RUTH: THE LINK FROM JUDGES TO THE KINGS OF ISRAEL
(Continued from No. 12)
"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)."
We have come, in this extended series of articles, to the culmination of events necessary to bring to pass the birth of Obed. Obed is the son referred to in our text at the heading of the page. The ordained manner by which Ruth was to become the mother, and Boaz the father, of this child Obed was kinsman-redemption. Boaz would take what steps were necessary to redeem all that his relation, Elimelech, had squandered. Among the treasures to be redeemed, along with the fields of Elimelech, was lovely Ruth the Moabite widow of Mahion, son of Elimelech.
We last observed Boaz at the gates of the city advertising the nearer kinsman (Ruth 4.4) of which he had previously mentioned to Ruth (Ruth 3.12). Knowing the law and the customs requisite to carrying out the redemption of a kinfolk's inheritance, Boaz followed all the necessary steps with care. Lest any might wonder what prompted Boaz to act so carefully, to follow every prescribed step to insure the proposed union with Ruth the Moabitess, the following Scripture should give a sufficient reason: "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way (Psalms 37:23)." Boaz was doing precisely what God had from all eternity ordered be done. God's good plan would be executed without fail. Boaz walked in each and every step necessary to bring to pass the predestinated event; moreover, Boaz was well pleased to do so. He was made both willing and able in the day of God's power. We do not suggest that Boaz knew that all this was certainly predestinated. He most likely knew what ever came to pass was by God's purpose, but he surely did not know what that purpose was until it came to pass. Nor can we today.
Before finishing our review of the communication between Boaz and the nearer kinsman it seems useful to briefly survey Naomi's comments to Ruth when she was informed it was the field of Boaz where Ruth had been gleaning. Observe that in the following Naomi had no hesitation at all concerning what to tell Ruth: "Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor. Wash thy self therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do (Ruth 3:1-4)."
What was it Naomi desired for Ruth and forthwith instructed her about? Rest! Not simply physical rest, but that rest of once again leaning on the arm of a loving and protective husband and companion. Naomi perceived (based on the ancient customs of Israel) that with Boaz, Ruth, her daughter-in-law, could have these things and yet still be fully identified with the family of her husband and son, both now dead. Without that rest of which Naomi spoke Ruth must continue to exist and toil as a destitute and foreign widow. She could not possibly expect any more than the common drudgery of a gleaner in the fields. Kinsman redemption would, however, change all that.
Naomi proceeded with instructions for Ruth to wash, anoint herself, put on suitable raiment, then go lay down at the feet of Boaz on his threshingfloor that night. Surely the directions given by Naomi are better than those given to us by the zeal-mongers of the Arminian tribes. Each step Ruth was to take vividly portrayed then, and for future generations, some of the early actions of the new-born saint when following after Jesus, our Boaz. If it is suggested that these were things Ruth must do, and thereby her rest was of works, we would mention once again - these things are types and shadows of better things, and not the better things themselves. Ruth was only following good instruction based on the manner of all Israel. She therefore was not "working" to obtain rest.
Naomi was as well certain what Boaz would do when Ruth would uncover his feet and lay down. She said, "He will tell thee what thou shalt do (Ruth 3.4)." And so he did. After Ruth complied with Naomi's instructions and went in to Boaz, his first word of instruction to her was "And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman (Ruth 3.11)." "Fear not!" How much like our Lord did Boaz speak to this poor maiden seeking his kind assistance. "Fear not" is far better than the crude exhortations of Free-willism to "up and be doing." So it is certain that before we can feel any comforts of the great work of our Kinsman-Redeemer, we must be blessed with the words of His voice to "fear not." It must be emphasized - Boaz did not lay upon Ruth a single burden requiring fleshly effort for entitlement to any redemption benefits that might be available to her. No! No! His words were rather, "Fear not; I will do to thee..." which exactly correspond with what the saints of God learn respecting the redemption that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. As in Ruth's case, the doing will be accomplished by our Boaz and not by ourselves.
Boaz also instructs Ruth to "tarry this night." The matter could not be decided until a confrontation between Boaz and the nearer kinsman took place on the following day. But take place it surely must.
Thus the moment had nearly arrived. The redemption transaction was about to come to pass after all, every single event necessary to fulfill the chain of predestination transpired. Who could have known over ten years earlier, when Elimelech and his family ventured off to Moab, that Naomi would finally return with Ruth, and that Boaz would take her to be his wife in a redemptive marriage? Well, to be sure, man could not know such things, but God certainly did. Dare the most impious character alive deny the hand of God in bringing Ruth and Boaz together? "The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand (Isaiah 14.24)." It seems clear to us that if God thought about something He positively knew it - thus it must come to pass if we can rely on the words of Isaiah in the above passage. Moreover, if it (in this case the union of Ruth and Boaz) comes to pass, then God must have previously thought about it. Additionally, since the event did come to pass, which is the same as saying it shall stand, as in the text, then God certainly purposed the same.
If the views we have just proposed respecting the certainty of the wedded union of Ruth and Boaz have any meaning or purpose to us it is this: we may safely trust our all-wise God to bring to pass all things in our lives, just as He did in the lives of these two historical figures. To us this is soul-comforting and humbling. The predestination of all things gives security to our lives - both now and forevermore. It also reinforces our little hope. How consoling it is to fall before our God, even it the darkest hour of our existence, and trust the outcome of our current afflictions to Him. Even when we feel we may shortly be swallowed up in our own filth we have some measure of assurance in this doctrine. It speaks to us that eventually these things shall pass and we shall find rest in the Saviour of such wretched sinners as we feel to be.
The admonition of Naomi to Ruth, after she had gone in to Boaz, commands our additional attention before reviewing other matter. It was briefly touched upon in our last article. "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)." The assurances to Ruth concerning the course of Boaz in her behalf are emblazoned with gospel truths. How blessed it is when any of the troubled saints hear a more seasoned pilgrim, such as Naomi, say, "Sit still." This rings with the same tones of David quoting our God, "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46.10)." And again, as was the solemn importunity of Moses to the fearful Israelites, "And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever (Exodus 14.13)."
When God spoke by David, He let the saints know that His exaltation extends also among the heathen nations; even throughout all the earth. Surely those like Ruth find hope and comfort here, as well as patience, while assuming a still posture, both within and without. (When the Lord calmed the troubled sea for His disciples, He also calmed the troubled breast within each of them. And with what? "Peace be still.") When Moses spoke, his words were intended to allay all fear that the present obstacles would linger longer to hinder the pursuit of Israel's journey to the land of milk and honey. By standing still they assumed the posture of doing nothing to further their deliverance. They also assumed a posture of witnesses to the mighty works of the Lord as He swiftly redeemed them from their enemy. Just so was Ruth to sit still until her dilemma was resolved, as it surely would be. And, we hasten to add, it would be resolved agreeable to what God had before ordained or predestinated.
"Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall." This was not an "if" you know how the matter will fall. No, indeed! If is one of the favorite words of the Arminian tribes, but we find nothing of any ifs in this injunction. The word was until. Until is a word that makes the outcome unmistakably clear. Until indicates positively that in short order Ruth would know, and that beyond controversy. It is certain from what we see here that Naomi had much more than a speculative attitude towards the coming events surrounding Ruth, Boaz, and the nearer kinsman.
Observe as well the word "how" in the statement. Again, it was not if the matter would fall but how.
Just what was it that gave Naomi such an air of certainty about all this? Foremost was her knowledge of Boaz! "For the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day." As far as Naomi was concerned there was no question how Boaz would respond to the situation. He will not be in rest. Certainty, as far as mortals are capable of certainty, was stamped on her every word. As we view this with an eye towards our Lord and His redemptive work, it assures those saints living today that neither would our Lord be in rest until He finish His redemptive work. Then, only after all was accomplished, would He rest. Well too it is to ponder the expression, "until he have finished the thing." He, Boaz, would finish his work, and give us in so doing a figure of our Lord finishing His work, culminating with Him saying, "It is finished." Neither Ruth nor Naomi were invited to assist Boaz in this momentous task. This conflict, with all the seeming obstacles in the path of redemption, was for Boaz alone to perform. Just so, we see our Saviour. He accomplished all that was eternally designed by the Father so that He might redeem His bride, bring her to Himself, then present her publicly as His love and apple of His eye.
The reader will no doubt see a vast field of truths that might be explored here. We shall leave them to finish our theme by briefly examining the account of Judah and his sons by a Canaanite woman.
Judah and Pharez
The provisions of Leviticus 25, which we partially examined in our last article, No. 12, were for the redemption of a needy kinsman in Israel by his near-kinsman. All others were omitted by, first, the affirmation that Israelites specifically were to be redeemed, and second, by the absence of any exceptions. Ruth was only linked to the family of Elimelech by her marriage union to his son, Mahlon, now dead and buried in the distant country of Moab. The only possibility of her being benefited by the redemptive process was through her marriage union past, and a possible marriage union to come. Certainly, by today's sad standards (or the lack thereof, Ruth had little personal prospects of any further benefits possibly accruing to the family of Elimelech by any other means.
Without searching out all the Bible says respecting the marriage union, we shall at least view one or two avenues that have a bearing on the redemption of Ruth. It is certain God approved of Ruth being redeemed along with the parcel of land that belonged to Elimelech. We need for proof nothing more than it came to pass, and was sealed with the birth of Obed, who was numbered in the generations of our Lord.
Ruth was to be recovered from her widowhood. It was God's will for it to be so. Although she was not an Israelite by birth, she was brought into union with Israel by the marriage union and thus was, after the death of her husband, a widow in Israel. Provisions were made for widows in Israel as far back as the days of Judah, as can be seen in the peculiar and highly interesting record of Judah in Genesis, Chapter 38. In reality, the provisions were not nearly as much for the widow as they were for the deceased male, that his seed be raised up, though he was dead. This has a direct bearing on the language of Boaz where he announced his intentions to raise up the name of the dead by Ruth, the Moabitess widow of Mahlon (Ruth 4.5,9,10). Careful consideration should be given to the notice Boaz gave on the point.
In reviewing what must be described as the unusual circumstances of Judah in Genesis 38 (a parenthetical chapter breaking the history of Joseph), we see what we believe to be the earliest recorded statement on our theme in all the Scriptures. Here, the foundation for future cases was, no doubt, built. Judah was one of the 12 sons of Jacob. It was from Judah's seed that our Lord Jesus, as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, was to descend. Judah had gone down from his brethren and took up company with an Adullamite whose name was Hirah. Why, we are not told, at least directly. That this was a part of the plan of God to save sinners from their sins was no doubt the foremost reason, as shall shortly be seen.
"And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her (Genesis 38.2)." This unnamed Canaanite woman, daughter of Shuah (properly, Shua) bare Judah 3 sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. It should not require a degree in genetic research to understand simple facts that flow from a scrutiny of this union. If the mother of the 3 boys was a Canaanite woman, then the 3 boys would be half-Israelite and half-Canaanite. However, none of the three lads would be numbered in the line that reached to Jesus our Lord. Nor could they, for the Lord had determined from the foundation of the world that the seed come from another. What we do learn here is that the pattern of requesting brethren to raise up seed by their brother's widow was established about that time. "And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar (Genesis 38.6)." One may think what they may, but the choosing of Tamar by Judah was no accident. As shall be seen, Tamar would figure very prominently in the promised seed. Er, Judah's firstborn, however, "was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord slew him (verse 7)." Thus, Tamar became a widow upon the death of Judah's firstborn, Er.
Then a series of events are recorded, each relative to the sojourn of Judah with the Adullamites and vital to our understanding of kinsman redemption.
Judah told Onan, his second son by the Canaanite daughter, to go in unto Tamar, the widow of Er, to raise up seed. Onan subsequently refused to seminate the widow, and so the Lord slew him as well. "Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father's house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father's house (Genesis 38.11)." This was duplicity on the part of Judah and yet it was a link in the events that brought forth the son of Judah that was to be numbered among the line to Christ.
Some time after, described as "in the process of time, (verse 12)" Judah's Canaanite wife died. After being comforted over the loss, Judah journeyed to Tininath. It was on the journey that Judah's daughter-in-law, Tamar, disguised herself as a harlot and sat by an open place to seduce him. The reason for such conduct was that Judah had not honored his pledge to her that his youngest son Shelah be given to her.
Judah was sufficiently allured to go in to this unknown harlot. The unexpected result was that Tamar conceived by him. "And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law, hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt (Genesis 38.24)."
Judah's passion to burn Tamar as a harlot was expeditiously extinguished when he was told by Tamar that he too was fully culpable in this episode of impropriety. When confronted with clear evidence, "Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more (Genesis 38.26)." His passion to burn Tamar having subsided, he then could set matters in order and abandon his unlawful union with her.
It would seem that we all could learn much from the self-righteous attitude displayed by this clamorous son of Jacob.
All of this interesting history leads us to our purpose in recording it. If the practice of raising up seed for a deceased brother was common at the time of Judah requiring it of his sons, we cannot tell. From the Lord's displeasure at Onan for refusing to do so we may gather that it was practiced, and as well recognized by God. It is also worthy of notice that this was many years before the instructions pertaining to the same was given by Jehovah to the Israelites, shortly before they crossed over Jordan to the land they would occupy. Foremost among the things of interest we may glean from this episode is the end result of Judah's plan to have his sons raise up seed for their dead brother. That end result was the birth of Pharez and his twin brother Zarah (Genesis 38.27-30). This brings us back directly to the consummation of the union of Ruth and Boaz as recorded in our text at the heading of this article: "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)." We notice in passing that Ruth did not simply conceive; the Lord gave her conception. Obviously God was pleased with what was transpiring, and equally obvious to us is that this was all planned by God from eternity.
The book of Ruth did not conclude with the birth of Obed. There was more. The tie to Pharez, son of Judah by his daughter-in-law Tamar, is recorded and then linked directly to king David. "Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron, And Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, And Animinadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, And Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, And Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David (Ruth 4.18-22)." And so the book of Ruth closes. Is it simple coincidence that the very first person mentioned in the Bible to institute the raising up seed for the dead, thus redeeming the deceased's inheritance, was Judah, father of Pharez? We think not! Jacob's blessing of Judah in Genesis 48.10 makes it clear that the Messiah would come through Judah's seed. The first of the generations was Pharez, born of the shameful tryst with Tamar. And, is it coincidence that the beautiful book of Ruth closes with what appears to be nothing more than a simple genealogy? Again, we think not! All of this links Obed, son of Ruth and Boaz, to Judah through Pharez, offspring of deceit and disgrace. Nor is it a coincidence that Pharez was born as a result of Judah's attempt to have his sons raise up seed to the dead. Was God only a spectator to these events? Or, rather, was all this a part of the eternal plan, whereby many generations of Abraham's seed would lead to the Christ? Surely, the birth of Obed, as traceable to Pharez, was predestinated.
We have not fully touched on other points necessary to fill out this remarkable story. If the Lord wills, we shall take it up again.
J. F. Poole
Volume 11, No. 4