Boaz (Hebrew: בעז, Bōʻaz; Greek: Βόες, Boes; Latin: Booz; "Name means::by strength") (b. ca. Born::2568 AM, m. Married::Tammuz 2692 AM) was a wealthy and influential landowner in Bethlehem and direct ancestor of ancestor of::Jesus Christ. He is best known for his marriage to Ruth the Moabitess.
Elimelech and Naomi
Boaz lived through the last years of Joshua, the period of anarchy and debauchery that followed his death, the oppressive regimes of Cushan-rishathaim and Eglon, and the administrations of the Judges Othniel and Ehud. Ehud's administration was the longest, but famine was a common threat to the land of Israel.
Boaz and Elimelech seem to have faced the test of famine on or about 2682 AM, but reacted differently. Boaz stayed and managed his estate, but Elimelech fled, with his wife and two sons, to a foreign country. Elimelech died, and his two sons married foreign wives. Ten years later, they died also.
Boaz probably did not hear the full particulars immediately, but in the spring of 2692 AM he heard that Elimelech's widow Naomi had returned to Bethlehem, with her Moabitish daughter-in-law Ruth. (Her other daughter-in-law Orpah had remained in Moab.) That Ruth had left her home and family, and come to Israel with the intent to embrace the true faith of God, made a very good impression on him. He was probably worried, too, that Elimelech's estate had fallen into disrepair, that Naomi would not be able to manage it properly, and that these two women were in dire financial straits and would probably have to sell their land.
Near the beginning of the barley harvest, Boaz visited his fields. He greeted his harvesters, and then noticed a woman whom he had not seen before. He asked his foreman about her, and the foreman identified her as Ruth the Moabitess, who had asked permission to glean in his fields. (Ruth 2:4-7 )
Like any other conscientious landowner, Boaz ran his fields according to the gleaning law, which stated that the landowner had the duty to leave at least some of his harvest for destitute people to gather food for themselves. (Leviticus 19:9-10 But Boaz decided to reward this foreigner with more than the law required. First he gave strict orders that no one in his employ was to molest Ruth or insult her in any other manner—probably the first recorded policy against sexual harassment in the workplace. Then he personally enjoined Ruth from gleaning in any field but his own. To compensate for this, he ordered his harvesters to allow her to glean among the sheaves and even to pull out some grain and drop it to the ground for her to pick up. Furthermore he told her that she could drink from the workers' water supply when she needed to, and even invited her to lunch with his maidservants. (Ruth 2:8-9,14-16 )
Ruth prostrated herself before him and asked him why he was doing her such favors. Boaz took the occasion to thank her for the favors she had done for Naomi, and to remark upon the difficult step she had taken in leaving her family and her country and taking up residence among people she did not know. (Ruth 2:10-11 )
Boaz allowed Ruth to continue to glean throughout his barley and wheat harvests. If he saw her again after that first meeting, the Bible does not say that. But on the night that he winnowed his harvest on the village threshing floor, he lay down against a heap of grain. And in the middle of the night he awoke to find his feet uncovered and a woman lying at his feet.
Surprised, he asked his woman who she was. She identified herself as Ruth, and then, in a frank manner, asked him to spread the skirt of his robe over her, a Hebrew idiom for marriage. In the same sentence, she asked him to perform the function of a redeemer (Hebrew: גאל, gaʼal)
Under Mosaic law, the nearest male relative of any Israelite forced by economic circumstance to sell or mortgage his land had the duty to buy that land so that it would remain in the family. Furthermore, if a man had died and left no issue, then the near relative had the duty to marry the man's widow, and their firstborn son would inherit the estate. Elimelech had died and left two sons, and now both sons were dead, but Ruth, the widow of one of them, was eligible to marry a kinsman-redeemer, or gaʼal, so that she might have a son to inherit the estate.
Boaz does not seem to have expected Ruth to make such a request of him. Insofar as one might infer from his own parentage and the number of generations between his father and his descendant David, Boaz was probably 124 years old when this conversation took place. For her part, Ruth was under no obligation to marry the kinsman-redeemer if she would rather marry another man. The levirate law as stated in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 provided a penalty for a man who refused a levirate or similar marriage, but did not compel a widow to ask for such a marriage.
Many commentators have suggested that Boaz had fallen in love with Ruth, and she with him. This is pure speculation. The first words that Boaz spoke were to commend Ruth for showing a greater kindness to Naomi than she had shown before, for accepting the responsibility of producing an heir to the nearly defunct estate, and for coming to him as the appropriate prospective husband. No doubt Boaz found marriage to Ruth a pleasant prospect. No doubt she did as well. But the words that Boaz used indicate that their relationship did not begin with romance, though it might have become romantic over time. Rather, he was seeking an opportunity to assist Naomi and Ruth while preserving dignity on all sides. With Ruth's formal request to him, he had one.
In any event, Boaz readily agreed to assist Ruth in any way that she asked. But he recalled that Elimelech did have another living relative closer than he (probably a first cousin). Boaz said that he would ask the man in the morning whether he wished to redeem the estate. For the present, he allowed Ruth to lie down near him until morning.
In the morning, he gave an order, presumably to his harvesters, not to reveal to anyone that a woman had come to the threshing floor. (Ruth 3:14 ) He also gave Ruth six measures of barley to take home with her. (The measure involved might have been the seah, which was one-third of an ephah.)
As soon as Ruth left, Boaz went at once to the city gate, where the townspeople were accustomed to transact their affairs, and especially legal affairs. He waited for his unnamed relative (Hebrew: פלני אלמני, pelōnī ʼālmōnī, or literally, "Mr. So-and-so") to come to the gate, and asked him to sit with him. Then Boaz called ten city councillors to sit down also; he wanted them as witnesses. He was not required to have witnesses, but obviously he wished to leave no doubt that what he wished to do was legal. (Ruth 4:1-2 )
He advised the man that Naomi was forced to sell her husband's estate, that the man was Elimelech's closest relative and thus had the first right to redeem the estate, and that Boaz had the right if the man declined it. (Ruth 4:3-4 )
The man at first said that he would redeem the estate. His first response has provoked much speculation by itself, to the effect that the man probably saw an opportunity to acquire the land outright, because Naomi was probably past the childbearing age.
Then Boaz said that the man who bought the estate must also marry Ruth in order to raise a son who would inherit the estate. (Ruth 4:5 ) This declaration caused the man to balk. He renounced his right of redemption in favor of Boaz, saying that he was not able to redeem the estate under this condition, because doing so would jeopardize his own inheritance. (Ruth 4:6 )
The unnamed relative's refusal has also provoked speculation. Some commentators say that he refused because he would not be able to recover his purchase price if the estate would pass immediately to a son and remain separate from his own estate. Others say that he balked because Ruth was a foreigner, and furthermore a native of Moab, a nation that had troubled the peace of Israel so often that God had enjoined His people from marrying Moabites. The second argument is weaker because although Ruth had been born a Moabite, she had converted fully to following the True God, and in that sense was not a Moabite anymore—although some commentators have suggested that Boaz interpreted the prohibition against Moabite intermarriage as applicable to Moabite men only.
Boaz accepted the other man's abdication. To make this abdication official, the other man drew off his sandal and presented it to Boaz.
Boaz married Ruth, apparently in the summer of 2692 AM. Ruth fell pregnant almost immediately, and in the next springtime, Ruth and Boaz had a son, named Obed.
In other literature
Some of the rabbinical sages have identified Boaz with Judge Ibzan, and suggest that he lost all his children after he failed to show the proper respect to Manoah, the eventual father of Judge Samson. Flavius Josephus suggested that Boaz was a contemporary of the high priest Eli.
- Jastrow M, Eerdmans B, Jastrow M, and Ginzberg L, "Boaz," The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906. Accessed January 24, 2009.
- Blank W, "Boaz," Daily Bible Study, n.d. Accessed January 24, 2009.
- Barton GA, et al., "Ruth, Book of," The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906. Accessed January 20, 2009.
- "Ruth, Naomi and Boaz: A Story of Loyalty and Love," Women in the Bible, n.d. Accessed January 22, 2009.
- Constable TL, "Notes on Ruth," SonicLight.com, 2009. Accessed January 22, 2009.
- Jacobs J, et al., "Go'el," The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906. Accessed January 20, 2009.
- Schechter S and Jacobs J, "Levirate marriage," The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906. Accessed January 20, 2009.
- "The Story of Ruth," OU.org, n.d. Accessed January 20, 2009.
- Josephus, Antiquities, 5.9.1