4 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 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 Ephrathahand 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.”
(Ruth 4:1-12 NIV)
As we pick up from the end of chapter 3, we notice that there is no time lapse between chapter 3 and 4. Chapter 4 begins with “Meanwhile…”, indicating that at the same time Ruth was recounting her story to Naomi, Boaz was in town taking care of the guardian-redeemer matter with the next closest kinsman.
Chapter 4 picks up the story of Boaz addressing the guardian-redeemer situation with the rightful heir. When Boaz tells the man about the land, the man immediately agrees to redeem it. When Boaz tells the man about Ruth and his responsibility to redeem the name of Elimilek, Kilion, and Mahlon, the man immediately backs away and tells Boaz to redeem everything. We quickly see this man’s selfish heart exposed when Boaz gives him the full picture of what it means to be the guardian-redeemer of the property as well as the family name.
In a normal Levirate marriage situation, if the man refused to fulfill his duty to redeem his kinsman’s name, the woman would go to the legal system and publicly hold the man to his responsibility according to God’s Word. If the man still refused to obey God’s Word, then she would take his shoe, spit on the ground in contempt of him, and release him from his obligation (with all the public shame associated with his unwillingness to obey God’s Word). The woman was then free to marry someone else.
In this situation, we see Boaz going to the rightful heir and saving Ruth the pain and heartbreak of rejection through the legal process. We also see the man’s selfish heart and lack of integrity in verse 8. The man readily gave up his shoe – there was no struggle to take it from him. Boaz likely had as much or more to lose financially than this man, but willingly counted it all as loss in order to be obedient to the Lord.
Boaz finalizes the business deal, and hold the elders and others gathered around as witnesses to the agreement to redeem the land and also to honor God’s Word by redeeming Elimelek’s and Mahlon’s name through Ruth. The elders and the others then gave their hearty consent and agreement as witnesses to the deal and added their blessings upon the union of Boaz and Ruth, which was set upon God’s Word and their humble obedience to it.
May we live our lives in such a way that honors the Lord and obedience to His Word like Boaz did, regardless of the cost or risk.