Ruth 4:7
Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor: and this was a testimony in Israel.
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(7) In former time.—Arguments have been built on this word in favour of our assigning a late date to the book, but the inference seems hardly warranted. The same Hebrew word occurs in Deuteronomy 2:10, Judges 1:10, &c.

Plucked off his shoe.—The idea of this act apparently is that the man resigns the right of walking on the land as master, in favour of him to whom he gives the shoe. A similar but not identical custom is prescribed in Deuteronomy 25:9.

A testimony.The testimony, the manner in which the solemn witness is born.

Ruth 4:7. Now this was the manner in Israel, &c. — We do not know that there was any law of God enjoining any such ceremony as is here mentioned; but only it was a long-established custom to act thus in transferring one man’s right in any land to another. To confirm all things — That is, in all alienation of lands. So that it is no wonder if this ceremony differ a little from that mentioned Deuteronomy 25:9, because that concerned only one case, but this is more general. Besides, he alleges, not the command of God, but only ancient custom for this practice. A man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour — That is, he who relinquished his right to another did this. The reason of the custom, as Bishop Patrick observes, is plain enough, “it being a natural signification that the man resigned his interest in the land by giving to the person redeeming his shoe wherewith he used to walk in it, to the end that he might enter into it, and take possession of it himself.” Or it might signify that as he pulled off, and divested himself of his shoe, so he divested himself of that which he was about to surrender. “It is now the custom with us,” says Rabbi Jarchi, “that a handkerchief or veil be given, instead of a shoe, when we purchase any thing.” This was a testimony in Israel — This was admitted for sufficient evidence in all such cases.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.In former time in Israel - Showing that the custom was obsolete in the writer's days. The letter of the law (see the marginal reference) was not strictly followed. It was thought sufficient for the man to pull off his own shoe and give it to the man to whom he ceded his right, in the presence of the elders of his city. 7, 8. a man plucked off his shoe—Where the kinsman refused to perform his duty to the family of his deceased relation, the widow was directed to pull off the shoe with some attendant circumstances of contemptuous disdain. But, as in this case, there was no refusal, the usual ignominy was spared; and the plucking off the shoe, the only ceremony observed, was a pledge of the transaction being completed. For to confirm all things, i.e. in all alienation of lands. So that it is no wonder if this ceremony differ a little from that Deu 25:9, because that concerned only one case, but this is more general. Besides, he pleads not the command of God, but only ancient custom, for this practice.

A man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: he who relinquished his right to another, plucked off his own shoe, and gave it to him. This was symbolical, and a significant and convenient ceremony; as if he said, Take this shoe wherewith I used to go and tread upon my land, and in that shoe do thou enter upon it, and take possession of it.

This was a testimony in Israel; this was admitted for sufficient evidence in all such cases. Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming,.... It is a custom, and not a law, that seems here referred to, when an estate was bought and sold; not the law in Leviticus 25:25, though that respects the redemption of an estate by a near kinsman, yet no such manner was enjoined as here practised afterwards, made mention of; nor the law in Deuteronomy 25:5 which does not concern the redemption of estates, nor a kinsman's marrying the widow of a deceased kinsman, but a brother's marrying the widow of a deceased brother, and the rites and ceremonies there enjoined upon refusal are different from those here used; though Josephus (i) is express for it, that the law is here referred to; but this is not only concerning purchase of estates, but "concerning changing" also one field for another as Aben Ezra interprets it: "for to confirm all things"; the following custom was observed for the confirmation of any bargain whatever, whether by sale or barter, and where there was no marriage in the case:

a man plucked off his shoe and gave it to his neighbour; signifying thereby, that he yielded his right to him in the thing sold or bartered; the Targum says, he plucked off the glove of his right hand, which perhaps was then in use, when the Targumist wrote, and answered the same purpose; and, according to Jarchi, it was a linen cloth, vail, or handkerchief, that was used, and delivered by the one to the other; and of this way of buying writes Elias (k); at this day, says he, we purchase by a linen cloth or handkerchief called "sudar", which is a garment; and this two witnesses take, and explain before them the words of their agreement, and each of the witnesses stretches out the skirt of the garment, and those that take upon them to confirm every matter, touch the skirt of their garments; and this is called purchasing by "sudar", or the linen cloth:

and this was a testimony in Israel; a witness to, or a confirmation of the bargain made; but who gave the shoe, whether the kinsman or Boaz, is not certain from the text; and about which the Jewish writers are divided, as Jarchi observes.

(i) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 9. sect. 4. (k) Tishbi, p. 207. See Leo Modena's History of the Rites, &c. of the present Jews, part 2. c. 6.

Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a {e} testimony in Israel.

(e) That he had resigned his right, De 25:9.

7. in former time in Israel] Cf. 1 Samuel 9:9, which begins similarly. Driver (Introd.8, p. 455) thinks that the present verse is also an explanatory gloss, because it is not needed in the narrative, and has the appearance of being a later addition; see, however, the Introduction, p. xiv.

a man drew off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour] This old custom was not altogether intelligible in the writer’s day, so he gives an explanation of it. When property was transferred, as in the present case, to take off the sandal and hand it to the person in whose favour the transfer is made, gave a symbolic attestation to the act and invested it with legal validity (Driver, Deut., p. 283). The same symbolism was used on other occasions, and with varying significance. Thus, when a deceased husband’s brother declined to contract a levirate marriage, the widow loosed his sandal from off his foot in token that he renounced his right to make her his wife, Deuteronomy 25:9; cf. the Arabic form of divorce, ‘she was my slipper and I have cast her off’ (Robertson Smith, Kinship etc., p. 269); the action implied at the same time a feeling of contempt, which is probably denoted by the expression in Psalm 60:8; Psalm 108:9[5]. The drawing off of the sandal also symbolized among the later Arabs the renunciation of an oath of fealty to a sovereign: his authority was withdrawn as the sandal from the foot (Goldziher, Abhandl. z. Arab. Philologie, i. p. 47).

[5] Cf. the story told by Burton, Land of Midian, ii, p. 196 f.: a man who owned 2000 date-palms was asked by the leader of a band of robbers to sell them; and when he suggested that an offer should be made, the robber, taking off his sandal, exclaimed ‘with this!’ For the Jewish practice of Chalîtzah, i.e. ‘removal’ of the shoe, see Oesterley and Box, Rel. and Worship of the Synagogue (1907), p. 294 f.Verse 7. - And this was formerly a custom in Israel, on occasion of surrendering rights of kinship, or of selling and buying land, in order to confirm any matter; a man drew off his shoe and gave it to the other contracting party. This was attestation in Israel. We give a free translation. The custom was significant enough. He who sold land, or surrendered his right to act as a kinsman in buying land, intimated by the symbolical act of taking off his shoe, and handing it to his friend, that he freely gave up his right to walk upon the soil, in favor of the person who had acquired the possession. Corresponding symbolical acts, in connection with the transfer of lands, have been common, and probably still are, in many countries. No doubt the shoe, after being received, would be immediately returned. "Boaz had gone up to the gate, and had sat down there." This circumstantial clause introduces the account of the further development of the affair. The gate, i.e., the open space before the city gate, was the forum of the city, the place where the public affairs of the city were discussed. The expression "went up" is not to be understood as signifying that Boaz went up from the threshing-floor where he had slept tot the city, which was situated upon higher ground, for, according to Ruth 3:15, he had already gone to the city before he went up to the gate; but it is to be explained as referring to the place of justice as an ideal eminence to which a man went up (vid., Deuteronomy 17:8). The redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken - that is to say, the nearer relation of Elimelech - then went past, and Boaz requested him to come near and sit down. סוּר as in Genesis 19:2, etc.: "Sit down here, such a one." אלמני פּלני, any one, a certain person, whose name is either unknown or not thought worth mentioning (cf. 1 Samuel 21:3; 2 Kings 6:8). Boaz would certainly call him by his name; but the historian had either not heard the name, or did not think it necessary to give it.
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