The Threshing Floor Incident
Passage: Ruth 2:17– 3:18
Scene 1: Naomi evaluates the meeting in the field: Boaz is one of their “guardian redeemers/family guardians/goel” (2:17b-23).
Scene 2: Naomi sends Ruth to Boaz on the threshing floor (3:1-18)
- Naomi reveals her plan for a home and husband for Ruth (3:1-5).
- Ruth carries out Naomi’s plan and Boaz offers to be the redeemer (3:6-15).
- Naomi evaluates the encounter: Boaz will act (3:16-18).
The following are the four legal duties The Law of Moses prescribes for the family guardian/redeemer/goel. These are duties the “redeemer” is legally obligated to perform.
- If a Jew, living in the theocracy that is Israel, was wronged and restitution was legally due, but the person wronged was dead, the goel would receive the payment on the victim’s behalf (Num.5:5-8).
- To act as “blood-redeemer.” The goel was to avenge the killing of a clan relative. (Number 35:12, 19-27; Deut. 19:6, 12)
- To redeem impoverished clan members who were forced to sell themselves into slavery to a non-Israelite (Lev. 25:47-55).
- The redemption of land, i.e., the responsibility to purchase family property that, because of poverty, must be or has been sold outside the family (Lev. 25:24-34).
However, the way the term is being used in the Book of Ruth, during the evil period of the Judges (400 years after Moses), is in a non-legal, non-binding sense to include a relative who is only morally responsible to deliver another family member from evil - be it poverty, injustice, oppression, or slavery. This is the way Naomi is using the term in 2:20. Both Boaz and the unnamed relative in chapter four have only a moral obligation to look after Naomi and Ruth, not a legal one.
* This sermon owes much to the commentary by Frederick Bush “Ruth, Esther” (1998)