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Boaz was not Ruth's brother-in-law and was, therefore, under no compulsion in the
matter, for the law of Deut. 25: is concerned with the "husband's brother" and the case
of "brethren dwelling together" (5, 6). By removing to Moab Elimelech had made
impossible the second of these conditions, and Boaz, though of the kindred of Elimelech,
was not the deceased husband's brother.
We find this practice of marrying the brother's widow in operation before the giving
of the law (see Gen. 38: 8), and we have records of its existence in Athens, in Persia,
in Tartary and Circassia, and among the Druses. Niebuhr writes:
"It does indeed happen among the Mahometans that a man marries his brother's
widow, but she has no right to compel him so to do."
Boaz was obliged, in fairness, to defer complying with Ruth's request, for, said he:
"It is true that I am thy near kinsman, howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I"
(Ruth 3: 12). However, Boaz probably guessed that the marrying of the Moabitess
would be a stumbling-block in the other kinsman's way, and promises to perform the
office of the kinsman himself, should the nearer kinsman fail.
It is interesting to note that, while Ruth's virtue could not apparently be called in
question, and neither she nor Boaz had any cause for shame, they did not in any way
flaunt their innocence, but sought rather to preserve their good name from the smallest
suspicion of evil:
"Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor" (Ruth 3: 14).
Naomi's immediate question: "Who art thou, my daughter?" (Ruth 3: 16) does not
mean that she was unable to distinguish Ruth owing to the early hour of the day, but
rather expresses her intense desire to know what had transpired (compare Judges 18: 8).
In Ruth 2: 19 Naomi had inquired where Ruth had gleaned, and when she was shown
the ephah of barley she immediately perceived that the Lord's hand was in it. So here,
when she sees the six measures of barley, she expresses her confidence that Boaz will not
rest until the matter is settled.
In Ruth 3: 15 the A.V. reads: "And she went unto the city." This, however, is
incorrect, the true rendering being: "And he went into the city." Boaz meant to lose no
time in bringing the matter to a head. Sitting down in the gate, where all public
transactions were carried out, he hails the other kinsman and, in the presence of the ten
men that had been secured to make the transaction legal, he says to him:
"Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which
was our brother Elimelech's. And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the
inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if
thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it
beside thee: and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it. Then said Boaz, What
day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the
Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance."