In these verses an arrangement is made to protect the inheritance, that it will not fall into other hands. It describes the situation of two brothers who live in the same inheritance and of whom one is married and the other still unmarried. If the married brother dies without a descendant, the brother must take the widow as his wife. This is called “the duty of a husband’s brother” (verses 5,75“When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be [married] outside [the family] to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.7But if the man does not desire to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’). The son who is then conceived shall assume the name of the first husband and is his heir. This use, now enacted as law, has been known for some time (Gen 38:88Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.”).
With Boaz’s marriage to Ruth it is about a family member further away, because there is no brother (Rth 4:1-81Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there, and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz spoke was passing by, so he said, “Turn aside, friend, sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down.2He took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down.3Then he said to the closest relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the land of Moab, has to sell the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech.4So I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy [it] before those who are sitting [here], and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem [it], redeem [it]; but if not, tell me that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem [it], and I am after you.’” And he said, “I will redeem [it].”5Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.”6The closest relative said, “I cannot redeem [it] for myself, because I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem [it] for yourself; you [may have] my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem [it].”7Now this was [the custom] in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange [of land] to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the [manner of] attestation in Israel.8So the closest relative said to Boaz, “Buy [it] for yourself.” And he removed his sandal.). There, too, the land has already passed into other hands. Boaz must become both the redeemer and the one who performs the duty of a husband’s brother. God has now enacted this existing, unwritten law and also brought it to the human level. This allows the brother to evade the duty of a husband’s brother. He can do this because he simply does not want it or because he puts his own interests at risk.
Pull off the sandal is a symbolic indication. To put the sandal or shoe on somewhere speaks of taking possession, appropriating and make it your own (Jos 1:33Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.; Psa 60:1010Have not You Yourself, O God, rejected us?
And will You not go forth with our armies, O God?
; 108:1010Who will bring me into the besieged city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
). Pulling off the shoe speaks of the opposite and means abandoning something. That is what the man does in the case of Ruth (Rth 4:77Now this was [the custom] in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange [of land] to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the [manner of] attestation in Israel.). He does so because he ruins his own inheritance by marrying Ruth. He thinks more of his own interests. He then renounces the woman and the land. Here the woman pulls the sandal off his foot. That will be an insult name for the man.
In Ruth is a redeemer who is nearer. This first redeemer is a type of law. The law is the first obligation given to man to receive life through this way. The law says: “Do this and you will live’ (Lev 18:55So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.). But this first redeemer cannot redeem. People who keep the law are like thieves and robbers. The Pharisees and scribes think only of their own interest and not of the people. They impose heavy loads.
Then comes the Redeemer Who can and does, the Lord Jesus. He steps aside. He is not afraid to lose his own inheritance. He wants to be ”cut off and have nothing” (Dan 9:26b26Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end [will come] with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.). The Lord Jesus is the true Boaz, that means ‘in him is strength’. Ruth is a picture of the remnant of Israel and Naomi of the Israel that has lost everything. How aptly Ruth, who is a Moabitess, shows the disenfranchisement of the remnant and that everything that is obtained is only on the basis of grace.
The meaning for us is what we have to do for the other. It shows that we have to step aside for the other. Are we prepared to stand up for the interests of the brother, or do we look like the first redeemer? It may take some time or effort, but how important is it that the other person keeps his inheritance?
The Sadducees refer in one of their discussions with the Lord Jesus to the duty of a husband’s brother to “prove” the implausibility of the resurrection (Mt 22:23-3323On that day [some] Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him,24asking, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘IF A MAN DIES HAVING NO CHILDREN, HIS BROTHER AS NEXT OF KIN SHALL MARRY HIS WIFE, AND RAISE UP CHILDREN FOR HIS BROTHER.’25Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother;26so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh.27Last of all, the woman died.28In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had [married] her.”29But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.30For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.31But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God:32‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”33When the crowds heard [this], they were astonished at His teaching.). The Sadducees are the liberals of that time. They only believe in what they can reason. Therefore they do not believe in the resurrection, nor in angels and spirits (Acts 23:88For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.). They propose to the Lord the case invented by them of seven brothers who marry the same woman in succession. They explain from their corrupt thinking how the situation develops in their invented example.
Yet the Lord makes an effort to enlighten their darkened minds. He refers to the Scripture that speaks of God as the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob (Exo 3:6,15-166He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.15God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.16Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt.). The Lord quotes this Scripture to show that in the days of Moses the patriarchs live in another world, although they then have not yet been raised from the dead. The fact that their spirits are there guarantees that they will share the fulfillment of the promises with resurrected bodies.
When God says this to Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have long since passed away. But God has given them His promises. Will He not then be able to make them come true? Surely He will make them true. He will do that in the resurrection. How very different is the faith of Abraham from that of the Sadducees. He has believed that God is able to raise even the dead (Heb 11:1818[it was he] to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.”).