This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
NATIONALIST / RACIST PARTIES DO WELL IN EU ELECTIONS
RUTH CHAPTER 4
The Marriage of Boaz and Ruth
4 No sooner had Boaz gone up to the gate and sat down there than the next-of-kin,[a] of whom Boaz had spoken, came passing by. So Boaz said, ‘Come over, friend; sit down here.’ And he went over and sat down. 2 Then Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, ‘Sit down here’; so they sat down. 3 He then said to the next-of-kin,[b] ‘Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. 4 So I thought I would tell you of it, and say: Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not, tell me, so that I may know; for there is no one prior to you to redeem it, and I come after you.’ So he said, ‘I will redeem it.’ 5 Then Boaz said, ‘The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth[c] the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.’ 6 At this, the next-of-kin[d] said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.’
7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, one party took off a sandal and gave it to the other; this was the manner of attesting in Israel. 8 So when the next-of-kin[e] said to Boaz, ‘Acquire it for yourself’, he took off his sandal. 9 Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, ‘Today you are witnesses that I have acquired from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, to be my wife, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance, in order that the name of the dead may not be cut off from his kindred and from the gate of his native place; today you are witnesses.’ 11 Then all the people who were at the gate, along with the elders, said, ‘We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you produce children in Ephrathah and bestow a name in Bethlehem; 12 and, through the children that the Lord will give you by this young woman, may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.’
The Genealogy of David
13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin;[f] and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.’ 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. 17 The women of the neighbourhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.
18 Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, 19 Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, 20 Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, 21 Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed, 22 Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.
In this final episode, the author reveals the crushing response he/she wants to make to the “fear of foreigners” party in Israel: their great King David was descended from a foreigner!
In the detail of the dealings between Boaz and the “next of kin” we see how neatly Boaz lays out the ground. He presents it first as an advantage to be the “redeemer”-you get a field-then as a disadvantage-you get an extra wife. When the next of kin refuses this role, Boaz is legally free to take it up. All is done in accordance with the custom and law of Israel which has provided the means whereby a foreigner can become part of the community. The whole tone of the story, which in manner and content celebrates the old customs of the land, is quietly subversive of any kind of racism. Indeed the God of Israel has had his own “redeeming” role in the story, arranging that through a foreigner there will come a king who will rule his people wisely.
The story ends with the “official” genealogy of the King, which as in all patriarchal cultures, misses out the women, but the reader knows that God has relied on the shrewd affection of women as well as the goodness of a man, to achieve his purpose. In all its apparent simplicity, the book of Ruth is a literary and political masterpiece. It also has implications for the use of the word “redeemer” for Jesus Christ.