But there was a catch. Although Boaz was in the line, according to the Law, to take on this bride and her property, there was one who, as a kinsman redeemer, was in line before him. His claim on the woman and the property was prior to that of Boaz, and something would have to be done about this before Boaz could act on his desires.

All this was occurring during the period of the judges, when, as we know, there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes. It’s not just that good government did not exist in Israel in those days. In most places, no government was to be found. Anarchy and violence lay just next to Boaz’s own property, as Ruth 2:8,9 indicate. Boaz probably could have thrown his weight around, greased a few palms, made some political promises, and simply done what he wanted. Some might have raised an eyebrow, but, hey, he was a respected member of the community, and rich. Who were they to tell him what he could or couldn’t do?

But Boaz wanted more than just a young wife and a new parcel of land. He wanted the blessing of God, for himself, his wife, and his community. And Boaz understood that the way to blessing is through the avenue of Law.

So, in chapter 4, Boaz gathered up the kinsman redeemer and 10 of Bethlehem’s judges at the gate of the city. In the presence of the judges he made his intentions known, being careful to advise the kinsman redeemer of his rights and obligations. Now the statutes on which Boaz was making his case did not fit the situation exactly. Compounding things was the fact that Ruth was a Moabitess, and Moabites had no favorable standing in Israel, due to treachery against the people in the past.

The statutes did not fit exactly, but then, it was never expected that they would. The rules, statutes, and precepts of Israel were meant to be illustrations of the way the Ten Commandments might work out in real situations. They were case laws, and this is why Israel needed judges in each city. The judges had to evaluate each situation in the light of the teaching of the Law as a whole, in order to determine, according to the Law, which proposed course of action or which resolution to a situation would be most in line with the just and loving requirements of the Law. Boaz set his case before the judges. The kinsman redeemer relinquished his claim, for whatever reason, but the conclusion was by no means foregone. The judges had to determine whether Boaz could take this woman, who had come into the nation as the bride of a lawful son, and had demonstrated her desire to live under the protection of God, and whether he could lay claim in her name to the property of her deceased husband. After some deliberation, the judges ruled in Boaz’s favor, and the blessings that ensued led all the way down to David, and, as Matthew reminds us (1:5), even all the way to Jesus.

These judges clearly understood the Law and followed it carefully in ruling the people of Bethlehem. God blessed their judgment; prosperity, happiness, love, and shalom blossomed as a result.

Rulers in God's Communities Today

I find the wording of Acts 14:23 to be very deliberate on Luke’s part: “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church…” Luke was a careful researcher, and, as often as possible, he linked the story of Jesus, and of His growing Church, to Old Testament sources, images, and referents.

 

The language here is more than a little reminiscent of Deuteronomy 16:18, and suggests that Paul and the other apostles understood their task of establishing government for local churches to be derived from Israel’s practice in the communities of the land. The elders of the churches were to be like the judges of the communities of Israel. Their responsibility was to instruct the people and rule over them in such a way as that the blessings of God—His love and shalom—could flourish.