Friday, June 9th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ruth 4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ ruth-4.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ruth 4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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THE GOEL AT THE GATE
CONTENTS.—Boaz in the presence of the elders of Bethlehlem obtains the right of redeeming the inheritance of the dead Elimelech. Amid the acclamations and congratulations of the people at the gate, he publicly takes Ruth to be his wife. Obed is born, and the generations of Pharez are traced as far downward as David.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—
Ruth 4:1. Then went Boaz up. Bethlehem situated on a hill, while the cornfields and threshing floor would be in the valley below [cf. on Ruth 2:4, p. 101, also p. 6.] The gate. The place of resort where business was transacted. I have seen in certain places, Joppa for example, the Kady and his Court sitting at the entrance of the gate hearing and adjudicating all sorts of causes in the audience of all that went in and out thereat (Thomson). And sat. Stone seats would be there. The attitude expressive of deliberation. Eastern people are never in a hurry at such times. The judges sat in the gates that the country people might not be compelled to enter the cities and so suffer detriment (Lange). And behold. Set forth as with a starry note (Trapp). Possibly calls attention to the fortunate coincidence or Providence of the thing. Lange thinks Boaz came early not to miss his man. He such a one. κρὐῳιε hidden one (LXX). Conveys the idea of his being kept anonymous purposely. The Hebrew words peloni almoni are derived from palah to distinguish, to point out, and alam to conceal (Gesen 53, 677), and signify a person who is pointed out, but whose name is concealed (Wordsworth). At present any anonymous donor to the synagogue funds is habitually styled “Almoni Peloni” (Picciotto). The name of the kinsman was Tob (Midrash). Impossible (Lange).
Ruth 4:2. And he took ten men. So Abraham bargained for a place of sepulchre in the field of Machpelah, in the presence of those who stood at the gate of Hebron (Genesis 23:17-18). Possibly ten were chosen because it was a perfect number. The requisite number for a local court of magistracy (Groser). In later days ten men were needed to form a worshipping assembly in the synagogue (Ibid). Of the elders of the city. Elderly persons of the city (Morison).
Ruth 4:3. And he said unto the kinsman [redeemer.] The narrator again avoids using the name, though there is little doubt it must have been known.
Naomi that is come again. The Athenians had a law, that no woman should be permitted to plead her own cause. The custom of all Eastern nations lay in the same direction. Selleth [sold] a parcel of land. Rather, hath sold (Wordsworth, Lange, Wright). Naomi had already sold her interest in the land during the terms of years that intervened between the date of sale and the year of jubilee, when the land would revert to the representatives of Elimelech; and the nearest of kin could [only] gain immediate possession by redeeming it, that is, by paying the worth of the land during the term of years which still remained to the jubilee (Wordsworth). She had mortgaged her own and Ruth’s life interest in the land (Braden). That, contrary to the opinion of the earlier commentators, a widow could do this—see Lange in loco. Probable that Elimelech had sold his interest before he went into the land of Moab (Elliot). In this case, the reversionary interest of Ruth, as the widow of Mahlon, would have to be purchased by the next of kin, as well as the life interest of Naomi (Ibid). Others think that the destitution of the widows arose, not from having lost their property, but from their inability to turn it to a profitable account. Morison views the use of the perfect here as expressing such an unalterable determination to sell the land, that it may be looked upon as already accomplished, and translates “Has resolved to sell,” So Drusius, Vatable, etc. “Offers for sale” (Luther, Coverdale). She may have put up the land for sale, for the express purpose of putting the law in motion, and compelling her kinsman to redeem it (Cox). Our brother Elimelech’s. Or kinsman Elimelech’s. The word not to be interpreted in a strict sense [cf. on Ruth 2:1 Crit. and Exeg. Notes, p. 89.]
Ruth 4:4. And I thought to advertise the—Determined to inform thee (Lange). Lit., I said I will uncover thine ear; ἀποκαλνῳω τὁ οὗς σου (LXX.), by lifting up the hair which covers it [cp. 1 Samuel 9:15; 2 Samuel 7:27] (Wordsworth). Buy it before the inhabitants. In the presence of those sitting here (LXX. Vulg. Syr. Arab). So also Lange, Wordsworth, etc. If thou wilt not redeem it. The Text. Recept. reads, “If he will not. The common reading is supported by Schmidt, Lange, Carpzov, Keil, etc., and is more natural. So fifty MSS. in Kennicott (Wordsworth). And he said, I will redeem. Shows he had the ability. Would add to his own estate to procure the property of the dead Elimelech. Supposed he would only have to pay Naomi a certain annual allowance till her death, and the inheritance would pass to him as the lawful heir (Steele and Terry.)
Ruth 4:5. Thou must buy [thou buyest] it also of Ruth. Must take the widow of Mahlon who had a claim upon the land. The children born of such a marriage would inherit the state, to the exclusion of children by an earlier wife. Would stand as the direct descendants of Mahlon, and be called by his name. The Moabitess. Here was the difficulty, and Boaz presents it thus fairly and delicately. The goel does not lay hold of the fact that the law against marriage with a Moabitess, if such existed [cf. on i:4] may have been suspended because Ruth had cast in her lot with Israel.
Ruth 4:6. I cannot. Means I will not for certain reasons [Ruth 4:4]. The Targum says he had a wife and children. Lest I mar [injure] mine own inheritance. By spending time and attention besides money upon that which would revert to the name and estate of another. This possibly only an excuse. The true reason found in his superstitions fears. Thinks he ought not to take into his house a woman marriage with whom has already been visited with the extinguishment [according to popular ideas] of a family in Israel (Lange).
Ruth 4:7. Now this was the manner in former times concerning &c. Formerly in cases of redemption and exchange (Lange). That is in every bargain this was done. Shews that considerable time must have elapsed between the events recorded and the writing of the story. An old custom has fallen into partial disuse in the meantime [cf. Intro. p. 4]. A man plucked off his shoe and gave it to his neighbour. A man pulled off his shoe and gave it to the ‘other (Lange). In acknowledgement that he to whom the shoe was given might tread and own where he the seller had previously stood as owner. The shoe is the symbol
(1) of motion and wandering,
(2) of rest and possession (Lange). When the prodigal is reinstated, he has shoes put on his feet (Luke 15:22) (cf. also Exodus 3:5; Ephesians 6:15).
Ruth 4:8. So he drew off his shoe, i.e., the kinsman drew it off, and so surrenders all claims. The woman had the right in ordinary cases to pluck the shoe off herself and spit in the face of the kinsman—a great dishonour [cf. Deuteronomy 25:7]. This shews that the present case was looked upon as exceptional. When an Arab divorces his wife, he says of her, “She was my slipper and I cast her off,” (Thomson).
Ruth 4:9. And Boaz said. He addresses the elders in their representative character. Under the theocracy the principle of representation was early carried out (E. Price). Possibly a pause follows Ruth 4:8, during which Naomi and Ruth may have been brought upon the scene. Ye are witnesses. Settled deeds of compact in our modern sense not used or needed. Enough, in a simple primitive age, that a solemn transaction should be committed to the memory of the people (E. Price). I have bought [acquired] all that was, etc. The three dead relatives are mentioned with legal precision and particularity, although no mention is anywhere made of Orpah’s claim, which, in contradistinction to Ruth’s, is looked upon as forfeited or lapsed, if it ever existed. Of the hand of Naomi. Evidently looked upon as heir to the properly now her sons are dead. To use a modern legal phrase, she was considered as a trustee until the birth of a male child (E. Price).
Ruth 4:10. Ruth the Moabitess. Deuteronomy 23:3. refers to males, not to women (Keil, E. Price), as with Canaanitish women [Deuteronomy 7:3]. Have I purchased. Acquired (Lange). Means to obtain, to acquire, which may be done in a variety of ways. The use of the word “purchased” unfortunate (Ibid). To raise up the name, etc. A Hebraism signifying the continuance of the relation he had sustained in the genealogy of his tribe (E. Price). From Ruth 4:21 it would seem as though popular opinion were too strongly in favour of Boaz to allow the usual law to come in to operation. The gate of his place. The Chaldee reads, “the sanhedrim of his place,” introducing in later idea (E. Price).
Theme—FRIENDS IN COUNCIL
“And next the valley is the hill aloft,
And next the darke night is the glad morrow,
And also joy is next the fine of sorrow.”—Chaucer,
Then went Boaz up to the gate.
The interesting and fascinating story draws near to its proper conclusion. Ruth’s virtue has been seen “in all the gate”; now her reward and recompense are to be as plainly apparent there. Another,—a goel, a redeemer has undertaken to perform the duties which fall upon him. Note.
(1) Here is an image of the final perseverance of the saints. Continuing first, then crowned afterwards, steadfast under discipline and temptation, then to be owned of Christ, and manifested to all as His own in the day of His glory. (Revelation 3:5, etc.).
(2) Here is a picture and illustration of virtue triumphant true to all ages. After humiliation, exaltation, after the bitter, sweet, after mourning, joy. So with Joseph in Egypt, Moses, David, etc.
It is not Ruth, however, so much who claims attention for the present, as her goel intent on her behalf. We have seen Boaz “diligent in business (Ruth 2:4, Ruth 3:2), fervent in spirit” (Ruth 2:4; Ruth 2:12), courteous (Ruth 2:4), quick to perceive goodness in others (Ruth 2:11, Ruth 3:10-11), ready to encourage and commend it (Ruth 2:12, Ruth 3:10), generous and hospitable (Ruth 2:8-9; Ruth 2:14-16, Ruth 3:15), wise and circumspect, and having his own spirit under complete control, in what otherwise might have been the hour of temptation (Ruth 3:10-14), acting always as in the presence of God. And here we are to see him as possessing other qualities, which go to make up the hero, and the true man, one commanding respect not less by his moral earnestness and diligence than by his wealth and social rank. We follow him to the gate and see him among his peers, evidently received as few men in Bethlehem would be.
I. This is how business should be attended to.
Speedily. The man is in earnest, “will not rest until he has finished the thing.” Gets up early to catch his man [see Crit. and Exeg. Ruth 3:15, p. 160].
Expeditiously. Will finish it before the day is over [see on Ruth 3:18, p. 164]. All that has ever been said in praise of the diligent may be said of Boaz here.
Righteously. In the spirit of candour and fair dealing. Hence he seeks the advice of friends; “the Council at the gate.” Conceals nothing, overstates nothing, speaks apparently without bias. In few and fit words he propounds the cause and brings it to an issue (Trapp). Note. (a) That a true and right result may be obtained in this simple honourable way. Crooked courses are not always the best courses. (b) An example of the right use of arbitration which might often be followed with advantage. The justice may be administered in a rough and ready way to our Western ideas, but it is justice none the less that is sought and obtained. And the decision arrived at will be solemnly ratified as in the sight of God.
Note.—(a) That which is done with the heart is done with cheerfulness and readiness. Love lends wings to the feet, and strength to the hands, and persuasive eloquence to the tongue. So with Boaz in the chapter before us. Duty and affection alike urge him. (b) When God appoints, he prospers and gives wisdom in the direction of the affair. How much there is to be admired in the way Boaz proceeds to settle this delicate affair once and for all. And as if the Divine favour is to rest upon him at once, the man he seeks and upon whom everything depends comes by as soon as the business is fairly set afloat [On Seeming Chances, Real Providences, see Ruth 2:3, p. 95–6].
An honourable man’s dealings while perfectly frank and open are not to be deficient in wise circumspection. Boaz having to do with a wily worldling deals warily with him (Trapp). Tells him first of the land, and then of the wife that must go along with it (Ibid). The man of God is to be wise as well as harmless in his dealings with men.
II. This is how difficult affairs should be settled, delicate claims adjusted, fair rights allowed and satisfied.
Openly and publicly. That is unless scrupulous justice can be administered privately in a better way. The rights between man and man must not be left to chance or fraud. Note. (a) Greed and rapacity flourish best in secret. Naturally seek to hide their deeds. Honest men can bear and covet the light. (b) The fountains of justice are best kept pure by being constantly open to public inspection.
By the advice of wise men. We have here an old world picture of a city council. (a) Abundance of witnesses to attest the proceedings, (b) of counsellors to give advice, (c) of judges to determine difficulties. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses” every word would “be established;” while “in the multitude of counsellors” there would be “safety.” Notice again they were the choice men of the city—aged, experienced—elderly men upon whom devolved the conducting of affairs in Bethlehem. Note. Age and experience give weight to advice and decisions.
Calmly and deliberately. They sat down. Undue haste to be deprecated in conducting important affairs like these.
With care and exactitude. Business should be done in a business-like manner, not only to make provision against defects in integrity, but also to prevent difficulties arising from failures in memory, &c. Note. A Scripture precedent here for scrupulous exactness in transactions like these, transactions involving questions of property. You have the wisdom, dignity and grave deliberation, the solemn careful procedure such a case demanded.
III. This is the way the affairs of the destitute and needy especially should be attended to. All this for two poor widows! Yes, but this is the public care. “The poor ye have always with you.” It was no personal concern of these elders and yet they gave time and attention to it, and that readily. Note. Thus early in human history the claims of the weak were recognised and responded to publicly. Christ answers the question so often asked as to “Who is responsible?” in the parable of the Good Samaritan. So the Apostle, Bear ye one another’s burdens, &c.; Look not every man on his own things, &c. (Philippians 2:4).
E. Price on this: Theme—RESPECT FOR PROPERTY.
The modern war against property can never be justified by the far-seeing Laws of Moses. And, of course, Boaz would hold himself bound to observe them, as here illustrated.
1. He conforms to the letter of the enactment as for as possible.
2. He avows the fact publicly: before the elders and the people.
3. He evokes the confirmatory act of adequate witnesses.
4. He, nevertheless, is careful in stating his claims in order to enforce his full rights.
Observe then, how it was through the sanctified ‘property’ the hopes of the world were met, in the advent of the Messiah. And
(2) how the observance of righteous rules respecting this ‘property,’ restricts no man’s real liberty.
“The gates of ancient cities played many parts: they were guard-houses; they were markets, they were courts of justice; they were places for public deliberation and audience. Necessarily, therefore, they were massively built, with recessed chambers or divans in the sides, and often with chambers also above the arch. Here the inhabitants of the city were wont to assemble, either for the transaction of business or to hear and tell the news. Here the judges sat and administered justice to all comers. Here even kings came to give audience to other kings, or to their ambassadors. Some faint resemblance to these ancient gates may be found In the structures called ‘Bars,’ in London and Southampton, though these modern gates are much smaller than their ancient prototypes; and some faint reminiscence of their character as seats of judicial and royal authority in the titles Sublime Porte, or the Ottoman Porte—porte meaning gate—by which the Government of Turkey is still designated.”—Cox.
“Boaz was worthy of the confidence reposed in him. He at once seeks the nearer kinsman, and brings the matter to a decided issue, How many an hour of bitter anxiety, of suspense—a form of anguish harder to bear than the certainty of disappointment—have the unhappy to undergo, simply because those who have undertaken their cause, gratulating themselves on the benevolence of their intentions seem to think that, if they accomplish the service, the time and manner are of no importance, but that in these they may suit their own convenience. If, like Boaz, we would judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow, let us, like him, ‘not be in rest until we have finished the thing.’ ”—Macartney.
“ ‘Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!’ He knew the preference which both Naomi and Ruth had for himself; he was conscions too that he no longer regarded with indifference this beautiful daughter of Moab, who had ‘come to trust beneath Jehovah’s wings;’ nor was he unwilling to pay even more for the redemption of the inheritance than this nearest kinsman. But he ‘would not go beyond or defraud his brother,’ or in the least take advantage either of his ignorance or of Ruth’s preference. All was open and above-board. His fine sense of honour was not blunted either by covetousness or by inclination, nor would his conscience allow him, even when seeking a good and generous end, to have recourse to sharp practice. Here is that ‘clear and round dealing which is the honour of man’s nature.’ ”—Thomson.
“Aristides being judge between private persons, one of them declared that his adversary had greatly injured Aristides. ‘Relate rather, good friend,’ said he interrupting him, ‘what wrong he hath done thee, for it is thy cause not mine, that I now sit judge of.’ Being desired by Simonides, the poet, who had a cause to try before him, to stretch a point in his favour, he replied: ‘As you would not be a good poet if your lines ran contrary to the just measures and rules of your art; so neither should I be a good judge or an honest man if I decided aught in opposition to law and justice.”—Percy Anecdotes.
“There then is the court of justice. How simple! How primitive! No lawyers and expensive forms; no long rhetorical arguments; but a quiet deliberative meeting, in which the persons concerned ‘sit’ and talk over the whole affair. Perhaps many a tangled matter would soon come out straight, many a dispute be quickly settled, if at first people would submit it to some such Board of Arbitration.”—Braden.
Theme—A SHORTSIGHTED POLICY AND ITS MERITED OBLIVION
“Despite those titles, power and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonoured and unsung.”—Scott.
I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance.
The kinsman’s conduct here stands out as a contrast for all time with that of Boaz. Are we wrong in seeing in him an example of the mean equivocating worldling? When it is a question of the land (Ruth 4:4) he will redeem, but when it is a question of the law which binds him to succour the widow as well as take possession of the land, he hesitates. He stands as a representative of that large class who say “I cannot” to every appeal. Note (a) Something will always come in to hinder from the path of duty if we will allow it. “A lion in every street.” No man ever equivocated, or prevaricated in such a moment but the devil helped him to a sufficient and plausible excuse. (b) We may miss or misuse the one opportunity in life. This man did so undoubtedly. May be profitable to look,
I. At some of the probable reasons for his action.
A prejudice, and belief in a common superstition. Ruth a Moabitess. In Israel marriage with the daughter of an alien race was held to be “unlucky” even when it was lawful (Cox). No doubt, the popular voice affirmed that Mahlon and Chilion were cut off before their time because they married strange women (Ibid.) How superstitious fear rides some men against the plainest dictates of reason! It needs a strong mind, a truly noble spirit to shake off the control of popular opinion, to say nothing of popular superstition. No matter that Ruth’s virtues are known “in all the gate.” That shadowy, impalpable, intangible something which fear conjures up in the hearts of so many comes in probably to decide the question.
Selfish regard for his own inheritance. Every way the thing must have seemed undesirable to such a man, indeed to most men. Ruth was poor, so was Naomi, and he must take charge of both—a double burden. If an heir should be born, he would be called by the name of Mahlon,—if more children, the inheritance would have to be divided among many. A shrewd, selfish man would be sure to say “No” under such circumstances, and the unnamed kinsman seems to have been such. (a) Took no care (b) made no enquiries about the widows until forced to do so thus publicly. A type of those who fear trouble and so say nothing. Let wrong continue, fraud, want, &c., multiply and go on their way as if they were neither responsible to God or man. Note on the other hand a danger from excess either way. Some will have to say at last “They made me keeper of the king’s vineyard, but mine own vineyard have I not kept.” No man is asked to neglect his own affairs, to their serious detriment.
Want of a chivalrous and heroic spirit. This the secret of all else. The duty was clear, but the man was living in that state when duty is only felt as a burden. Of course there were difficulties, but they were just of that kind that a true unselfish man, would be delighted to overcome. Possibly the man was a just man according to his lights (Cox). May have honestly doubted whether he was bound to marry Mahlon’s Moabitish widow. Probably one of those cautious, common-place souls, who fail under severe tests, and in critical moments, when the law seems doubtful, and prudence can only discuss the question from a selfish standpoint, and who fail just for want of that larger vision, which looks at the spirit, not at the letter. So Orpah failed where Ruth triumphed [cf. on Ruth 1:14 p. 53; also on p. 60]. So Lot was led to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, while Abraham remained with God to receive the promises (Genesis 13:10-17). So the kinsman as contrasting with Boaz. So the “child of sense” always as contrasting with the child of the spirit. Note! The reluctance and inability of the mere natural man to undertake and effect the work of doing and suffering (Wordsworth).
II. At some of the certain results of his action.
His name is studiously avoided in the Scriptures, simply called “such a one,” almost an epithet of contempt. Note. There is an over-cautious, calculating selfishness which misses its mark by over-shrewdness.
This man sought fame and the remembrance a large inheritance would give, and this is what he found—feared that his “name” would be cut off from Israel, and his inheritance marred, since his children would be called by the name of another, and so he denied himself and let another go down to posterity as redeemer. Curious he is unnamed in the very book which recounts his story. We know him simply as the “anonymous kinsman” (Cox). His miserable, narrow policy brought its own defeat, while Boaz, who had no such selfish desire or ambition, lives in the pages of inspiration as the ancestor of Christ Himself. Note. A principle in this. Impossible that men should live both for the present and future, in many senses. The immediate policy often seems best when it is a selfish one, a narrow, degraded one. But wait! True, men exist from day to day by care and industry, but they live to posterity by virtue of unselfish and heroic deeds. There is a losing the life which is a saving it. Live to yourself and you perish with the present, but live for others, and the memory will be fresh and fragrant when you have passed away. Men speedily forget everything but goodness.
“Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in the dust.”—Shirley.
(1) The desire for fame natural to the human breast. Nothing so wrong in it after all. The desire to leave an inheritance behind not uncommon—not to be condemned of itself. The whole question is as to how the accomplishment of these desires is pursued, whether (a) To the forgetfulness of other claims and duties as here; (b) To the neglect of others’ rights. Then be sure it is a short-sighted policy, seen through by men, condemned of God? Best to do our duty, and leave the question of fame and heritage, as everything else, with Him!
(2) “If souls be made of earthly mould
Let them love gold;
If born on high,
Let them unto their kindred fly.”—Herbert.
(3) What is a hard duty to the worldling may show itself a delightful pleasure to the good man—to the man of God.
(4) Lest I mar mine inheritance.
(1) How easy to do this.
(2) In how many ways it may be done—ways of which we have no conception at the time. Striving to save it we may lose it, as this man did.
(3) How many do this? (a) Ruin health, (b) lose reputation, (c) make the estate bankrupt, (d) cast faith aside, etc.
“How very ready are we to acknowledge duties which are likely to benefit ourselves.”—Macartney.
“This person readily owned himself Elimelechs near relation and next kinsman, when the remnant of his property was to be got, and then he had plenty of money for the redemption: but when other duties were presented to him—when he was reminded that there were widows to be cherished, as well as fields to be grasped—then he discovered the danger to his own inheritance.”—Macartney.
“This makes many shy of the great redemption, they are not willing to espouse religion. Heaven they could be glad of, but holiness they can dispense with; it will not agree with the lust they have already espoused and therefore let who will purchase Heaven at that rate they cannot.”—M. Henry.
“When a man finds that he is living from conscience, and not from trust and love and peace; when he finds that he has not spontaneity nor generous impulses any more, he feels that he is going down to the lower level; and he is asking every day, “What is it my duty to do?” He does not get any higher than this. It is a sign of great retrogression. It is a sign that a man has lost the liberty of a son of God. It is a sign that he is no longer a friend, but a servant. He feels like doing his duty and that is all.”—Beecher.
“Go out with me to-day into the woods, where the white oak is, and where the beech is. Their leaves died last November, but they all hang on the trees yet. The trees have not strength enough to slough them. They always make me think of a great many people. Sap does not run in them any more, but their duties hang on them like dead leaves all over. They would not like to drop their duties; they are not quite in that state yet; but those duties are dry, sapless, and enforced”—Ibid.
“Ho, such a one!” The name of the kinsman who feared to mar his own inheritance is blotted out, whilst the name of him who was willing to marry the stranger and the outcast, has been transmitted to honorable remembrance. In like manner the name of the beggar has been left on perpetual record, whilst the name of the rich man at whose gate he lay has utterly perished.”—Elliot.
“The Muse of History does not trouble herself with useless names, but lets them drop into a congenial oblivion, and if compelled to record some facts about them, uses such a slightly contemptuous epithet—“Such a one.” A poor immortality that almost worse than utter neglect.”—Braden.
“The Pyramids of Egypt, selfishly reared it is thought, to perpetuate the fame of the mighty monarchs that built them, refuse to whisper their ambitious names; but the poor widow, who, without thinking of fame, silently dropped her two mites into the temple treasury, and the weeping penitent who, in the prodigality of her great love anointed the feet of her Savour with her precious spikenard, shall, wherever the gospel is preached to the end of time, have these acts spoken of for a memorial of them. In the highest sense, every true act of goodness is immortal.”—Thomson.
“If kinsmen dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry outside [i.e. outside the family circle], unto a stranger; her husband’s kinsman shall go unto her, and take her to wife and perform the duty of a husband’s kinsman unto her. And it shall be that the first-born whom she beareth shall stand upon the name [i.e. take the place, or arise in the place] of the kinsman who is dead, that his name be not wiped out of Israel. And if the man like not to take his kinsman’s wife, then let his kinsman’s wife go up to the gate, unto the elders, and say, ‘my husband’s kinsman refuseth to raise up unto his kinsman a name in Israel; he will not do the duty of my husband’s kinsman.’ Than the elders of the city shall call him, and speak unto him; and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; then shall his kinsman’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe, from off his feet, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, ‘so let it be done unto the man who will not build up his kinsman’s house.’ And his name shall be called in Israel, House of the shoe taken off.”—Deuteronomy 25:5-10.
Theme—THE KINSMAN REDEEMER
“The man most man, with tenderest human hands
Works best for man, … as God in Nazareth.—Mrs. Browning.
Ye are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, etc.
Charity should begin at home, with that which is nearest. So redemption, deliverance must work along the same lines, from the same centre. In every way the claims of the nearest are first. How far Boaz recognised the force of this law may be seen in his respect for the rights of the nearest kinsman [cf. on Ruth 3:12-13; Ruth 4:3-4]. That failing only, the welcomed claim falls upon himself [cf. also Jeremiah 32:7-8, etc.].
The same law is recognised and followed in the world-wide schemes of redemption. God is our Father, what nearer relationship can there be than this? Christ the elder brother. And in this link between the human and the Divine is the reason for the incarnation at Bethlehem, the agony at Gethsemane, the sacrifice at Calvary. He was redeeming his own. The sin was in the flesh, and the payment must be in the flesh. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same, etc. (cf. Hebrews 2:14-16). More emphatically still is this law of kinship asserting itself on our behalf laid down in the epistle to the Galatians. The “children” are represented as seen “in bondage under the elements of the world,” Then when the “fulness of the time” had come, “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law. To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:3-5). The whole belongs to the family economy, the family arrangements for bringing back and buying back its own. Hence it is the spirit of Anti-Christ to say that Christ has not come in the flesh—a blow at the very foundation truth of the gospel—a denial of the one and only hope of humanity.
Notice then with regard to the office of this Kinsman Redeemer.
I. It was not an arbitrary institution. It was one resting upon principles inherent to man, that help comes or should come from those nighest to us.
1. It was reasonable. Founded upon the reason of things, and working in harmony with all that essentially belongs to the idea of human society. The family estate remained unimpaired because of it for any considerable length of time, and was kept from passing to others. The Hebrews would not lose a single family, or branch of the family if they could help it—a wise and statesman like arrangement. [cf. also Ruth 2:20-21; p. 140.]
So in the wider sphere. Sin has brought disorder, alienation, loss of heritage, into the midst of the great family of God. But are there no remedial processes that spring out of the family life and bond? To deny this possibility is to deny every hope of humanity, and can belong to a creed born only of despair. No doubt as to the Scriptural answer to the question. They remembered that God was their Rock and the high God their Redeemer (Psalms 78:35.) Christ hath redeemed, etc. (Galatians 3:13). Ye are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 7:23). Cf. also 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Timothy 2:6; Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45, etc., etc. And, however, we explain the utterance of Job (Job 19:25) it has this great hope of humanity underlying it. I know that my goel is not cut off, but liveth ever to make intercession for me; he will not forsake me, but will stand at the latter day upon the earth, having redeemed for me my forfeited possession, etc. (Macarlney’s Trans.)
2. It was necessitated. That is if the family tree be kept with all its branches flourishing. There must be some way of providing for lost and forfeited inheritances. So as between God and man, the scheme of redemption springs out of the necessities of the case, and is but the outcome of the character of God Himself, and His love for His alienated children.
3. It was legally and technically right. An express provision of the law. Law indeed in its best sense is only the endeavour to fix these great principles of human nature and give them expression. Note.
(1) Law is not enough for the law might and must fail at times as it did here. Either it absolved this kinsman, as Lange thinks, or it was too weak to carry out its own demands of him in the face of a popular superstition [see last outline].
(2) Love alone can truly undertake to redeem. (a) Looks through the letter into the spirit. The spirit of the law entirely on Ruth’s side even if the letter were against her [see Crit. and Exeg. notes]. (b) Rises superior to all thought of fear. (c) Works promptly and willingly as here. One passage alone will show how completely the gospel scheme of redemption is in harmony with this, God so loved, etc. (John 3:16).
4. It was Divinely sanctioned [cf. Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Leviticus 25:47-54].
II. It was not a mere passing custom, but one involving and foreshadowing glorious truths. Truly and in the deepest sense of the word a type—a figure of still better things to come.
See how significant the work of a goel is to those who believe in the redemption by Jesus Christ. His first duty was to purchase those who were otherwise lost. So with ourselves. We were “sold under sin,” “led captive of the devil.” But He came, gave Himself a ransom, bought us with His own blood, &c. [1 Peter 1:18-19; Hebrews 9:12-15; Ephesians 1:7, &c.]. The second duty was to redeem the forfeited inheritance. The creature and the creation groan and are in travail, but they are redeemed and shall be delivered [Romans 8:20]. Man was made heir and lord over all (Genesis 1:26-31; Psalms 8:6). He is now only living as a discrowned monarch. But we see Jesus, the Apostle says (Hebrews 2:5-9), and in Him we have the hope of the final redemption of all things. The third duty was to protect and take to Himself. The concept of the Almighty as the Goel or Redeemer of Israel is a very common one in the Scriptures [Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 53:3; Isaiah 54:8, &c.]. So with Christ and the Church [see next outline]. Note. Christ is the Goel or Redeemer whose shoe is never drawn off (Wordsworth). His work of Redemption is for eternity (Ibid).
(1) How completely love is the fulfilling of the law!
(2) And even where the law fails love triumphs.
(3) We have here redemption (a) proposed, (b) accomplished, (c) applied.
‘And if the name of Redeemer be dear to us, conveying, as it does merely the idea of a benevol at person, who, by purchase, delivers a poor bondsman from servitude, how much dearer will it be when we find it setting forth to us the brotherhood into which the High and Lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, enters with his best creatures, and the watchful, patients care which he exercises over them.”—Macartney.
“Our ancestors by corrupting the spirit and blood of humanity brought upon the Son of Man his sore travail. The degeneracy of the race is His humiliation. What ever reproach He may suffer, He will be numbered with transgressors, that through his straightness he may breack their bonds, and restore the integrity of their nature. He must redeem men ‘because He is the Son of Man.’ … The great secret of Christ’s power over men lies in the fact that in Him humanity is Divine. On the ground of his supreme humanity, nothing is more natural than that He should say ‘I will draw all men unto me’.… His drawing power was always in principle the same, ‘I drew them with cords of a man’ (Hosea 11:4,).… In His descent into our earthly human condition He becomes himself the first example of his own law. “Thou mayest not set a stranger over thee which is not thy brother.’ (Deuteronomy 17:15,) Does not the Highest Authority for this law vanish if we deny the humanity of the Son of God?”—Pulsford.
“The kinship with the redeemed in short, is an invariable law and condition of redemption. And this law holds of the Divine Goel. ‘Forasmuch as we were partakers of flesh and blood Christ also himself took part in the same.’ ‘None but a man could be the Goel of men. No alien, no stranger, could interpose for us; only ‘the Man who is near of kin to us, our nearest kinsman’ Hence the Son of God became the Son of Man.”—Cox.
“Will the vexed accursed humanity
As worn by Him, begin to be
A blessed, yea, a sacred thing
For love and awe and ministering?”
“Under this manifold and most appropriate image we have presented to us the supreme facts in the moral history of the world, the truths which have most profoundly entered into our spiritual experiences. No poor Hebrew who had been compelled to part with the fields he had inherited from his fathers suffered a loss comparable with ours, when, by sin, we had lost the righteousness, the right relation to God and man, in which we were originally placed by the Father of our spirits No Hebrew sold, or selling himself, for a slave to a hard and alien master ever endured a bondage half so bitter and shameful as that into which we fell when, sold under sin, we sank into bondage to our lusts. No deliverance wrought by a Hebrew Goel is worthy to be compared with that by which Christ has made it possible for us to subdue our evil passions and lusts and to possess ourselves of a righteousness more stable, and more perfect.”—Cox.
“Kinsmen.” Lit. Goels. The distinction between this and other words used to designate one near of kin, is that whereas the latter denotes only relationship, this implies certain defined rights and obligations. The rights of the Goel who was the nearest living blood relation, consisted
(1) in the redemption of the inheritance, and when, he had sold himself into slavery, of the person of him who was near of kin to him,
(2) in his claim to restitution or satisfaction for wrong done to such an one, when he left no son behind him, and
(3) in the avenging the blood of such an one in the case of murder if intentional, and even if accidental, provided the manslayer were found without the precincts of the cities of refuge.”—Elliot.
Theme—THE BRIDEGROOM REDEEMER
“Love he sent to bind
The disunited tendrils of that vine
Which bears the wine of life, the human heart.”—Shelley.
“But now possession crowns endeavour,
I took her in my heart, to grow
And fill the hollow place for ever.”—Jean Ingelow.
Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess have I purchased … to be my wife.
Ruth’s recompense now is to be plainly and openly manifested. As with the wise men who sought they knew not what, she, too, had seen the star in the East., and followed it she knew not where. Faith had sustained her. With sublime, heroic self denial, leaving all behind, she had said to Naomi, “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” She had come to find neglect and penury in Israel, to be a lonely gleaner in the hot sun, known and pointed at as the Moabitish woman who came back with Naomi. Her virtue evident, and not unknown in the gate; whatever claims she had upon kinsmen had been ignored, because she was one of an “accursed race.” That which should have come to her unsought, she has not merely to demand, but to seek for and plead for (Ruth 3:9) “Spread thy wing over thine handmaid for thou art a near kinsman.” And when her noble-hearted protector had demanded public justice for her the claim had been repudiated. But the path of the just shines none the less towards the perfect day because of obstacles like these. There was one generous spirited man in Israel at least who had marked her virtue, her self-respect, shining conspicuously, not only in the harvest field, but even during the difficult and delicate interview in the threshing floor. And now he shelters her under the spreading wings of his own fair name and social position, rejected as she is, takes her to himself before all. Did ever fiction conceive a more fitting climax to so sweet a story? “Marriage is honourable” everywhere and in all ages, where more so than here?
I. Marriage is honorable because of principles to be seen and illustrated here.—
(1) The relationship openly acknowledged. A most important thing this, which, if refused, can only be refused from mean and sinister motives. Clandestine marriages a fruitful source of misery. Why should there be any reason for not acknowledging the relationship entered upon before all? Boaz was not ashamed of Ruth, although she was a Moabitess. Not ashamed even of the peculiar motives which prompted his conduct. Nor will any true man be. Note. If there be cause to be ashamed of the moment’s confession, why should he seek a lifelong companionship? Love may begin in secret, but ends in being confessed openly.
(2). Publicly recognised. “We are witnesses,” they said, (a) Enforces fidelity, (b) gives legal protection, (c) secures permanence to the relationship, (d) hands down a good name to the children, and preserves them from the finger of scorn. Note. He that tampers with the institution of marriage touches the ark of God (Thomson) cf. Genesis 2:18; Genesis 2:21-25. [See also on “Marriages in Moab,” Ruth 1:4, pp. 26–28.]
(3) Solemnly ratified. (a) With prayer. The Lord make, etc. What is religion intended for if it is not to come in at times like this? The secularisation of marriage means the separation of human life from divine things at its most solemn moments. A sorry match that has no prayer breathed over it, a disastrous beginning likely to have a worse end (Braden). Rather our religion should come in the more, to touch life and humanity everywhere, on all sides. Note. The prayers here are not official prayers, but those of the people, the elders and inhabitants of the city. (b) With lavish professions of good will, neighbourly expressions of esteem, desires for prosperity, etc. Ruth, indeed, taken with the approval and acclamation of the people—a truly Eastern picture. Note. The sanction of Christianity must ever rest upon kindred scenes. Christ’s first miracle was wrought at a marriage-feast.
II. Marriage is honorable because of what it is used to illustrate and shadow forth. The inspired Word has put honour by making it to express, represent, and illustrate some of the kindred relationships between God and man. (a) Between Israel and Jehovah: “Thy Maker is thy husband” (Isaiah 54:5); (b) between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 21:2). Note Relationships below are often only the faint shadow of grander relationships above. What else can we expect when man himself was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). So Moses was commanded to make the tabernacle according to the pattern God showed him in the Mount.
In the union of Ruth the Moabitess with Boaz, of Bethlehem, the future birth-place of Christ, we have a foreshadowing of the mystical union and marriage between Christ and the Gentile world, and of the junction of Jew and Gentile in one body in Him (Wordsworth). Certainly the incident very beautifully illustrates Christ’s dealings with those who were once alien and reprobate.
(1) He takes them to Himself, just as Ruth was taken in her lowly estate and poverty a Moabitess.
(2) He covers them with His wing [cf. on the Overshadowing Wing, page 119, etc.].
(3) He clothes them with His righteousness. Ventured the marring of his own inheritance to do this, for though He was rich yet for our sakes He became poor (M. Henry).
(4) He redeems their inheritance, and presents them to a more lasting heritage.
IMPROVEMENT.—How strikingly the story here exemplifies the words of Christ, “Verily, I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, etc. (Mark 10:29-30).
“All Bethlehem seemed moved to a devout and gladsome sympathy, with an event which had such a history behind it. The little town kept holiday; and it was meet that it should do so. Far from us be that ungenial and narrow spirit, which would frown upon cheerfulness at such an hour. It is one of the marks of the Divinity of our religion that it touches our humanity on all sides. But farther still be that irreligious spirit which would degrade the marriage rite into a mere business transaction, and form a connection between two human beings for better or for worse, a union of interest and affections, of hopes and fears, so that ‘they twain become one flesh,’ and only the grave has power to break the bond with less of deliberation and solemnity than men usually display in the sale or the purchase of an animal. Surely the formation of the marriage bond pre-eminently ought to be ‘sanctified by the word of God and by prayer.’ ”—Thomson.
“Love is the best investment of all, save conscience and the sentiment of duty. These are the treasure-houses of life, the great market wherein the shares are always rising. The step can be easily taken, but never retraced. It brings with it, in all cases, additional sorrows as well as joys. The freedom of the man and woman is thereby in a certain sense limited and curtailed. Then each has to think not alone of self, but, also, and as much, if not more of another. Each has to act, not with a view to personal comfort and ease, but with the loving purpose of contributing all possible satisfaction and joy to another’s life.”—Braden.
“And may our love be ne’er a trailing robe,
To clog our feet along our heavenward way,
But a warm garment for our daily use.
Marriage is but for earth, but holy love
Will live in Heaven. Let us ever strive,
To grow more like to God—for God is love.”
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—
Ruth 4:11. We are witnesses. The business settled without lawyers or legal casuistry (A. Clarke). The Lord make. The birth of children looked upon as a direct interference of Providence—a contribution to the fulfilment of the great promise whereon their hearts were set (E. Price). Like Rachel and like Leah. The two ancestresses of all true Israelites. Like Ruth they had left home for their husbands. The younger probably mentioned first not only as the favourite wife, but as connected with Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19; Jeremiah 31:15). Do thou worthily [manfully]. Lit. make thou strength or power. In Ephratah. Some distinguished Ephratah as the country, Bethlehem as the town (Bernard, Price). And be famous in Bethlehem. Lit. call a name. Get a name (Lange). Meant “act the noble part” (Morison). The real force of the whole phrase is “Be thou influential in the growth of thy wealth, and be well spoken of as far as thy influence may be made to extend” (E. Price). These words are prophetic, for thence came the birth of Him who has made Bethlehem famous in all the world (Theodoret).
Ruth 4:12. Like the house of Pharez [Genesis 38:29; 1 Chronicles 2:4; Matthew 1:3.] The second son of Judah (Numbers 26:20) and one of the ancestors of Boaz. His family was more illustrious and numerous than that of his brother Zarah. Perez also was a son of Tamar, who, although a very different character than Ruth, resembled her in history in that she suffered injustice in having the rights of marriage withheld from her [see Lange in loco.]
Ruth 4:13. The Lord gave her. By a special blessing Boaz advanced in years (Wordsworth). A son. The kinsman’s superstitious fears [see on Ruth 4:6] now shown to be groundless.
Ruth 4:14. Blessed be the Lord. Another rythmical sentence [cf. Ruth 1:16, p. 66; also cp. Luke 1:46-55; Luke 1:68-79, etc.] Not left thee this day without a kinsman [redeemer.] Thy grandson (Wordsworth). So Lange and Morison. Not so, Boaz (Speaker’s Com.). Obed would inherit the estate of Elimelech, and so he is the real goel of Naomi. The grammatical construction also points to Obed, “the restorer, nourisher, &c.,” as well as the phrase “this day.” That his name may be. And may his name be (Lange).
Ruth 4:15. And he shall be [may he be] a restorer … nourisher. Trueliterally in her case, true spiritually to all the world by Him who was born at Bethlehem of this seed according to the flesh (Theodoret). Better to thee than seven sons. Cf. 1 Samuel 1:8; 1 Samuel 2:5, for similar expressions. The women acknowledge now how far short the legal friendship of Israel towards Naomi has fallen in comparison with the self-sacrifice of the daughter of Moab (Lange). The prospect now presented of her becoming the tribe mother of a numerous and flourishing family (Keit).
Ruth 4:17. Her neighbours gave it a name. Besides this he doubtless received a name from his parents (Lange). This of the women continued and inserted in the family genealogy, because seen to be appropriate (ibid). Obed, servant—i.e., of the Lord (Wordsworth, Gesen. Targ.) Because he served to gladden Naomi’s old age (Steele and Terry). Serving or worshipping (Eiliot). Must be understood in the sense of serving as a son [see Lange in loco] Obed in the sense of “one that serves,” harmonises well with the words in Ruth 4:15 (Bertheau.)
Ruth 4:18. Now these are the generations. The table presents ten names. A round number, suggesting, it may be, that unimportant ones have been omitted. The scribes were accustomed to do this both to ease their own labour of transcription, and to give additional emphasis to the names appearing in the received list (E. Price) [see Introduction, p. 4,
5.]. BOAZ. Not Mahlon, as might have been expected from the Levirate law. David. Why end with this name if the book were written, as Bertheau, Davidson, and others seem to think, long after the time of Solomon? Points possibly to a reason, if he were reigning as king.
Theme.—PRAYERS FOR POSTERITY AND PROSPERITY
Patience and abnegation of self, and devotion to others,
This was the lesson a life of trial and sorrow had taught her.
So was her love diffused, but, like to some odorous spices,
Suffered no waste nor loss, though filling the air with aroma.—Longfellow.
The Lord make the woman, etc. And let thy home, etc. So Boaz took Ruth, etc.
Good wishes are to be regarded as prayers before God, but those of a people (“all the people”) as the effectual fervent prayer which availeth much (E. Price). Good to keep the heart in readiness, so as to resolve our common emotions of sympathy into benedictions as here. How long did this blessing rest over the house of Boaz?—until Christ came? The best seal to a compact like this found in prayers like these which stretch out towards generations yet unborn.
I. We have the general truth taught here. That the love of posterity may be used of God and sanctified. How the Hebrew idea of “children, a blessing from the Lord” expresses itself in these devout prayers. Note. All natural emotions and tendencies may be worked by the Divine wisdom into the great scheme of Providence and grace (E. Price). The Incarnation, the direct issue and product of preceding conditions. God glorifying what is good in the race, the noble spirit of Boaz, the virtue of Ruth, the prayers of these devout Israelites, all leading upwards, onwards, toward the Christ that is to be.
(1) How wonderful!
(2) How suggestive! Who knows what His purposes may be through our children, if we are faithfully consecrating them to Him? Men make much of a pious ancestry. What if we look in the other direction, and have faith, and use the privilege of prayer aright?
II. The particular truth is taught here: That a Moabitess is thus introduced among the progenitors of our Lord Himself. Cf. Matthew 1:5. Boaz begat Obed of Ruth. A memorable fact. A Gentile woman thus rendered a constituent portion of the Redeemer’s genealogy (E. Price). Why?
(1) To indicate the heathen were not quite forgotten under the old dispensation severe and exclusive as it was (Ibid).
(2) To emphasise the fact that God has always appeared to work by what at some times might be regarded as contraries.
(3) To remove the suspicion from the sceptic that the Advent depended upon the mere natural course of events (Ibid).
(4) To keep the devout student lovingly and reverently dependent upon the unerring though mysterious will of the Most High (Ibid).
Theme—CHILDREN THE GIFT OF HEAVEN
E. Price on The seed which the Lord shall give thee.
The Jewish idea may be modified by us, that the number of children measures a man’s felicity. Yet the truth, underlying it, continues with us: viz., that pious descendants are always the greatest blessings which the great Father can bestow upon us.
Do they not bind us to heaven by sanctified affections?
Do they not sweeten home sympathies?
Do they not exemplify the advantages of that saintly education, they are supposed to be susceptible of?
Do they not become the best support of the declining years of a happy parent?
Do they not assure prosperity to a spiritual church? And do they not thus hand down the tradition of the faith unimpaired?
In this sense, then, “blessed is the man who has his quiver full of them.”
“The man has acted both unselfishly and honourably in upholding the family custom of Israel. The public therefore, praise him and wish him good. Such applause is both desirable and profitable. The actions of a good man are fit subjects for praise. It stimulates us to higher deeds when we recognise nobleness in others. It encourages them in acts of generosity and honour. If any around us do wise, thoughtful, open-hearted, unselfish deeds, let us not fear to praise them.”—Braden.
“What fame would be acquired in Israel by the kindness of Boaz to Ruth and Naomi? Was it to be hoped that his goodness and bounties to them would be known and praised among all the tribes? It is natural for men to think that the actions which they admire, should be known and admired by all. The hopes of these good women were, perhaps, more sanguine than the case could justify; and yet they were more than realised. The name of Boaz became famous through all Israel, and will continue famous among the Gentiles also, while the world lasts, because it is mentioned with honour in the Book of God. Both bad and good actions are often published to a greater extent, and continue longer to be known, than the doers or any of their friends expected.”—Lawson.
“The godly are members one of another, therefore must needs have a fellow-feeling … but let this be with them in lawful things, for charity rejoiceth not in iniquity. What joy can it be to a godly man to see his friend rich and in glory by usury, bribery, oppression, deceit and fraud?”—Bernard.
“It is one of the grand aims of divine revelation to produce this state of mind [the habitual recognition of God]; and in the case of this people it evidently had produced it. Religion was an all-pervading life.… It penetrated everywhere, like the sunlight. God was beheld as the Cause of causes; His Hand was visible in every occurrence; He was a felt Presence.”—Dr. A. Thompson.
Theme—MANLINESS, ITS FIT AND PROPER SPHERE
“The world waits
For help. Beloved, let us love so well,
Our work shall still be better for our love,
And still our love be sweeter for our work.”—Mrs. Browning.
Do thou worthily [manfully] in Ephratah and be famous [get a name] in Bethlehem.
The world wants men, always has done so; did so even thus early in its history—men who play the worthy, manful part. Such will always
(1) be well spoken of,
(2) desired and longed for,
(3) in the highest sense “make the best of both worlds.” Note.
(1) Honour, the respect and esteem of others, not to be despised as cynics would teach, rather to be sought for in legitimate ways as in the sight of God. [cf. Psalms 1, 112, Job 29:0, Proverbs 4:8-9, etc.]
(2) To be truly a man and play the manly part includes all virtues, or should do so. (a) So on the gentler side. To be human is to be humane, and should be thus understood always. Note. Impossible to be noble in character without tenderness, gentleness, compassionateness, etc. (b) So on the sterner side. The root idea of the word virtue is strength. The strong man, self-contained, self-balanced, having the mastery over his passion, is the virtuous man. This seemingly the idea of the text, “Act the part of a true man, a strong man.” A right worthy exhortation for such an occasion.
I. The sphere of this manly part. At home—in Ephratah, Bethlehem. Do good among thy own people [Ezekiel 18:18], be public-spirited, though to private disadvantage (Trapp). So in Christ’s charge to His disciples, these home claims and duties are not forgotten. “Beginning at Jerusalem,” He said. Note. Easy to ignore this aspect of duty—like Jonah, to flee to Tarshish from the Nineveh God has pointed out, but this is the Divine idea, “Begin at home.” “Shine there,” consecrate that. “Return to thine own house and shew how great things God hath done unto thee” (Luke 8:39). Note. A difficult duty this always, as with Eli, Noah, Lot, Judah [cf. Genesis 38:0; Song of Solomon 1:6].
II. The results of this manly part. Be famous, etc. The two things linked together, the doing worthily and the fame that follows it. Note. All other ways of making a reputation valueless. Great reputations are to be obtained by great merits, by saying well and doing well, by wise speech and wise actions, by being useful and serviceable in our own day and generation. Note (a) A great name often not so much to be coveted, “but a good name is better than precious ointment” (Lawson). (b) The common and vulgar ideas of fame, glory, martial renown, etc., not encouraged here. It is fame won at home of which the text speaks.
“Home is the most appropriate sphere for Christian usefulness. It is the place where true piety is ever tested, and false piety soonest put to the blush. It has the first claims upon the man of God, whatever his public position may be. And yet how often is this forgotten or ignored. Eli, priest of the Living God, can enter into the Holiest place and stand before the Shekinah glory in the manifested presence of Deity itself, and yet he cannot order his household aright, or protect the sanctuary of the Most High from the pollution of his children. But it is not so with the truly devout and consecrated spirit. As master, or as servant, in the workshop and in the counting house, it is there his Christ-like character shines to best advantage; it is there, by the quiet influence which belongs to every life, the noblest testimony is borne for God. The household is hallowed, the home life consecrated, the private walks sanctified, the neighbourhood blessed by the sweet and gentle aroma of a holy and heavenly life.”—B.
“A name truly good is the aroma from a virtuous character. It is a spontaneous emanation from genuine excellence. It is a reputation for whatsoever things are honest and lovely, and of good report. It is such a name as is not only remembered on earth but written in heaven. Just as a box of spikenard is not only valuable to its possessor, but pre-eminently precious in its diffusion; so, when a name is really good, it is of unspeakable service to all who are capable of feeling its aspiration.”—Hamilton.
“But there are deeds which should not pass away,
And names that must not wither, though the earth
Forgets her empire with a just decay.
The enslavers and the enslaved, their death and birth.
The high, the mountain majesty of worth
Should be, and shall, survivors of its woe,
And from its immortality look forth
In the sun’s face, like yonder Alpine snow,
Imperishably pure beyond all things below.”
Theme.—CONGRATULATIONS AND GOOD WISHES
The soul of music slumbers in the shell,
Till waked and kindled by the master’s spell;
And feeling hearts, touch them but rightly, pour
A thousand melodies unheard before.—Rogers.
Blessed be the Lord which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman.
The birth of a son and heir an important event always; more especially in an eastern household, and with one of the age and position of Boaz. A memorable day this, too, in the history of Israel. Another link added in the chain Christ-ward. The joy here an earnest of the joy hereafter, the barriers of national pride broken down in part; prophetic of that glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, goodwill towards men (Luke 2:14). Note. First prayer here (Ruth 4:11) now praise. Blessed, etc.
In these congratulations there is
I. A glance at the new circumstances surrounding Naomi. As much our duty to rejoice with those who rejoice as to weep with those who weep. (a) We should enter into their plans (b), sympathise in their successes (c), rejoice especially at their unexpected prosperity, as here. Note
(1) We cannot help doing this if we encourage that which is good in ourselves. God made men to sympathise with each other, only that sin has made them selfish and envious.
(2) Man’s duty is to respond to these Divinely implanted instincts. Our good wishes are not worth much unless they find utterance or expression in some way. Here the joy not only felt but avowed. “The women are, as is usual in such times, full of expressive sympathy. That is quite a touch of nature.”—Braden.)
II. A glance heavenward. The Lord, etc. The joy of the godly has this holy and religious expression naturally and always. Especially should we look upward in these moments of family rejoicing. Note. Whatever joy men may give us, praise is due to God, who thus makes them the instruments of his benefits.
Right again that this devout feeling should find expression. Is it that our homes are to be made glad with his gifts, and our hearts with the sunshine of his presence, and no sign be seen of the gladness which is there? A holy and profitable way of gossiping this; God praised and called upon (Trapp). Note. The blessings of the Old Testament generally of a material character (Kitto). Yet they are not the less often the source of spiritual joy (cf. Isaiah 23:0).
III. A glance toward the future. He shall be unto thee, etc. (Ruth 4:15). Why to Naomi especially? Are we not to see in this her reward for all the past? Note. (a) Those are to be comforted most by us who have been most humbled. They need it most, and we should be ready to speak the word of consolation. A poor Christian who has no word of congratulation for a time like this! (b) A joyous prospect may open suddenly even for the sorrowing and the aged. Call me not Naomi, she had said (Ruth 1:20). But God can send light at eventide. [See next outline].
E. Price on this:
Theme—A GOOD CHILD
Women do not always babble vain things. How quick are they to apprehend the modifications of our domestic life.
Study, then, the portrait of a good son, which they offer here.
God must have given him.
God adapts him to special needs.
God makes him felt as a comforter (Heb., a Redeemer).
God in him restores exhausted life.
God secures the true honour of the family.
And God thus “nourishes” old age, till it be resolved into heaven. Yes! God is in all!
Let parents pray, labour, and educate for this high end.
Let children see to it that their welcomed presence around the hearth may secure it.
And let “our gossips” even change their idle talk into kind congratulations and earnest prayers.
“It would seem as if there was already a kind of joyous foretaste of the birth and infancy which, in after times, was to be for ever associated with the name of Bethlehem. It was the first appearance on the scene of what may by anticipation be called, even then, the Holy Family, for that child was Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David. Nor is it a mere genealogical connexion between the two generations. The very licence and independence of the age may be said to have been the means of introducing into the ancestry of David and of the Messiah an element which else would have been, humanly speaking, impossible. ‘An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the congregation’ (Deuteronomy 23:3; Ezra 9:1; Nehemiah 13:1). This was the letter of the law, and, in the greater strietness that prevailed after the return from the captivity, it was rigidly enforced. But in the isolation of Judah from the rest of Israel, in the doing of every man what was right in his own eyes, the more comprehensive spirit of the whole religion overstepped the letter of a particular enactment.”—Stanley.
Theme—YOUTH AND AGE
“O thou bright thing fresh from the hand of God.
Nearer I seem to God when looking on thee;
’Tis ages since He made His youngest star;
His hand was on thee as ’twere yesterday.”—Alexander Smith.
He shall be to thee a restorer of thy life, etc. And Naomi took the child, etc.
How often the children are messengers of God, bringing new life into the household as here. There is a fountain of love enclosed in the heart of the aged, and it only needs the tiny infant fingers of some dear one’s child to unloose it. Note. The birth of a new spirit may come in the home with the new life. New consecration to God, new sympathy with all around. “Children are a heritage from the Lord.” (a) What sacredness should surround them, (b) what prayers ascend for them, (c) what blessedness be found in them! Note. If a man do not find his joy in the home, he will find his burden there.
I. What the children expect from us. (a) Care, (b) attention, (c) protection, (d) love, (e) nurture and training. In the text Naomi seen as responding to these demands. Her name still descriptive of her character [cf. on Ruth 1:2, p. 14]. Must be doing something. Felt that she had a duty which was no burden but a pleasure. “Took the child,” etc. Note. (a) Whoever was once capable of true love preserves its power for ever after (Lange). And life all the way through finds a sphere for it. Even in old age, when the maternal instinct may have been thought to have almost died out, Naomi becomes a foster-mother. So generally. Grandchildren not loved less, but sometimes more than the children themselves. Note. (b) Love may grow more intense, even as the shadows of death begin to fall around. What a tribute to and foreshadowing of its immortality.
II. What we expect of the children.
(1) They are to be the restorers of life and joy. “He shall be,” etc. Life intended to have this twofold, and reciprocal action and aspect. We do not give more than we get, if the true conception of God’s word and of our nature be carried out. Love brings its own reward.
(2) They are to be the supports of old age. “And a nourisher,” etc. The conditions will be reversed by-and-bye. Weakness coming on with us as strength grows with them. Then this new law is to come into operation. They are to succour and cherish in return for the past, as the trembling infirmities of second childhood claim us as their own. Beautiful, divine idea, which sin and selfishness may mar, but cannot altogether destroy! The old and the feeble never forgotten, but reaping then what they have sowed in the tears and joys, the sorrows and cares, and fond affections lavished upon childhood and infancy.
IMPROVEMENT.—So the Church is to foster young converts. In return they will become sooner or later her strength and support. Note. Spiritual children bring a greater blessing to her than “seven sons” according to the flesh (Lange).
Children should nourish their old parents and supply their wants, ἀντι πελαργων. Storks and mice feed their dams when old; boughs incline and bend down towards the root; and in summer, receiving from the root leaves, flowers, and fruit, they let them fall again in winter to the fattening and nourishing of the root. Unkind and unnatural children are like kites, which, when grown strong expel their dams, and with their bills and wings beat them out of the nest.”—Trapp.
“A certain Duke of Ormond who lost a virtuous son, the Lord Ossory, said that he would rather be the father of the dead Ossory, than of any living nobleman in England.”—Lawson.
“It is one of the many fine points of the story, that its concluding sentences are almost wholly devoted, not to the young and happy wife and mother, but to Naomi, who had suffered so many calamities, and who, by the piety and resignation with which she bore them, had drawn Ruth from the frivolities of Moab. It is Naomi not Ruth, whom, “the women, her neighbours,” congratulate on the birth of Ruth’s son. In him they see Naomi’s goel Ruth already had hers in Boaz; and they pray that, as he grows up, he may restore her to her former happiness, and be the stay and gladness of her old age. But though they speak to Naomi, and pray for her, they do not utterly forget the singular virtue of Ruth. In the words, “Thy daughter-in-law, who loveth thee, who is better to thee than seven sons,” they pronounce on her an eulogy such as few “strange” women could have heard from Hebrew lips. It is because the boy is Ruth’s son, that he is Naomi’s goel; for how can he fail to love and cherish the woman whom his mother has loved with a love even passing the love of women.”—Cox.
“Naomi is everywhere an image of the Church of Christ, which wins, confesses, and fosters through love. Men whose natural hearts are hostile to her, become her obedient children. When there is apostacy and misery in the Church it is for priests and preachers to repent, as Naomi did, and not to excuse themselves.… And how greatly she sins, when she does not rightly foster, those who do come; exhibiting neither love nor wisdom, nor faith in her treatment of them—that too will one day be made manifest. Impatience is not in love; and a little money does not make amends for the coldness of consummate self-righteousness.”—Lange.
“Of Boaz himself no warrior deeds are known, and yet the greatest of Israel’s heroes, the conqueror of Goliath [There is a tradition that Goliath descended from Orpah, as David from Ruth] sprang from him. He conquered himself, and on that account became the ancestor of Him who triumphed over sin and death. Similarly, Ruth had nothing but a heart full of love, and yet to her, once a daughter of Moab, there was given what neither Deborah nor Jael obtained, to become the Mother of Him by whom all the nations are redeemed.”—Ibid.
Theme—LINKS IN THE CHAIN CHRISTWARD
“How vain are all hereditary honours,
Those poor possessions from another’s deeds,
Unless our own just virtues form our title,
And give a sanction to our fond assumption.”—Shirley.
And they called his name Obed, etc. Now these are the generations, etc.
Not a dry list of names merely useless and cumbersome as the stones of the desert. These men lived, thought, played their part in life as we do now. Think of it. Then again the names themselves, not given haphazard, but from reasons, and with a motive. Obed, for instance, means a servant, and doubtless he was called so because of the part he was to play towards Naomi and towards God.
I. The interest men take generally in genealogy.
(1) Natural. Few men insensible or careless with regard to their ancestry, especially if it has been one which has played a noble and dignified part.
(2) Allowed and encouraged by Scripture. The lineage of Israel for many reasons of especial and world-wide importance.
(3) May be useful as a stimulus and inspiration.
II. The interest men take in this particular record.
(1) Because of the men themselves. They were men of fame. Nahshon a prince in Israel; David the king, etc.
(2) Because they are links in the genealogy of Christ. It is interesting to notice the variety of rank and condition in the ancestry of the Saviour. Rahab the harlot. Ruth the gleaner. Boaz, possibly the judge. David the king. “He who was bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh,” touches our race at every point, and claims kindred with it all. (A.Thomson). Note. How this illustrates the spiritual relationship to which Christ invites us.
(3) Because they are helps in the study, and attestation of prophecy and of character. How much history is condensed in such a list! Expand it, and what lessons are to be enforced! Here, for instance, Obed is called the son of Boaz after all, and not the son of Mahlon as might have been expected. Note. Laws and customs are often borne down by the force of circumstances and of public opinion. Is not this the reward of Boaz—the reward of faith [cf. on Ruth 4:6]. His name stands here contrary to the usual custom, stands as it ought to do among the ancestors of Christ himself. [See also Introduction Philippians 4:5; and on Ruth 1:2, pp. 14, 15.]
E. Price on this:
What a vanity these genealogies really are, although called a science, forsooth! “The pride of life” is never more exemplified than when a bad man is seen poring over the long catalogue of, it may be, worthless predecessors. A relief, then, to study one, drawn out by God Himself, and suggesting the fondest hopes of men!
From Pharez to David—what does the genealogical “tree” really suggest to us?
1. Our descent is only valuable as it stands related to God’s purpose in Christ Jesus. What would be the real worth of David’s name, if taken away from that of his great successor?
2. That Providence marvellously works up our little lives into the grand whole of His “Counsel.” Some of these names may in themselves be worthless, yet can they not break away from God’s overruling purpose!
3. Regarding the descent of David and of Christ the Lord as historical facts, the scheme of the Jewish “Herald” continually reminds us of our relation to, and gratitude for, the great and glorious Redeemer of men—Himself the son of Adam!
Names go for something, when multiplied into that of Him, who is the Alpha and the Omega of all human events!
“Obed a servant. It may be a remembrancer of duty. Just as the motto of the Prince of Wales is ‘Ich Dien,’ I serve. Any way it is beautiful never to despise service. ‘A Christian is to be meet for the Master’s use.’ How many there are who are of no use in the world! Some dislike all service, and prefer the dainty hand that is never soiled, and the life that is never separated from selfishness.”—Statham.
“Orpah, the child of sense, dismayed by the difficulties presented goes back again; Ruth, the child of the Spirit, ‘persuaded’ of better things, presses through all obstacles onward to join the Israel of God, and to find rest at last where rest at first had seemed impossible. So the ‘anonymous kinsman,’ fearing lest his name should be blotted out from Israel, his inheritance marred, his children called after another, misses the one opportunity of life and goes down to a nameless oblivion. Boaz, the man of nobler spirit, and larger faith, and keener insight is deterred by no fear, held back by no difficulty; and, contrary to custom, we find his name here as the father of Obed, in the genealogy of David and of Christ. Is it hard to read the moral of such a story? the moral which works itself out everywhere in the pages of Inspiration, and repeats itself today in the history of a thousand lives; that sense deceives and sight fails, and cunning defeats itself; that the law is fallible and the letter kills, while faith endures and love conquers: and that only in obeying those instincts which are of God, and which spring up in hearts open to His influence, is the safety and solution of human life. This is the victory of faith, which overcomes the world and finds its name written at last in the Lamb’s Book of Life for evermore.”—B.
“O, Moab! out of thee shall come forth the unspotted Lamb which bears the sins of the world, and rules over the whole earth! From the rock of the wilderness, i.e., from Ruth, widowed by the death of her husband, Boaz derived Obed … and from David came Christ.”—Jerome.
“Much of Scripture, and still more of that which is written about Scripture, is but like the valley of dry bones to eyes of sense and sin. But if the Spirit, without whom there is no true understanding breathe upon it, whatever men say, it may live again, and that to the praise and glory of God.”—B.