When whoever wrote the Old Testament book of Ruth decided to include the odd bit about the sandal in Ruth 4:7, what possible value did he see in this already archaic custom for his readers?
“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).
I was reading this a couple of days ago and took fresh notice of this detail and thought, “Huh! Jesus is like that sandal!” (No, not that He had a soul—although that too is true.) Let me explain.
A man named Boaz wanted to marry Ruth and buy back the land that belonged to her dead husband’s family in order to preserve his family name and heritage. Ancient Israel had laws about the redemption of property that gave the first right to the closest living relative. And Boaz knew that there was one closer relative still living who had to agree to forfeit his right of redemption before Boaz could marry Ruth and be her redeemer. So he went off to wait for his relative at the city gate.
4 Now Boaz had gone up to xthe gate and sat down there. And behold, ythe redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. 2 And he took ten men zof the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. 3 Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. 4 So I thought I would tell you of it and say, a‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you1 will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.” 5 Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth2 the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order bto perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” 6 cThen the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
7 dNow 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. 8 So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. 9 Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged toeChilion and to Mahlon. 10 Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, fto perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” 11 Then all the people who were gat the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses…” (Ruth 4:4-11 http://www.esvbible.org/search/ruth+4/)
If Ruth’s closer relative had not given his sandal to Boaz, sealing his agreement to forego his right of redemption, then Boaz would not have had the legal right to redeem Ruth’s land and family line. Jesus is like that sandal. Because all of Adam’s descendants were in bondage to sin, we needed a Redeemer. I suppose God could have thought of another way to redeem us than the way He did, but the way He did it made it legal. Not only was Jesus Christ the only man who ever lived who was not Himself in bondage to sin (therefore being a viable Redeemer), He was an actual descendant of Adam. That’s one reason why the Son of God had to become also a descendant of Adam—a Son of Man: so that He had the legal right of redemption.
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because wall sinned—13for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. (Rom 5:12-15 http://www.esvbible.org/search/rom+5/).
And in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49,
45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became ajlife-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall2also bear the image of the man of heaven.
By becoming a flesh-and-blood human, Jesus became like that sandal in Ruth 4:7: The proof that God has the legal right to redeem His people.