Friday, September 14, 2012

Laws, Legalities, and a New House


Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.” – Ruth 4:17

It was not a simple thing for Boaz to marry Ruth, the Moabite widow of Naomi’s son.  Just as land is property and certain rights come with ownership, the Israelites had laws regarding the ownership of widows and rights to them (Deuteronomy 25:5-9).  Boaz, being the second closest relative to Elimelech, Naomi’s dead husband, did not have the right to marry Ruth.  There was “another closer relative” that had to grant him that right.
Oh Boaz was careful how he approached the subject with this closer relative!  He went to the gate of the city of Judah early in the morning.  This was where legal matters were handled.  Then he picked himself a jury.  He called out to ten men saying in Ruth 4:1, “Come aside, friend, sit down here.” That may sound like he was picking a jury of HIS friend and sort of stacking the cards in his favor. 

But if we go back to the original translation, that’s not the case.  What he actually called out was “Ho! Such-a-One of such-a-place! Sit down here!”  What he was doing was picking witnesses from various places so as not to be unfair.  Boaz was a rich man.  Finding ten men to be witnesses for him in Judah would have always been ten that would find Boaz more favorable due to his status in the community.  He was diligent to assure that his upcoming marriage would never be questioned.
Once the ten were completed, he waited until the “closer relative” came along most likely on his way to work. Then he said to the closer relative in Ruth 4:3-5:

“Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’
When you first read this you may think, “Wait a minute! He’s supposed to be asking for Ruth’s hand in marriage from this closer relative! What’s with the land?”  Boaz was an educated businessman.  He knew that the Israelite laws of marrying a widow included not only receiving her, but also the inheritance that came to her at the death of her husband.  While Ruth was a beautiful woman, she was also a Moabite.  Moabites had been prohibited even to the tenth generation from entering the congregation of the Israelites back in Deuteronomy 23:2-4. This made her less attractive to the Israelite men due to the shadow of that law being upon her heritage.  She was, since already a part of the Israelite people through her marriage to Naomi’s son Mahlon, out from under the old law against Moabites.  But the stench of that curse remained.  Boaz was offering up the most valued part of the deal first to see where the closer relative would stand, and just like any man would do when offered property, he said “I will redeem it.”

Then Boaz tacks on the rest of the deal, and tells him in Ruth 4:5:  “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.”  This translation makes it sound like he just needed to hand over payment for the land to Ruth, but the payment isn’t money.  It’s redemption from the loss of the dead husband through marriage and bearing children “to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.” In other words, he would buy the land, marry the woman, give her children, and they would become the inheritance (heritage) of Mahlon, Naomi’s dead husband.  Now the deal has changed, it’s not just about land.  It’s an offer to marriage.
Oh! I love how the “closer relative” quickly backs out of this one! He says, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it. Again, it’s the translation that loses the flavor of this man’s words.  He said “lest I ruin my own inheritance”.  He already had an inheritance because he was already married and had children to leave everything to and carry on his name after he died.  Personally, I think what he was saying was more like “Holy Smokes! Two wives! Are you kidding me? What do I want two of those for! Take the land, please!!!”

Another strange law the Israelites had involved a sandal.  If a widowed woman was rejected by a “closer relative”, she was to take off his sandal and keep it, and spit in his face.  This was because he had dishonored her by rejecting her.  Boaz had found a way around this “closer relative” being dishonored by asking him first about the land, and not having him reject Ruth personally.  I think this was another loving act toward Ruth in that she never felt the rejection.  Instead, the man gave Boaz his sandal.  This was the same as signing a legal document that gave Boaz the rights to Ruth. 
And after he had done so, Boaz instructed the ten men present that they were witnesses that he had redeemed Ruth, and that their children would be the inheritance of Mahlon and they would be welcomed in Israel.  He was now free to marry his bride and have children. (And we think dating is a mess!)
The men pronounced two blessings on Boaz and Ruth that stand mentioning.  They said in Ruth 4:11-12, We are witnesses. (Blessing One) The Lord make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. (Blessing Two) May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the Lord will give you from this young woman.”

The first blessing relates to the twelve tribes of Israel, which were born from Jacob through Rachel and Leah.  They pronounced the blessing of a strong lineage of people coming from the children of Boaz and Ruth. 
The second blessing was related to Pharez, the son of Judah, the tribe of people from which Jesus would later be born, as was already prophesied.  By his wife Tamar came the family of the Bethlehemites, which had also been prophesied to Jesus’ birth.

And yes, they had a son, and his name was Obed.  Names always had meaning, and this one is beautiful.  ‘Bed’ meant rock or stones. But the name Obed came from Abed, which means serving. 
How beautiful the name Obed, the Stone that Serves!  Obed was the Father of Jesse, who was the Father of King David, out of which came the direct lineage of Jesus Christ, Jesus of Bethlehem.  We gentiles (non-Israelites) have no connection to the twelve tribes of Judah, except through Christ, our redeemer, our Cornerstone.  1 Peter 2:4-6 describes this stone, and our place in the stone.

“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
“Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”

Your heritage has been secured.  All you have to do is accept the redeemer, Jesus Christ.  Enter the family of Jesus!

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