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Ruth 4:4-6

Context
4:4 So I am legally informing you: 1  Acquire it before those sitting here and before the leaders of my people! 2  If you want to exercise your right to redeem it, then do so. 3  But if not, then tell me 4  so I will know. 5  For you possess the first option to redeem it; I am next in line after you.” 6  He replied, “I will redeem it.” 4:5 Then Boaz said, “When 7  you acquire the field 8  from Naomi, 9  you must also 10  acquire Ruth the Moabite, 11  the wife of our deceased relative, 12  in order to preserve his family name by raising up a descendant who will inherit his property.” 13  4:6 The guardian said, “Then I am unable to redeem it, for I would ruin my own inheritance 14  in that case. You may exercise my redemption option, for I am unable to redeem it.” 15 

1 tn Heb “and I said [or perhaps, “thought to myself”], ‘I will [or “must”] uncover your ear, saying’”; NAB “So I thought I would inform you”; NIV “I thought I should bring the matter to your attention.”

2 tn The phrase “before those sitting here and before the leaders of my people” appears to refer to the leaders who were specially chosen as witnesses (v. 2) and the larger group of community leaders standing by. It is possible, however, that the phrases “before those sitting here” and “before the leaders of my people” are appositional and that both refer to the ten leaders mentioned in v. 2 (cf. NLT “in the presence of these witnesses”).

3 tn Heb “if you will redeem, redeem” (KJV, NASB, NRSV all similar); NCV “If you want to buy back the land, then buy it.”

4 tn Heb “but if he will not redeem, tell me.” Most English versions emend the third person verb form (“he”) to the second person form because Boaz is addressing the closer relative. But it is possible that he briefly addresses the witnesses and refers to the closer relative in the third person. See J. M. Sasson, Ruth, 118.

5 tn Following the imperative, the prefixed verb form with vav indicates purpose or result.

6 tn Heb “for there is no one besides you to redeem, and I am after you” (NASB similar).

7 tn Heb “in the day”; NASB, NIV “On the day.”

8 sn Acquire the field. This probably refers to the right to redeem and use the field. See the note on the word “selling” in v. 3.

9 tn Heb “from the hand of Naomi” (so NASB, NRSV).

10 tc The MT וּמֵאֵת (umeet) may be understood in two ways: (1) “and from” (vav conjunction “and,” plus preposition מִן [min] “from,” plus definite direct object marker אֵת) parallel to the preceding מִיַד (miyyad, “from [the hand of]”), suggesting the field would be purchased from Naomi and from Ruth; or (2) “and” (vav [ו] conjunction “and,” plus enclitic mem [ם], plus direct object marker [אֵת]) introducing the second part of the acquisition: the nearest kinsman would be acquiring the field and Ruth (for discussion see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 202). However, the BHS editors suggest reading גם את־ (“as well as…”; emphatic particle גם [“also”] and the definite direct object marker אֵת) introducing the second part of the acquisition: He would be acquiring the field and Ruth. This alternate reading is reflected in the Vulgate reading quoque (“and also”) and supported by parallel usage in v. 9, “I am acquiring the field from Naomi, and also (גָּם אֵת־, gamet) Ruth the Moabitess the wife of the deceased.”

11 tc The MT (Kethib) reads קָנִיתִי (qaniti, “I acquire,” Qal perfect 1st person common singular): “When you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, I acquire Ruth the Moabitess…” However, the marginal reading (Qere) is קָנִיתָה (qanitah, “you acquire,” Qal perfect 2nd person masculine singular, reflected in 2nd person masculine singular forms in Greek, Latin, Aramaic, and Syriac): “When you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess…” The Qere is probably original because the Kethib is too difficult syntactically and contextually, while the Qere makes perfect sense: (1) Boaz stated in 3:13 that the nearest kinsman had the first right to acquire Ruth if he wanted to do so, and only the Qere reading here presents him with that option; and (2) Boaz announces in 4:9-10 that he was acquiring the field and Ruth as a package deal in 4:9-10, and only the Qere reading here presents the nearest kinsman with the same package deal. The Kethib probably arose by a scribe trying to harmonize 4:5 with the 1st person common singular form in 4:9-10 without fully understanding the ploy of Boaz in 4:5. See F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 216-17.

12 tc The presence of two difficult textual problems in this line (see two preceding notes) has produced a combination of four different ways in which this line can be rendered: (1) “When you acquire the field from Naomi, you must acquire [it] from Ruth the Moabitess the wife of the deceased” (KJV, NKJV); (2) “When you acquire the field from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you must acquire the wife of the deceased” (JPS, NJPS, NIV); (3) “When you acquire the field from Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess the wife of the deceased” (NASB, NCV, TEV, RSV, NRSV, NLT); and (4) “When you acquire the field from Naomi, then I acquire Ruth the Moabitess the wife of the deceased” (REB). The third option is adopted here.

sn Our deceased relative. This refers to Mahlon, viewed as Elimelech’s heir.

13 tn Heb “in order to raise up the name of the deceased over his inheritance” (NASB similar); NRSV “to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.”

14 sn I would ruin my own inheritance. It is not entirely clear how acquiring Ruth and raising up an heir for the deceased Elimelech would ruin this individual’s inheritance. Perhaps this means that the inheritance of his other children would be diminished. See R. L. Hubbard, Jr., Ruth (NICOT), 245-46.

15 tn Heb “redeem for yourself, you, my right of redemption for I am unable to redeem.”

sn Here it appears that the acquisition of Ruth along with the land was an obligatory package deal (“When you acquire the field from Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth…”). On the other hand, Boaz viewed marriage to Ruth as voluntary in 3:13 (“If he does not want to redeem you, I will redeem you”), and presented the acquisition of the field as voluntary in 4:4 (“If you want to exercise your right…but if not, tell me!”). Initially, Boaz makes the transaction appear to be a mere land deal in 4:4. When the nearest relative jumped at the land offer, Boaz confronted him with the attendant social/family obligation of marrying Ruth to raise up an heir for the deceased to inherit this very land. By conducting the transaction in public where the close relative would need to save face, Boaz forced him either to reject the offer entirely or to include Ruth in the deal – but he could not take the land and reject Ruth. Either way, Ruth would be cared for and Elimelech’s line continued. But if he took Ruth, the acquisition of the land would be more economically burdensome than beneficial, so he yielded his purchase option to Boaz. For discussion, see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 229-33.



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