Commentary on Ruth 4:1-22
Week 4: September 4, 2022
Preaching text: Ruth 4:1-22; accompanying text: Luke 1:46-55
Ruth 4: New Life
The scene at the city gate (where legal proceedings are conducted) is a humorous one. The nearer relative, the potential goel with whom Boaz speaks, is never named, which is entirely appropriate since he refuses to carry on the name of Mahlon (Ruth’s dead husband). He is enthusiastic about acquiring more land but suddenly remembers a previous appointment and makes himself scarce when Boaz says that marrying Ruth is part of the bargain. So, having fulfilled all righteousness, Boaz receives the community’s blessing on his marriage to Ruth.
Ruth conceives and bears a son. Where there was famine, now there is a plentiful harvest. Where there was barrenness (in her marriage to Mahlon), now there is birth. The women of the village interpret this blessing for Naomi: “He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him” (4:15). Ruth is Naomi’s greatest blessing.
“Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and she became his nurse” (4:16). The rabbis, noting that the Hebrew word translated here often means “wet nurse,” said that a miracle happened, that Naomi’s old and withered breasts were suddenly plump and round with milk, and that she nursed the child herself.
Abundant harvest, overflowing blessings, new life where before there was only emptiness—all of it is made possible through the hesed of God, enacted by Ruth and Boaz, everyday, ordinary people who demonstrate extraordinary love and faithfulness.
One last note: The book of Ruth ends with a genealogy. This child, Obed, will be the grandfather of David, Israel’s most beloved king. Here is where the story of Ruth leaves us, with the promise of God’s faithful love, God’s hesed, overflowing not just into the ordinary, everyday lives of two widows and a farmer, but into the lives of all Israel, and through David’s greater Son, into even our own lives as well. Blessing upon blessing, heaped up, overflowing. Thanks be to God!