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Ruth 4:1-3

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.

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.



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