Tag Archives: Ruth

The Redeemer’s Footprint

There are a few cryptic statements about feet in the Old Testament, which, taken together, have something profound to say about the work of Jesus as Redeemer. The first is one of Job’s prophetic glimmers of hope that shone out of his trial:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
Job 19:25, ESV

There is no mistaking that he is referring to God as his Kinsman-redeemer and Deliverer. Since Job was likely contemporary with Abraham, the Torah’s prescriptions for kinsman-redeemers in Leviticus 25 probably did not yet exist—not to mention, Job isn’t even Jewish (Job 1:1). We could say that Job meant ‘redeemer’ in the broad sense (deliverer, liberator) in which it doesn’t involve land or money (see Isaiah 52:3, for example). However, Job’s parallel statement, (that his Redeemer will stand upon the earth) connects to the Semitic tradition of land redemption, because the feet appear to represent the right of the redeemer to his land.

Identified by Footprint

In December 2013, National Geographic published the first chronicle in a series on Paul Salopek, who is on a seven-year journey from Ethiopia to Tierra del Fuego on foot. His purpose is to follow the supposed track of human migration, from Yemen to Kamchatka, then from Alaska to Chile. (This will require two boats—one across the Gulf of Aden and one across the Bering Strait—due to past tectonic shifts.) If he succeeds in his journey, he will have walked 21,000 miles.

Paul writes about the footwear they wear in Ethiopia: millions of men, women, and children wear identical rubber sandals, cheaply produced, and usually lime green in the Afar region he is traveling.

Despite the universality of the sandal, Paul’s Ethiopian assistant stoops down in the dust and examines the various tracks zig-zagging the desert. He then affirms confidently—and correctly—that their friend had passed through and would be waiting for them later. This kind of desert tracking, which can differentiate between the gaits of people who wear identical shoes, is lost to Westerners.

The Feet of Boaz

There may actually be a distant cultural link between the Cushitic Afar tribe and the Jews of Ruth’s day: If modern Afar can identify their friend’s feet in the dust, then this may explain why sandals were exchanged during a transaction of land in the Book of Ruth.

Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel.
Ruth 4:7, ESV

In his Handbook on Bible Manners on Customs, James Freeman further explains this strange custom:

“It probably originated from the fact the right to tread the soil belonged to only to the owner of it, and hence the transfer of the sandal was a very appropriate representation of the transfer of property.”

There was no harm in trading sandals if they were generic, as they are in the Afar Triangle. The shoe of the former owner, combined with the gait of the buyer, creates a new footprint that would be recognized as the new land-owner. So giving a shoe to Boaz, the redeemer, meant that he could not be mistaken for an intruder: he had the house-master’s shoeprint.

John the Baptist, who was technically Jesus’ cousin, said that he was not worthy to loose Jesus’ sandal. In the vein of the familial redeemer, John could have meant that he would never be worthy to inherit any of Jesus’ family or land rights.

Stand upon the Dust

Job’s statement about his heavenly Redeemer, literally translated, says “at the last, he will stand upon the dust.” Jesus’ footprint will claim the earth: “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives” (Zech. 14:4, ESV). Not only that, but in the Jewish understanding of Redeemer, Jesus will stand on the dust as native, lord, and rightful owner—not a trespasser. He will have fully reclaimed his right to the earth.

May Jesus have the same reception when he enters our hearts, lives, and homes. May he set his footprint there as both Friend and Master.

Come then, and added to thy many crowns
Receive yet one, the crown of all the earth,
Thou who alone art worthy! it was thine
By ancient covenant ere Nature’s birth,
And thou hast made it thine by purchase since,
And overpaid its value with thy blood.
Thy saints proclaim thee king; and in their hearts
Thy title is engraven with a pen
Dipped in the fountain of eternal love… .

Come then, and added to thy many crown
Receive yet one, as radiant as the rest,
Due to thy last and most effectual work,
Thy word fulfilled, the conquest of a world.

William Cowper

Ruth: A Story of Redemption

is a story about
in which God is

Redemption: Out of Idolatry, Poverty and Loss
– Naomi, Ruth and Orpah have a bleak backstory, beginning with famine, poverty and the death of their husbands. Out of this begins the Bible’s premier story of redemption.
– Ruth is from Moab, previously an enemy of Israel (Judges 3) and known for idolatry (Dt. 23:3-6).

Ruth’s New Culture
– Ruth’s commitment to the Lord was against the grain of culture; committing to live as a Jew meant committing herself to their God (1:16).
– The story of Ruth is rich in Jewish cultural cues and traditions, but they are mostly between Naomi and Boaz, since Ruth was the new girl in town.

The Compassion of Boaz
– Boaz has compassion on Ruth from the start, going beyond the Jewish law of gleaning (Lev. 23:22) by also offering Ruth water, food, and protection.
– Naomi blames her loss on God (1:20-21), but later sees the hand of God in bringing Boaz (2:20) and through him redemption (4:14-17). Naomi introduces the Jewish concept of redemption when it says that Boaz is one of their “redeemers” (ESV) or “family redeemers” (NLT).

Redemption Laws
– The necessary background in the Jewish law is found in Dt. 25:5-10 and Lev. 25:25. Redemption involves in this case: 1) The land; 2) marriage. (In other cases the kinsman-redeemer (or goel) also avenged murder.)
– Redemption is the central action of the story, as well as a metaphor for what God has done through Jesus.
– While redeeming land was a right which could be relinquished (by their closer kinsman), marriage would become obligatory because of Ruth’s childless state. Whoever redeemed them would also have to marry Ruth.

The Turning Point: Redemption
– “The basis of human life is not Rationalism, but Redemption.”1 The point of Ruth’s story is not that every tragedy is  somehow logical, but that God can turn around the most desperate situation.
– F. W. Boreham points out, “Most people are prepared for the worst; very few are prepared for the best.”2 For Naomi and Ruth, the best that could happen was redemption, and it did happen.

Soliciting Redemption
– In ch. 3, Ruth follows Naomi’s advice by wisely trying to ensure their redemption and her marriage.
Moving the hems of his garment solicited Boaz to marry her and take his right as kinsman-redeemer, as explained above. (In Hebrew, hems and wings are similar words, so Ruth is using Boaz’s words in 2:12. See 3:9, ESV.)

Sandals: The Right to Walk
– In Ethiopia, some tribes can recognize their friends’ sandal prints in the desert. So it makes sense that by giving his shoe, the nearer kinsman relinquishes to Boaz his right to walk on the property.
– When Job refers to God as his Redeemer, he emphasizes that “at the last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25, also Zech. 14:4). This shows Jesus’ right to the earth, and his role as Redeemer.

Our Redeemer
– To fulfill all the roles of a Redeemer, Jesus had to have: 1) Kinship—implied by his incarnation (becoming flesh); 2) Right to land—in Jesus’ case, the Earth, Rev. 11:15; 3) Marriage—to the Church, Eph. 5:22-33, Rev. 19:6-9; and, 4) Vengeance for innocent blood shed—against Babylon, Rev. 17-19.
Redemption is the central truth of Ruth’s story, and an important New Testament image for Christ’s work.

– In 4:11-12, Rachel, Leah, and Perez are not examples of character but fruitfulness(1 Sam. 1). For Christians, this extends to the New Testament metaphor of spiritual reproduction (Gal. 4:19, 1 Tim. 1:2, etc.)
– Remarkably, Ruth the Moabite becomes an ancestor of both David (4:18-22) and the Messiah (Mt. 1:5); this also grounds the story clearly in the larger history of salvation.


I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah by Ravi Zacharias deals with preparing for the commitment of marriage. Ravi uses his own experience in India and the West to seek a biblical view of marriage that transcends culture.

Many biographies deal with cross-cultural conversions, such as I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh or Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi.

Little Dorrit is a Charles Dickens novel and a modern British miniseries that deals with many of the themes and circumstances of the Book of Ruth.

If you know any good books dealing with redemption, let me know!

1 Oswald Chambers, The Shadow of an Agony, p. 38
2 F. W. Boreham, The Three Half-Moons, p. 213