Redemption Accomplished — Reflections on Ruth 4
As we come to the close of the book of Ruth, one of the things I would like to point out is that the book of Ruth is like a mini-story of Redemptive-History within the vast tapestry of the Biblical story of Redemptive History. So many of the themes we find all throughout Redemptive-History are found in the book of Ruth.
In chapter 4, we see the resolution to the story of Ruth. At the end of chapter 3, the story left us with a bit of a “cliffhanger.” Ruth had pleaded with Boaz to “to spread his wings over her” (what amounted to a marriage proposal), and Boaz had agreed to perform the duty of a Kinsman-Redeemer. There was one, small catch—Boaz was not the nearest redeemer, there was one closer.
Now, it might be helpful to explain what is meant by a “Kinsman-Redeemer.” In OT law, there were provisions in the law to protect those who were hit by bad economic times, or had made poor choices, etc. (Leviticus 25:25). If an Israelite had to sell his land inheritance to make ends meet, or if he had to sell himself into servitude to pay off a debt, a member of that man’s clan (a Kinsman-Redeemer) could step in and “buy back” (or “redeem”) the land or the relative and restore them to solvency.
This is precisely the predicament that Naomi (and Ruth) found herself in. Her husband had died as well as her two sons. Furthermore, her two daughters-in-law were also childless widows. This meant that for them, they had to sell the family land, the land that belonged to Elimelech, in order to make ends meet. Now when the news came that Ruth had found favor in the eyes of Boaz, who was a Kinsman-Redeemer, Naomi had her hopes renewed. However, as we had previously stated, Boaz was not the nearest Redeemer, there was one nearer.
As chapter 4 unfolds, we’re introduced to this nearer Redeemer, and it’s not apparent in the English, but in the Hebrew, the closer Redeemer has no name. Where the NKJV text says “friend,” the Hebrew literally means “Mr. So-and-So.” In other words, he is The Man with No Name (however, not in a ‘cool’ Clint Eastwood kind of way, but in a lame kind of way). Why do I belabor this point? Because when we get to Ruth 4:5, Boaz announces to “Mr. So-and-So” that when he redeems the land of Elimelech, he must also acquire Ruth to be his wife so that he could “perpetuate the name of the dead.”
What’s going on here? The idea of “perpetuating the name of the dead” is a practice called Levirate Marriage. According to Deuteronomy 25:5-6, a brother is obligated to marry the widow of a dead brother in order to raise offspring for the dead brother “that his name might not be blotted out of Israel.” Had no one done anything, the name of Elimelech (as well as the names of Mahlon and Chilion) would have been blotted out of Israel. Their land would have been absorbed into the clan, and their names would have been forgotten. “Mr. So-and-So” refused to perpetuate the name of the dead, he backed out of the deal when he realized he would have to marry Ruth. The irony is because “Mr. So-and-So” refused to perpetuate the name of the dead, he would forever remain nameless.
With “Mr. So-and-So’s” departure, Boaz is free to redeem Ruth and Naomi. The match we’ve all been waiting for is sealed—a worthy man and a worthy woman become one flesh. The town elders approve of the deal and bless their union. And God blesses their union by giving them a child. This child proves to be the ultimate redeemer for Naomi, as the woman who thought she had lost everything holds her future in her arms. The women of the town acknowledge as much when they say that Ruth has proven to be “better than seven sons” to Naomi. What a blessing! Naomi left with two sons and came back with seven in the person of Ruth. She has been restored to complete fullness.
As lovely as the story of Ruth is, the redemption of Naomi and Ruth by Boaz is not the main point. The main point is that the Lord redeems His people through Messiah. The book of Ruth ends with a genealogy that traces the line of Perez through Obed (the child of Ruth and Boaz) to David, the great king. The Lord redeemed His people through the line of the king by giving His people what they needed the most. Ruth takes place in the time when the judges ruled—a time of chaos and debauchery. There was no king and people did what was right in their own eyes. David comes to restore hope and order to the people of Israel.
But even more than that, this all points forward to David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ. The NT opens with a genealogy that traces Abraham to David to Jesus Christ. The Bible is chock full of genealogies, and they all serve one purpose to point to the Messiah. After the genealogy in Matthew and Luke, there are no more genealogies recorded in the Bible. Why? Because the Messiah had come. And it is said of Jesus that he came to save His people from their sins. You see, sin is a far more existential threat than anything Ruth or Naomi had faced. Sin separates us from a holy and righteous God. But Jesus comes to bridge that gap and restore us to fellowship with the Father. Jesus redeemed us with His broken body and His shed blood. And now, by grace through faith, we are members of God’s glorious kingdom.