Chapter 3 verse 1 – Chapter 4 verse 12
What Naomi and Ruth did not appear to know was that there was a closer kinsman. Boaz, as a godly man, dealt with the matter honourably and openly. The nearer kinsman was approached before the elders of the city and acquainted with Naomi’s willingness to allow redemption of the lease on the land. He was able to do this as indicated by the law of Leviticus chapter 25 but when confronted with the associated requirement of Deuteronomy chapter 25 to marry Ruth the Moabitess, he says, ‘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. After the required formal ritual of the shoe the way is clear for Boaz to marry Ruth, 4. 7.
The Book of Ruth is essentially a Jewish book and when viewed typically the first application must be to Israel. The nation had forsaken the God who had redeemed and delivered them out of Egypt; they were as distant from Him as were the Gentile nations. Hosea uses the expression Loammi (not my people), Hos. 1. 9, 10; 2. 23. Both Hosea and Ezekiel mourned that the ‘glory of the Lord’ had departed from the temple and the nation, 10. 5, 18. God, however, had not rejected the nation and the picture of the return of Naomi with Ruth from the land of Moab foreshadowed the day when a godly Jewish remnant will return to the Lord and bear faithful testimony. This also will be in a time of great suffering and death before entering into millennial blessing. However, we cannot exclude a secondary typical application. Ruth is also a picture of Gentile believers who come to know the God of eternity in a place of distance and are brought into blessing by the One who has become their Kinsman and Redeemer.
The two kinsmen?
The question also arises as to how two kinsmen fit into a typical interpretation of the book. Notice that one was available to redeem but was not able; the other was available, able, willing and actually became the kinsman redeemer. The distinction between the two is the distinction between law and grace. The keeping of the law in total perfection would be a way of salvation though unattainable by sinful men. The Lord Jesus indicated this to the young man who came running to him and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus explained what he had to do and outlined the basic elements of the Law. The young man professed to have kept them all but in reality had broken the very first law by putting love for his possessions before his love for God. Jesus looked upon him and loved him but the young man went away sad having learnt the salutary lesson that salvation is not attainable through keeping the law, Mark 10. 17-22. The apostle Paul refers to this matter when writing to Roman believers, ‘For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh’, Rom. 8. 3. The kinsman redeemer had to be suitable, able and willing to redeem and the type is fulfilled beautifully, completely and uniquely in Christ.
Chapter 4 verses 13 – 22
The birth of Obed
Boaz married Ruth and God blessed them with a son who was named Obed. He brought joy to his parents but was also a blessing to his grandmother Naomi, ‘The women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel’, 4. 14. The nation was also blessed through Obed in that the family line was continued through him to David who became one of Israel’s greatest kings, ‘they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David’, 4. 17. But, even more than this, the blessing extended beyond David because it was of the line that included Obed that Christ was born.
Women in the Lord’s genealogy recorded by Matthew
The fuller of the Lord’s genealogies is that recorded in Matthew chapter 1. The line is traced through the male descendents but the names of four women are mentioned. Three were women of some notoriety. We read of the first in verse 3, ‘Judas (Judah) begat Phares and Zara of Thamar (Tamar)’. Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law, Gen. 38, and having been widowed Judah had first promised and then refused to allow his younger son Shelah to marry her. By pretending to be a harlot Tamar tricked Judah into becoming father of her children, Pharez and Zara. We read of the second woman in chapter 1 verse 5, ‘Salmon (Salmah) begat Boaz of Rachab (Rahab). Salmah was one of the spies sent into Canaan who later married Rahab the harlot who hid them from their enemies, Josh. 2. We read of the third in chapter 1 verse 6, ‘David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Uriah’. Bathsheba’s name is not mentioned but David’s adultery with her and murder of Uriah are ever the backdrop to this entry. Ruth is the fourth woman mentioned and this in verse 5. It records simply, ‘Booz (Boaz) begat Obed of Ruth’. The name of this honourable, faithful lady appears unsullied in the genealogy of Christ.
Testimony written indelibly
These entries illustrate the mercy and grace of God. In three cases sin, following repentance, was forgiven and the women were honoured in the inclusion of their names in the genealogy. What could not be altered was the record of their testimony. Sin can be forgiven and lives can be changed but testimony written on earth is written indelibly and cannot be erased or even modified. As believers we should guard carefully our testimony both as individuals and as members of families and members of the local assembly. The example of Ruth shows that motivated by love for the God of Israel, love for the people of God and love for the things of God, she was able to bear a faithful testimony. This resulted in an ‘unsullied’ name.
The idea of indelibly written testimony was expressed powerfully in a poem called the Rubaiyat written by Omah Khayyam, a Persian poet of the eleventh century:
The moving finger writes;
and having writ,
Moves on; nor all thy piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line
Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.
This is a very challenging matter. May God enable our response to be:
Lord I desire to live as one
Who bears a blood bought name,
As one who fears nought but
And knows no other shame.
Mrs. Bancroft: Hymns of Light & Love