OPPORTUNITY THROUGH RESPONSIBILITY Boaz presented himself to receive God’s intervention when he accepted responsibility as guardian-redeemer. Guided by mother-in-law Naomi, Ruth proposed marriage to Boaz by virtue of the Israeli guardian-redeemer law. Boaz welcomed the proposal but offered the opportunity first to another relative next in line before him as guardian-redeemer for Naomi’s family. The closer relative declined and, thus cleared the way for Boaz, in the presence of an assembly of relatives convened to referee the interaction. Therefore, by virtue of an Israeli law that God sanctioned through Moses to preserve family inheritance, Ruth re-married to Boaz; gave birth to Obed, grandfather of David; thus joined with Boaz to become grandparents in the lineage of Christ.
We continue our study series on Ruth with a discussion of her transition from widowed daughter-in-law to legitimate wife of Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s husband. The marriage positioned her to become great grandmother of David and, thus, a link in the lineage of the Messiah. Ruth married Boaz under an Israeli law that God sanctioned through Moses to preserve family inheritance. Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi guided her to propose marriage to Boaz based on the guardian-redeemer law.
Boaz welcomed the proposal but understood that another relative was next in line before him based on hierarchy defined under the law. In his respect for the law and due process, he offered the opportunity first to the closer relative. The relative declined and thus cleared the way for Boaz, in the presence of an assembly of relatives convened to referee and witness the interaction. Therefore, Boaz married Ruth, who subsequently gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of David. Thus, Boaz presented himself to receive God’s intervention when he accepted responsibility as guardian-redeemer. The interactions highlight the potential to step into opportunities by accepting responsibilities; in addition to respect for law, customs, and due process.
KINDRED RESPONSIBILITIES Also, the proceedings reinforce our understanding that kindred responsibilities could hold the key to opportunities. The relative that declined his kinsman-redeemer responsibility would likely have decided differently if he knew the offer was indeed an opportunity to become a grandfather in the lineage of the Messiah. Therefore, a person could position himself or herself to receive God’s intervention by fulfilling kindred responsibilities: such as participating in marriages, child dedication, dispute settlement, or providing other kinds of assistance toward the well being of kindred. People that decline such responsibilities could be rejecting opportunities that God placed in their path.
Naomi Guides Ruth to Propose to Boaz
As Ruth and Naomi began to settle down in Bethlehem, toward the end of barley harvest, Naomi shifted focus to finding secure future for Ruth [Ruth 3:1]: “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?” She advised her to propose to Boaz under the Israeli guardian-redeemer law and instructed her on how to present the proposal [Ruth 3:3–4]: “Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.”
She had informed Ruth earlier that Boaz was one of their family’s guardian-redeemers. “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers” [Ruth 2: 20]. Ruth accepted Naomi’s guidance and followed her advice closely: “So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do” [Ruth 3:6].
A guardian-redeemer is a person that has legal responsibility to stand in for a relative in serious difficulty. For a dead relative, “standing in” may include receiving inheritance on his behalf [Numbers 27:8–11] or taking over his wife [Deuteronomy 25:5–6]. A relative also may “stand in” for another by buying back property sold because of poverty [Leviticus 25:25]. The law was established among Israelites during the time of Moses to address an inheritance petition brought to Moses by the daughters of Zelophehad [Numbers 27:1–11]. The daughters had petitioned Moses and the Israeli Assembly to be assigned property on behalf of their father among his relatives. Their father, a descendant of Joseph through Manasseh, was dead and did not have any son. Therefore, he would have been bypassed under a land distribution policy that recognized only male children. Moses consulted with God and established a rule for assigning a man’s inheritance to his daughters or to a hierarchy of other relatives (guardian-redeemers) if the man had no son. God commanded Moses that the rule “is to have the force of law for the Israelites” [Numbers 27:11].
The guardian-redeemer inherited the property of a relative to keep it in the family and would marry the relative’s widow (if he was deceased) to preserve his name with his property [Deuteronomy 25:5–6]. The specific person to fulfill the responsibility was determined based on a hierarchy established under the law [Numbers 27:8–11].
The guardian-redeemer law is of significance to Christianity because of its contribution to giving us the Messiah. Ruth married Boaz under the law, gave birth to the grandfather of David, and, thus, became a grandmother in the lineage of Christ.
Boaz Convenes Council of Relatives for Ruth
Boaz was pleased with Ruth for presenting him the opportunity to be her guardian-redeemer and commended her for choosing him and resisting the lure of younger men [Ruth 3:10]: “The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.” However, he acknowledged a closer relative of Naomi’s family was next in line before him to be her guardian-redeemer. He promised to discuss the matter with the relative first and to become Ruth’s guardian-redeemer if the relative would not [Ruth 3:13]: “Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”
On the next day, Boaz convened an assembly of their relatives including the relative next in line before him to be Ruth’s guardian-redeemer. The relative accepted the offer initially when he thought his only responsibility was to buy land that belonged to Elimelek, Naomi’s husband [Ruth 4:4]: “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.” However, after Boaz explained to him that the responsibility included marrying Ruth in order to maintain the name of Elemelek with his property, the man declined. In the presence of the Council of Relatives, the man ceded the opportunity to Boaz.
Boaz stepped up to the role of guardian-redeemer of Elimelek’s estate and married Ruth as part of the responsibility [Ruth 4:9–10]: “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. 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!’”
It was important to Boaz that the relative next in line before him was offered a fair opportunity to take up the responsibility and that he stepped up to it himself as next in line after the first relative declined. Also, it was important to him that the Council of Relatives witnessed the proceedings. They not only witnessed, but they prayed a blessing on Ruth and Boaz to conclude the proceedings [Ruth 4:11] “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.’” This prayer by the Council of Relatives was prophetic and came through with more than they prayed as we know today.
Opportunity through Kindred Responsibility
Interactions at the Council of Relatives gathering reinforce our understanding of God’s purpose for kindred relationships. God creates people as kindred to perform a duty of care for each other. Kindred are people related to each other by birth, descent, marriage, or other family and extended family ties. Among the Igbo people of Nigeria, for example, kindred refer to themselves as Umunna, translated literally to “father’s children,” which implies their ancestry could be traced to one father by going back far enough. Although aspects of kindred responsibilities could be covered by law, such as the guardian-redeemer law among Israelites, the responsibilities generally are part of the way of life or custom of a people. They are passed through generations as part of an individual’s expected duty of care.
In this interaction among Boaz, Ruth, and their relatives, a man declined kindred responsibilities and as a result rejected an opportunity to become a link in the lineage of the Messiah. The account adds to our understanding that kindred responsibilities are important to God. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Enduring Blessing, God is pleased when we honor kindred responsibilities but displeased when we refuse to honor them. For example, he banned Moabites and Ammonites from the Israeli assembly because they failed to honor kindred responsibilities.
Examples from our previous bible studies indicate kindred responsibilities vary. They may include participation in marriage proceedings (e.g., see the account of Jacob’s marriage to Leah and Rachel [Genesis 29:16–28] in a previous bible study under Jacob Marries Rachel and Leah); child dedication (e.g., see the account of the dedication of John the Baptist [Luke 1:57–65] in a previous bible study under Parent-Child Relationships…); or settling dispute (e.g., see the account of Jacob-Laban dispute settlement [Genesis 31:31–43], discussed in a previous bible study under Jacob and Laban Make a Treaty). Generally, kindred have responsibility to assist toward the well being of other kindred (e.g., Leviticus 25:25).
Interactions at the marriage of Boaz to Ruth indicate that fulfillment of kindred responsibilities could place one in position for God’s intervention. A person could position himself or herself to receive God’s intervention by performing a kindred responsibility or deny themselves the opportunities by declining the responsibility.
Summary of What We Learned
Ruth married Boaz under the Israeli guardian-redeemer law that God sanctioned through Moses to preserve family inheritance. Mother-in-law Naomi guided Ruth to propose to Boaz by virtue of the law. Boaz welcomed the proposal but offered the opportunity first to another relative next in line before him. The closer relative declined and, thus cleared the way for Boaz, in the presence of an assembly of relatives convened to referee the interaction. Boaz married Ruth, who subsequently gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of David. The interactions highlight respect for law, customs, and due process and add to our understanding that kindred responsibilities are important to God.
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