There is a saying that “every family tree has some sap running through it!” Or another: that old so-and-so “is the nut that fell from the family tree.” If you’ve ever done genealogical research, let me tell you from experience that you may not like what you find out! The adopted/biological half of my background goes honorably back through Revolutionary War soldiers to certain founders of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland. The biological half that I’ve only recently worked to uncover was more problematic – only got as far as a great-grandfather who appears to have been an orphan and then later a state prisoner … for what, I don’t know … maybe he assaulted a New York Yankees fan!
Today’s devotional reading involves a number of family tree types of considerations. Our selection is near the end of the story which encompasses the whole book of Ruth; and you almost need to read the preceding three chapters to fully appreciate this section. Briefly, it is the story of a Jewish husband and wife – Elimelek and Naomi, and their two sons Kilion and Mahlon – who during a time of famine leave Israel and go to the land of Moab. The sons both marry Moabite women, but before long all three men die and leave three widows. After a decade or so, Naomi determines to return to Israel, and her devoted daughter-in-law Ruth travels with her. Poor and destitute, Ruth (in the custom of care for the poor) gleans grain at the edge of the barley fields to eek out a living. This is done in the fields of Boaz – a relative of Elimelek. Through a series of Naomi-guided actions, Ruth is positioned to seek refuge from Boaz who would act as a “kinsman-redeemer.” This is in keeping with Old Testament law provision such as written in Deuteronomy 25:5-6, “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.”
Boaz was a just man and was willing to fulfill the role, but there was a closer relative. This fellow was at first willing, that is, until he heard that a Moabite woman was a part of the deal! You can almost see him slamming gears into reverse when he realizes this! As we read later in the Scriptures, Boaz and Ruth are the great-grandparents of David, and are therefore in the family tree of Jesus.
The theological significance of this is that Christ can be regarded as an example of a kinsman-redeemer, since he identified himself with us and redeemed us because of our need. As we have seen in passages in Hebrews that we have covered already in this series (2:11) – “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Jesus is not only our redeemer from sin, but as Hebrews 2:16-18 and 4:14-16 display, he is a kinsman to us and understands our human weakness and struggles. Thus he is able to help us in our times of need.
Ruth 4:1-12 – Boaz Marries Ruth
4:1 Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down.
2 Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. 3 Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. 4 I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”
“I will redeem it,” he said.
5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the[c] dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”
6 At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”
7 (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)
8 So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal.
9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”
11 Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”
Payment – the necessary deed to make redemption and all the cross words a reality.
Aloes – It says in John 19 about Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea – Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.