Ruth 4.3

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JonathanHunt

Puritan Board Senior
Ruth 4.3 records the conversation of Boaz with the 'closer relative', and he advises that Naomi has either sold, or is selling, the land belonging to her husband.

That is my question - most translations keep the sense of something current, apart from NKJV which says 'Naomi...sold the piece'. The AV says 'Naomi selleth' which gives it an open interpretation. ESV says 'Naomi ... is selling'.

Is this an open point? If find it frustrating in trying to understand the transaction in the redemption, and the need for it. Why must the land be sold if it is in the family? Why can it not be given, etc. Anwyay, ignore that, my question is - is the language open to either intepretation so that we cannot be sure whether Naomi had already sold the land, or whether she was currently seeking to sell for the benefit of Ruth?

thanks

J
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Ruth 4.3 records the conversation of Boaz with the 'closer relative', and he advises that Naomi has either sold, or is selling, the land belonging to her husband.

That is my question - most translations keep the sense of something current, apart from NKJV which says 'Naomi...sold the piece'. The AV says 'Naomi selleth' which gives it an open interpretation. ESV says 'Naomi ... is selling'.

Is this an open point? If find it frustrating in trying to understand the transaction in the redemption, and the need for it. Why must the land be sold if it is in the family? Why can it not be given, etc. Anwyay, ignore that, my question is - is the language open to either intepretation so that we cannot be sure whether Naomi had already sold the land, or whether she was currently seeking to sell for the benefit of Ruth?

thanks

J

I'm pretty sure that "selleth" was a present tense verb at the time of the KJV translation. One issue in Hebrew (and Greek) is how much the verb "tenses" actually communicate time and how much they communicate aspect (kind of action). The Hebrew perfect tense, which usually communicates past time, is probably functioning aspectually here. See these notes from the NET Bible. First on the translation:

The perfect form of the verb here describes as a simple fact an action that is underway (cf. NIV, NRSV, CEV, NLT); NAB "is putting up for sale."

Now on the interpretation:

Naomi…is selling. The nature of the sale is uncertain. Naomi may have been selling the property rights to the land, but this seems unlikely in light of what is known about ancient Israelite property laws. It is more likely that Naomi, being a woman, held only the right to use the land until the time of her remarriage or death (F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 202-4). Because she held this right to use of the land, she also had the right to buy it back from the its current owner. (This assumes that Elimelech sold the land prior to going to Moab.) Since she did not possess the means to do so, however, she decided to dispose of her rights in the matter. She was not selling the land per se, but disposing of the right to its redemption and use, probably in exchange for room and board with the purchaser (Bush, 211–15). If this is correct, it might be preferable to translate, "Naomi is disposing of her rights to the portion of land," although such a translation presumes some knowledge of ancient Israelite property laws.
 

Irish Presbyterian

Puritan Board Freshman
I think that contextually it is a closed point because the land cannot have already been sold or Boaz comment to the relative becomes pointless. Ian Duguid seems to give the best sense of it in his commentary:

'Boaz is really saying something like this: "Naomi has a field. She needs to sell it to raise money to live on. If there were a kinsman redeemer, however, he could buy the field and keep it in the family. Of course, the buyer would ultimately get to add property to his own inheritance, provided that there are no children involved. You are first in line...are you interested?"'
 

bug

Puritan Board Freshman
Jonathan,

My hebrew is isn't that good, but this might be helpful;

Much depends on the translation of the verb, which in turn depends on the pointing of the Hebrew text. The Masoretic text is vocalized to give a tense of completed action—Naomi “sold” (NKJV) or “has sold.” However, if the vocalization is changed from the perfect tense to the active participle, which is equally possible, then the translation becomes “is selling” (rsv and niv)There is considerable discussion among commentators as to which is to be preferred. Naomi might already have sold the land because of her poverty, though if this had happened it seems strange that Boaz could purchase it without the buyer being involved at all in the discussions. And why should he twice describe the action he is proposing as buying “from the hand of Naomi” (vv. 5, 9)? Moreover, Boaz would not need to redeem the land, since Naomi would already have been paid the market price. For these reasons, Goslinga and others suggest that “is selling” is a better translation, indicating that with harvest over, the land now has to be sold to keep Naomi and Ruth alive, but that Naomi’s desire was to keep it within the family. Another suggestion, by Gunkel, is that the land was confiscated when Elimelech took his family off to Moab, but that if a kinsman would claim the land back, on her behalf, she might then be able to sell it for revenue. Whichever “solution” is preferred, the major significance is that the kinsman is invited to redeem because Naomi is at the end of her own resources. For Boaz, this was only the first stage of his plan.
Jackman, David ; Ogilvie, Lloyd J.: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 7 : Judges, Ruth. Nashville, Tennessee : Thomas Nelson Inc, 1991 (The Preacher's Commentary Series 7), S. 343

Context, I think, makes it clear that the land has not actually been sold yet, or else what is boaz redeeming, and where is the new owner of the land in this transaction.
 
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