Ruth 4:7: The Plucking Off of the Shoe

Verse 7:[1] (Deut. 25:7, 9) Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel.


[Now, this was an ancient custom in Israel (thus Pagnine, similarly Munster, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius), וְזֹאת֩ לְפָנִ֙ים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל] Verbatim: And this previously in Israel (Montanus, Vatablus).


[That if ever…one was yielding, etc., עַל־הַגְּאוּלָּ֤ה וְעַל־הַתְּמוּרָה֙] In commutation of propinquity (Munster); in redeeming (claimings [Junius and Tremellius]) and commutation, or exchange (Pagnine, Montanus, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius), that is, in every public sort of alienation; a Synecdoche: for exchange is a most ancient sort of alienation, as Aristotle testifies in Nicomachean Ethics 5:5 (Junius, Piscator, similarly Drusius).


[So that the concession might be confirmed, לְקַיֵּ֣ם כָּל־דָּבָ֔ר] To confirm whatever business (Pagnine, Montanus), or, thing (Junius and Tremellius). Hebrew: word: a Metonymy of adjunct (Piscator).



[A man was loosing his shoe, and giving it to his neighbor (similarly all interpreters] Question: Who did this? the one that was yielding his right? Or the one that was redeeming the right of the other? There is dissension concerning this magger among the Rabbis (Drusius). Response 1: The one to whom the yielding was made [or, who was redeeming the right] (certain interpreters in Menochius). Boaz pulled off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor, as if for his inheritance. So that there might be an exchange, it is necessary that the one that receives something, the same should give something. Now, a shoe was given for the sake of appearance, or for form, if I might speak in this way (Drusius’ Of Hebraic Inquiries[2] 1:46). Response 2: The one that was yielding his right was loosing his shoe (Menochius, Serarius, similarly Piscator): For in verse 8 it is said, and he loosed his shoe; and immediately in the ninth verse, and Boaz said to the elders, as if he were someone other than the one that had drawn off his shoe. Otherwise the name Boaz would have been set down here in vain (Serarius). But there is no absurdity, if we should say that in these words there is a pleonasm of the name Boaz, which sort is found in Ruth 2:20, where it is read, and Naomi said, without any addition to meaning, since the same precedes a little before in the same verse. Nevertheless, it appears without absurdity to be referred to the redeemer. But there was a time when I thought that these things were rather to be referred to Boaz. Thus Drusius upon this place. [So little is it evident to him.] Moreover, the removal of the shoe was twofold: 1. Religious, Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:15: 2. Political. The latter was likewise twofold: 1. for a punishment, Deuteronomy 25:9, 10: 2. for the solemnization and confirmation of a contract; as among us the surrendering of keys, the placing of feet, and similar things (Serarius, Tirinus). And of this latter sort (but not of the former) was the removal of the shoe of the Boaz’s relative, for confirmation of these their agreements (Tirinus). For, 1. this was done, not by prescription of the Law, as that in Deuteronomy 25, but by custom. 2. In that place, the woman draws off the show; here the man does it for himself: but it is not indicated that Ruth was present. 3. This removal of the shoe had a place, not only in this case, but in every contract, etc., as it follows in the Hebrew. But note that, just as among Lawyers possession is called the placing of the feet, as it were, because the possession of many things is undertaken by the placing and treading of the feet; so this extending of the shoe appears to have been symbolic, whereby ownership was yielded to another, and the right of undertaking possession was granted (Bonfrerius). He was signifying by the passing of the shoe the yielding of his right and the alienation of the property. That is to say, Behold, I deliver to thee my shoe, with which hitherto I have trodden (or certainly have the right of treading) that field, which I now yield to thee, so that thou mightest walk upon it (Piscator). It makes for this, that subjection is everywhere signified by treading and extending of the shoe, Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalm 91:13, thou shalt tread upon the lion; Psalm 108:13 (Bonfrerius). Nevertheless, it is more satisfying if you take it of a commutation of persons in this place: which commutation is commonly called a substitution, or succession (Junius, Malvenda).


For to confirm all things, that is, in all alienation of lands. So that it is no wonder if this ceremony differ a little from that Deuteronomy 25:9, because that concerned only one case, but this is more general. Besides, he pleads not the command of God, but only ancient custom, for this practice. A man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: he who relinquished his right to another, plucked off his own shoe, and gave it to him. This was symbolical, and a significant and convenient ceremony; as if he said, Take this shoe wherewith I used to go and tread upon my land, and in that shoe do thou enter upon it, and take possession of it.


[This was a testimony of yielding in Israel, וְזֹ֥את הַתְּעוּדָ֖ה] And this was a testimony (firm testimony [Munster]) in Israel (Montanus, Septuagint). I understand, of yielding (Tigurinus). This was a testimony of this matter (Junius and Tremellius). That is to say, This was the approved formula, or established ceremony, of legal agreement (Malvenda).


This was a testimony in Israel; this was admitted for sufficient evidence in all such cases.

[1] Hebrew: וְזֹאת֩ לְפָנִ֙ים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל עַל־הַגְּאוּלָּ֤ה וְעַל־הַתְּמוּרָה֙ לְקַיֵּ֣ם כָּל־דָּבָ֔ר שָׁלַ֥ף אִ֛ישׁ נַעֲל֖וֹ וְנָתַ֣ן לְרֵעֵ֑הוּ וְזֹ֥את הַתְּעוּדָ֖ה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃


[2] Quæstionum Ebraicarum.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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