Different cultures have different practices that seem foreign and strange to us. The story of Ruth encapsulate a few of these cultural practices. Now that we have moved from the agricultural age to the technology age, land has taken on a different meaning. No longer do families pass down acres of farm land to their children so they can plant crops and provide food for their families and a means of livelihood. During the time of Ruth, not only did farm land provide food, but also it was a measure of one’s wealth.
A kinsman redeemer found in the story of Ruth is a foreign concept in our technology age, but was very common place during Ruth’s day. Ruth 2:1 first introduces Boaz as a relative of Elimelech, Naomi’s husband. Naomi again brings up this point of Boaz being “a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers” in Ruth 2:20. As the story continues, Ruth continues gleaning in Boaz’s field “until the end of the barley and wheat harvest.” (Ruth 2:23). The barley harvest happened first in the month of April followed by the wheat harvest in May. Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz for at least two months since Naomi and Ruth arrived “at the beginning of the barley harvest.” (Ruth 1:22). During this two month time period, the people of Bethlehem were able to become acquainted with Ruth and observe her character.
Towards the end of the barley and wheat harvest, the events of Ruth 3 takes place, and the role of a kinsman redeemer is played out. According to the laws written down by Moses in the Pentateuch, a man was to marry his brother’s widow so his brother’s name would be carried on. This brother who married the widow was called the kinsman redeemer. A kinsman redeemer is also seen in relation to property. If an Israelite was force to sell his land temporarily, he and his family retain the right of redemption. The land could be redeemed in one of three ways:
- A kinsman redeemer buys back the land (Leviticus 25:25)
- The seller himself is able to buy back the land (Leviticus 25:26, 27)
- It is restored to the rightful owner during the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:28)
There are also a few near East customs seen in Ruth 3. Since Boaz was older by a generation, he would not have initiated the proposal to be Ruth’s kinsman redeemer. Ruth would have to approach Boaz. In Ruth 3:7 another unusual custom is seen. Ruth was to “uncover Boaz’s feet and lay down (at his feet).” This custom allowed Ruth to initiate a marriage proposal that showed her dependence on Boaz to care for her and protect her. When Boaz awoke at midnight and found Ruth at his feet, he treated her with kindness and complimented her for her decision. “And he said, ‘May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.’” (Ruth 3:10). Ruth could have chosen to find a younger man that seemed more desirable to a young woman, but rather she chose the man who was a kinsman redeemer and had already shown her great kindness. Ruth is attentive to the things that are important and is rewarded for her choice. In Ruth 3:10, Boaz looks at Ruth’s choice in him as a greater kindness than moving from her homeland to Israel with her mother-in-law.
Boaz was not the nearest kinsman redeemer, and Boaz being a worthy man of high esteem knew this fact. His assurance to Ruth in Ruth 3:11-13 provided her comfort. Boaz would take care of her and make sure that she had a kinsman redeemer that would provide for her and her mother-in-law.
- Read Ruth 3. In Ruth 3:1 Naomi tells Ruth, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you that it may be well with you.” What do you think this means?
- In Ruth 3:3, Naomi tells Ruth to wash herself, anoint herself, and put on her cloak. This could be reference to Ruth changing from her clothes of mourning. This change could be a sign that her mourning for her husband was over. Why do you think this is significant to the story?
- The instructions given by Naomi to Ruth are recorded in Ruth 3:4 and Ruth’s response is in Ruth 3:5. What were Naomi’s instructions? What do you think about these instructions?
- What was Ruth’s response to Naomi’s direction? (Ruth 3:5, 6)
- What is the significance of Ruth uncovering Boaz’s feet? (Ruth 3:7)
- Deuteronomy 25:5-10 records the direction from God to the people regarding a kinsman redeemer. Read this passage and record the law established by God. Why was this so important?
- What does James 1:27 command us to do regarding widows? Why is it important to provide care for the widows?
- Read Leviticus 25:23-28 and record what is to happen to a man’s property. To further understand the year of jubilee read Leviticus 25:8-17 and record what you learned.
- Leviticus 25:18-22 shows God’s goodness when we have follow His commands. Read this passage and record what God says and how this can apply to your life.