Pastor Debra Isenbletter
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.”
There are two reasons given for the action on the part of this man. It is redeeming: “concerning redeeming” and it is changing: “and concerning changing.” (Notice the repetition of the word “concerning”). The “redeeming” speaks of the price that is agreed upon and paid and the “changing” or “exchanging” speaks of the transfer of rights, of the property. The word “redeeming” is from “ga’al” which means “to redeem”, it speaks of the one who is redeeming, the “kin”, or “kindred” (Strong’s). It speaks of the “right of redemption” that this man now has. It speaks of the “price of redemption” (Brown). In all that we see the emphasis on the payment and the one who is paying the price. The word “”changing” comes from “barter, compensation” and can be translated “exchanging;” “compensation,” “restitution” or “recompense.” It shows that there is an exchange that takes place, it is the exchanging of rights from one man to another; it also shows the transfer of this property (and person) from one man to another.
An interesting question would be, “Who set the price, who determined the value of the land and the person?” Did this man, who had the first right, set the price for the redemption of the land and of Ruth? In type, this man pictures the Law and all its demands. Under the Law, justice demanded blood and the penalty was death. Jesus fulfilled all the demands of the Law. He said He came “not to destroy but to fulfill” the law (Matt 5:17-18), and He did, that it would “all be fulfilled.” Paul tells us that “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law (He was subject to the law), to redeem them that were under the law” (Gal 4:4-5). The life of Jesus and His obedience all the way to the Cross shows how He fulfilled the two great commands that summed up the Law. Love for God: “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” – His Obedience; and Love for Man: “love thy neighbor as thyself” – His Sacrifice. (Matt 22:36-40). Like Boaz, Jesus paid the price that was demanded. The Law demanded that blood be shed (Heb 9:22), the Law demanded a sacrifice, it demanded death (Heb 10:8-9). Jesus paid it all! He met the demands of the Law, His blood was shed and He died in our place.
Next we see the action of this man, the removing of his shoe. What does this show? It was done “to confirm all things. It was done as a confirmation, to show the transaction was complete. The word “confirm” comes from “to arise, to stand up” and it means “to be fixed, to fulfill, to accomplish, to establish, to ratify.” This action was seen by all! We see the “fixed” purpose of heart of Boaz, and the “accomplished” work on behalf of Ruth and Naomi. We see the “fulfillment” of his promise to Ruth – Oh, what a wonderful type of Jesus is this description! This is done to confirm “all things.” The things speak of “affairs,” “acts” or “business.” The “all” shows that nothing is neglected, Boaz took care of it all! This can be translated “to confirm a transaction” (Amp/RSV) or “for the transfer of property to become final” (NIV). This needed to be done and done publicly. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” we see the confirmation of our redemption, we see that the transaction was complete.
Where did this custom come from? We know it was a custom from the phrase “in former time in Israel” which can be translated “This was a custom” (Amp); “Now this was a custom in former times” (RSV). Deut 25:7-10 describes this custom but there are some differences. There was the transfer of a shoe from one person to another, but in Deuteronomy, it is the widow that removes the shoe from the kinsman who will not fulfill his obligation and not only does she remove the shoe, it says she shall “spit in his face.” And there the name of that man is forever known as “The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.” There is a public humiliation of this man. We don’t see that here in Ruth, only the removal of the shoe and the transfer of power. This was a custom, a tradition that had been going on for years, and like many traditions it was changed to suit the circumstances. The foundation remained but the details here are different. The reason for it never changed because it still represented a transfer of power.
What was this custom? “a man plucked off his shoe” and then “gave it to his neighbor.” It looks like this man may have removed his own shoe or it could be that Boaz may have removed this man’s shoe. Ruth was not present to do this, Boaz was there on her behalf. The moment this was done it became “a testimony in Israel.” It was a confirmation, it attested to the fact that what was said that day was a permanent action and the testimony was acknowledged in Israel. It was a recognized testimony, a universal testimony, an accepted testimony. Once the shoe was removed it became final, there was no backing out or changing your mind.
I think Boaz is seen either doing this or receiving the shoe from the other kinsman instead of Ruth for an important reason, other than a change of tradition. Boaz is a type of Christ and he is acting on behalf of Ruth. He is her advocate, he speaks for her and in her defense. He fights her battles for her. She is to simply “sit still” (Ruth 3:18) and wait! This is what we do! This is all we need to do! This is what we must do! We let our Boaz speak on our behalf, fight our battles.
Ruth 4:8 – “Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe.”
In this verse we see what this man said and what he did to confirm the transaction. Two simple acts that forever changed the life of Ruth!
What did this man say? He said: “But it for thee.” The word “buy” means “to purchase, redeem, to possess.” These words give Boaz the right of redemption! These words show what Boaz bought would belong to him; for this man says it is “for thee.” When Boaz redeemed Ruth, she became his possession, his responsibility. We do not know what the price was, what the cost was in money. We only know that only one man was able to pay that price – Boaz!
When God redeemed His people, they became His, He is their Possessor. He told them “I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine.” (Isa 43:1) When Jesus redeemed us, He became a Possessor – we became His. We are “redeemed from the curse of the Law” (Gal 3:13), we are “bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:20; 1 Cor 7:23). We are His “purchased possession” (Eph 1:14). We belong to Him! We bear His name! We are His responsibility!
What did this man do? “So he drew off his shoe.” This is what he did to show the completion of this transaction. He took off his shoe, or let Boaz remove his shoe. He did this willingly, voluntarily and publicly. Sister Mary Bodie sums up beautifully what this pictures:
Mary Bodie: “Such a one” calmly looses his shoe and gives it to Boaz, as much as to say, “Stand in my shoes; take my place: I give you the right to redeem the Moabitess and the inheritance.” He seems very little affected one way, or the other. And this too is a principle of law. It has no heart. “Such a one” cares nothing for Ruth, the Moabitess. He does not love her, nor her cause. He can give her up with perfect composure, without a sigh, or a tear. This is a true picture. The law cannot show mercy. It knows nothing of love, or pity, or grace. Hence we ought to rejoice that we see its shoe unloosed and passed on to another, the One who is mighty to save. Thus we see that the legal principle is set aside entirely. It has been made void, disannulled. It has no “shoe,” no standing as a redeemer; for it cannot set free and justify the sinner whom it curses and condemns. No more than can the law of the land show mercy and free the breaker of its commands. The law cannot pay the penalty, or give bail for the fellow it sentences to prison. Another stands in his shoes. The covenant of law has been superseded by the covenant of grace. The able Kinsman-Redeemer, Christ, has come and no more has “Such a one” any right to place of the kinsman.”
What a wonderful picture of the transfer of authority over us, we are now under Grace and not Law and it is Love and not fear that motivates us.
Continued next issue