RUTH: THE LINK FROM JUDGES TO THE KINGS OF ISRAEL
(Continued from No. 11)
"So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son (Ruth 4.13)."
In concluding our last article, No.11, in this series, we noted how Ruth had been gleaning in the fields of Boaz shortly after arriving from her long journey out of her native land, Moab. (Besides gleaning barley in the fields of Boaz, she gleaned amply as well of his benevolence.) At day's end, after having beaten out that which she had gleaned in the field of Boaz, Ruth returned to the city and her mother-in-law, Naomi. The blessed work of God in surely bringing to pass His eternal purpose for Ruth and Boaz was now fast proceeding. God's plan for Ruth and Boaz was taking more visible shape. But God never hurries. The imposing events that soon would transpire had been centuries in the making and would each unfold in the order and time that God had before ordered.
Pause and wonder, dear reader, at the perfect plan of God. May it be remembered, this series of articles aim at contemplating the predestination of all things, from the beginning of the Bible to the end. Other events related to Ruth and Boaz are worthy of contemplation, but we can view nothing so vast, so beyond expression than the eternal purposes of our all-wise God. This we call absolute predestination. We are writing of predestination that knows no limits. If it occurs or exists, it is embraced in the absolute predestination of our God Who is too wise to err. This is the basis of our study in Ruth as well as the rest of the books of the Bible.
When Ruth relates to Naomi where she had gleaned that day the response of Naomi was enthusiastic: "And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen (Ruth 2.20)." Though absent from the life in Israel for many years, Naomi had not forgotten the commandments of God regulating their lives. Much like a reviving fire in her soul, Naomi felt joy in the words of Ruth. Moreover, she saw in those seeming fortuitous events a warm ray of reviving hope; hope for both her and Ruth. Boaz, this mighty man of wealth, was a near kinsman of theirs and had not left off his kindness to both the living and the dead of the family of Elimelech. Thus Naomi interpreted the kindness of Boaz, and with good cause. Since Boaz was a kinsman, one of their next kinsman, then there was a renewed hope for the family. Naomi clearly believed all those sudden events would fall out for the good of her decimated family and that the name of Elimelech would by Boaz once again be raised up.
What then would be the outcome of the potential involvement between Boaz and Ruth? Redemption! Ruth would be redeemed, along with all that pertained to her union in the family of Elimelech. Boaz would be the redeemer - the near kinsman redeemer. Together they illustrate the eternal plan of God in its execution for the redemption of all His family through our kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ the Lord.
The Kinsman in Israel
"And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger's family: After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself (Leviticus 25.47-49)."
This passage is the chief source for the topic of a kinsman-redeemer. It is, no doubt, the very commandment of God that swiftly entered the mind of Naomi when Ruth related to her the encounter in the field of Boaz.
It may seem strange, however, that there are only two instances recorded in the Scriptures where the kinsman-redeemer right of redemption was employed by the Israelites, and, moreover, the concept of New Covenant redemption was not clearly in evidence in either. And, too, when we examine the New Testament record of what we call redemption, the redemption there seems considerably different to what is recorded in Leviticus 25. When we are reminded that many passages of the Old Testament take on a much more expanded and lucid meaning in the New Testament, then most of our perceived confusion disappears. As has been said long before us, "The Old Testament concealed; The New Testament revealed." This appears to be the case with kinsman-redemption.
Much has been written and preached about the kinsman-redeemer, particularly as it is seen in the book of Ruth. Often more confusion than instruction was the result. There is little in the Bible, however, to correspond with Leviticus 25.47-49. But we do have sufficient in the record of Boaz redeeming Ruth to fill out the figure. It gives us a full and complete picture of what was recorded by Moses. In the book of Ruth we see Boaz as a kinsman-redeemer who is typical of Christ our Lord. The types and shadows in the book of Ruth become reality in the New Testament portrayal of our redemption. There we see, not the picture of which Moses wrote, but the reality.
Before viewing the reality of redemption, as seen in the New Testament, or the picture of it in the book of Ruth, we must look at several of the vital parameters from Leviticus 25. First and foremost in the Leviticus record is the kinship factor. The plan of redemption, as recorded in Leviticus, was not instituted for all the nations of the earth, nor the individuals that make them up. No; the price of redemption was to be paid only for brethren among the tribes of Israel. "and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor...(Leviticus 25.47)." Thus both the person to be redeemed and the person to do the redeeming must be kin. For example, an Egyptian could not redeem an Israelite, nor could an Israelite redeem an Egyptian.
It may be suggested then that there could be no redemption for Ruth by Boaz for she was a Moabite, not an Israelite. True, they were not blood kin, but this seeming difficulty will readily be resolved in due time, the Lord willing. A second factor in the Old Testament redemption was, the one that was to redeem was to be nigh of kin - of his family. It would not do to plead for a redemptive transaction beyond those of nigh kin, meaning one who was an uncle or cousin or similar relationship. Should it be asked where the line was drawn we confess that this is all we can learn of the matter. Nigh of kin appears to mean close relatives, not those of only distant or somewhat vague ties.
A third consideration was the right of one to redeem himself - if he be able. This is of paramount significance. Surely there could be none closer by way of kinship than one's self. But close kinship does not necessarily mean ability to redeem, especially as we examine the redemption of the soul. It must not be overlooked, however, that the right or privilege of self-redemption did exist. This too will be examined later, in due course.
All these specific regulations were set forth in the Old Testament as typical of our redemption and suggest to us a great truth. That great truth is this: where there are regulations there is a regulator. God is the supreme regulator. Unless, of course, you mistakenly think God randomly throws out to us rules and regulations at a whim, then leaves us to scrap after them as a dog would a bone. The redemption of Leviticus 25 was decidedly a particular redemption regulated by God. As before noted, it was only for the families of Israel, and none others. Particular redemption means the redeemer was confined to redeeming certain or specific classes of individuals. These classifications were determined, not by the Israelites, but God. God made these determinations long before Moses wrote them down and delivered them to the twelve tribes. Surely none dare dispute this simple fact. Yet they do! Why do some (really, most) dispute this? Because - an admission here is an admission of predestination - a doctrine most surely hated by all but those Jesus, our Boaz, redeems. God had a plan for old Israel to follow in redeeming their brethren, a plan which was typical of the New Covenant plan of redemption. Can it be believed that the old plan, or the new plan, might be full of contingencies or variables that might alter the will of God? Predestination precludes contingencies and variables. If the redemption given to old Israel was planned in advance (another way of saying it was predestinated), and it was typical of the New Covenant redemption, then the New Covenant plan must also be predestinated, else it could not fulfill the typical plan. To illustrate this with a mathematical certainty, two plus two must always equal four.
Thus, Israel had a kinsman-redemption provided for them by Jehovah. Boaz would fulfill the pattern by redeeming all the properties of Elimelech, his deceased kin, taking Ruth the widow of Elimelech's son to be his wife, begetting a son, Obed, and so be the clearest type of our Kinsman-Redeemer, Jesus, in the whole of the Old Testament. All of this would typify the spiritual Redemption that is in Christ our Redeemer. Every detail, great or small, that was woven together bringing to pass the redemption of Elimelech's properties were dependent on a power to bring them to fit in the design that could only be found in the will and purpose of God. We sternly state that no one that ever lived could produce an alternative system or method to bring to pass such an involved series of events and circumstances.
Beginnings of Ruth's Redemption
Interesting as it may be, and spiritually profitable as well, it is not our purpose to analyze all the above mentioned details involving the redemption of Ruth the Moabitess by Boaz the Israelite. Certain facts must, however, be examined so that a clearer picture of the predestinated redemption of the elect may shine forth from this brief book called Ruth.
First among those facts is the necessity of the redeemer to be willing to redeem. From the account in Leviticus 25 there is nothing to suggest that the near of kin was legally responsible to redeem - only that it was his privilege if he so chose. Boaz was certainly willing to fulfill his privileged office of redeemer, yet there was an obstacle of incalculable proportions that could have possibly thrown the whole of this proposed redemption into confusion; there was a kinsman nearer than Boaz. The nearer kinsman's right to redeem must come first. Full well knowing this, Boaz addressed Ruth in a willing, but cautious, manner. "And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman's part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the Lord liveth: lie down until the morning (Ruth 3.12, 13)."
Boaz would do the part of a kinsman redeemer willingly, as he testified plainly before Ruth, provided the nearer kinsman would not. His oath was, "as the Lord liveth." But - he was at that point not able to redeem. There was the prior privilege of the nearer kinsman to act as redeemer. As mentioned earlier, this was the obstacle that must first be removed. Since there was a kinsman that was nearer than Boaz, he must first be given the opportunity to fulfill the part of the kinsman-redeemer. If he consented, or was willing to do so, then Boaz must step aside, no matter that he was willing to redeem the estate of Elimelech and, in particular, take Ruth to be his bride and wife. But if the nearer kinsman was either unwilling or unable, or both, then the way would be clear for the union of Ruth and Boaz and the raising up the name of the dead by Boaz being the kinsman redeemer.
What part did Ruth play in this sorting out of proper redeemers? Could she rush out to plead her case with the nearer kinsman? Blessedly, she did not appear to even know who the fellow was, and if she had, she still had no basis for pleading. There was no room for emotions; the commandment of God respecting kinsman redemption must be carried out without deviation. Ruth could only sit by passively while Boaz undertook to plead for her.
It would seem improbable that any of the Lord's tried children would fail to see the beauty of this simple situation and its resolution. Are not the most anxious of us helpless, completely and totally helpless, to hasten or further our spiritual redemption which is typified by Boaz redeeming Ruth? Must not we too sit still until we see how the matter will fall (Ruth 3.18)? Who among us would not make matters worse, if possible, rather than better, if we endeavored to assist whatever in our own redemption? The sage language of Naomi to Ruth is even for us today a powerful message to calm the restless and troubled soul: "Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day (Ruth 3.18)."
There are several points of great interest in the instructions of Naomi to Ruth. Foremost is the direction to "sit still." Plain language, but vital. This injunction is contrary to all that comprises our human nature but perfectly complements that inward work of God we call our spiritual nature. Just as Moses implored the Israelites to "stand still" while even at that moment the mighty armies of Egypt were thundering down upon them, Naomi tells Ruth to "sit still." The reason in both cases? Someone else will decide and undertake your case for you.
How long was Ruth to sit still? Until she knew how the matter would fall. It was not a matter of if, but of how! "The man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day." Boaz, like Jesus whom he typified, could not enter into his rest until the work of redemption was finished. The multitude of saints that have found sweet comfort in the words of our Lord, "It is finished" are without number. Boaz would shortly be able to say "it is finished" as well, but not until he had removed every obstacle that might hinder Ruth from becoming his bride and companion.
If this was a secular drama rather than a factual Bible account it would certainly not be any more interesting and replete with intricate plots and equally complex sub-plots. The coming together of Ruth and Boaz is as gripping a story as may be found anywhere, in or out of the Bible. As before mentioned, the vast number of events, seemingly isolated and unimportant taken alone, have been woven together by the unerring hand of God to bring Ruth and Boaz to this climactic moment. The final (predestinated) events were as follows: Naomi gave Ruth instructions to sit still. Ruth awaited the outcome of the confrontation between Boaz and the nearer kinsman. Boaz took his place of office at the gate of the city, (Ruth 4.1). He summoned the nearer kinsman as he approached the city. And so, the outcome hung in the balance. But what if the nearer kinsman was a surly, ill tempered, jealous dolt? Suppose he had been ignorant of the instructions of Leviticus 25, or just lazy and failed to show up on that particular morning. If all this matter was resting on the sand foundation of chance or luck, good or bad, or the unpredictable deportment of this nearer kinsman, then confusion and disappointment might have arisen - even at the turn of the next event. May our Lord be praised, however, for there was no danger or possibility of failure. Forever, from the incalculable ages past, the outcome was as sure as the unchangeablness and veracity of God Himself. None of this episode could possibly fall out any way except for the benefit of Ruth and Boaz, and the benefit of all that would follow from their loins to the end of time, just as God had eternally and absolutely predestinated.
We would once again remind the reader that Ruth was to bear a son. He would be named Obed, and would be the grandfather of David. Boaz was to be the father of Obed. Do any of the numberless sons of Adam possess the wisdom, individually or combined, to contrive some alternate system that would make these things certain except for the eternal predestination of God? And, we ask, despite all the malice and rage that has been hurled against the doctrine of predestination, was there anything wrong or sinful in God predestinating this grand event? Dare any charge God? Are any so hardened that they can demand of God, "What doest thou?" Has our God violated the supposed rights of men or angels, or even devils, in making certain before the time the birth of Obed, a link in the line of Jesus the Lord? We must ask with David, "Why do the heathen rage?" Cannot God do with His own as He pleases, and if He so pleases, cannot He purpose or predestinate from all eternity to do so? For our part, we had rather stand all alone in this world and have all manner of contempt hurled against us than join with those that despise the sweet, blessed, soul-comforting doctrine of the absolute predestination of all things. Especially since we read of it on every page of the Bible.
While it may be suggested by our opponents that we cannot find the actual word predestination on any pages of the Bible, much less all the pages, we would remind them of a true and accurate expression in current usage today: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
The redemption transaction
"And he [Boaz] said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech's: And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it (Ruth 4.3,4)." It is well worth notice that Boaz confronts the nearer kinsman respecting Naomi, and not Ruth, for she was, after all, the widow of Elimelech, whose property was in default. There are similarities in this to the parable our Lord propounded to His disciples about the treasure hid in the field (Matthew 13.44). When the man in the parable (Jesus) found this treasure in the field, and joyfully sold all he had to obtain it, he purchased the field wherein was the treasure, and not the treasure directly. Even so, Boaz, when advertising the nearer kinsman about the squandered inheritance of Elimelech, proposes buying a parcel of land. Now, according to Ruth 4.3, Naomi was the agent selling the parcel of land, not Ruth. Ruth was the treasure hid in this field (parcel of land) that Boaz had his eye on, much as in the parable of the treasure hid in the field. But the property was traceable back to the original land-holder, Elimelech, by the hand of Naomi.
It should be obvious that whatever parcel of land was in question, it was nothing in comparison to the vast holdings of Boaz. He was, according to the account, a mighty man of wealth (Ruth 2.1) and would be but meagerly advantaged by the appropriation of this little parcel once held by his now-dead relative, Elimelech. Be sure of this - Boaz wanted the parcel of land because of the wondrous treasure that accompanied it - Ruth. He did not, however, at the first notify the nearer kinsman of this jewel associated with the parcel of Elimelech.
As Boaz related the business at hand he makes it clear that there were but two eligible relatives of Elimelech capable of redemption; the nearer kinsman and Boaz himself. This will make our prospects of identifying the nearer kinsman much easier, if the Lord is pleased to lead us on.
Whoever this nearer kinsman was, and we hope to identify him in due time, he was willing enough to redeem the field of his departed brother, Elimelech, and so identified his intentions with a positive, "I will redeem it." From the recitation of circumstances given by Boaz, the fellow had a perfect right to do so, even more so than Boaz. However, Boaz had more pertinent intelligence on the matter than that which the nearer kinsman had so readily accepted as agreeable terms. His willingness would speedily be turned into a decided unwillingness. His unwillingness flowed from a previously unknown lack of ability to redeem. It might be called a flaw in the heart and affections.
"Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance (Ruth 4.5)." It has been often asserted, though mistakenly, that the nearer kinsman was bound by the regulations of Deuteronomy 25 to accept Ruth as his wife that the name of the dead be raised up but this is not so. A careful reading there will show that the regulations there pertained to actual brothers, and not simply to those called brothers by national ties. Furthermore, in the Deuteronomy account, it was the widowed wife that sought redress at the gate of the city, not the prospective kinsman-redeemer, such as Boaz.
It appears most likely that the stipulation that the kinsman-redeemer, whether Boaz or the nearer kinsman, marry Ruth to obtain the field (parcel of land) was a collaboration of Naomi and Boaz. Ruth most likely had too little knowledge of the customs of Israel to be directly involved. Neither was this improper or illegal. Naomi had the right, as widow of Elimelech, to draw up whatever price for the inheritance she thought the market might bear. A careful reading of both Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 25 will make it unmistakably clear that the Scriptures were not in the slightest violated. It must be admitted, however, that both Naomi and Boaz appeared to be relatively good "horse traders." They did come from a family of "horse traders" as can be clearly seen in Abraham's duplicity toward Pharaoh, (Genesis 12.17-20); Jacob's deceiving his father Isaac (Genesis 27.19), his skinning uncle Laban out of the choice cattle, sheep, and goats (Genesis 30.3143); Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah veiling herself to deceive him so that she might have a child by him. Zarah and Pharez, twin boys were the results. These are not all of the family we could mention, but we forebear.
Should the Lord bless us to follow this with another article we hope to honor our pledge to show how Ruth might be redeemed even though she was not an actual Israelite, and relate something more of the nearer kinsman and his right to redeem - if he be able.
Volume 11, No. 3