The Book of Ruth - Session Two
I. Re-cap and Introduction
A. Read 3:6-13.
6 So she went down to the threshing floor, and she did everything just as her mother-in-law had ordered.
7 Boaz ate and drank, and he was in a good mood. He went over to lie down by the edge of the grain pile. Then she quietly approached, uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8 During the middle of the night, the man shuddered and turned over—and there was a woman lying at his feet. 9 “Who are you?” he asked. She replied, “I’m Ruth your servant. Spread out your robe over your servant, because you are a redeemer.”
10 He said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter! You have acted even more faithfully than you did at first. You haven’t gone after rich or poor young men. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I’ll do for you everything you are asking. Indeed, my people—all who are at the gate—know that you are a woman of worth. 12 Now, although it’s certainly true that I’m a redeemer, there’s a redeemer who is a closer relative than I am. 13 Stay the night. And in the morning, if he’ll redeem you—good, let him redeem. But if he doesn’t want to redeem you, then—as the Lord lives—I myself will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”
1. What do you imagine Ruth’s and Boaz’s emotions to have been?
(It’s hard not to believe there was passion. The text exudes it, however much the commentaries want to deny it. After all, here was this beautiful, festively attired woman who came to lay next to him. But, for reasons we’ll discuss next, while the emotions were real and complex, ultimately, they were very much under control.
The storyteller knows, however, that the reader will be quite curious as to how this will play out.)
2. What does Ruth do? How does he react to her? How does he resolve the matter?
(First, it appears that he might have been frightened. He trembled. It might have felt compromising. Or it might have seemed a demon. Ibn Ezra.
Second, she makes a sort of proposition in 9, no?
“Spreading a wing” could simply mean protection, as we see in Psalms 57:2, where the psalmist says, “in Your wings’ shadow do I shelter.”
It might have sexual overtones. More likely than not, it’s a symbol of marriage that is sought (not some sort of inappropriate behavior, as with Potiphar’s wife). Malbim
Plus, she raises the redeemer issue.
In response to her chesed and continuing covenant loyalty and loving-kindness (here, seeking a kinsman of her dead husband after having shown great care for Naomi), he seeks God’s blessing for her.
Then, he commits to do what she’s asked by going to the elders to seek to redeem her. He won’t act ahead of what mishpat requires, however, because there’s a closer kinsman in line, but he assures her redemption.
So, even motivated by love and chesed in response to her love and chesed, his tzedek > mishpat before action is possible.
He does tell her to remain the night. Some commentators say this was to keep her from being discouraged. He didn’t think the other relative would redeem her, and he wants to!
That we seek to redeem another in need is what God seeks in us as a part of and tied to Divine redemption.
This is a wonderful Jewish tale! And one that prefigures the Messiah and salvation hopes associated with the Messiah.
B. Read 4:1-6
1 Meanwhile, Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there. Just then, the redeemer about whom Boaz had spoken was passing by. He said, “Sir, come over here and sit down.” So he turned aside and sat down. 2 Then he took ten men from the town’s elders and said, “Sit down here.” And they sat down.
3 Boaz said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has returned from the field of Moab, is selling the portion of the field that belonged to our brother Elimelech. 4 I thought that I should let you know and say, ‘Buy it, in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you won’t redeem it, tell me so that I may know. There isn’t anyone to redeem it except you, and I’m next in line after you.”
He replied, “I will redeem it.”
5 Then Boaz said, “On the day when you buy the field from Naomi, you also buy Ruth the Moabite, the wife of the dead man, in order to preserve the dead man’s name for his inheritance.”
6 But the redeemer replied, “Then I can’t redeem it for myself, without risking damage to my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself. You can have my right of redemption, because I’m unable to act as redeemer.”
1. After we understand the rationale and practice of chalitzah, or levirate marriage, let’s ask: what’s going on in these verses, and what is its meaning for us?
(This process of redeeming the widow by the nearest relative was designed to give her something of the future she had acquired but had lost due to her husband’s death and to perpetuate the name of the deceased as well.
We’ve gone from the most private of settings to the most public. Here all is open and above-board, transparent.
Boaz goes to the city gate where the local Sanhedrin would convene, and he puts the matter up to them for consideration, witnessing, and blessing (and the nearest relative for a decision).
The issue was the sale of Naomi’s property, along with Ruth’s interest, and to be kept within the family. It, thus, likely involved the matter of Ruth’s conversion and her redemption.
The Vilna Gaon says that her redemption and the perpetuation of the name of the deceased were primary, and the sale was secondary.
This leads to the closest eligible redeemer coming forward. The choice is put to him both to buy the property Naomi sought to sell as well as the redemption of Ruth (and her interest in the property), and he turns it down.)
2. The closest eligible redeemer comes forward. The choice is put to him both to buy the property Naomi sought to sell as well as the redemption of Ruth (and her interest in the property), and he turns it down.) Why?
(Perhaps he liked the first parcel but not the whole of the offer.
Perhaps he didn’t want to buy her property, too, and take on responsibility for her.
It may have been that he had a wife and didn’t want to disturb harmony in the home. Targum.
The Iggeres Shmuel says redeeming Machlon’s soul was beyond his capacity; it required Boaz’s merits.
He may have thought it would imperil his or his children’s inheritance.
He may not have known of the ruling that a Moabitess, though not a male Moabite, could be married. (But, if this, he shouldn’t/wouldn’t have suggested Boaz do it.)
This is because he was unlearned in Torah and/or didn’t ask. Or he didn’t want to take a risk.
Or, perhaps he was simply selfish.)
Boaz accepts the responsibility. Btw, it is not deemed a literal purchase of Ruth. The marriage and redemption accompany this particular transaction.
Bottom line: This shows that decisions must be made within the framework of justice and righteousness. Though compassion led to love, taking initiative and acting on love must be triggered by caring and then governed by the demands of justice.
3. What does Boaz then do, and what are its consequences?
C. Read 4:11-17.
11 Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord grant that the woman who is coming into your household be like Rachel and like Leah, both of whom built up the house of Israel. May you be fertile in Ephrathah and may you preserve a name in Bethlehem. 12 And may your household be like the household of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah—through the children that the Lord will give you from this young woman.”
13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife.
He was intimate with her, the Lord let her become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi, “May the Lord be blessed, who today hasn’t left you without a redeemer. May his name be proclaimed in Israel. 15 He will restore your life and sustain you in your old age. Your daughter-in-law who loves you has given birth to him. She’s better for you than seven sons.” 16 Naomi took the child and held him to her breast, and she became his guardian. 17 The neighborhood women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They called his name Obed. He became Jesse’s father and David’s grandfather.
1. Why do the people at the gate liken Ruth to Rachel and Leah?
The Gishmei Berachah says they all came from non-righteous parents, left home to cling to God and marry righteous men, and all bear righteous children. They would build up the house of Israel.
Their children helped legitimate their own backgrounds and parentage.
Ruth, too, would become a mother of the people, having modeled the significance of compassion and lived-out loving-kindness.)
2. Why does the text say that the son of Boaz and Ruth “has been born to Naomi?”
(* The Talmud says Naomi brought the child up.
· Recall there’s a sense in which this child carries on the spirit of Machlon.
· Naomi had so much to do with the marriage she has a stake in the child.
· The child will carry on Naomi’s faith and traditions.
· We note with great interest that the child, Obed, the child that will serve God with a full heart, will become the father of Jesse who will become the father of David. This then goes to the Messiah.)
Read Hosea 2:19-21
19 I will take you for my wife forever;
I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice,
in devoted love, and in mercy.
20 I will take you for my wife in faithfulness;
and you will know the Lord.
21 On that day I will answer, says the Lord.
I will answer the heavens
and they will answer the earth.
How does this text feel related to the Ruth story?
(It is about a covenant, even a marriage, and indeed one that lasts forever. It is grounded in faithfulness, and it’s characterized by righteousness and justice, and in mercy and lovingkindness – just as is our story and its main characters. We see these virtues in the actions of Ruth to Naomi and Boaz to Ruth and Ruth to Boaz. It’s also how Boaz acts to the closer redeemer and the broader community.
One could say it’s the way the community of these actors act toward God and God to them in a covenant/marriage-like relationship.
And this betrothal resonates across the universe!)
III. Conclusion – What are our takeaways from our study of the Book of Ruth?
What do we make of the tradition that Ruth and Boaz were the ancestors of the Messiah? What is it about them and this story that might set out preconditions for, as well as our understanding of, the Messiah?