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Surprised by Hesed … ready, willing and able

“Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it.”
Ruth 3:12-13

I do declare ladies, we got a little ahead of ourselves yesterday. Best we get back to the story. It seems Boaz fully understands the plight of Naomi and Ruth. Yes, he is near of kin. Yes, there is a kinsman nearer than he who has to be approached first, but he knows exactly who he is and where to find him. As he hurries to the town gate the next morning, I hear a little pitty-pat in his heart.

I am intrigued with the way Boaz addresses his kin: my friend (4:1). We miss the meaning in English. In her book about Ruth, The Girl’s still Got It, Liz Curtis Higgs tells us it is nothing but a rhyming term, a meaningless phrase, like Joe Schmo or Mr. So-and-So. In a time when names were indicative of character, I’d rather not be beholden, let alone married to Mr. So-and-So.

It begins to add up. Perhaps Naomi knew precisely who the nearest kin was and she didn’t care for him one iota. Why hadn’t he already stepped up to the bat? After all, the town was abuzz over Naomi’s return. On the other hand, Boaz’ reputation was stellar: “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead” (2:20).

In his online commentary, J. Vernon McGee suggests a kinsman-redeemer must not only be the nearest in line, but also be ready, willing and able to seal the deal. In Naomi and Ruth’s case, Mr. So-and-So jumped on the opportunity to buy Naomi’s land but was not willing to take on the young Moabitess (4:3-6). So much for his hesed.    

Think about it, what keeps you from actual redemption, or deepening intimacy with God, as this man kept Naomi and Ruth from prosperity? The things of the world will take all you have—your land, your possessions, your logic—not caring at all about your eternity.   

In contrast, Boaz had already indicated that he was very ready, more than willing, and financially able to both buy the land and marry Ruth to maintain the name of the dead with his property (4:10). Legally nothing could stop him, once the first kin removed his sandal (4:8). But then, who’s surprised? Loving kindness is written all over Boaz.

Nancy P

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