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er which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel, And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother. Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house. And his name shall be called in Israel, the house of him that hath his shoe loosed," Deut. xxv. 5...10. The whole spirit of the Mosaic dispensation considers the great Jehovah as the temporal sovereign of Israel, the land as his, the supremacy his. Every Israelite received his inheritance under the express stipulation that it should not be alienated from him and from his family forever. That if, pressed by necessity, he should sell the whole or any part of it, he himself or his nearest of kindred might at any future period redeem it; that at the worst, in the year of jubilee, it should revert unpurchased to the ancient proprietor or his representative; and thereby succession and property be preserved distinct till the purposes of Heaven should be accomplished.
To give the law farther and more certain effect, it was enacted, that if the elder branch of the family and the heir of the inheritance should die childless, his next elder brother or nearest male relation should marry the widow; and that the issue of such marriage should be deemed to belong to the deceased, should assume his name, and succeed to his inheritance. Here then was the family of Elimelech ready to be extinguished: he and his two sons were all dead without posterity. Naomi was past child-bearing, the lands were ready to pass into the hands of strangers, for want of an heir,
the hope of succession existing alone in the person of Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon. The measure therefore recommended by Naomi, and adopted by Ruth, was neither less nor more than a legal call on Boaz, as the supposed nearest kinsman of that branch of the family, to fulfil the duty of that relation : Naomi not knowing, or having forgotten that there was a kinsman still nearer than bim Boaz, apprized of this, and respecting the laws of God and his country, preferably to his own passions and predilection refers the whole cause to a fair, open, judicial decision.
The conduct of Boaz throughout is examplary and worthy of commendation: it bespeaks at once a wise and a good man. We have expatiated at considerable length on his character as a man of piety, regularity and humanity; we have bestowed on him the just tri bute of admiration and respect, as a man of sensibility, as susceptible of pity for the miserable, of kindness to the stranger, of love for a deserving object. His character acquires much additional respectability from this last consideration, connected with the delicacy of his situation as a man and a citizen. His partiality to Ruth was clear and decided. In the confidence of virtue she had put herself entirely in his power; and what use did he make of this advantage? Never was father more tender of the reputation and chastity of his daughter. Every selfish consideration is sunk in sense of propriety, in respect to the divine authority, in solicitude about the honor and interest of the woman whom he loved. His partiality to Ruth was decided, but the right of redemption was in another, and he nobly disdains to avail himself of wealth, of power, of prior possession, to the prejudice of that right. What is the victory of the warlike hero compared to this triumph of a man over iimself! What are trophies stained with blood, opposed to the silent applause of a good conscience, and the approbation of Almighty God! I see hum bringing the cause to the
determination of the judges, with the firmness of an honest man, with the anxiety of one in love, and with the resignation of one who feared the Lord, and committed all to the conduct of infinite wisdom. Charac ters shine by contrast. The nearer kinsman's versatility, disingenuousness, and insensibility to shame, serve as a foil to the firmness, candor, and delicacy of Boaz. When the former hears of a good bargain, when he considers the advantage of his birth as the means of stepping into a vacant inheritance upon easy terms, he is all acquiescence and eagerness; but the moment he hears of the condition under which he is to purchase, of the assumption of the widow, of the relief of the miserable, of transmitting the name of Elimelech, not his own, to posterity, together with his lands, he instantly cools, submits to the infamy of having" his shoe pulled off," of being publicly spit upon, of having his house branded with a note of disgrace, and leaves the field open to a much better man himself.
It is much easier to conceive than to describe the solicitude of the parties, while the cause was yet in dependence. What a blow to the heart of Boaz, when he, on whom the law bestowed the preference, declared his assent to the proposal; what disappointment to the hopes of Naomi, who had evidently set her mind on this match; what a damp thrown on the wishes and expectations of Ruth, on whose susceptible heart the goodness and generosity of Boaz must have made a deep impression! What relief to all, to hear him solemaly retract his assent, resign his right, and submit to the penalty. Those are the genuine delights of human life at which we arrive through danger and difficulty, which are the immediate gift of Heaven, which we have not employed improper arts to acquire, and which we can therefore enjoy without shame or remorse. The felicity which we are in too great haste to grasp, which we pursue independent of God and religion, which by crooked paths we arrive at, proves at
best a cloud in the embrace, often a serpent full of deadly poison in the bosom. The very delays which Providence interposes, the sacrifices which a sense of duty offers up, the mortifications to which conscience subinits, enhance the value, and heighten the relish of our lawful comforts.
Let us apply this observation to the three leading personages in this interesting tale. Naomi sits down, and thus meditates with herself." With what fair prospects did I begin the world; the wife of a prince, a mother in Israel, among the first in rank, in wealth, in expectation. But how early were my prospects clouded! Driven by famine from the land of promise, reduced to seek shelter and subsistence among strangers, but supported and refreshed by the company and tenderness of the husband of my tender years, and the presence and improvement of my children: finding a new home in the land of Moab, my family respected in a foreign country, reputably allied, comfortably settled. But the cup of prosperity again dashed from my band husband and sons, the desire of my eyes, taken away with a stroke; Canaan aud Moab, rendered equally a place of exile, robbed of that which rendered all places a home, all situations a pleasure; deserted of all but Heaven, and a good young woman; once the partner of my joys, now my sister in affliction: fleeing back for the relief of my anguish to my native soil and city, and mortified at finding myself there more a stranger than among aliens; providentially raised into notice and consequence again, my affectionate daughter nobly allied, the name of Elimelech about to be revived, and his house built up! What a strangely chequered life! Naomi and Mara in perpetual succession! But every thing is ordered wisely and well of Him who sees all things at one view; the latter end is better than the beginning; behold good arising out of evil; the designs of the Most High hastening to their accom
plishment, all is of the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.'
The reflections of the Moabitess may be supposed to run in this channel. "What a blessing for me that I ever became united to an Israelitish family, whatever pangs it may other ways have cost me! But for this I should have been, like my fathers, a worshipper of stocks and stones, the work of men's hands; a stranger to rational piety, to inward peace! Happy loss, which procured for me this unspeakably great gain : propitious poverty, which sent, which drove me out, in quest of treasures inestimabie; blessed exile, which conducted me to a habitation under the wings of the Almighty! What real gain is true godliness! It has more than the promise, it has the enjoyment of the life that now is. Mysterious Providence that directed my doubtful, trembling steps to glean in that field, that has in a few short weeks made such a change in my condition, that has raised me from the lowest, meanest, most forlorn of dependants, to the highest state of affluence, ease and respectability; and transplanted me from the vast howling deserts of idolatry and ignorance, to the fair and fertile regions of knowledge, of purity, of hope and joy! To comfort and maintain a mother like Naomi, to find such a friend. and husband as Boaz! It is life from the dead. It is of that God who has taught me to know, and choose him as my God, and who will never fail nor forsake them. who put their trust in him.”
Boaz too finds his situation greatly improved, rejoices and gives God thanks. "My wealth was great, my garners full, my man servants and maidens numerous, dutiful and affectionate, but I had no one to share my prosperity with me, I was solitary in the midst of a muititude: like Adam in Paradise, incapable of enjoyment, because destitute of a companion, an helpmeet for me; but God hath provided for me a virtuous woman, whose price is above rubies. My house has