Ruth 4:4
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) And I thought . . .—literally, and I said I will uncover thy ear.

The inhabitants.—This should perhaps rather be, those who are sitting here [the Hebrew word yashabh has the two meanings of dwelling and sitting, see e.g., Genesis 23:10, where the latter meaning should certainly be taken]. So the LXX., Peshito and Vulg.

If thou wilt not.—The current Hebrew text has here, if he will not, which is clearly an error for the second person, which is read by a large number of Hebrew MSS., and by all the ancient versions.

I will redeem it.—He is willing enough to redeem the land as a good investment, forgetting, until reminded, the necessary previous condition. It involves marrying Ruth, and this he declines to do.

Ruth 4:4-5. I thought to advertise thee — I have had it in my mind to speak to thee about it. There is none to redeem it besides thee — That is, thou hast the first right to do so; for it is plain Boaz had a right, but it was in the second place: and if he had refused, the next kinsman would have had the right, and so on. Thou must buy it also of Ruth — According to the law, Deuteronomy 25:5. To raise up seed — To revive his name, which was buried with his body, by raising up a seed to him to be called by his name.

4:1-8 This matter depended on the laws given by Moses about inheritances, and doubtless the whole was settled in the regular and legal manner. This kinsman, when he heard the conditions of the bargain, refused it. In like manner many are shy of the great redemption; they are not willing to espouse religion; they have heard well of it, and have nothing to say against it; they will give it their good word, but they are willing to part with it, and cannot be bound to it, for fear of marring their own inheritance in this world. The right was resigned to Boaz. Fair and open dealing in all matters of contract and trade, is what all must make conscience of, who would approve themselves true Israelites, without guile. Honesty will be found the best policy.See the margin; a phrase explained by the act of removing the end of the turban, or the hair, in order to whisper in the ear (see 1 Samuel 9:15 : 2 Samuel 7:27). 4. there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee—(See on [229]De 25:5). The redemption of the land of course involved a marriage with Ruth, the widow of the former owner. Before the elders of my people; before this assembly, that it may be legally and firmly made over to thee.

And I thought to advertise thee,.... To give him notice of it; or "I said" (g); he said in his heart and mind, purposing to do it; or he said it to Ruth, promising her that he would do it:

saying, buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people; or before those that sat there, even the elders, as witnesses of the purchase:

if thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: for it was redeemable by a near kinsman according to the law, even when said to another, in Leviticus 25:25,

but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; what to do in this affair, whether to redeem it or not:

for there is none to redeem it besides thee, and I am after thee; he was the first, and Boaz was the next near kinsman, to whom the right of redemption belonged:

and he said, I will redeem it: he chose to make the purchase, he liked the land, which he probably full well knew, and it might lie near his own, and make a good addition to it; and as the widow was determined, and under a necessity to sell, he might expect to have it at a cheap rate; all which might induce him at once to agree to be the purchaser.

(g) "et ego dixi", Pagninus, Montanus, &c.

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 {c} beside thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it.

(c) For you are the next of kin.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. disclose it] See marg.; lit. the phrase means to draw aside the long hair covering the ear in order to whisper something; cf. 1 Samuel 9:15; 1 Samuel 20:2 and elsewhere in Samuel.

them that sit here] appear to be all the people of Ruth 4:9; Ruth 4:11, as distinct from the elders.

If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it] It was for the Go’el to decide whether he would buy the land or allow it to pass out of the family; Leviticus 25:25. A parallel case occurs in Jeremiah 32:7-9 : Jeremiah’s cousin, wishing to sell some family property, offers it first to the prophet as next of kin; the prophet exercises his right and buys in the estate.

but if thou wilt not redeem it] See marg.; a slight correction required by the context.

Verse 4. - And I said (to myself). There is little likelihood in the opinion of those who maintain, with Rosenmüller, that the expression, "I said," refers to a promise which Boaz had made to Ruth (see Ruth 3:13). It is a primitive phrase to denote internal resolution. There is a point where thought and speech coalesce. Our words are thoughts, and our thoughts are words. I will uncover thine ear, that is, "I will lift the locks of hair that may be covering the ear, so as to communicate something in confidence." But here the phrase is employed with the specific import of secrecy dropt out. It is thus somewhat equivalent to "I will give thee notice;" only the following expression לֵאמֹר, i.e. to say, must be read in the light of the undiluted original phrase, "I will uncover thine ear to say. The whole expression furnishes the most beautiful instance imaginable of the primary meaning of לֵאמֹר. The thing that was to be said follows immediately, viz., Acquire it, or Buy it. It is as if he had said, "Now you have a chance which may not occur again." It is added, in the presence of the inhabitants. This, rather than "the assessors," is the natural interpretation of the participle (הַיּשְׁבִים). It is the translation which the word generally receives in the very numerous instances in which it occurs. There was, so to speak, a fair representation of the inhabitants of the city in the casual company that had assembled in the gateway. And in presence of the elders of my people. The natural "aldermen," or unofficial "senators," whose presence extemporized for the occasion a sufficient court of testators. If thou wilt perform the part of a kinsman, perform it. The translation in King James's English version, and in many other versions, viz., "If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it," is somewhat out of harmony with the nature of the case. Naomi was not wishing Elimelech's estate to be redeemed. It was not yet in a position to be redeemed. It had not been alienated or sold. She wished for it not a redeemer, but a purchaser. And as it was the right of a נֹאֵל or kinsman to redeem for a reduced brother, if he was able and willing, the estate which had been sold to an alien (Leviticus 25:25), so it was the privilege of the same גואֵל or kinsman to get, if the reduced brother was wishing to sell, the first offer of the estate. It would, in particular, be at variance with the prerogative of the nearest of kin if some other one in the circle of the kindred, but not so near, were to be offered on sale the usufructuary possession of the family estate (Leviticus 25:23, 27). Hence Boaz recognized the prior prerogative of his anonymous relative and friend, and said to him, "If thou wilt perform the part of a kinsman, and buy the property, then buy it." It is added, and if he will not. Note the use of the third person he, instead of the second thou. If the reading be correct, then Boaz, in thus speaking, must for the moment have turned to the witnesses so as to address them. That the reading is correct, notwithstanding that some MSS. and all the ancient versions exhibit the verb in the second person, is rendered probable by the very fact that it is the difficult reading. There could be no temptation for a transcriber to substitute the third person for the second; there would be temptation to substitute the second for the third. The unanimity of the ancient versions is probably attributable to the habit of neglecting absolute literality, and translating according to the sense, when the sense was clear. Boaz, turning back instantaneously to his relative, says, Make thou known to me, that I may know, for there is none besides thee to act the kinsman's part (with the exception of myself), and I come after thee. The little clause, "with the exception of myself," lies in the sense, or spirit, although not in the letter of Boaz's address, as reported in the text. And he said, I will act the kinsman's part. He was glad to get the opportunity of adding to his own patrimonial possession the property that had belonged to Elimelech, and which Naomi, in her reduced condition, wished to dispose cf. So far all seemed to go straight against the interests of Ruth. Ruth 4:4Boaz then called ten of the elders of the city as witnesses of the business to be taken in hand, and said to the redeemer in their presence, "The piece of field which belonged to our brother (i.e., our relative) Elimelech (as an hereditary family possession), Naomi has sold, and I have thought (lit. 'I said,' sc., to myself; cf. Genesis 17:17; Genesis 27:41), I will open thine ear (i.e., make it known, disclose it): get it before those who sit here, and (indeed) before the elders of my people." As the field had been sold to another, getting it (קנה) could only be accomplished by virtue of the right of redemption. Boaz therefore proceeded to say, "If thou wilt redeem, redeem; but if thou wilt not redeem, tell me, that I may know it: for there is not beside thee (any one more nearly entitled) to redeem, and I am (the next) after thee." היּשׁבים is rendered by many, those dwelling, and supposed to refer to the inhabitants of Bethlehem. But we could hardly think of the inhabitants generally as present, as the word "before" would require, even if, according to Ruth 4:9, there were a number of persons present besides the elders. Moreover they would not have been mentioned first, but, like "all the people" in Ruth 4:9, would have been placed after the elders as the principal witnesses. On these grounds, the word must be taken in the sense of sitting, and, like the verb in Ruth 4:2, be understood as referring to the elders present; and the words "before the elders of my people" must be regarded as explanatory. The expression יגאל (third pers.) is striking, as we should expect the second person, which is not only found in the Septuagint, but also in several codices, and is apparently required by the context. It is true that the third person may be defended, as it has been by Seb. Schmidt and others, on the assumption that Boaz turned towards the elders and uttered the words as addressed to them, and therefore spoke of the redeemer as a third person: "But if he, the redeemer there, will not redeem." But as the direct appeal to the redeemer himself is resumed immediately afterwards, the supposition, to our mind at least, is a very harsh one. The person addressed said, "I will redeem." Boaz then gave him this further explanation (Ruth 4:5): "On the day that thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou buyest it of the hand of Ruth the Moabitess, of the wife of the deceased (Mahlon, the rightful heir of the field), to set up (that thou mayest set up) the name of the deceased upon his inheritance." From the meaning and context, the form קניתי must be the second pers. masc.; the yod at the end no doubt crept in through an error of the pen, or else from a ו, so that the word is either to be read קנית (according to the Keri) or קניתו, "thou buyest it." So far as the fact itself was concerned, the field, which Naomi had sold from want, was the hereditary property of her deceased husband, and ought therefore to descend to her sons according to the standing rule of right; and in this respect, therefore, it was Ruth's property quite as much as Naomi's. From the negotiation between Boaz and the nearer redeemer, it is very evident that Naomi had sold the field which was the hereditary property of her husband, and was lawfully entitled to sell it. But as landed property did not descend to wives according to the Israelitish law, but only to children, and when there were no children, to the nearest relatives of the husband (Numbers 27:8-11), when Elimelech died his field properly descended to his sons; and when they died without children, it ought to have passed to his nearest relations. Hence the question arises, what right had Naomi to sell her husband's field as her own property? The Rabbins suppose that the field had been presented to Naomi and Ruth by their husbands (vid., Selden, de success. in bona def. c. 15). But Elimelech could not lawfully give his hereditary property to his wife, as he left sons behind him when he died, and they were the lawful heirs; and Mahlon also had no more right than his father to make such a gift. There is still less foundation for the opinion that Naomi was an heiress, since even if this were the case, it would be altogether inapplicable to the present affair, where the property in question was not a field which Naomi had inherited form her father, but the field of Elimelech and his sons. The true explanation is no doubt the following: The law relating to the inheritance of the landed property of Israelites who died childless did not determine the time when such a possession should pass to the relatives of the deceased, whether immediately after the death of the owner, or not till after the death of the widow who was left behind (vid., Numbers 27:9.). No doubt the latter was the rule established by custom, so that the widow remained in possession of the property as long as she lived; and for that length of time she had the right to sell the property in case of need, since the sale of a field was not an actual sale of the field itself, but simply of the yearly produce until the year of jubilee. Consequently the field of the deceased Elimelech would, strictly speaking, have belonged to his sons, and after their death to Mahlon's widow, since Chilion's widow had remained behind in her own country Moab. But as Elimelech had not only emigrated with his wife and children and died abroad, but his sons had also been with him in the foreign land, and had married and died there, the landed property of their father had not descended to them, but had remained the property of Naomi, Elimelech's widow, in which Ruth, as the widow of the deceased Mahlon, also had a share. Now, in case a widow sold the field of her deceased husband for the time that it was in her possession, on account of poverty, and a relation of her husband redeemed it, it was evidently his duty not only to care for the maintenance of the impoverished widow, but if she were still young, to marry her, and to let the first son born of such a marriage enter into the family of the deceased husband of his wife, so as to inherit the redeemed property, and perpetuate the name and possession of the deceased in Israel. Upon this right, which was founded upon traditional custom, Boaz based this condition, which he set before the nearer redeemer, that if he redeemed the field of Naomi he must also take Ruth, with the obligation to marry her, and through this marriage to set up the name of the deceased upon his inheritance.
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