Monday, September 22, 2008

Ruth: Perez?

Ruth’s marriage to Boaz represented a joining of two lines from Abraham who had divided from each other. In uniting with Boaz, Ruth was the mother of Obed. This marriage of Moab and Israel produced a union of two family lines producing not only King David, the greatest king of Israel, but also Jesus, the Messiah.

We’ve seen how Ruth was redeemed from her Moab roots and how God restored the rift of Moab and Israel.

But let’s not overlook Boaz. He was in the line of Perez. We’re told that in Ruth 4:18. Why Perez? Boaz was in the line of a number of people so why was Perez highlighted? That alone signals that we should check into Perez.

There’s a fascinating story behind Perez. If we go back to Genesis 38, we see a story that carries some eerie foreshadowing. In Genesis, we meet Judah, son of Israel, brother of Joseph. He had two sons near the same age. The first married a young woman named Tamar, a local girl--a foreigner by Israelite thinking.

When this first son, Er, died, Judah gave Tamar his second son, Onan. That was according to the custom of the redeemer-kinsman. Onan’s job was to provide Tamar with a child to carry on Er’s name. Onan refused to sire a child and then he died as well.

Because of the redeemer-kinsman law, Judah was required to provide Tamar with another son. Judah’s third son, Shelah, was apparently only a boy, not old enough to father a child. So Judah asked Tamar to wait until Shelah was older. And she did.

Judah, however, didn’t keep his end of the deal. Tamar learned that Shelah was a grown man but Judah hadn’t sent him to Tamar. By this time, Judah’s wife had died as well. After a time of grieving, Judah returned to his work. Tamar took initiative at this point. Upon hearing that Judah was off to shear sheep, she changed out of her widow clothes and disguised herself, sitting at the side of the road.

She may have only gone there to spy on Judah, to see for herself that he had not kept his end of the deal. Maybe she hoped he would see her and discuss things with her. Maybe she planned to speak to him.

At any rate, he mistook her for a temple prostitute and offered to sleep with her. Tamar may have seen the answer to her dilemma in that request. Judah himself could be the kinsman-redeemer to her. She was no fool. She requested evidence of his identification. And she became pregnant by him. The result of that union was twins: Zerah and Perez.

Boaz was of the line of Perez. We know this story is significant to the story of Ruth.

Next time: redemption of a line

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