Pastor Debra Isenbletter
Ruth 4:2-3 – “And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down.”
We find Boaz sitting at the gate, he has waited for the other kinsman, seeing him, asked him to sit down. We see Boaz exercising his authority again. He “took ten men of the elders of the city.” To “take” means “to send for” or “to bring.” Either Boaz went and got these men or sent for these men. In either case, it was his word and his presence that drew them and they obeyed. There are two important facts about these individuals, who they were: they were “elders” and their number: “ten.”
These were “elders,” men of age and experience, they were men of authority. The elders held an important place and position in the community, they were respected for their wisdom and their age was not a disadvantage but an advantage. They were respected, listened to and were given a place of honor.
When God called Moses and sent him back to Egypt to deliver His people, the first individuals Moses was told to speak to were the elders. God told Moses: “Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The Lord God of your fathers…appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you and seen that which is done to you in Egypt” (Ex 3:16). It was the responsibility of the elders to go to the people, and bring the message to them. They didn’t know Moses, but they knew the elders and their faith in God and Moses would be an example for them to follow.
When the Passover was instituted, it was the elders that Moses spoke to and it was the elders that were to take a lamb for their families, kill the Passover and put the blood on the side posts of the doors of the houses. (Ex 12:21). The responsibility for obedience fell upon the elders first; they were to teach those under them.
When Moses was overwhelmed with the burden of all the people as they journeyed through the wilderness, as he heard their complaints and cries, he told the Lord “I am not able to bar all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.” (Nu 11:14). The Lord’s answer was to tell Moses to choose 70 elders and He said: “I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with this, that thou bear it not thyself alone” (Nu 11:17).
We see the important place of elders in administering justice, in making sure the sentence is carried out. If a man guilty of murder fled from his crime to a city of refuge, it was the responsibility of the elders to turn him over to the avenger of blood and not be persuaded or moved by pity, but only by justice, they were to remember the innocent that had been slain. (Deut 19:12-13). From these examples we see the important place that elders had in the community, in each family and in each city.
We don’t know why Boaz chose ten. But he chose them. One commentator writes: “Probably the presence of, at least, ten elders was necessary to make a lawful public assembly, as among modern Jews ten are necessary to constitute a synagogue. (Centuries later 10 became the number necessary for a Jewish marriage benediction or an assembly, committee, or for a synagogue meeting).” What we do see is how simple this procedure was, it was not a lengthy, lasting weeks or months. It was settled without lawyers arguing back and forth. In the courts today imaging how long it would take to decide the matter.
These ten elders are important typically. First, ten is the number of responsibility according to ability. These men have the ability and wisdom to discern and decide and the responsibility to carry out that wisdom. Below is an excerpt from Biblical Numerology by CB Neidholt:
“The Number 10 is the number of responsibility according to ability. When man accepts Christ as his Savior, learns God's Word, and yields to the Spirit's will [Rom 12 and Eph 4], then God will be responsible “to finish” the “good work” He began (Phil 1:6). God is responsible to “work in you both to will and do his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). Man has 10 toes and 10 fingers which he is responsible to yield to God for service (Tit 2:11-15; 1 Cor 6:19-20). Notice the 13 "tens" in Numbers 7, as to man's responsibility. The "ten servants" were responsible to God for the "ten pounds" [Luke 19:13-27].”
Ten is also the number of the 10 commandments and Sister Mary Bodie also points out that these 10 witnesses are a type of the 10 commandments (Ex 20:3-17). The 10 commandments are a witness of the failure of man, who tried and could not keep the commandments and they are a witness to the failure of the Law, which could only condemn, not redeem. Those that sinned under the law were judged by the law and pronounced guilty before God. (Ro 2:12 & 3:19-20).
Now the stage is set for a wonderful type to be unfolded. This kinsman that Boaz has called to the gate is a type of the Law (which cannot redeem) and the 10 elders are a type of 10 commandments of that Law (the standard that God uses). They will witness the actions of these two men. Boaz is a type of Christ, in His obedience and ability to redeem. He will be able to do what this man cannot do. For only Christ obeyed each commandment and only Christ could redeem man. And it will be Ruth’s relationship with Boaz that shows the strength of one man and the weakness of the other. She has chosen Boaz, she has chosen the one who has the desire and ability to redeem her. We have chosen Christ, our Boaz, and only He has the ability to fully redeem us!
Ruth 4:3 – “And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech's:” Boaz addresses his words to the other kinsman, but everyone will hear this conversation, for it involves a legal transaction and a kinsman’s responsibility. Boaz will tell what Naomi had done (past tense) and what Naomi wants to do (present tense). Naomi is the subject of the conversation and it looks like on the surface it is about her alone.
Boaz states publicly what Naomi had done: “Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab.” What wonderful words concerning Naomi. She had “come again” to the land of Judah, she had “come back” to God; she had “come home” to Bethlehem; she had “returned” to her people. Boaz emphasizes what Naomi had done that were a positive testimony. They knew she and her husband had gone to Moab ten years earlier; they “went to sojourn” (Ruth 1:1) and once they entered into that country they “continued” there (Ruth 1:2) until ten years had passed. (Ruth 1:4). But now Naomi had come home, she had come back. She had left Moab because she saw God’s provision (Ruth 1:6) and because she acknowledged her need and her loss (Ruth 1:21). She had lost her husband and her sons and her wealth. She had come back in poverty and sorrow. But before Boaz says anything he emphasizes that Naomi had returned and that she was a child of God. He will only say that she has “come out of Moab,” he will not dwell on the time she spent there, only that she has come back and once he says this he goes on to the reason he is there.
Boaz states publicly what Naomi is doing: He says she selleth“ a parcel of land.” This statement in itself shows her need and her poverty. She is selling “a parcel” or “a portion” of land, not all the land but a portion of it. I believe this was a choice portion, a desirable portion, an attractive portion. She is doing this not because she wants to but because she has to. She is in need. Maybe she can’t pay the taxes or pay the bills, maybe she can’t afford to keep it, keep it up, or even use it as it could or should be used.
Boaz states publicly who this land belonged to: “which is our brother Elimelech’s.” He doesn’t say it belongs to Naomi’s husband, instead he says it belongs to “our brother.” This shifts the responsibility back to these two men. Boaz says “our,” showing both men have a relationship. Boaz says “brother” showing this is a close relationship. The word “brother” can mean “a male sibling:” It also means a “blood relative.” Lot is referred to as Abraham’s “brother” (Gen 14:16), he was his nephew. Laban called Jacob “brother” (Gen 9:15), they weren’t siblings but they were related.
We don’t know the exact relationship, only that it was a close one; close enough that they both had the responsibility of the kinsman-redeemer. What we do know is that Boaz will set before this man a proposition, show him his responsibility and give him an opportunity to fulfill their obligation as the kinsman-redeemer.
Continued next issue