Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Daily Bible Reading - April 20 - A Worthy Woman

Yesterday we looked at the first two chapters of Ruth, which introduced to us a "worthy man," Boaz (Ruth 2:1). Today's reading in Ruth 3-4 shows us how the story of Ruth and Boaz resolved, as this truly worthy man lived up to his reputation and acted with integrity and compassion for Ruth.

The key term in Ruth 3-4 is "redeemer," go'el in Hebrew. This term referred to a responsibility that fell to men in ancient Israelite families, and it included several functions:
  • To redeem the property of a kinsman that was sold due to poverty (Lev. 25:24-24).
  • To redeem relatives that had been forced into slavery due to poverty (Lev. 24:49-55).
  • To avenge the death of a relative, in keeping with the various criminal laws in the Mosaic code (Num. 35:19-27).
  • To assist a relative in the event of a civil dispute (Prov. 23:11).
In addition to these duties, one other custom in Israel played a role in the story of Boaz and Ruth. In Deuteronomy 25 the Law commanded that if a man died before his wife had children, his brother was to marry her and give her children so that the family line could continue. This practice, called levirate marriage (from Latin levir, "husbands brother), was apparently combined with the redeemer's duties, which is why Boaz not only redeems the family property, but also marries Ruth.

I love the pathos of the story of Ruth. The last two chapters are filled with drama: Ruth's unexpected "proposal" to Boaz (3:1-18); the tense negotiations with a potential rival go'el (4:1-6); and the resolution of the crisis as Boaz and Ruth marry and have children (4:7-13). What a story!

Sometimes we use the expression, "they really deserve each other." Often this has a negative connotation - maybe two stubborn people end up with each other and in that sense "deserve" each other. But in the case of Boaz and Ruth, they truly did deserve each other. She was a "worthy woman" (3:11) for a "worthy man" (2:1). Yesterday we looked at the virtues Boaz noticed in Ruth. Today let's look at the excellent qualities of Boaz:
  • He was the kind of person Ruth knew she could meet with in complete secrecy without any fear of impropriety (3:1-7).
  • He had the integrity to recognize that even though he was thrilled that Ruth wanted to marry him that he had to follow the Law and defer to another go'el who was a closer relative (3:10-13).
  • He was concerned that Ruth depart in secret so that no one would think ill of her reputation (3:14).
  • He made sure she and her mother-in-law had plenty to eat (3:15-17).
  • He had such a reputation of being a man of his word that Naomi was absolutely confident Boaz would do what he said (3:18).
A worthy man for a worthy woman.

One final comment is in order. As moving as this story is on its own merits, it is even more significant in view of its ramifications for the plan of redemption. This story explains the family line of David (Ruth and Boaz are David's great-grandparents! - 4:17), and ultimately the family line of Jesus Himself (Matthew 1:3-6). Boaz was a redeemer; Jesus is the Great Redeemer.

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