[b-hebrew] verb forms--perfect as future

Harold Holmyard hholmyard3 at earthlink.net
Fri Apr 13 18:07:14 EDT 2007

Dear Peter and Michael,
>> Michael: I'm not sure that it was possible for Naomi to have sold the property in the 
>> manner which you are describing for two reasons. First, as I understand the 
>> inheritance rights given in Numbers 27:8-11, Naomi did not have any personal 
>> claim to the property.
> Peter: This objection applies equally to the immediate future as to the past, 
> so it can't help us decide one way or the other. The point of the law in 
> Numbers 27:8-11 was to prevent permanent transfer of land outside the 
> clan, but temporary sale was possible until the Year of Jubilee, compare 
> Leviticus 25:23-25. Although the Torah may not explicitly say that 
> widows could temporarily sell their husband's property in this way, this 
> is surely implied by "If anyone among you becomes poor" in verse 25. It 
> actually makes more sense to say that Naomi had sold the property 
> earlier than to make her the seller at this time, for if the land was 
> simply Elimelech's land left unsold since his death and Naomi had no 
> inheritance rights, then the nearest relative would not have had to buy 
> it as it would have been his already by inheritance.

HH: Michael's logic was good, but Peter has a point too about Naomi's 
capacity to sell the land. Naomi was evidently the caretaker of the 
property, perhaps because she was Jewish and Ruth was a Moabite. The 
town knew Naomi and her family, but they did not know Ruth. When 
Elimelech died, his property transferred to his son. But in this case 
his sons were not even living in Israel at the death of the father. Then 
his sons died without issue, so the land was technically still in the 
name of Elimelech as far as the townspeople knew. The name of the 
deceased son of Elimelech would be lost if Ruth did not remarry, as 
Peter said. So there was a need for a Levirate marriage that would 
preserve the name of the father through a child, and that child would 
receive the inheritance of the deceased father, which was this piece of 
>> Second, Ruth 4:9 tells us that Boaz purchased the property directly from 
>> Naomi.
> Indeed! And in 4:5. But that proves that she had inherited it! 

HH: I don't think it has to mean that she had inherited it, exactly. It 
could mean that she was the caretaker of the property and the agent of 
the sale. When Elimelech left Israel, the land was in his name, so it 
was natural that his wife should be a point person at its sale. A 
somewhat relevant example is mentioned in the article on "Heir," in 
ISBE. The now-deceased G. F. Hasel wrote:

If a widow had grown-up children, they would provide for her as the 
heirs, but if they were still young, she may have managed the estate 
left to them as a trustee. This seems to be the situation in 2 Kg 8:3-6, 
where the Shunammite woman receives the estate of her late husband that 
had become the property of the king while she was in a foreign land.

HH: The text does not mention the fact that the Shunammite woman had a 
son, but we know that. In Naomi's case, she could have managed the 
estate, which was still in the name of her husband, even though the 
situation was more complicated.
> But what 
> does MIYYAD mean in this verse? Could it mean "on behalf of"? BDB 
> glosses QNH MIYYAD here as "acquire at the hand of", which whatever it 
> might mean seems to be different from "buy from". Also there is the 
> puzzle in 4:5 that MIYYAD NA`OMI is followed by UME'ET RUT, which can 
> hardly mean "and from Ruth". Something odd is going on here which can 
> probably be understood only in terms of now obscure rules of inheritance 
> and redemption of property. Also there is an anomalous non-past QATAL 
> QANITA in 4:5, but there is some textual doubt here.

HH: MIYYAD means that the redeemer would buy the land from the hand of 
Naomi. But since the right to the land had actually passed to Naomi's 
son while they were in exile, in another sense it was in the management 
of her son's wife. So the land, which the town knew as Elimelech's, 
would be bought from Naomi, but in view of what had happened in Moab, 
also from Ruth:

NIV Ruth 4:5  Then Boaz said,  "On the day you buy the land from Naomi 
and from Ruth the Moabitess, you acquire the dead man's widow, in order 
to maintain the name of the dead with his property."

HH: The grammar of UME'ET RUT need not be difficult. It is literally, of 
course, "and from with Ruth." The land could have been "with Ruth" in 
this caretaker sense of temporary trusteeship. The buyer would take it 
away from its being with Ruth.

Harold Holmyard

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