Who is exactly married to Boaz? Naomi or Ruth?

I assume you are also confused because of the ancient practice of Levirate marriage, or surrogacy, which occurs in Genesis in the story of Tamar and Judah but which is here taken much further. There’s a figure in Judaism with the name Goel, which some bibles translate as “kinsman redeemer.” It is related to the word “redeem,” not in the Christian sense, but in the sense of avenger or rescuer or even redemption from slavery (you can also redeem someone by paying their debts). It’s’ a very important word. For example, in Job, he wants someone to defend him against God. He says “I know that my Goel lives” but, he believes, any such Goel is afraid to enter a contest with God, so Job has no advocate against God. (Christians often assume this is a reference to Jesus, whom they call a “redeemer” in a very different sense.)

Anyway, a Goel’s job, for one, is to avenge a fallen family member. In Levirate marriage, when the head of a household dies. the nearest kin must marry his wife and father a child for that fallen kinsman. So Boaz, as Goel, should have married Naomi and fathered Elimelech’s child with her.

However, in this story, Naomi is too old to have children, so she selects Ruth (a Moabite and no blood relation) to be a kind of Goel for her, having her child because Naomi cannot. As far as I know, this is a new twist on the idea of Levirate marriage, in which the Goel was always a man. That’s just one of the ways in which this is a remarkable story. Either the author of Ruth didn’t fully understand the ancient idea of levirate marriage, or they were deliberately adapting it so that a woman, too, could play this heroic role.

Interestingly enough, Deuteronomy seems to be against levirate marriage in most circumstances, even though it occurs in Genesis. Early Christianity, which saw man and woman as one flesh, believed that marrying one’s brother’s’ wife was a kind of incest.

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