Ruth 4:1-2 – Boaz at the Gate


Ruth 4:1-2


Boaz goes to the city gate to negotiate with the nearer “next-of-kin,” who is not named.


In chapter 4, the venue changes to the gate.  In Scripture, city gates are important both historically and as literary devices.  The ancient city gate functioned in 4 ways: as the all-important entry and exit point of the city, as the place where guards stood by for protection; as the place for community gatherings (like the town square of 19th-century American literature); and as the equivalent of a courthouse where legal issues were settled.  In the Book of Ruth, the gate is both the courthouse and the community gathering place. 

In a bit of humor, we are introduced to the nearer next-of-kin who is marked with an epithet rather than graced by a name. He is called peloni almoni, loosely translated as “What’s his name.” He saunters by. Boaz gathers the legal 10 male elders and then reels the nearest next-of-kin in like a fish on a line. The underlying issues are the role of kinship, the constitution of family, and the status of the immigrant.