Ruth 4 Bible Commentary

John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible

(Read all of Ruth 4)
This chapter relates how an offer was made to the nearest kinsman of Ruth to redeem her, and the field her husband left, which he refused to do, Ruth 4:1, upon which Boaz redeemed both, and married Ruth before the elders of the city as witnesses, and who congratulated him and her on that occasion, Ruth 4:9, to whom a son was born, called Obed by the neighbours, Ruth 4:13 and the chapter is concluded with the genealogy of David, who sprung from him, Ruth 4:18.

Verse 1. Then went Boaz up to the gate,.... In the middle of the day, as Josephus {d} says, to the gate of the city, where people were continually passing and repassing to and from the country, and where he was most likely to meet with the person he wanted to see and converse with, and where courts of judicature were usually held, and where it was proper to call one to determine the affair he had in hand; so the Targum, "and Boaz went up to the gate of the house of judgment of the sanhedrim:"

and set him down there; waiting for the person or persons passing by, with whom be chose to speak:

and, behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; the kinsman that was nearer than he, of whom he had spoke to Ruth, that if he would not redeem her, he would; a "behold" is prefixed to this, to observe the providence of God that ordered it so, that he should come that way just at the time Boaz was sitting there, and waiting for him; who perhaps was going into his field to look after his threshers and winnowers, as Boaz had been:

unto whom he said, ho, such an one; calling him by his name, though it is not expressed; which the writer of this history might not know, or, if he did, thought it not material to give it, some have been of opinion that it is purposely concealed, as a just retaliation to him, that as he chose not to raise up seed to his kinsman, to perpetuate his name, so his own is buried in oblivion; though it might be done in his favour, that his name might not be known, and lie under disgrace, for refusing to act the part he ought according to the law to have done; hence the plucking off the shoe, and spitting in his face, were done to such an one by way of contempt and reproach. The words are "peloni almoni," words used by the Hebrews of persons and places, whose names they either could not, or did not choose to mention, which two words are contracted into "palmoni" in Daniel 8:13. The name of this man was "Tob" or "Tobias," according to some Jewish writers, See Gill on "Ru 3:13," to him Boaz said,

turn aside, and sit down here; and he turned aside, and sat down; instead of going right forward, as he intended, about his business, he turned on one side as he was desired, and sat down by Boaz.

{d} Antiqu. l. 5. c. 9. sect. 4.

Verse 2. And he took ten men of the elders of the city,.... Who were such, not merely in age but in office, who were the heads of thousands, fifties, and tens; ten of whom were a quorum to do business in judiciary affairs, to determine such matters as Boaz had propose, as to whom the right of redemption of a brother and kinsman's widow, and her estate, belonged, and who were the proper witnesses of the refusal of the one to do it, and of the other's doing it and from hence the Jews {e} gather, that the blessing of the bride and bridegroom at their marriage is not to be done by less than ten persons:

and said, sit down here, and they sat down; and so made a full court.

{e} Misnah Megillah, c. 4. sect. 3. T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 7. 1. Midrash Ruth, fol. 35. 1.

Verse 3. And he said unto the kinsman,.... That is, Boaz said to the kinsman he called to, and who sat down by him before the ten elders that were present:

Naomi, that is come again out of the land of Moab, selleth a parcel of land; meaning, that she was determined upon it, and was about to do it, and would do it quickly, and he had it in commission to propose it to a purchaser:

which was our brother Elimelech's; not in a strict sense, but being akin to the kinsman and himself, and having been a neighbour of them all, and an inhabitant of the place, he is called their brother; though some Jewish writers {f} say, that he was in a strict sense a brother of Boaz and this kinsman, and that Tob, Elimelech, and Boaz, were brethren, and so Tob was reckoned the nearest kinsman, and had the first right to redeem, because he was the elder brother but this does not seem likely; See Gill on "Ru 3:13."

{f} Midrash Ruth, fol. 34. 2.

Verse 4. And I thought to advertise thee,.... To give him notice of it; or "I said" {g}; he said in his heart and mind, purposing to do it; or he said it to Ruth, promising her that he would do it:

saying, buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people; or before those that sat there, even the elders, as witnesses of the purchase:

if thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: for it was redeemable by a near kinsman according to the law, even when said to another, in Leviticus 25:25,

but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; what to do in this affair, whether to redeem it or not:

for there is none to redeem it besides thee, and I am after thee; he was the first, and Boaz was the next near kinsman, to whom the right of redemption belonged:

and he said, I will redeem it: he chose to make the purchase, he liked the land, which he probably full well knew, and it might lie near his own, and make a good addition to it; and as the widow was determined, and under a necessity to sell, he might expect to have it at a cheap rate; all which might induce him at once to agree to be the purchaser.

{g} ytrma ynaw "et ego dixi," Pagninus, Montanus, &c.

Verse 5. Then said Boaz,.... In order to try the kinsman, whether he would abide by his resolution, he acquaints him with what he had as yet concealed:

what day thou buyest the field of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead; the wife of Mahlon, who was dead, the eldest son of Naomi, and so his widow, Ruth the Moabitess, had the reversion of the estate; wherefore the purchase must be made of her as well as of Naomi, and the purchase could not be made of her without marrying her; which, though no law obliged to, yet it seems to be a condition of the purchase annexed to it by Naomi, that she would sell it to no man, unless he would consent to marry Ruth, for whose settlement she had a great concern, having been very dutiful and affectionate to her; which is clearly intimated in the next clause:

to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance; and so Naomi had another end to answer thereby, not only to provide a good husband for her daughter-in-law, but to perpetuate the name of her son, agreeably to the design of the law in Deuteronomy 25:5.

Verse 6. And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself,.... On such a condition, because he had a wife, as the Targum suggests; and to take another would, as that intimates, tend to introduce contention into his family, and make him uncomfortable; so Josephus says {h}, he had a wife and children, for that reason it was not convenient for him to take the purchase on such a condition:

lest I mar my own inheritance; he considered, that as he had a wife and children already and as he might have more by marrying Ruth, his family expenses would be increased, and his estate diminished; and what would remain must be divided among many, and this estate in particular go to Ruth's firstborn, whereby his own inheritance would be scattered and crumbled, and come to little or nothing; add to all which, he might suppose that her ancient mother Naomi would be upon his hands to maintain also:

redeem thou my right for thyself which I am ready to give up to thee, for thou hast no wife, as the Targum expresses it:

for I can not redeem it; in the circumstances I am, and upon the condition annexed to the purchase.

{h} Antiqu. l. 5. c. 9. sect. 4.

Verse 7. Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming,.... It is a custom, and not a law, that seems here referred to, when an estate was bought and sold; not the law in Leviticus 25:25, though that respects the redemption of an estate by a near kinsman, yet no such manner was enjoined as here practised afterwards, made mention of; nor the law in Deuteronomy 25:5 which does not concern the redemption of estates, nor a kinsman's marrying the widow of a deceased kinsman, but a brother's marrying the widow of a deceased brother, and the rites and ceremonies there enjoined upon refusal are different from those here used; though Josephus {i} is express for it, that the law is here referred to; but this is not only concerning purchase of estates, but "concerning changing" also one field for another as Aben Ezra interprets it: "for to confirm all things"; the following custom was observed for the confirmation of any bargain whatever, whether by sale or barter, and where there was no marriage in the case:

a man plucked off his shoe and gave it to his neighbour; signifying thereby, that he yielded his right to him in the thing sold or bartered; the Targum says, he plucked off the glove of his right hand, which perhaps was then in use, when the Targumist wrote, and answered the same purpose; and, according to Jarchi, it was a linen cloth, vail, or handkerchief, that was used, and delivered by the one to the other; and of this way of buying writes Elias {k}; at this day, says he, we purchase by a linen cloth or handkerchief called "sudar," which is a garment; and this two witnesses take, and explain before them the words of their agreement, and each of the witnesses stretches out the skirt of the garment, and those that take upon them to confirm every matter, touch the skirt of their garments; and this is called purchasing by "sudar," or the linen cloth:

and this was a testimony in Israel; a witness to, or a confirmation of the bargain made; but who gave the shoe, whether the kinsman or Boaz, is not certain from the text; and about which the Jewish writers are divided, as Jarchi observes.

{i} Antiqu. l. 5. c. 9. sect. 4. {k} Tishbi, p. 207. See Leo Modena's History of the Rites, &c. of the present Jews, part 2. c. 6.

Verse 8. And therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, buy it for me,.... Which is repeated to show he gave his full consent to it, that he should make the purchase of it if he pleased, and which he confirmed by the following rite:

so he drew off his shoe; thereby signifying that he relinquished his right to the purchase of the estate, and ceded it to him; the Targum has it, "and Boaz drew off the glove off his right hand, and bought it of him;" and so Aben Ezra, "and Boaz drew off his shoe, and gave it to his kinsman," as if this was some acknowledgment for yielding his right unto him; and about this there is a great dissension among the Jewish writers {l}; one says it was the shoe of Boaz that was plucked off; another says it was the shoe of the kinsman; which latter seems most correct: and it may be observed, that this custom is different from what is enjoined Deuteronomy 25:6 there the woman was to pluck off the shoe of him that refused to marry her, but here the man plucked off his own shoe, who chose not to redeem; nor is there mention of spitting in his face; nor does it appear that Ruth did the one or the other; though Josephus {m} affirms it, and says, that she both plucked off his shoe, and spit in his face; neither of which are mentioned.

{l} Midrash Ruth, fol. 35. 2. {m} Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 5. c. 9. sect. 4.)

Verse 9. And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people,.... Who were present at the gate of the city, or in court:

ye are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech's; all the land which belonged to him, who was the husband of Naomi, and the father of Ruth's husband, whose estate Boaz now bought, paying the value for it to Naomi:

and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's; the two sons of Elimelech, who, had they been living, would have enjoyed their father's estate; but they being dead, it devolved on the mother, and after her on the widows, who must therefore agree to the sale of the estate, as Ruth did, see Ruth 4:5. Of Orpah no notice is taken, because she returned to her own land; and besides Mahlon, the husband of Ruth, was the elder brother, and therefore had the first right to the inheritance; but as it was in the hands of Naomi now, the purchase was made of her principally, and therefore Boaz is said to purchase it

of the hand of Naomi; to whom the money was paid, and who delivered the estate to him.

Verse 10. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife,.... Which was the condition on which the purchase of the land was, that whoever bought that should take her for his wife; nor did Boaz do evil in marrying her, though a Moabitess. Moab was not one of the nations with whom marriage was forbidden; and though it was a Heathenish and idolatrous nation, and so on that account it was not fit and proper to marry with such, yet Ruth was become a proselytess; nor was this contrary to the law in Deuteronomy 23:3, since, according to the sense the Jews give of it, it respects men, and not women, and such men who otherwise were capable of bearing offices in the congregation; "an Ammonite, and a Moabite (they say {n}) are forbidden, and their prohibition is a perpetual one, but their women are free immediately:"

to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance; the name of Mahlon, Ruth's former husband, to whom the inheritance would have come had he lived; the raising up of his name is not upon a son of hers by Boaz, for her firstborn was called Obed, and not Mahlon, and is always spoken of as the son of Boaz, and not of Mahlon, but upon his inheritance, having bought his wife along with it, which the register of the purchase would show, and so cause his name to be remembered; and, as Jarchi says, when Ruth went in and out upon the estate or inheritance, they would say, this was the wife of Mahlon, and so through her his name would be made mention of:

that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of this place; might not be quite forgotten both in the city and in the court, and be remembered no more:

ye are witnesses this day; this is repeated, that they might answer to it, as they do in the next verse.

{n} Misn. Yebamot, c. 8. sect. 3.

Verse 11. And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, we are witnesses,.... Both of the purchase of the estate by Boaz being legally made, and of the marriage of Ruth to him, the condition of the bargain:

the Lord make the woman that is come into thine house; not into his house, strictly and literally taken, the place of his habitation; for both he and she were now at the gate of the city, and as yet she was not introduced into his house; but by his marriage of her she was brought into his family, and was become a principal part of it, being his wife. This is a wish, prayer, or benediction of the elders, of one in the name of the rest, congratulating the married couple, and wishing them well; and particularly that the woman Boaz had married before them, as witnesses, might be

like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: the two wives of Jacob; the Targum adds, with twelve tribes; for though some of the tribes sprung from their maids, which they gave to Jacob, yet the children born of them were reckoned theirs by a moral estimation, as some express it. Rachel is set before Leah, though the youngest, and had the fewest children, because she was his first wife in his intention, and according to the covenant made with her father, though imposed upon and deceived; and she was his more lawful wife, and his most beloved one. By the children of these two, and their maidens, the house or family of Israel was built up, and became a great nation, consisting of twelve tribes, very numerous:

and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem; two names of one and the same place, Genesis 35:19. These words seem to be directed to Boaz, particularly praying that he might continue to do worthy and virtuous actions, as well as increase in wealth and riches, power and authority, and retain his name and fame, and grow in credit and reputation among his fellow citizens.

Verse 12. And let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah,.... Of whose tribe the Bethlehemites were, and were also of the house or family of Pharez, as appears from Ruth 4:18, &c. who was born to Judah of Tamar, one of another nation, as Ruth was, and from whom sprung a very numerous family, one of the five families of Judah; and they wish that the family of Boaz, by Ruth, might be as numerous; and if Boaz was the same with Ibzan, as the Jews say, though that wants proof, he had a very numerous offspring, thirty sons and thirty daughters, Judges 12:8

of the seed which the Lord shall give thee of this young woman; by which it is plain Ruth was present, for they do, as it were, point to her, and that she was a young woman, though a widow: the Jews say she was forty years of age, as observed in Ruth 3:10 and the elders wish and pray he might have a numerous family of the children the Lord would give him by her; and this might be the rather expected of her, as being a young woman, yet only as the gift of God, as children are, Psalm 127:3.

Verse 13. So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife,.... Without any other rites or ceremonies than what are here expressed; for as yet the rites and ceremonies now in use with the Jews {o}, in marriages had not obtained: and when he went in unto her; which is a modest expression of the conjugal duty performed him:

the Lord gave her conception; for this is of God, let the circumstance of the person, as to age, be as it may:

and she bare a son; at the year's end, as Josephus {p} relates,

{o} Vid. Buxtorf. Synagog. Jud. c. 39. Leo Modena's History of the Rites of the present Jews, part 4. c. 3. {p} Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 5. c. 9. sect. 4.)

Verse 14. And the women said unto Naomi,.... The inhabitants of Bethlehem, as they fell into her company; or perhaps these were the women that were called to the labour of Ruth, and attended the birth of the child:

blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman; a grandchild born to her that day. In Moab she was bereaved of her husband and of two sons; but now she is not left without a relation, a kinsman, and a redeemer, for which the women blessed God, and stirred her up to do the same. Alshech observes, that the women said, blessed be the Lord, because from him would spring the Messiah of the Lord, as did. Some refer this to Boaz, to whom the name of kinsman, or redeemer, more properly belonged; and who appeared to have done the office and duty of such an one, by redeeming the estate of his kinsman, and marrying his widow, the effect of which was, that a son was born, who would be heir of the estate; but the text speaks of what was done that day, and what is after said in the next verse all relates to the child born:

that his name may be famous in Israel; some refer this to the name of God, by whose providence this was brought about; others to Boaz, who was well spoken of for his charity, integrity, and humility, shown in redeeming the estate, and taking Ruth to wife; or rather it refers to the newborn child, of whom they express their hope and confidence, that when he came to man's estate would be very famous and honourable in Israel, being a worthy and virtuous man himself, and the progenitor of such illustrious persons as Jesse, David, &c. and even of the Messiah.

Verse 15. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life,.... Of the joys, pleasures, and comforts of it, which she had been deprived of through the death of her husband and her two sons, ever since which she had lived a sorrowful life; all the comfort she had was from her daughter-in-law, and now a grandchild being born to her of her would be a means of restoring comfort to her mourning sorrowful spirit, and give her pleasure in those years in which she did not expect any:

and a nourisher of thine old age; that would when grown up feed her, support her, and supply her with all necessaries of life, being heir to a large and rich estate:

for thy daughter in law which loveth thee; Ruth the wife of Boaz, who had shown her love, in leaving her own country and kindred, to come along with her into a strange land, and who had laboured for her support in it, and still retained the same affection for her:

which is better to thee than seven sons, hath borne him: either which had been so in the time of her widowhood, as the Targum; or rather which was so now, being the wife of so rich a person, and having now brought forth a son, heir to the estate, who would be more capable of doing for her than if she had seven sons living, having no other than their paternal estate.

Verse 16. And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom,.... As a token of her most tender love and affection for it; this it is probable she did quickly after the birth of it:

and became a nurse unto it; that is, after the mother had suckled and weaned it, then she took it from her, and brought it up.

Verse 17. And the women her neighbours gave it a name,.... Josephus says {q} Naomi gave it, by the advice of her neighbours; very probably on the eighth day when he was circumcised, and the neighbours were invited on that occasion, at which time it seems it was usual to give names to children, see Luke 1:59. The Romans gave names to females on the eighth day, to the males on the ninth; hence the goddess Nundina had her name {r}; the Greeks generally on the tenth, sometimes on the seventh {s}: it was commonly the province of the father to give the name, and sometimes his neighbours and nearest friends were called, and in their presence the name was given, and by any of them he should choose in his stead {t}:

saying, there is a son born to Naomi; to her family, and even to herself, being born of her who had been wife to her eldest son; and this was to her as instead of him, and was as he to her; so Aben Ezra compares this with Exodus 2:10 and moreover, this child was born, as the neighbours presaged, for the great comfort and advantage of Naomi, to be her supporter and nourisher in her old age, Ruth 4:15

and they called his name Obed; which signifies "serving," as Josephus {u} rightly observes, though he does not always give the true sense of Hebrew words: this name was given, not in remembrance of the service his mother was obliged to, before marriage with Boaz; but rather on the account of the service that he would be of to Naomi, as they hoped and believed; though the reason of it, as given by the Targum, is not to be overlooked, which interprets it, "who served the Lord of the world with a perfect heart;" and so they might have some respect to his being hereafter a servant of the Lord:

he is the father of Jesse, and the father of David: so Jesse is called the Bethlehemite, 1 Samuel 16:1, being of the city of Bethlehem, of which city Boaz was when his son Obed was born, who was the father of Jesse; of whom was David king of Israel, and from whom sprung the Messiah, for whose sake this book was written, that his genealogy might clearly appear; and of which use it is made by the Evangelists Matthew; and Luke.

{q} Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 5. c. 9. sect. 4.) {r} Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 25. {s} Harpocration & Suidas in voce ebdomeuomhnou, Scholiast. in Aristoph. Aves, p. 565. & Euripid. & Aristot. in ib. {t} Vid. Sperling. de Baptism. Ethnic. c. 14. & 15. {u} Ibid.

Verse 18. Now these are the generations of Pharez,.... The son of Judah, by Tamar before mentioned, Ruth 4:12, for the intention of this genealogy is to confirm the truth of Jacob's prophecy, of Shiloh the Messiah coming from the tribe of Judah, Genesis 49:10 and therefore it begins with Pharez, well known to be the son of Judah, and ends with David, whose son the Messiah was to be, as is owned by all Jews and Gentiles that believe the divine revelation:

Pharez begat Hezron; who was one of those that went down with Jacob into Egypt, being born in the land of Canaan, Genesis 47:12 called Esrom in Matthew 1:3.

Verse 19. And Hezron begat Ram,.... Called Aram by the Septuagint, and so in Matthew 1:3,

and Ram begat Amminadab; in whose name there is no variation, neither in the book of Chronicles nor in the Evangelists; both these, as well as the next, were born in Egypt.

Verse 20. And Amminadab begat Nahshon,.... The prince of the tribe of Judah, as the Targum adds; and so he was when the Israelites were come out of Egypt, and were in the wilderness at the time of the dedication of the altar, Numbers 7:12 called Nahsson, Matthew 1:4, and Nahshon begat Salmon; or, as in the Hebrew text, Salmah, and in 1 Chronicles 2:11, Salma; and yet in the verse following Salmon, as we read it.

Verse 21. And Salmon begat Boaz,.... Of Rahab the harlot, whom he married, Matthew 1:5 the very same person that makes a principal part of this book, and whom the Targum here takes to be the judge Ibzan, See Gill on "Ru 1:1."

and Boaz begat Obed; of Ruth; of whom see the preceding verses.

Verse 22. And Obed begat Jesse,.... The Bethlehemite, the father of David:

and Jesse begat David; the Targum adds, the king of Israel; and so the Syriac and Arabic versions add, the king; from whence it is by some concluded that this book was written by Samuel, not only after the birth of David, but after he had been anointed king by him: here being but four generations mentioned, from the coming of the Israelites into Canaan, to the birth of David, which was three hundred and sixty years, each of the four persons, Salmon, Boaz, Obed, and Jesse, must beget a son when one hundred years old and upwards; and which is not at all incredible, as appears by instances in later times, and therefore not at all improbable, that in those ancient times men of sobriety and good constitutions should have children at such an age.