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Why did the first kinsman redeemer refuse to marry Ruth?

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Question: "Why did the first kinsman redeemer refuse to marry Ruth?"

In Ruth 4:3–4 Boaz speaks to the first kinsman redeemer of Ruth and says, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”

Initially, this first man felt the acquisition of additional property would be a good move. But after first accepting the offer, Boaz informs him, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property” (Ruth 4:5). The man then changed his mind, saying, “I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”

Why did the man change his mind and refuse to marry Ruth? What did he mean he would “endanger my own estate”? A few possibilities exist. First, the man did not want to spend the money to buy the land and provide for a marriage as well as care for Naomi.

Second, the idea of endangering his own estate or inheritance could mean that the man felt the increased obligation of another spouse would further divide the inheritance he intended for his current family members.

Third, perhaps the man was not as wealthy as Boaz and did not have the ability to buy the land and a spouse as well as take the responsibility of Naomi. A combination of these ideas may also have been in his mind.

Essentially, the first kinsman redeemer felt that taking on another wife (which was legal in the situation of a widow in a family) was an obligation he could not or would not be willing to accept. Boaz immediately took the opportunity to confirm before many witnesses that he was next in line and would take the land and Ruth as his wife. Verses 11–12 show the response of the people: “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

Boaz did fulfill his commitment to marry Ruth (Ruth 4:13) and later had a son by her named Obed. Obed brought joy to the family, including Naomi, who helped to raise him. Obed would eventually become the grandfather of King David and an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:5–6).

Recommended Resource: Judges & Ruth: NIV Application Commentary by K. Lawson Younger Jr.

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Why did the first kinsman redeemer refuse to marry Ruth?

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