Themes of Ruth, Part 3: Redemption
In a recent group Bible study, we have been working through the book of Ruth. As we go, I’ve been using Judges, Ruth: Revised Edition (The NIV Application Commentary) | K. Lawson Younger 📚 for extra personal study. I’d like to share some thoughts and reflections with you as I’ve been traveling through Ruth. If you have not read the book recently, these reflections will make more sense if you spend 10 minutes and read the book first.
Boaz’s Redemption of Ruth
Boaz is a relative of Ruth’s father-in-law, and this means he has the ability to redeem her and the land of Naomi. “Redemption” has become a Christian-ese word, but it used to be much more common. The Hebrew word comes from the law, where an Israelite who sells his land can have it bought back for him by a relative.
There’s another part of the law called “levirite marriage.” This law takes effect if a man dies before his wife has a male heir. One of the man’s brothers should (but is not required to) marry her in order to provide an heir to inherit the land.
Boaz agrees to redeem Ruth, not because of what she can offer him in terms of land, but because he finds her honorable (Ruth 3:11). Another, closer relative has the first right to redeem, but he refuses. He isn’t honorable enough to do what he ought.
Boaz redeems Ruth and the land, and her destitution turns to wealth. Her sorrow turns to joy. Her barrenness turns to fullness.
Obed’s Redemption of Naomi
Boaz and Ruth are not the only redemption in the book of Ruth. There’s a curious verse near the end of chapter 4.
The women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you without a family redeemer today. May his name become well known in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. Indeed, your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”
— Ruth 4:14-15 (CSB)
We expect that Boaz would be Naomi’s redeemer; he’s the one who bought her land. Presumably, he’s the one now taking care of her on behalf of Ruth. Yet Obed is her redeemer. There’s a way to understand Scripture called “typology.” This is how Matthew understands Isaiah 9:6, for example. The son being spoken of is Isaiah’s future son, but Jesus nevertheless is a fulfillment, though indirectly.
I think something similar may be going on here. Obed is a type of Christ (and is in his genealogy) in that he is a child born to redeem a poor, family-less widow, the kind of person that God deeply cares for (James 1:27, Isaiah 1:17, Psalm 68:5).
Jesus’ Redemption of the World
Jesus, of course, is the great redeemer (Galatians 4:4-5). He redeemed those who join his family by faith not by money, but by his blood (1 Peter 1:18-19). Like Boaz, he is the bridegroom of the redeemed. Like Obed, he is the redeemer born as a human child who renews our life (Ruth 4:15).
Read and Reflect 📖
Joe Rigney opens this story with how his previous articles about the dangers of empathy (I have not read those articles, and so I do not have an opinion on their content) have been met with fierce criticism. But Rigney doesn’t believe that much of that criticism is deserved. He thinks his argument has been caricatured and misread.
This is a launching point to a deeply practical discussion about reading and listening to others as we would like to have others read and hear our thoughts. We must seek to love others well by seeking clarity. If we cannot explain others’ arguments in a way that they would agree with, we are not loving them well, and we have not understood them rightly.