Rut Four: Levirate Marriage

Boaz goes out to the elders of the city, who are essentially his clan. He portrays the situation by telling them that Naomi is selling Elimelech’s fields, and whoever buys it will be responsible for preserving the heritage of their deceased relatives. This is a biblical euphemism which means that the purchaser will be obligated to marry Ruth and have a son to carry out the name of her dead husband in a ritual called the levirate marriage. This is usually the obligation of the brother of the deceased, but because all of the men in Naomi’s immediate family died, it falls to the person in the extended family who assumes that responsibility. In this case it’s Boaz who buys the land, and acquires Ruth along with it. “And also, Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s wife, have I acquired for myself for a wife, to preserve the name of the deceased on his heritage, so that the name of the deceased not be obliterated from his brethren and from the gate of his place, you are witnesses today (Ruth 4:10).”

The people bless this marriage, which essentially means that their son won’t be legally his, but rather considered to be a posthumous baby from her deceased husband. This could be the reason why he’s considered to be Naomi’s son, because he’s believed to be from her lineage rather than that of Boaz. We see his genealogy now – the son is Obed, the father of Jesse, who will one day be the father of King David.

And with that, we finish the short and sweet book of Ruth. I’ve actually loved reading this one and am so glad to have had the opportunity to do so. Next up, literally starting tomorrow, is Eichah/Lamentations, something else without a narrative, but a book I’ve been less familiar with and therefore interested in exploring for a while. For now, 802 chapters down, 127 to go!



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