem it for thyself” meant more than the acquisition of some land.  It meant a marriage to a woman whom he had grown to love.


D.   The Institution of the Shoe (Ruth 4:7-8)

1.     The Explanation (Ruth 4:7)


Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning exchanging, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor:  and this was a testimony in Israel.


                              a.   Former times

                                    1)         Before, before times

2)         Can mean a generation or less (Judg. 3:2), several hundred years (I Chron. 9:20), or primeval antiquity (Ps. 102:25) (Stewart, 161).

3)         “The author, most likely writing from the time of the United Kingdom (4:22), explains an outdated custom from the period of the Judges (1:1).  He was separated from the event he recorded by a few hundred years” (Stewart, 161).

                              b.   Concerning redeeming and exchanging

                                    1)         These are two separate terms and actions

                                    2)         Redeeming:  purchasing property that has been sold due to poverty

3)         Exchanging:  trading or transferring property through normal business

                              c.   For to confirm all things

                                    1)         To establish

                                    2)         Esther 9:29-31

                              d.   A man plucked off his shoe and gave it to his neighbor.

1)         “This custom demonstrated that one party was surrendering his right or ownership to another” (Stewart, 162).

2)         Winter:  “It arose from the fact that fixed property was possessed by treading upon the soil” (as quoted by Stewart, 162).

3)         Deuteronomy 11:24 (See also Gen. 13:17; Deut. 1:36).


Every place where on the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours:  from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be.


                              e.   This was a testimony in Israel.

                                    1)         Testimony

                                                a)         Strong (8584):  attestation

                                                b)         BDB:  testimony, attestation, confirmation

                                    2)         The action made the sale legal.

3)         NOTE:  We might think this is somewhat strange.  However, have you ever heard of two boys becoming “blood brothers”?  And, we may have to sign our name 10-15 times in order to purchase a piece of property.

                        2.  The Exchange (Ruth 4:8)


Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, buy it for thee:  So he drew off his shoe.


                             a.    The sell:  But it for thee

                             b.    The shoe:  The testimony of the exchange


E.   The Integrity of the Case (Ruth 4:9-12)

1.     The Witnesses (Ruth 4:9-11a)

a.   The Appeal (Ruth 4:9-10)


And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi.  Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place:  ye are witnesses this day.


      1)         The Deponents

a)         The elders, that is, the 10 selected by Boaz earlier (Ruth 4:2).

b)         The people:  shoppers, workers, travelers who had gathered to hear the proceedings


                                    2)         The Duty:  “ye are witnesses”

a)         They witnessed that the near kinsman had surrendered his rights.

b)         They witnessed that the rights were transferred to Boaz.

c)         If there were any controversy in the future, they could be called as witnesses.

d)         It was common to call witnesses to a business transaction.

                                                            -           Abraham (Gen. 23:17-18)

                                                            -           Jeremiah (Jer. 32:9-11)

                                    3)         The Details

                                                a)         The point in time:  this day

                                                            -           This was often a technical term in legal proceedings.

                                                            -           A binding agreement took place at a specific point

-           “This day they had been party to a change in history.  Little did Boaz know how important this ordinary day was and how a not so extraordinary event would alter all of world history” (Peipman, 272).

                                                b)         The purchase of property

-           Boaz bought all that belonged to Elimelech, Chilion, and Mahlon.

-           Home, furnishings, and land

                                                c)         The purchase of Ruth

                                                            -           Elevate: “to raise up then name of the dead”

                                                            -           Ensure:  “that the name of the dead be not cut off”

                                                                        +          Legacy:  “from among his brethren”

                                                                        +          Legally:  “from the gate of his place”

                                                                                    =          Bethlehem

=          “As we have seen, the gate of the city was where all legal matters were convened.  If Elimelech was cut off from the gate, it would mean that having no descendants the family would be legally wiped out.  All and any rights to land would no longer exist” (Peipman, 276).

d)         Comments

-           Trible:  “Before the elders, Boaz cites this issue as his reason for marrying Ruth, although alone with her he promised marriage in order to ‘do the redeemer’s part’ for her.  Thus in private conversation with Ruth, Boaz made her welfare his sole objective of concern, but in a public discussion with men, he makes Ruth the means for achieving a male purpose” (As quoted by Stewart, 167).

-           Herr:  “Boaz emphasizes his community, noting how his marriage will promote its goals.  He speaks of Elimelech, Chilion, Mahlon (twice), inheritance, brethren and the gate of their native town.  He is pulling out all stops, talking about heritage and how this marriage will further Israelite ideals.  He sounds more concerned about this family of Judah than about any particular individuals” (as quoted by Stewart, 168).

                             b.    The Affirmation (Ruth 4:11a)


And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses.


1)     The people responded positively to Boaz’s appeal.

2)    They repeat the critical words since there is no word for “yes” in Hebrew.

2.    The Well-wishes (Ruth 4:11b-12).

a.   Introduction

1)         The words found in this section were common blessings spoken at weddings and betrothals.  The difference is how abundantly these blessings will come to pass in the marriage of Boaz and Ruth.

2)         These blessings contribute to a list of blessings found in the book of Ruth (Ruth 1:8-9; 2:4, 12; 19-20; 3:10; 4:14).

3)         Even in the midst of apostasy, the Israelites show that they are well aware of their history.

4)         The Lord is mentioned twice in these two verses.

                                                a)         Verses

                                                            -           “The Lord make the woman...” (Ruth 4:11)

-           “of the seed which the Lord shall give thee” (Ruth 4:12).

                                                b)         It is the Lord who gives conception to children (Ps. 127:3).


Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord:  and the fruit of the womb is his reward.


                                    5).        The order of the blessings in this text:

                                                a)         From great, the making of a nation, to small, a single seed

b)         From the nation (Israel) to the district (Ephratah) to the city (Bethlehem) to the family (seed born to Ruth)

c)         Herr:  “They mention Israel and Judah, their ancestors and Boaz’s; their connections with their heritage give them status.  However, there is no mention of raising up the family of Elimelech or Mahlon, even after all the talk between the kinsman and Boaz at the city gate.  Instead, the men focus on the man they know and how he has, and will, fit into the social structure of Judah, the House of Israel, the House of Perez.  They hope Boaz’s marriage to Ruth will enhance his role in Judah” (as quoted by Stewart, 174).

                             b.    Substantial like Rachel and Leah (Ruth 4:11b)


  …the Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and Leah, which two did build the house of Israel…

1)     Through these two women were born twelve sons and a daughter.

2)    These sons became the nation of the Jews, the twelve tribes of Israel.

3)     Their vastness is seen in the promises made to the patriarchs:

a)    Like the dust of the earth (Gen. 13:16; 28:14)

b)    Like the stars of heaven (Gen. 22:17; 26:4)

c)    Like the sand of the sea (Gen. 22:17; 32:12)

4)    Boaz’s house would give rise to David (Ruth 4:17, 22), who would receive a kingdom from God.

     c.    Substance in Ephratah (Ruth 4:11c)


…and do thou worthily in Ephratah…


1)     We have seen this word before in reference to Boaz (Ruth 2:1).

2)    Definitions:

a)    Strong (2428):  wealth

b)    BDB:  wealth

     d.    Standing in Bethlehem (Ruth 4:11d)


…and be famous in Bethlehem.


1)     Famous

a)    Strong (8034):  the idea of definite and conspicuous position…by implication honor, authority, character

b)    BDB:  name, reputation, fame, glory

2)    Fame is not an evil thing.  The Lord often exalts the lowly to high


     e.    Seed (Ruth 4:12)


And let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the Lord shall give thee of this young woman.


1)     Pharez was one of the twins Tamar bore to Judah.

2)    There are several comparisons between Tamar and Ruth:

a)    Younger women

b)    Younger women whose first husbands had died.

c)    Younger women who were left childless by their first husbands.

d)    Childless widows who did not bear children through the normal levirate function.

e)    Women who bore children by older men.

3)     It is interesting to note also that Boaz was of the lineage of Pherez.