All of the best stories are filled with unexpected adventures and surprises. I mean, who would have thought that Darth Vader is Luke’s father? And who would have imagined that the guy in sixth sense was dead the whole time? And who would’ve thought, surprise upon surprise, that Frodo would keep the ring after taking the it all the way to mount doom only to have it stolen by Gollum who would save the day by falling into the mountain itself?
Well, as with all these great stories, Ruth has unexpected twists and surprises along the way. Who would have imagined such fullness to come to Naomi through such suffering? She was widowed, her sons die, one of her daughters in law leaves her, she arrives back in Bethlehem (house of bread) with no bread at all, and through the gutsiness of Ruth going out to glean, she just so happens to come to the field belonging to Boaz, the very one who is keen to protect them and provide for them. We saw another surprise last week in chapter 3. As things were revving up between Boaz and Ruth we learn in 3:12 that there is another man who could have first dibs on redeeming Naomi and Ruth before Boaz. As chapter 3 ends were on the edge of our seats wondering if Ruth will end up with.
That is where we pick up today. Follow along with me in your Bibles as I read Ruth 4…
So, Boaz wakes up from his eventful evening at the threshing floor, and right away goes to the gate to take care of business. Now, the gate is the center of town which served as a kind of town hall/courthouse, where all the things that matter happened, which is why Boaz went there. He knew this was the place to decide the matter at hand, so off he goes. Notice v1b, It just so happens that as Boaz sits down at the gate the other redeemer walks up. Boaz seems to have the ‘Midas touch’ here in these first few verses. He tells the redeemer to sit down and the other redeemer sits down. Boaz goes and gets 10 elders of the city, tells them to sit and they sit down. Here is yet another view in these events of the worth of Boaz. Only a man of quality could command such obedience, and that both the redeemer and the 10 elders obey Boaz shows how much the town thought of him. Now the stage is set for the legal transaction to take place concerning Naomi, Ruth, and their land. But before I move on, did you see that this other redeemer isn’t given a name in this story?
I think it becomes clear why the author left him anonymous when you compare him with Boaz. This unnamed redeemer was legally obligated to take care of Naomi and Ruth because he was their closest family, and to this point in our story he’s done nothing for them at all. Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem with no home, no food, and no hope, and this man didn’t do a thing for them. He didn’t go visit them, didn’t feed them, shelter them, didn’t listen to them, or grieve the death of their husbands with them, he did nothing, he didn’t lift a finger for them. Boaz, on the other hand, had no legal obligation to Naomi or to Ruth at all, yet we read in the story that Boaz was the man doing everything for these two widows. Think of the three main men in the book Ruth: a) Elimelech who took the family out of the promise land to go back into the pagan wilderness of Moab, he was a risk taker, but he was a fool. b) This other unnamed redeemer of chapter 4 who doesn’t do anything and who’s not responsible at all. c) Than we have Boaz who is not only picking up the mess that these other two men made but is freely and willingly giving over and above what he was required to do. He lavishes gifts upon Ruth and Naomi, he makes sure they’re well fed, that they’re safe, and that they won’t have to worry about things. Boaz is a godly man, the other two don’t seem to be. Though the book doesn’t tell us, you can imagine the author doesn’t identify the unnamed redeemer because he doesn’t think much of him. There’s actually a rare Hebrew construction here when it refers to this other redeemer in v1. It says “friend” in the ESV, but it actually be translated as ‘so and so.’ Clearly, we’re meant to not think much of this guy. It’s ironic that the only guy who doesn’t get a name in Ruth, is the guy who refused to make the name of Elimelech continue through taking care of Naomi and Ruth. So for our purposes here, let’s call this unnamed Redeemer, Biff.
I want to call him Biff, because every love story has the moment when some kind of intruder comes into view, who’s trying to break up the love between the two main characters. This is what the unnamed redeemer is doing here. Remember it was Biff Tannen who tried to break up the love between George McFly and the young Lorraine in Back to the Future 1, it was the older Biff Tannen who tried to break up the love between Marty and his mother in Back to the Future 2, and remember it was Mad Dog Tannen, Biff’s great grandfather, who tried to break up the love between Doc and Clara Clayton. For some reason it seems that the Tannen’s and the McFly’s are caught in a multi-generational battle of good and evil.
Boaz and Biff have such a moment at the end of v4. After Boaz tells Biff the details of redeeming Naomi and her land, he says, “I will redeem.” Instantly we think, ‘NO! You’re telling me that after all Boaz has done for Naomi and Ruth in the previous 4 chapters, that Biff’s going to get the girl and ride of into the sunset!?’
Thankfully the story continues, and thankfully Boaz has a wise plan. It’s at this point Boaz tells Biff the whole story. If Biff chooses to redeem Naomi’s land, he not only gets Naomi, he gets Ruth ‘the Moabitess’ as well. v5 is the only time in the entire book of Ruth where Boaz calls Ruth the Moabite. He does so to remind Biff of Ruth’s foreign nature, to remind Biff that Ruth is from a wicked people, and that upon acquiring Naomi and her land he’ll have to marry Ruth the Moabitess and face social rejection for a long time. Upon hearing this news this Biff realizes his dilemma. He would be obligated to have children with Ruth in order to continue the line of her dead husband Mahlon, which would create a conflict of interest over the inheritance coming to his children and to any new children from Ruth. So what does Biff do? He puts his lack of quality on display and says he can’t redeem Naomi because he doesn’t want to mess up the inheritance of his own children. At the root of it Biff only changed his mind about this legal transaction when he learned of Ruth, so it’s clear from v6 that Biff doesn’t want to do what God had commanded him to do, so he gives his right of redemption to Boaz.
Next in v7, as was the custom in Israel, they traded sandals to let everyone know they made an agreement. This is the equivalent of signing a contract today. Well, after exchanging sandals Boaz stands up and tells the people what he has just agreed to do. He will redeem the land of Elimelech, bring Naomi into his home, gain Ruth as his wife, and have children with Ruth to make sure the lineage of Elimelech continues. After Boaz speaks we see his Midas touch again in that all the people present affirm this transaction and give their blessing to him.
They pray for him and for his children saying in v11-12, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, who Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.” They pray asking the Lord to make Ruth like 3 women God used in mighty ways: Rachel, Leah, and Tamar. Rachel and Leah were Jacob’s first wives who each had numerous children and built up the people of Israel. Tamar like Ruth was another foreign woman who was also involved in a kinsman redeemer relationship. We read of Tamar’s story in Genesis 38 where we see Judah’s son Onan refusing to do the something similar to the thing Boaz was willing to do here in Ruth 4. Ruth being linked to Tamar reveals the same lesson we get multiple times in the Old Testament – the story of God’s people has always been one of God’s grace and human weakness. God delights to use those the world considers weak, needy, helpless, and marginalized for the growth and expansion of His Kingdom.
As we arrive at v13-22 we arrive at the end of Ruth, which is easily one of the greatest stories ever told. It began in pain it ends in pleasure, it began in emptiness it ends in fullness, and it began despairing it ends beaming with hope. I think a large lesson in this small book is that the Christian life is not a straight line to glory. Our path is not an interstate highway like I-75 all smooth and straight. Rather, the Christian life is more like a mountain road with slippery curves, and hair-pin turns that make you go backwards in order to go forwards. The good news is that God doesn’t leave us alone on this daunting road, He puts signs on the side of the road that say, ‘The best is yet to come!’ ‘I’m working all this out for your good and My glory!’ ‘Don’t trust yourself and your own understanding, trust Me and what I’m doing, even if it feels like you’ll never understand it!’ This rough road will lead to our destination eventually, because God is sovereignly plotting and planning our course, paving our road to Himself, and He will see to it that we make it to the end, to our destination, to Him! This is why Ruth was written – to help us see how God not only plans, plots, and paves our road, but leaves us signs of grace, so that when the road darkens too much for us to navigate well, we’re reminded God, not us, has always been in control.
We see this play out as the story ends in v13-22. Our main characters are mentioned but it doesn’t take much time in these concluding verses until they fade from the spotlight. Naomi (which means ‘pleasant) who once called herself ‘bitter’ is now full of hope and even has a grandchild. Ruth was nothing more than a pagan Moabite, and now she is a lover of God who’s got a husband and a son. She spent ten years with Mahlon in Moab and she had no babies. It was likely that she was barren until God opened her womb so the right offspring would be produced. This is a God thing. And the big surprise is who this son is. The women of the town name him ‘Obed.’ Obed grew up and also had a son named Jesse. Jesse had eight sons and named the youngest of them David. Of course we know much about David from 1 Samuel and the Psalms. Growing up with seven older brothers, anointed to be King at 16, defeated Goliath, served under King Saul, fled from King Saul, became King, and became the man after God’s own heart. God loved David, and made a covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7, promising that David’s Kingdom would never end, and that one of David’s descendants would reign on David’s throne forever. David then had many sons, but one of his sons stands head and shoulders above the rest. Which one of David’s sons is this King who reign forever? Jesus Christ the Son of God Himself. Lesson? Jesus was a descendant of Boaz and Ruth!
Don’t think that God is up to nothing in your life. They didn’t know God would bring forth King David out of this mess, these were the days of the Judges, no one in Israel was asking for a king yet, because everyone was their own king. Yet, God was not only paving the road to King David, He paving the way to Christ the King Himself! Who would have guessed this at the beginning of chapter 1? A redeemer changed everything for Naomi and Ruth, and Church, the greater redeemer born in this same city years and years after these events, can change everything for you too.
How can Jesus, the other baby born in Bethlehem, change everything for you? Through His costly redemption. Think of it. It costs much for Boaz to redeem Naomi and Ruth. Boaz willingly chose to extend costly, self-sacrificial kindness in order to take care of these two widows. It certainly would’ve been easier to not do anything for them, like Biff decided to do, but Boaz shows His quality in his willingness to absorb all it would cost to redeem them. So too, in a far greater manner and far greater way, it costs the Lord Jesus much to redeem us. The eternal son of God laid aside privileges of glory to come here and take on a human nature. He willingly accepted all the hardship and suffering this would bring: isolation, mocking, malice, misunderstanding, ultimately leading to death, and a death that was excruciating spiritually and physically. It would’ve been easier not to do this, but God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ came for us, Christ died for us, and Christ rose for us. In this He displays His quality in His willingness to absorb all it would cost to redeem us.
Since this is what God is like, and since this is what God was doing that Christmas day, we have much to rejoice in. For we were once like Naomi and Ruth. Spiritually dead and in great need, but like Boaz, Christ willingly entered into our need, took it upon Himself, and dealt with it all. So no matter what sorrows we carry and no matter what losses we incur, we can trust and know that God in Christ is for us and with us. On Him we have set our hope, and in Him we find our rest.
 John J. Yeo, Ruth – A Biblical Theological Introduction to the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016) 413.
 Yeo, 414-415.
 Mary Willson Hannah, ESV Expository Commentary – Deuteronomy – Ruth (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021) 718-719.
 Hannah, 719.