RUTH: THE LINK FROM JUDGES TO THE KINGS OF ISRAEL
(Continued from No. 13)
"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)."
There are three areas we hope to explore in this article. We desire to fulfill our pledge to exhibit from Scriptures how Ruth could be redeemed by an Israelite, she a lowly Moabite, while the provisions for redemption were for the 12 tribes only. There is also the matter of self-redemption; if one be able. Finally, we shall explain just who was the nearer kinsman that had rights prior to Boaz; rights to be either performed or resolved before Boaz could redeem the inheritance of Elimelech, which included Ruth. If the Lord enables, we shall cast in our few mites on these points, expecting to close this part of our series. We leave it for our dear brethren to determine if they can feel comfortable with our poor views.
Redemption for Ruth the Moabitess
It almost seems unnecessary to address the apparently indisputable reasons Ruth was eligible for redemption even though she was from an alien blood line. She was a descendant of Moab, the son of Lot by incest. Nevertheless, we shall suggest a few thoughts.
To begin, remember that the whole family of man has descended from Adam, including his wife, Eve. This alone is not sufficient to show cause for Ruth's redemption, but it does aim us at the starting point, and in the general direction of fuller proof. The starting point is the oneness of Adam and Eve. They were one in creation; one in physical union; one in transgression, and one in redemption. Eve was actually in Adam when he was created from the dust of the earth. When Eve was taken from Adam's side it was not to liberate or set her free; it was so she could live in physical union with her head. When the serpent beguiled Eve, her husband Adam was at her side, from the outset of the temptation to the culmination of the awful deed. After their fall God summoned them both through Adam (Genesis 3.9), and covered them with skins, which is a figure of our being covered in the work of redemption.
What affected one affected both. It did not matter that Eve was previously a single rib in Adam's side; their life was bound up as one life. "...and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2.24)." It was the marriage union that made them one.
We suggest here a strong postulate: The marriage union transcends all other relationships. It surpasses the ties of sibling relationships. It leads man from his mother and father (Genesis 2.24). It crosses tribal and ethnic barriers, bonding man and wife of any family combinations together as "bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh." When a minister speaks at the function we call a marriage service, probably few people realize the full impact of the expression "What God hath bound together, let not man put asunder." The two are bound together and bonded as one under the blessing of God. It is equally so with "Till death do us part." This must all be considered when reviewing the circumstances of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth was the bonded wife of Mablon, son of Elimelech. The moment she entered the relationship of marriage with Mahlon, she became intertwined with life in Elimelech's family. She could not have been more a part of the family had she been born in it.
Abraham married Sarah. She was either his half-sister or niece, depending on how Genesis 20.12 is understood. Joseph married Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On (Genesis 41.45). She was obviously an Egyptian. Moses married an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12.1). Rahab, the mother of Boaz, was of non-Israelite parentage. She was the harlot of Jericho that married his father. Countless other unions might also be suggested, but these show that there were no barriers or obstacles to hinder a full bond between man and wife.
Each of these marriage unions, despite the different backgrounds in each, represented the strongest ties of relationship known to the human family. There is only one relationship shared by man that God has forbidden it be put asunder, and that is marriage. Children leave parents. Brothers and sisters scatter or pursue different interests. Friends become alienated. But a heaven-sanctioned marriage is impressed with the seal of God's blessing. This, to us, is why Ruth was eligible for redemption under Israelite institutions. She was, notwithstanding her fleshly origin, an Israelite indeed. By union with Mahlon she became entitled to everything Mahlon was or possessed as it respected the family. And his death did not lessen her status; it only made her eligible or free to marry again in the Lord. (See Dueteronomy 25.5; Romans 7.1-6)
"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband (Ephesians 5.28-33)." In reading these verses we come to an unmistakable conclusion: Paul represented to us an illustration of the marriage union by comparing the union of Christ and His church. Natural or fleshly unions, subject to human frailties, are a figure of the spiritual union which knows no such frailties.
Witness then the union of Mahlon and Ruth. As with all other true marriages, it was a figure of the union of Christ and His eternally loved bride. Thus, for it to be a proper figure, it must have been predestinated to transpire, else it might never have been realized. We invite any Arminian to offer evidence to the contrary. When the apostle informed us that to love our wife was to love ourselves he was drawing from the truth that Christ loved His bride before she was His bride, while she is His bride and forevermore. That is the nature of the marriage union.
We conclude that Ruth was entitled to the same accord as was shown her husband Mahlon, even though he was dead and buried. For this reason Boaz, or the nearer kinsman, was privileged to redeem this Moabite maiden, though she was not born of Hebrew parents. Her union with Mahlon made her the equal of blood kin.
Predestination must again be viewed as the reason for the union of Boaz and Ruth. It was predestination that made certain the illustration complemented the fact. That is, if Ruth and Boaz are figures of Christ and the church, as we fully believe they are, then the figures must be equally as certain of fulfillment as the fact they are typical of, in this case, our Lord and His bride. We complete this point by saying, not only was Ruth eligible for redemption under Israel's governing statutes, it was an absolute certainty that she be redeemed. To repeat again what must be obvious to the honest reader, there could be no Obed if Boaz did not redeem Ruth. Thus, if the birth of Obed was among those things predestinated to conform him to the image of Christ (Romans 8.29) then the redemption of Ruth must have been equally certain. Otherwise all would fail of transpiring. Can anything other than predestination secure all this according to, and complementing, the purpose of God?
It is sublime and profound to think that something as seemingly ordinary as marriage involves so much that signifies the eternal and spiritual union. Little wonder then that the Scriptures abound with instructions touching the sanctity and value of marriage.
Self Redemption: "If he be able"
"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 25.48,49)." Several essential points merit repeating here, even though we have suggested them before. The first is, the instructions of Leviticus 25.48, 49 relate only to a single family, Israel. The redemption there detailed was for none except those described as brethren. Neither can this redemption be possibly confused with what the Arminian system calls "soul-saving." That redemption was confined to restoring a kin that had fallen into servitude or destitution. Their destitution was a natural calamity, not a spiritual one. Thus it is highly figurative, but only figurative, of the fallen elect reduced to spiritual bondage by sin. The holy law of God was to be utilized by a near kinsman that might be moved by the poor claimant in the days of old Israel. Today's claimants enter their plea before the very throne of God. Soul-savers have no credentials to practice in this court.
It should not be necessary to give extensive evidence from the Scriptures to show that not one needy sinner ever delivered himself from the claims of the law. What they need is the Wonderful Counsellor. The law was good and holy but the flesh was weak. Yet for all this the Israelite was given ample opportunity to extricate himself from destitution, if he was able. The observable fact, however, is beyond dispute: at no time was the Israelite ever able to deliver himself once impoverished. In fact, much of the Old Testament cries out in thunder tones as an indictment against self-redemption. More than anything else, the Old Testament shows how, even under the best of God's care for His people, they were not able to redeem themselves. Nevertheless, the privilege was there - "if he be able."
Contemplate once more the dire circumstances of Ruth and Naomi. It was, according to the law of their nation, their privilege to redeem the inheritance of Elimelech as being their own. But - were they able? From appearance Naomi could no longer engage in the drudgery of gleaning in the fields. It is doubtful that she was active in physical toil. It is seen from the Scriptures that she stayed behind as Ruth went out each day to glean in the fields. Remember as well that gleaning was the labor of those reduced to poverty. Can any proofs be found that suggest these widows were in any position to even hope to redeem themselves? Without multiplying proofs, it is manifestly evident that Ruth and Naomi had no known possibility of redeeming their lost inheritance. "If he be able" was a provision for them, but it was not a possibility. To paraphrase the words of Matthew 18.24,25:
"Ten thousand talents in debt,
And not a farthing to pay.
Surely redemption rested on the ability of someone other than themselves if it was to be a reality for Ruth and Naomi. The poor things could not so much as think of self-redemption, though by law privileged to self-redeem if able.
Blessedly, from all eternity full provision had been made. And, we may fairly say, the full provision could not fail. We say from all eternity for that is how ancient the plan was to secure redemption for these two destitute hand-maidens, recently come up from the wilderness. From the beginning, in the all-wise and wondrous purpose of God, Boaz was predestinated, and that absolutely, to possess abundance of fields and additional wealth at the very time these impoverished widows required a redeemer. Moreover, he was endowed with a desire to redeem. Fools, Arminians, free-willers and Conditionalists may propose a variety of spurious reasons how this perfect timing and other related circumstances essential to the redemption of these vessels of mercy transpired. The poor humble children of the kingdom, however, see the spiritually obvious; the Helper of the helpless had aforetime made perfect provision, thus assuring the redemption of those two who were unable to do so themselves.
To conclude the matter of this "if he be able" redemption, we shall anticipate criticism of our views. "Why would God tell the Israelite he may redeem himself 'if he be able' if it was not possible to do so?" So goes the general inquiry. From a strictly Scriptural viewpoint we might say "Who art thou that repliest against God?" There is another reason we feel is also worthy of God. By issuing the provision of self-redemption God beforehand silenced all that might complain their (supposed) freewill was violated or that perhaps they were "not given a chance." In effect, God said, "If ye be able, ye may redeem yourselves." When, though, the struggling sinner is forced to review his lack of resources and assets he woefully discovers a startling fact. The privilege does not carry with it the power of self-redemption. He is, like Ruth and Naomi, bankrupt. He is nothing more than a petitioner for mercy. Just as with Ruth and Naomi, even gleaning in the fields of the wealthy is contingent on their charity. Thus drooping and heavy hearts often produce tearful but uplifted eyes. Heaven itself is scanned for relief, for like Naomi we have gone out full and the Lord has brought us home again empty (Ruth 1.21). May God be praised should it be so with us.
The nearer kinsman
"And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I (Ruth 3.12)." The book of Ruth contains many brilliant types; none more so than Boaz, a type or figure of Christ our Redeemer. Yet there is in this book a character known only as the nearer kinsman which possessed prior rights to the inheritance of Elimelech. He was first in line to redeem. Thus, we feel safe in concluding that since Boaz is presented to us as a type, then equally so must this nearer kinsman be a type of some considerable importance.
It is evident the book of Ruth steers us far closer to the New Testament anti-types than many other Old Testament books. Consider: while the possibilities of numerous kinsman might have existed in any Israelite family, in the case of Ruth and Naomi there were but two; Boaz and the one nearer kinsman. Without doubt this makes the investigation of the type much easier. We are as certain as we are capable that Boaz is a type of Christ, so who then does this one nearer kinsman represent to us? It seems plain enough to us, he must represent the "old man of the flesh." There appears to be no other possibilities.
There are but two families in the whole of creation. One is the generations of Adam (Genesis 5.1, 2). The other is the generation of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1.1). In Adam all die, that is, all that trace their seed back to Adam. This family comprises all the human race. Even so, in Christ shall all be made alive, meaning all that are in Him by eternal choice of the Father (Ephesians 1.4). Everyone then belongs to Adam's family but not everyone belongs to the family of our Redeemer. Only those with a new nature are included in the family of our Lord.
This is evident from the Word of God; when a poor sinner is quickened to spiritual life he then possesses both an "old man" derived from his natural birth, and a "new man" created in Christ Jesus. These dwell together in our earthly house of this tabernacle (II Corinthians 5.1). Paul describes them as "our outward man" which perishes, and the "inward man" which is renewed day by day (II Corinthians 4.16). Similarly, Peter illustrated this dual relationship as an "outward" man being adorned of plaiting the hair, and the "hidden man of the heart" (I Peter 3.3, 4).
It requires no mental acrobatics to arrive at the obvious: our old man of the flesh (in Adam) existed prior to the spiritual or new man. This is clear from the statement of the Lord in John 3, "Ye must be born again." Then it must follow that our old man of the flesh has first claim on any inheritance or redemption. Can it be imagined that any other person could be nearer kin to us than ourselves in nature? The nearer kinsman of the Book of Ruth is not Boaz, the figure of Christ, so Christ is not our nearer kinsman. It cannot be an angel for they neither marry nor are given in marriage (Matthew 22.30). Some have suggested the law was the nearer kinsman. We fail to see how that notion could be sustained by Scriptures. The law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3.24), and that is nowhere near what transpired when Boaz met the kinsman at the gate of the city (Ruth 4.1ff). The law simply cannot fit the figure.
The encounter between Boaz and the nearer kinsman is amply revealing for us to arrive at a clear view of just who this privileged claimant was and who he represents by a figure. "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 4.4)." Boaz dealt plainly with his relation; if it was his will to redeem, then he should do so! But if not, Boaz would hear his intentions not to redeem as well.
"I will redeem it." Without full knowledge of the particular details the nearer kinsman (the old man) seems wholly willing to buy up this squandered inheritance of Elimelech. That is, until he hears further from Boaz upon those particulars not previously mentioned. "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)."
Observe first, the whole transaction was being dictated by Boaz, in the interest of himself, and of course the interest of Naomi and Ruth. This in itself is a lovely representation of our Boaz seeing over the squandered interests of His family. And, there is evidence enough here for us to see that Boaz then, and our Boaz today, has the sovereign right to set down the terms of any redemption in which they delight to be involved. Also seen here is further evidence of the description of the marriage union we have previously given. Boaz speaks of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead! Even though Mahlon was long dead, Ruth was still his wife until married to another. The nearer kinsman was confronted with her status as part of the redemption package, that he must raise up the name of Ruth's dead husband upon his, Mahlon's, inheritance. The nearer kinsman must be willing to give up his life, as represented in his seed, to redeem the field and any other properties of the family of Elimelech. This he could not do for he had no will to do so.
"And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it. (Ruth 4.6)." This speaks volumes, but we shall offer only several thoughts. It seems obvious that the kinsman coveted the fields of the dead - but not sufficiently to give up his firstborn to a family of wastrels. He was willing to redeem the cursed fields of this present world if given opportunity, but he clearly had no intentions of marring his own inheritance by sacrificing his firstborn son to an old legal stipulation provided to help the helpless. I cannot! I cannot! What more needs be said of this nearer kinsman motivated by purely selfish interests? The "old man" could not redeem, for despite being the nearest of kin he had an idolatrous disposition towards self. Pitiful and wretched creature he was. He could love self but Ruth he could not love, for to him she was but an alien and a hindrance. He had no will! He had no power! "Redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it."
We believe the old man is sufficiently exposed by these few lines of comparison to let the contrast be as thus described. However, passing from this instance without looking a little closer at both Boaz and the nearer kinsman would be forsaking several choice pearls of truth.
What the nearer kinsman recoiled from was giving his seed to another; one that in his probable estimation was unworthy of so great a sacrifice. But in fact, if this old man could have, as free-willers believe, somehow mustered the integrity and fortitude to accept the terms of Boaz he would have changed the course of the whole world and thrown the eternal plan of God into utter confusion. This is a bold yet positive fact. As sure as the rising of the sun each day, just that sure it was that Obed, this child in the line of Christ, resided in the loins of Boaz and not this nearer kinsman. That being beyond dispute, from a scientific as well as spiritual point of fact, then it was impossible, totally impossible, for this old man to take up the proposition. In fact, we repeat, he could have changed the course of the world as soon as he could have redeemed the inheritance. Now we ask, what is this all but a little portion of the predestinated plan of God? Was it possible for the nearer kinsman to raise up seed to Mahlon? If you believe he could, then ask yourself what would have become of Obed. If it was certain for Obed to be born, then could anything less than predestination have made it certain? If so, what?
On the other hand, Boaz, that mighty man of wealth, knew what he had to do and honored the law to a jot and tittle. He did it for the joy that was set before him. He did the Father's will that instituted the provision. He set his family free and, moreover, took them as his own. What blessed comparisons might be made between Boaz and our Redeemer. Like Boaz, Christ redeemed to the utmost. He entered the great redemption transaction in love, not for selfish views. He raised up the name of His dead, from Adam to the last poor destitute sinner that was ever sold under sin and bondage. Hear again Naomi on this point: "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)." And so both Boaz and Christ did.
There is yet much additional matter we hope to cover before passing on to the next book of the Bible. It should be kept in mind in all this lengthy comparison that types and shadows are limited in scope. They often fall short of what we might hope for them. This is, no doubt, the fault of our fleshly weakness and not the Scriptures. There can be no question, however, that Christ and eternal redemption shines brilliantly in the book of Ruth, probably more so than in any other book of the Old Testament. If the Lord wills, we shall take this subject up one more time even though we had hoped to conclude with this article.
James F Poole
Volume 11, No. 5