Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” Ruth 4:5
By Israelite law, when land was put up for sale, it was preferable for it to be purchased by a near relative to keep it in the family (Leviticus 25:25-30; Jeremiah 32:6-12). Another man was a nearer relative than Boaz and therefore had first position to purchase the land. So Boaz pressed the man to make a decision that very moment, revealing that if the man were unwilling or unable, he would be glad to do so, as he was also a relative and therefore able to redeem, if permitted.
Tragically, in considering the opportunity to increase his land holdings the man chose to redeem the land! This meant that he would have obtained Ruth and that she and Boaz couldn’t marry and live together happily ever after as husband and wife.
But rather than accepting an answer he didn’t want or breaking the law to get his way, Boaz chose to shrewdly negotiate and turn the conversation in his favor with both wisdom and clever bargaining, through which the providential hand of God could work for good. Yes, God can work through shrewd business dealings, which is one reason why Jesus told us to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Boaz then wisely revealed the proverbial strings attached to the deal. Not only would the other man need to pay a hefty sum to purchase the land, but he would also need to assume responsibility for the two widows, marry Ruth, and impregnate her with a son to perpetuate the family line of Elimelech. Furthermore, the man likely didn’t personally know Ruth, and Boaz reminded him that she was a Moabite, which would make her a very poor candidate for a wife unless he knew of her godly character like Boaz did. In this negotiation, Boaz in no way lied but pressed the man for a swift decision, while painting a difficult picture of expense. Furthermore, the man may have already had a wife and children, which meant that in exchange for a good business deal he would assume a great deal of additional expense for his finances and disruption for his family, which made it in fact a very bad deal. To make matters even worse, if the man did have a son with Ruth, that son would inherit the estate, meaning all of his work and investment would have been for naught. Yes, Boaz was quite a negotiator!
- What can you learn* from how Boaz negotiated the deal? *Some observations:
- In the previous passage, he didn’t make any promises to Ruth, but just said he would try. “Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”
- He did it the proper way.
- He let God open or close the door.
- He was clear about expectations and implications.
- But he also tried the best he could and wasted no time.