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In Ruth 4:4-4:6, the nearer redeemer initially agrees to buy the field being sold by Naomi, but when Boaz tells him that he will be required to take Ruth as his wife, he reneges on this, leaving Boaz to fulfill the redeemer role.

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.

Regardless of how verse 5 is translated, it seems evident that Boaz is introducing a new condition that the nearer redeemer was not previously aware of. From what I can tell, the marriage was not strictly required by the levirate rules of Deuteronomy 25:5-10 since he was not a brother of the deceased. Yet neither the would-be redeemer nor the gathered elders offers any objection.

Was the condition cited by Boaz within the normal application of levirate obligation? If so, why was the nearer redeemer not familiar with it? And was there a law/custom dictating how this obligation would be related to the purchase of the field in this story?

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    Why do you think he wasn't conversant with the custom? The fact that neither he or the elders object suggest that he understood the law - it seems to me the point is that he wasn't aware of the existence of Ruth and he wasn't prepared to risk his inheritance by purchasing land that he would have to give away (Ruth 4:6). Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 7:25
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    @JonathanChell Interesting, I hadn’t thought of him being unaware of the existence of Ruth. It seemed like everybody knew about her - e.g. 2:11 - and given that this was apparently the nearest relative I would expect him to as well, but perhaps you’re right. (You're thinking that there was a levirate obligation despite the more distant relationship, then?)
    – Susan
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 7:33
  • I would suggest that Numbers 36:8 is a broader application of the levirate obligation. In regards to the other man's knowledge of Ruth the text reads as if Boaz is trying to sow seeds of doubt into the man's mind about her, he calls her a 'moabitess', he doesn't explain her relationship to Elimelech etc, hence it seems to me this relative has not heard the same reports as Boaz had Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 7:53
  • OK, thanks, I changed the wording of the question a bit to acknowledge that possibility.
    – Susan
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 8:03
  • I hadn’t seen Jon’s previous question when I posted this one. It pretty much covers the same ground (despite the different titles), although the answer remains something less than perfectly clear in my mind.
    – Susan
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 18:34

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