Ruth’s love and fidelity made her willing to follow Naomi’s questionable plan for their redemption (Ruth 3:1–11). Yet Boaz is not so quickly inclined to circumvent the Law. Accordingly, he must first offer the right of redemption to a closer relative, but he pledges to redeem Elimelech’s family if the other man refuses (vv. 12–13).
Boaz’s righteousness compels him to keep his word the very next day, and he gathers ten elders together at the city gate, the place where judicial matters were settled in ancient Israel (4:1–2). Boaz explains Naomi’s need for redemption and offers to her closest relative the right to buy her land. This man agrees to redeem her — out of selfish motives (vv. 3–4). After learning Ruth the Moabite is part of the agreement, he refuses the deal. If only Naomi was involved, her land would become his at her death since she had no sons. However, if he had to marry Ruth and they had a son, the land would stay in Elimelech’s clan, and he would receive no lasting financial compensation for taking care of Naomi and her daughter-in-law (vv. 5–6).
Ironically, this relative who so wants to avoid risking his inheritance and thereby perpetuate his name in Israel ends up having his name disappear. Throughout chapter 4, the author refers to this man by a name that can be translated “Mr. So-and-So.” Yet the fate of Boaz’s name is far different. Boaz selflessly risks losing his name to Elimelech’s family when he marries Ruth. If they were to have only one son, Boaz’s name would vanish and his inheritance would pass to Elimelech’s family. In fact, his name all but disappears right away because, as required, the son born to Ruth and Boaz is regarded as Naomi’s and Elimelech’s (vv. 13–17). However, David’s genealogy remembers Boaz, not Elimelech (vv. 18–22). Moreover, Boaz and Ruth are rewarded for their selflessness as they are memorialized in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1:1–17). Boaz was willing to pass anonymously into history, but God remembers him forever.
Christ is a kinsman-redeemer like Boaz, and yet He is far greater. For Jesus saved not only one ancestral line but the entire family of God, and He gave up His life for our sake (1 John 2:2).
The book of Ruth tells us God uses ordinary people to do great things. In the Lord’s providence a bitter widow who advocated dubious means for a good end, a loyal daughter-in-law, and a self-sacrificing man of honor were all used in His plan of salvation. All of us, no matter our past sins or present vocations, have an important place in our Father’s unfolding plan for history. By faith, seek to obey Him and thereby fulfill this role.