We saw in Part 1 that guiding principle that we have seen in this series about “Widows and Orphans” is that “blood is thicker than water;” or, to say it another way, family takes care of family! Below are two example of how widows are cared for in Yehovah’s kingdom. I apologize up front for the length, I did not want to leave any of this out.
Widows Return To Family
Tamar Was A Widow Twice Over
It was Judah who, after seeing the problems with taking a wife (a woman) from the Canaanites, took a righteous man’s daughter for his eldest son Er.
Jasher 45:23 And in those days Judah went to the house of Shem and took Tamar the daughter of Elam, the son of Shem, for a woman for his first-born Er.
When Er died it was Onan, his brother who was to take her as his woman and raise up a name to his brother. But Onan, being wicked just like his brother, was also killed by Yehovah also.
Levirate marriage (Deu 25:5-10)
“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his woman, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. But if the man does not want to take his brother’s woman, then let his brother’s woman go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’ then his brother’s woman shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’ (Deu 25:5-10)
The purpose of this statute is to assure that inherited property remains in the family and to provide for both the welfare and security of the widow.
Now, after Er and Onan died, Tamar was a widow twice over. By law she was to marry Shelah, but he was supposedly too young. The truth seems to be that Judah blamed Tamar for the death of his wicked sons and he did not want to take a chance of losing his third son.
Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house till my son Shelah is grown.” For he said, “Lest he also die like his brothers.” And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house. (Gen 38:11)
But here is the dilemma for Tamar; if a widow is not to be married to a stranger outside the family, and Judah is not going to give her Shelah, where is Tamar to get “the seed of Judah which she has coming to her? The rest of the story is about Tamar taking matters into her own hands and thus obtaining the seed and the covering that she was rightfully owed. As Judah said,
“She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And he never knew her again. (Gen 38:26)
Naomi And Ruth Were Widows
Naomi was the woman of Elimelech and gave him two sons. Because of a famine in Israel Elimelech took his family to Moab and his sons each took Moabite women for themselves.
The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his woman was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion–They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there. (Rth 1:2)
Elimelech dies and then his sons also die almost ten years later.
Naomi, understanding that family takes care of family, did the correct thing in sending her two daughters-in-law back to their parents.
And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each to your own mother’s house. Yehovah deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. (Rth 1:8)
Naomi wants the best for the women and since she is not going to have any more sons she sends the women back to their natural families.
This goes back to the levirate law, mentioned above.
And they said to her, “Surely we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? (Rth 1:10-11)
But both Naomi and Ruth still have interest in the land so Ruth return with Naomi. and in her earnestness makes a vow.
But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your Elohim, my Elohim. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. Yehovah do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Rth 1:16-17)
Naomi and Ruth set their sights on one of the rich relatives of her husband Elimelech to redeem their land and cover them.
There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” (Rth 2:1-2)
When Boaz saw Ruth his first question was, “Who does this woman belong to?”
Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” (Rth 2:5)
There are to be no uncovered women running around Israel. Boaz understands this. And he now knows that she is a relation. With that understanding, a righteous man also knows that there is a duty to care for widows.
Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. (Rth 2:8)
Ruth, treating Boaz as her master, is surprised by his kindness since she is foreign (not from Israel).
So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Rth 2:10)
Then she said, “Let me find favor in your sight, my master; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.” (Rth 2:13)
But Boaz does not treat this “near of Kin” woman as a foreign woman or as a maidservant because of what he has heard concerning her.
And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. Yehovah repay your work, and a full reward be given you by Yehovah Elohim of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” (Rth 2:11-12)
Ruth will find a covering under the wings of the Elohim of Israel by coming under the authority of one of His men. Naomi was greatly encouraged when she heard about what Boaz said and gave to Ruth.
Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of Yehovah, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.” (Rth 2:20)
There are two concerns at play in this story and both are important to Yehovah; the land and the seed! Boaz is the answer to both concerns. Naomi and Ruth, as a widow of a man of Israel, still have a right to Elimelech’s property but one of them must marry a man of the same tribe before the year of the Jubilee comes or lose it when all land goes back to its rightful owners; in this case the nearest male relative. Women do not own land, men do. Remember also that this land was sold when Elimelech left for Moab with his family. The property must be redeemed by a relative or be lost to Naomi and Ruth.
‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his redeeming relative comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold. Or if the man has no one to redeem it, but he himself becomes able to redeem it, then let him count the years since its sale, and restore the remainder to the man to whom he sold it, that he may return to his possession. But if he is not able to have it restored to himself, then what was sold shall remain in the hand of him who bought it until the Year of Jubilee; and in the Jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his possession. (Lev 25:25-28)
Next Naomi instructs Ruth to wake Boaz up after he has finished his work and finished eating and drinking.
Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.” (Rth 3:3-4)
So she does as Naomi instructed her and when Boaz asks who she is she replies,
“I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.” (Rth 3:9)
But there is a problem, there is a relative closer than he. By the way, Boaz is older than Ruth.
And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman (A Woman of Worth). Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you—good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as Yehovah lives! Lie down until morning.” (Rth 3:11-13)
The duty he is referring to and the vow he has just made is to bring Ruth (who comes as a package deal with Naomi because of Ruth’s vow to her) under his roof. Israel’s seed take care of widows and orphans.
The issue at hand is twofold, the land that needs to be redeemed because it was sold when Elimelech left for Moab with his family and who cares for Naomi and Ruth. Boaz is in line but he is not first in line. The nearest kinsman has first right of refusal and plans to exercise that refusal right.
Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the woman of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.” And the close relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” (Rth 4:5-6)
The nearest of kin then kicked off his shoe as a visual sign that he is giving up his right for the land in perpetuating Elimelech’s name through his inheritance and his duty to the ladies.
Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” So he took off his sandal. (Rth 4:8)
Boaz, as I said, is the answer to both the land and the seed.
And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my woman, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day.” (Rth 4:9-10)
I love what the women say to Naomi at the end of this story.
Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be Yehovah, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. (Rth 4:14-16)
Widows and orphans are not taken care of directly by Israel’s seed as a whole. but rather by a specific son of Israel who is near of kin. I think it is also interesting that in both of these case the widows had to be proactive. The near of kin did not come looking for them; instead the widow came looking for the near of kin.
Family must take care of family!
Go to part 4 – Divorcées and Fatherless