Ancient History, History, King of Hopelessness: A Study of Ruth

King of Hopelessness, pt 14 (4:8-10)

Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal.

Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” (4:7-10, ESV)

וְזֹאת לְפָנִים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל עַל־הַגְּאוּלָּה וְעַל־הַתְּמוּרָה לְקַיֵּם כָּל־דָּבָר שָׁלַף אִישׁ נַעֲלוֹ וְנָתַן לְרֵעֵהוּ וְזֹאת הַתְּעוּדָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל׃
וַיֹּאמֶר הַגֹּאֵל לְבֹעַז קְנֵה־לָךְ וַיִּשְׁלֹף נַעֲלוֹ׃
וַיֹּאמֶר בֹּעַז לַזְּקֵנִים וְכָל־הָעָם עֵדִים אַתֶּם הַיּוֹם כִּי קָנִיתִי אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר לֶאֱלִימֶלֶךְ וְאֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר לְכִלְיוֹן וּמַחְלוֹן מִ‍יַּד נָעֳמִי׃
וְגַם אֶת־רוּת הַמֹּאֲבִיָּה אֵשֶׁת מַחְלוֹן קָנִיתִי לִי לְאִשָּׁה לְהָקִים שֵׁם־הַמֵּת עַל־נַחֲלָתוֹ וְלֹא־יִכָּרֵת שֵׁם־הַמֵּת מֵ‍עִם אֶחָיו וּמִ‍שַּׁעַר מְקוֹמוֹ עֵדִים אַתֶּם הַיּוֹם׃

The Sandal Thing. Perhaps this custom of taking off your shoe to seal a deal does not make a lot of sense to us, and it appears it did not make a whole lot of sense to the author of this book either. The custom is repeated in Deuteronomy 257-10 although it is possible that it is in Deuteronomy because it appears here in Ruth rather than the other way around. Deuteronomy contains a number of legal interpretations based on later events like the entire passage on the manners of a king (Deuteronomy 17).

There could be any number of reasons how this tradition came into be, but it probably has something to do with remaining where you are. By removing a shoe, you were insistent that this was your own decision to stand and refuse your claim on your kinsman’s property.

Then Boaz Said. Boaz’s proclamation is incredibly important for the rule of the House of David. He makes it clear that he purchased the belongings and heritage of Elimelech and his sons, and that he took Ruth as wife to perpetuate their legacy. By recording this statement in this way, the author validates David’s primacy. He explains why David’s family deserves to rule Judah and then supports that declaration with another declaration from the elders of Bethlehem in the next section.

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