Original Research

‘I will marry Ruth so that the name of the dead will not be blotted out’: Exploring הסך (hesed) in Ruth 4:1–13

Damian O. Odo, Collins I. Ugwu
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 43, No 1 | a2471 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v43i1.2471 | © 2022 Damian O. Odo, Collins I. Ugwu | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 January 2022 | Published: 12 July 2022

About the author(s)

Damian O. Odo, Department of Religion and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Collins I. Ugwu, Department of Religion and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

The literary construct of Ruth 4:1–13, which borders on the marriage union of Boaz and Ruth, is underscored with the loving-kindness of God. Boaz was not obligated under any legal requirement to marry Ruth. However, following the kinsman-redeemer’s abdication of his right of inheritance, Boaz declared in an unrestrained utterance before the elders of the Israelite society his intention to marry Ruth (the Moabite woman and the wife of the dead Mahlon) in order to perpetuate the name of Mahlon. It was considered a great misfortune in ancient Israel for a man to die without having a son to continue the family name. This decision of Boaz in accepting to take the responsibility of a redeemer for Ruth is arguably a demonstration of kindness, for this gesture surpasses the call of required responsibility. This study adopted a literary approach to read the text of Ruth 4:1–13 against the sociological lens of ethnic exclusion.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The pericope of Ruth 4:1–13 celebrated Boaz’s marriage with Ruth in order to perpetuate the name of the dead amongst his clan in Israelite society. Boaz truly understood the threat of family extinction that weighed upon Naomi and Ruth, and hence, he was stimulated to take the responsibility of a redeemer for Ruth so that Elimelech’s family would not be blotted out amongst his people. Disciplines implicated were Old Testament exegesis and sociology.


Keywords

Ruth 4:1–13; hesed; marriage; closest relative; right of inheritance; abdication

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