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New International Version, Ruth 4:

3 Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek.

New King James Version:

Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech.

New American Standard Bible:

And he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has returned from the land of Moab, has to sell the plot of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech.

Young's Literal Translation:

And he saith to the redeemer, 'A portion of the field which is to our brother, to Elimelech, hath Naomi sold, who hath come back from the fields of Moab;

Which tense is most accurate to the original?

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    KJV is present tense : And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, *selleth* a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech's:
    – Nigel J
    Jan 22, 2023 at 11:23
  • Right, that's another one :)
    – user35953
    Jan 22, 2023 at 12:52

2 Answers 2

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Assuming that the MT for Ruth 4:3 is what the OP means by "the original", then the original (Codex Leningrad) is:

וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לַגֹּאֵ֔ל חֶלְקַת֙ הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר לְאָחִ֖ינוּ לֶאֱלִימֶ֑לֶךְ מָכְרָ֣ה נׇעֳמִ֔י הַשָּׁ֖בָה מִשְּׂדֵ֥ה מוֹאָֽב

The word meaning to sell is מָכְרָ֣ה, mochrah. This word is in feminine gender completed form. The closest English translation for this word in isolation is "[she] has sold [the field]". This explains the YLT "hath Naomi sold" and the NKJV "sold the piece of land".

However, when translated in context, the meaning is quite different. First of all, the narrative context is that the field has in fact not yet been sold. The reason that the elders have assembled, is to certify the redeemer who will purchase the field in the immediate future. So in context, the NKJV and YLT both create a contradiction that needs to be explained.

Secondly, in the intent of the Boaz's statement to the redeemer is to serve legal process, to notify the redeemer that Naomi has made a (completed) decision to sell the field. That is, the perfect form of the verb refers to the completed intent to sell, rather than the act of the sale which cannot occur until the redeemer is certified. In her heart Naomi has already sold the field. It's as good as sold as far as she is concerned.

So, the translation that is closest to the meaning of the verse in the MT in modern English is the NIV. The NASB interpolates "has to sell", for which there is no basis in the Hebrew words of the verse.

This verse provides a sterling example of how "literal" translations that translate words out of context from one language to another can result in nonsense or create apparent textual problems when there are none.

The use of perfect forms such as "said", "wrote", and here "sold" to indicate completed intent to execute an action rather than the completion of the action itself is not unusual in the MT.

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  • I really like this answer. I started a subreddit at reddit.com/r/BibleVerseCommentary. Can I copy your answer here and share it with the members of my subreddit? Of course, I will attribute the post to your name and hermeneutics.stackexchange.com :)
    – user35953
    Jan 23, 2023 at 13:51
  • @TonyChan Yes, you can share on subreddit. Jan 23, 2023 at 13:54
  • Great! Thanks :)
    – user35953
    Jan 23, 2023 at 13:55
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In the Greek version, the land in question was given to Naomi by her man Elimelech. Not sold to her, nor sold by her. Apostolic Bible Polyglot: Ruth 4

It is even prohibited to give land as security (sell?) in Leviticus 25:23 "because all land is mine and you are foreigners and sojourners before me" Apostolic Bible Polyglot: Leviticus 25

Now that Elimelech and his boys (born by Naomi) have died and there was no other heir, a relative (a man) had to inherit the field by the Moses law.

A relative, Boaz, obviously was interested in getting Naomi's daughter-in-law, Ruth, as a wife. Though he wasn't the first in line to replace Elimelech by the law. So Boaz has arranged for the first in line to step back and pass the right to Naomi's field and Ruth to him, Boaz. And Boaz and Ruth lived happily ever after and David was one of their descendants.

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  • Naomi inherited the field by the death of Elimelech. The next stage is the one in question - the transfer of the field to the near kinsman in order that it may pass to the next generation.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 22, 2023 at 11:26
  • Yes, but there is no word about selling in the text.
    – grammaplow
    Jan 22, 2023 at 11:27
  • I have added this note on prohibition of selling: It is even prohibited to give land as security (sell?) in Leviticus 25:23 "because all land is mine and you are foreigners and sojourners before me" biblehub.com/interlinear/apostolic/leviticus/25.htm
    – grammaplow
    Jan 22, 2023 at 12:20
  • I don't see any relevance. The question (and the book of Ruth) are all about inheritance. And it is about redemption and the kinsman-redeemer (gaal). The 'sale' is an enforced sale to guarantee that land is not lost to the future generations of the family.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 22, 2023 at 12:45
  • Can you please point to the word "sale" or whatever can/should be interpreted as such in the Septuagint so we can have a fact based discussion?
    – grammaplow
    Jan 22, 2023 at 13:15

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