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Scene One - At the Town Gate 4:1-12
4:1 The change in point of view in this act is quite marked. On the surface, for the first time in the book, the attention is focused on men and their doings.
Even the grammar of the first sentence in Hebrew reinforces the sense of change. We have had a series of sentences predominantly with the most usual order Verb - Subject - Object, the verbs have been in the form which is normal for narrative ("wayyiqtol") now we have a sentence in the unusual form Subject - Verb - Object and therefore the verb is in the simpler but less usual form ("qatal"). Such changes often signal a changed point of view.
There is also a discontinuity between the sjuzet (telling) and the fabula (the events told about). In the telling Boaz activity at the gate follows directly on Ruth and Naomi's conversation at the end of Chapter 3. However it is possible that "really" the two events happen at the same time, or alternatively that Boaz' activity is noticeably later.
"and behold, the next of kin, of whom Bo'az had spoken, came by." RSV or "No sooner had Boaz..." NRSV here the RSV is more literal, the effect is as NRSV suggests to give a sense of "coincidence" (cf. 2:3 and Gen 24:15 where too chance masks providence) and surprise (cf. 3:8 where "and behold" gives us Boaz perspective as well as introducing his surprise).
4:2 "elders of the city" in the Pentateuch the "elders of Israel" appear as an authorative group, this was so for other communities too (cf. Num 22:11), Boaz makes this conversation formal and "official".
4:3 "our kinsman Elim'elech" literally "our brother" rightly for a western audience translated "kinsman" for there is no suggestion that they have the same father or mother (cf. 2 Sam 1:26; Am 1:9; Lev 25).
"Naomi... is selling" - How does Boaz know this? The narrator has not told us, indeed we do not know that Boaz knows this, he may be speaking an untruth - such uncertainty is typical of the "gapping" of biblical storytelling.
In this case I do not believe that the gap is significant - however other readers do - what do you think?
The repetition in this verse is striking.
What words and ideas are repeated?
4:5 "acquiring Ruth the Moabite" cf. vv. 3,4 "sell" of the field, though the verb has a somewhat more general sense of "acquire" and certainly there is no sense of paying a dowry or bride-price here. Cf. Ex 15:13,16 "the people you have redeemed" and "the people you have bought".
4:6 Nb. the repetition and the inclusio in the Goel's speech.
And the Redeemer said: "I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it."
As well as repeating the root "redeem" it also brackets the "redeemer's" inheritance as cause of his reluctance and stresses the pronouns and their play. This is highlighted further by the echo of "'et-nachalati" (my inheritance) with "'eth-ge`ullati" (my right of redemption).
Look at the discussion of these two verses in commentaries
available to you.
4:9 Notice how Boaz' speech is nicely rounded off by the reversal v.9 "elders - all the people..." v.11 "all the people - elders". And how their reply repeats his first word (in Hebrew), "witnesses".
4:10 "acquired Ruth the Moabite" cf. v.5.
4:11 "like Rachel and Leah" note the reversal for Leah was the elder, and the first wife. Ruth reflects Rachel, she is preferred, infertile (but just wait). The reversal of precedence contributes to our sense of reversal in this passage.
"produce children" in Hebrew "do chayil" cf. 2:1; 3:11 usually means 'be victorious', here but here "do chayil" means be fertile cf. Joel 2:22; Job 21:7,8 (Pr 31:3?).
4:12 "this young woman" another reference (indirectly) to Boaz age!
Judah" having likened Ruth to Rachel and Leah they now liken
Boaz to Perez the direct reference is clearly to the story of Perez' birth
(Gen 38:27-30) however to do this inevitably also raises the ghost
of his conception (Gen 38:1ff) and thus of Judah's failure in hesed
Chapter 2 moves slowly and formally in the fields, chapter 3 takes place in secret in darkness, here things move fast for Boaz is used to getting things done (3:18). Indeed at last it looks as if all is being wrapped up. Except that we are still at the level of blesssing and not yet of accomplished fact (v.12).
© Dr Tim Bulkeley, 2004.
You may quote and use these study notes, subject to the usual
provsions of fair use - like giving proper credit e.g.
Tim Bulkeley, "Ruth: Genre" in Study Notes on Ruth http://www.hypertextbible.org/ruth/genre.htm [downloaded today's date].
If you want to reproduce large sections you should contact Tim. (tim at bible.gen.nz)