Biblical Alpha: Boaz

Returning briefly to my Biblical Alpha series, today we will look at Boaz, who became the forefather of both King David and Jesus. This story is taken entirely from the book of Ruth and all quotes are from the ESV.

The Book of Ruth starts off with Ruth (surprise), the loyal heathen wife of an expatriate Jew. Her father-in-law dies while in her land. Her husband and brother-in-law all die after 10 years of marriage. She converts to Judaism and pledges to takes care of her mother-in-law, Naomi. They move back to Israel. This is where Boaz comes in:

Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was uBoaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him win whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” (2:1-4)

First thing you learn about Boaz is he’s “worthy”. He owns his own land and has numerous men working under him whose respect he commands. This is a man of status and wealth.

He see Ruth and asks: “Whose young woman is this?” (2:5)

He’s told. Then Ruth asks to be allowed to glean his fields, so he responds: “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women.” (2:8)

It’s established here that she’s much younger than him, young enough to be his daughter. Being married 10 years, she’s probably in her mid-late 20’s (they married young back then). So he’s probably, at least in his 40’s. Jewish tradition puts Boaz in his 80’s and Ruth in her 40’s.

Either way, remember that she’s a lot younger than him.

He continues:

Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.

So, he has a number of young men and young women working under him. He is confident enough in the respect the young men have in him that he doesn’t give a second thought that they will obey his orders not to harass her. He definitely has honour in full.

He’s very generous to her, why?

But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. (2:11)

Because she’s been loyal to his kin. Good female beta traits in her and good filial loyalty in him.

And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.” (2:14-16)

He shares his wealth, but mostly hides it from her. He’s not doing it to buy her affection, but simply out of the goodness of his heart. A bit beta, but not supplication.

Ruth gleans, then goes home and shares with Naomi. They both praise his goodness and Ruth says this: “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” (2:20)

This is important. A kinsman-redeemer refers to a close relative who takes on a number of duties for his kinsman, one of which was marrying the wife of of his kinsmen to continue his family line for him. So right here, Ruth’s being alerted that he’s available for marriage.

Naomi then gives Ruth some advice on how to seduce Boaz, which more or less amounts to ‘make yourself pretty and when he’s drunk sneak up and spoon with him’. So she does:

So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” And he said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the LORD lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. (3:6-13)

So, here he is 40+, possibly 80, lying down to protect his grain; even in his old age (40 was a lot more back than than it is today) he stills strong enough to do his own dirty work to protect his property. This was a man of Strength.

While sated and protecting his crops, a women comes to him with clear intent. Some interpreters take the “lie at his feet” to mean “got into bed with” and “spread your wings” as “take me now” (more or less), but even without this highly sexual interpretation, he is obviously being seduced by a “worthy” women half his age in the most unsubtle manner possible. That’s alpha.

Now, he lets a little bit of beta frame slip from him here, with his “kindness” and “young man” remark, but he follows it up with a disqualifier, so he’s running some natural, mild push-pull game here.

The next day: “Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there.”

Again, a high display of honour here. Sitting at the gate was for Jewish elders and being able to do so was a great honour. Boaz had some rep.

The following interaction occurs:

Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” (4:1-6)

He convinces the man to not only forgo a new wife, but also to forgo taking some new property. He gets both a wife and some land out of the deal. A shrewd businessman; a master at his trade.

He then claims his new property:

Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” (4:9-10)

Both legally and in other ways:

So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.(4:13)

Rather virile for his age. C’est non?

And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (4:17)

The Lord rewards him by making him the forefather of the future house of the kings of Israel and of Jesus himself. Not bad.

Once again, a hero of the Bible demonstrates the masculine virtues and alphaness to the glory of God and himself. He lands a worthy gal half his age, fathers a lasting house, and becomes renowned.

Read the rest of the series here.

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