July 26, 2011

Wednesday after the Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 20, 21:1-6, Ruth 3:1-13, Lk. 10:25-37
Evening - Ps. 27, Acts 18:24-19:7

Commentary

The events of the third chapter of Ruth seem strange to modern Christians. To put them in chronological order we see that the harvest is over and the time to thresh the grain has come. Boaz has dealt kindly with Naomi and Ruth, and it is due to him that the women have been able to gather enough food to keep them well supplied until the next year's harvest. Boaz, who lives in Bethlehem, has come to one of his threshing houses to winnow the barely, meaning to separate the grain from the hull and bits of leaves and stalks, called, "chaff." That part seems plain and normal to us, but what is this sneaking around in the dark and uncovering Boaz's feet? It is simply this; Ruth is asking Boaz to marry her and to redeem the property of her husband, now under lease to someone else, due to Naomi's poverty (4:3).

According to Old Testament law, the brother of a man who died without children was to marry his brother's widow, and father a child who would inherit the land and property of the deceased man. This was done so that the name of the deceased would continue in Israel, and that his family would always possess his portion of the land. According to Old Testament law, the land of Israel was given as a heritage to the people. Therefore, it could not be sold, but could be leased out until the year of Jubilee, when it reverted back to the original owner or his heirs. An Israelite usually only leased his property out because of severe financial problems, so there was a provision that a near kinsman could buy back the lease and return the property to its rightful owners. This was called "redeeming" the land.

When Ruth went to Boaz at night, she did nothing immoral. She simply asked Boaz to marry her. That is the meaning of verse 9. Had Boaz spread his "skirt," or, blanket over her, he would have been asking her to lie beside him as his wife, and they would be considered married. Boaz specifically did not invite her, but rather turned her away telling her that a nearer kinsman had the duty to marry her, but he would certainly do so if the other man consented.

It is significant that the Hebrew word for kinsman can also mean "redeemer." To marry his brother's widow a man would also redeem his property for his heirs if it had been leased to another. Thus, Boaz is addressed by Ruth as her near kinsman and redeemer. We see here a picture of the love of Christ for His Church. He is her redeemer who purchases her place in the Kingdom of God. He is also her husband who loves her for eternity.

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