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.” (Ruth 4:1-6, ESV)

Why would this impair the Redeemer's own inheritance? And why did Boaz bring up the land before mentioning Ruth? Why not just mention it right away?

This question is somewhat related but doesn't exactly explain why marrying Ruth would impair the Redeemer's inheritance.

  • 1
    The traditional Jewish answer to the first part of this question as explained in Rashi commentary on that verse, is that the Redeemer was worried that his children from Ruth (and anything they inherited) would be deemed illegitimate because Ruth was Moabite and the verse in Deuteronomy 23:4 says that a Moabite is not permitted to join the Israelites. For the second question. I have much longer explanation of the whole episode (that I plan on turning into an article one day) that also sheds light on that question. Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 0:57

5 Answers 5


This goes back to the antiquities and the law of inheritance. Back then wives and widows were part of the property and had no rights to inheritance. Naomi was selling a portion of the property of her late husband Elimelech, and Ruth was married to Mahlon one of the two sons of Elimelech. Both sons were dead and no grandsons.

Boaz was kinship to Elimelek and after Naomi created a little spark and gleam in Boaz’s heart when she told Ruth what to do and tell Boaz they were kin. Boaz told her that there are kinsman closer in kinship than he was but if he would not do the part of a kinsman he would.

Boaz was sitting at the gate and low and behold the kinsman came by. So they and ten of the elders set down and Boaz advised them about the deal. Boaz gave the other kinsman the first chance to buy the property because he was first in line to redeem the property.

Boaz also said that if he buys it of Naomi he also must buy of Ruth to raise up the name of the dead because there was no name left for the inheritance since father and two sons were all dead and no grandsons. Boaz was willing to serve as the go’al (a guardian) buy redeeming also on her behalf. She could also keep the inheritance and the money from the crops.

When Boaz told the kinsman about the taking of Ruth as part of the deal he backed out because it would endanger his own estate. If Ruth had children his estate would then be divided between the family he has now and the children of Ruth and the estate of Naomi is in the founding father Elimelech to Mahlon name, and because it would be redeemed not purchased out right it would not become part of his estate. I guess he felt the cost was too much.

It may have been that Boaz brought up Ruth after the land deal was because he may have wanted her for his wife. A little wrench in the deal, or it was probably Gods plan all along. But it worked out pretty good with God watching over it, Ruth had Obed who was the father of Jesse the farther of David all in the line to Jesus.

Some information from the Jewish Encyclopedia, KJV bible

  • Thanks Ronald. A good answer you have there. The loss involved in this particular transaction was great because it involved selling property in order to redeem property that would never be yours. This was why the elders compensated Boaz with the blessings of Ruth 4:18
    – user20490
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 21:11

Why would this impair the Redeemer's own inheritance?

1/ If money was owed on the property to be redeemed and the repurchaser used his money, this would reduce the value of his own inheritance. Leviticus says;

Leviticus 25:25-28 (AMP)

25 "If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell some of his property, then his nearest relative is to come and buy back (redeem) what his relative has sold. 26 Or in case a man has no relative [to redeem his property], but he has become more prosperous and has enough to buy it back, 27 then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his [ancestral] property. 28 But if [a]he is unable to redeem it, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of the purchaser until the Year of Jubilee; but at the Jubilee it shall revert, and he may return to his property."

2/ A son born to Ruth would inherit the purchased field, and not the repurchaser's relatives.Deuteronomy says;

Deuteronomy 21:15-17 (AMP)

15 “If a man has two wives, one loved and the other [a]unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have born him sons, and the firstborn son belongs to the unloved wife, 16 then on the day when he wills his possessions to his sons, he cannot treat the son of his loved wife as firstborn in place of the son of the unloved wife—the [actual] firstborn. 17 Instead he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved as the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he was the beginning of his strength (generative power); to him belongs the right of the firstborn."


There seem to be problems with the Ruth/Boaz story.


Scholars disagree as to whether the events described in Ruth 4 relate to the institution of levirate marriage (also known simply as “levirate”). Though according to Boaz the marriage will “maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance” (Ruth 4:10), the marriage of Ruth and Boaz does not seem mandated by the law in Deuteronomy, given that Boaz is not Ruth’s brother-in-law, nor does the genealogy in Ruth 4 credit Ruth’s son to her deceased husband’s line. In some ways, the transactions described resemble the redemption process for property outlined in Lev 25:25, where male relatives buy back property an impoverished kinsman was forced to sell. However, there is no indication in Leviticus that redemption of a kinsman’s property is in any way connected to marriage with the kinsman’s widow.

Verses below are from Scripture4all.org's Interlinear program (ISA-2))

In Ruth 4:10, Boaz swears to the elders that he will raise up the name of Mahlon (Ruth's deceased husband).

However, Ruth 4:11-12 sounds like the elders are prophesying to Boaz... Ruth 4:12 "And let thy house be like the house of Pharez (phrtz), whom Tamar bare unto Judah *from-the~seed which he-shall-give Yahweh to~you from the~maiden the~this."

In Ruth 4:18, Boaz is in the genealogy of Perez (phrtz - same spelling as above).

Ruth 4:13 - "...the LORD gave her (Ruth) conception and she bear a son."

Ruth 4:14-16 - It's all about Naomi and how Naomi took the child to her bosom and became foster-mother. Evidently, Ruth died in childbirth.

Ruth 4:17 - "And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, 'There is a son born to Naomi'; and they called his name Obed: he [is] the father of Jesse, the father of David."

The last part of that verse - prophesy, or a margin reference? 1Chr. 2:11-12 1Chr. is the only place the lineage appears (outside of Ruth). And Boaz next (and last) appears in 2Chr. as the name of a temple pillar - the left one.

Odd how an 'angel' gave seed to Abraham and when Benjamin was born, Rachel died. Joseph recognized the 'specialness' of Benjamin.

Ruth gets a 'divine seed' and, it appears, dies as well.

It's interesting that Ruth 4:11 says, "...and~do-you! ability in~Ephratah (aphrthe) and~call-you! name in~Beth~Lehem."

Gen. 35:16 - "And~she-is-dying Rachel and~she-is-being-entombed in~way-of Ephrathah (aphrthe) (s)he Beth-Lehem."

Side note: Makes me wonder if Mary died when Jesus was born - and Joseph married someone else named Mary to have further children. Did Joseph then become 'Joseph of Arimethia'? Heh.

Back to the question, however, the way in which the inheritance of the first man may have been affected:

  1. After the first son was born and the child raised to the age of inheritance, all of the money to maintain that land since his birth would be for naught for the husband - as it would all go to Mahlon's namesake.

  2. If Ruth would have had more sons after Mahlon's namesake, those sons would have gotten a part of the 2nd husband's estate - but sometimes too many divisions makes land/assets almost worthless to the inheritors.

  3. Just curious - if Ruth died in childbirth and the child was 'adopted' by Naomi as her own son, does that automatically free Boaz from his promise?

Anyway, just connections that came up in looking deeper into the OP's useful question.


I don't view the notion of Ruth's inheritance being 'marred' as an absolute gnomic truth to be perceived by either party(Boaz or the kinsman), since it was all done according to the cunning plan of Boaz to retrieve the woman unto himself. I thus do not take the understanding of the kinsman to be perfectly clear-minded, since he was essentially being manipulated by Boaz according to his lack of knowledge of the law, perhaps comparable to Jacob's taking of Esau's birthright, for it was neither required by law that the inheritance should be sold(Num 27:8-11), neither that the purchaser should have had to marry the deceased man's wife strictly because he had purchased the inheritance, nor written that the woman's nationality should have had anything to do with 'marring' it, since, though she were a Moabite, yet they were not listed among the seven prohibited nations(Deu 7:1-4), and since also she was a former Israelite's wife, and thus duty was required(Deu 25:5-6). As to why he mentioned the field before Ruth, I would say that was the part of his plan which introduced her into the negotiations, after all he paid Naomi the purchase price of the field even before he put it up for sale(Ruth 3:17-18).


Boaz was already married and had sons. His first born would be given his rightful inheritance regardless of whom he married and with whom he had other sons. The first born will not be disinherited because he is less loved than another sayeth the LORD!

  • 1
    Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your contribution. Please take the tour to better understand how this site works. How do you know that Boaz was already married?
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 18, 2020 at 20:46
  • This answer needs to be susbstantiated from the text of scripture.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 1:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.