Monday, September 29, 2008
Ruth: Rescuing a Line
Last week, we reviewed Perez’ story. If you remember, Perez was the son of Judah and his daughter-in-law, Tamar. The connection to Ruth is simple: Boaz was in the line of Perez.
And isn’t it interesting that Perez’ story includes the same kind of kinsman-redeemer emphasis that we see in Ruth? Perez is a key element in our narrative of Ruth.
Let’s look at the redemption of a line.
Before we assume I mean Tamar was the one who needed the redemption, I want to point out a few things. First, sexual mores then were a little different than today. We don’t have any provisions today for a kinsman-redeemer and probably find the idea of a man sleeping with his brother’s widow just to produce a child for the dead brother to be rather repulsive. The Israelites did not. There was honor in that redemptive act.
Second, Judah himself declared that Tamar was more righteous than he was. His first assumption was that she had prostituted herself. When learning that she had only sought what was her legal right, he recognized his own shortcoming. It was he who had failed, not Tamar. He had not fulfilled his duty to her and was thus cheating her. Remember that a woman in those days was completed by child-bearing. When Judah refused to allow her to bear children, he became a swindler.
This is an important link to our story in Ruth because Perez is mentioned twice at the end of the story. First, the women blessing Boaz invoke Perez’ heritage. And then Perez was listed first in the genealogy of Obed. That was an intentional clue: Perez’ story was important in our understanding of Ruth.
Boaz re-cast Perez’ reputation. This son of Judah, born out of his father’s refusal to redeem, became the first name of the genealogy of King David.
The parallels between Tamar and Ruth are amazing. Both were childless widows who took initiative to bring about fullness in childbearing. They did not wait forever but took action and were joined together as only four women listed in Jesus’ lineage.
Ruth and Boaz both performed redemption for their family line. Each fulfilled his duty as a family member and restored to the descendants what had been lost. Their honor and sense of responsibility recovered a lost heritage.