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Ruth 4:1-9

Context
Boaz Settles the Matter

4:1 Now Boaz went up 1  to the village gate and sat there. Then along came the guardian 2  whom Boaz had mentioned to Ruth! 3  Boaz said, “Come 4  here and sit down, ‘John Doe’!” 5  So he came 6  and sat down. 4:2 Boaz chose ten of the village leaders 7  and said, “Sit down here!” So they sat down. 4:3 Then Boaz said to the guardian, 8  “Naomi, who has returned from the region of Moab, is selling 9  the portion of land that belongs to our relative Elimelech. 4:4 So I am legally informing you: 10  Acquire it before those sitting here and before the leaders of my people! 11  If you want to exercise your right to redeem it, then do so. 12  But if not, then tell me 13  so I will know. 14  For you possess the first option to redeem it; I am next in line after you.” 15  He replied, “I will redeem it.” 4:5 Then Boaz said, “When 16  you acquire the field 17  from Naomi, 18  you must also 19  acquire Ruth the Moabite, 20  the wife of our deceased relative, 21  in order to preserve his family name by raising up a descendant who will inherit his property.” 22  4:6 The guardian said, “Then I am unable to redeem it, for I would ruin my own inheritance 23  in that case. You may exercise my redemption option, for I am unable to redeem it.” 24  4:7 (Now this used to be the customary way to finalize a transaction involving redemption in Israel: 25  A man would remove his sandal and give it to the other party. 26  This was a legally binding act 27  in Israel.) 4:8 So the guardian said to Boaz, “You may acquire it,” and he removed his sandal. 28  4:9 Then Boaz said to the leaders and all the people, “You are witnesses today that I have acquired from Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon.

1 tn The disjunctive clause structure (note the pattern vav [ו] + subject + verb) here signals the beginning of a new scene.

2 tn Sometimes translated “redeemer.” See the note on the phrase “guardian of the family interests” in 3:9.

3 tn Heb “look, the guardian was passing by of whom Boaz had spoken.”

4 tn Heb “turn aside” (so KJV, NASB); NIV, TEV, NLT “Come over here.”

5 tn Heb “a certain one”; KJV, ASV “such a one.” The expression פְלֹנִי אַלְמֹנִי (pÿlonialmoni) is not the name of the nearest relative, but an idiom which literally means “such and such” or “a certain one” (BDB 811-12 s.v. פְלֹנִי), which is used when one wishes to be ambiguous (1 Sam 21:3; 2 Kgs 6:8). Certainly Boaz would have known his relative’s name, especially in such a small village, and would have uttered his actual name. However the narrator refuses to record his name in a form of poetic justice because he refused to preserve Mahlon’s “name” (lineage) by marrying his widow (see 4:5, 9-10). This close relative, who is a literary foil for Boaz, refuses to fulfill the role of family guardian. Because he does nothing memorable, he remains anonymous in a chapter otherwise filled with names. His anonymity contrasts sharply with Boaz’s prominence in the story and the fame he attains through the child born to Ruth. Because the actual name of this relative is not recorded, the translation of this expression is difficult since contemporary English style expects either a name or title. This is usually supplied in modern translations: “friend” (NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV, NLT), “so-and-so” (JPS, NJPS). Perhaps “Mr. So-And-So!” or “Mr. No-Name!” makes the point. For discussion see Adele Berlin, Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative, 99-101; R. L. Hubbard, Jr., Ruth (NICOT), 233-35; F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 196-97. In the present translation “John Doe” is used since it is a standard designation for someone who is a party to legal proceedings whose true name is unknown.

6 tn Heb “and he turned aside” (so KJV, NASB); NRSV “And he went over.”

7 tn Heb “and he took ten men from the elders of the town.”

8 tn Or “redeemer.” See the note on the phrase “guardian of the family interests” in 3:9.

9 tn The perfect form of the verb here describes as a simple fact an action that is underway (cf. NIV, NRSV, CEV, NLT); NAB “is putting up for sale.”

sn Naomi…is selling. The nature of the sale is uncertain. Naomi may have been selling the property rights to the land, but this seems unlikely in light of what is known about ancient Israelite property laws. It is more likely that Naomi, being a woman, held only the right to use the land until the time of her remarriage or death (F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 202-4). Because she held this right to use of the land, she also had the right to buy it back from the its current owner. (This assumes that Elimelech sold the land prior to going to Moab.) Since she did not possess the means to do so, however, she decided to dispose of her rights in the matter. She was not selling the land per se, but disposing of the right to its redemption and use, probably in exchange for room and board with the purchaser (Bush, 211-15). If this is correct, it might be preferable to translate, “Naomi is disposing of her rights to the portion of land,” although such a translation presumes some knowledge of ancient Israelite property laws.

10 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.”

11 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”).

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

13 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.

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

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

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

17 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.

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

19 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.”

20 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.

21 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.

22 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.”

23 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.

24 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.

25 tn Heb “and this formerly in Israel concerning redemption and concerning a transfer to ratify every matter.”

26 tn Heb “a man removed his sandal and gave [it] to his companion”; NASB “gave it to another”; NIV, NRSV, CEV “to the other.”

27 tn Heb “the legal witness”; KJV “a testimony”; ASV, NASB “the manner (form NAB) of attestation.”

28 tc The LXX adds “and gave it to him” (cf. TEV, CEV), which presupposes the reading ויתן לו. This seems to be a clarifying addition (see v. 7), but it is possible the scribe’s eye jumped from the final vav (ו) on נַעֲלוֹ (naalo, “his sandal”) to the final vav (ו) on לוֹ (lo, “to him”), accidentally omitting the intervening letters.



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