Ruth 2-3: Kinsman-Redeemer
April 24, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
The romance starts to grow and we begin increasingly to get a sense that this is part of a larger, majestic, and divinely appointed story of redemption. Ruth “happened” to go to the field where her kinsman-redeemer was present to protect her (2:3). This little narrative touch draws us into the drama as it must have felt to the participants at the time, and by the same token makes us aware that what seems merely “by chance,” “by luck,” or something random that just “happened” is (in fact) part of God’s sovereign weaving of the threads of history for the love he has for his people—especially poor, destitute, abandoned people like Ruth and Naomi.
A kinsman-redeemer was someone who, by Old Testament law, had the opportunity through being a relative of a poor and destitute person to redeem them from that situation. Leviticus 25:47 in its context indicates the precise legal situation; the backdrop is the redemption of Israel by God from Egypt. No Israelite is intended to be destitute for long, or ever, and so within the structure of the theocracy there is a way for those “down on their luck” to be redeemed by a kinsman-redeemer, a Boaz.
Boaz is kind to Ruth—beyond the legal requirements. It is not clear that he even knows at first that he is her kinsman-redeemer, but because he has heard of her commitment to God and to Naomi, he determines to express the blessing of God on such commitment to Ruth. He protects her against the men of the field. Once again, we get a little hint of the background of the dangerous days in which they lived in the time of the Judges. It gives extra warmth to this man Boaz who is through his authority and power protecting the weak. God give us men like him—wealthy, empowered, strong—who determine to use their authority to act with mercy and be protectors of the less fortunate.
Chapter 3 tells the famous courting story. There is much in it that suggests the dalliance of the dance of the wooing and the wooed. Naomi makes sure that Ruth smells nice (3:3)! Dressing well, and appearing beautiful to both eyes (and nose!) are not inappropriate for a woman whose pure beauty reflects the beauty of God. Ruth is not told to dress provocatively, but she does probably put on her best “cloak” as well. She is dressing up for the occasion, not dressing down for it. She is told to “uncover his feet” (3:4). It is hard to escape the long association in literature between this sort of act and sexual innuendos, but there is not one hint in the text that Ruth and Boaz were up to anything inappropriate that night. Just as likely, after he had drunk and eaten enough to be in a good mood, she uncovered his feet so that he would not snore through the night but wake up to find Ruth right there with him!
Ruth 3:8 has a very human touch to it. Whoa, there’s a woman here! Boaz is so surprised, or it is so dark, that he has no idea what is going on as he gradually comes to his senses and wakes up. He asks, “Who are you?” (3:9). Ruth’s answer is her own—not Naomi’s—and it is wise, winsome, and beautiful: “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer” (3:9). Note how she humbly addresses him from a position of “your servant.” Note how she makes her request clear and does so on the basis of Boaz’s proper claim to redeem her. This Ruth is no fool, that much is clear, and she is humble with her wisdom.
Boaz is delighted. He is conscious of being past the age when (pretty) young women like Ruth stay their gaze, and he is willing and able to take Ruth up on her offer. He is not taken back by her initiating, nor is Ruth reprimanded for sneaking into his dormitory room late at night to propose marriage! Proprieties are maintained as she leaves before others know she was there, and she goes back to Naomi—how wise is Boaz, too—with a gift from Boaz for Naomi. He is making sure that from day one he has a good relationship with his mother-in-law (3:17); something that many a man later in life wishes he had started off in the right way in the beginning.
The lessons of the story are in the sovereignty of God, the protective care of Boaz, the beauty and riskiness of even proper courting rituals—and above all the redemptive reality of the God of the Bible. Would you ask him, Christ, to spread his wings over you and protect you this day?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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