The name Boaz in the Bible
The name Boaz occurs twice in the Bible:
- Boaz is the name of the left of two pillars in Solomon's temple; the right pillar is named Jachin (1 Kings 7:21), and see our article on the name Hannibal for the context of these pillars.
- The most famous Boaz is the son of Rahab (probably not the Rahab of Jericho; see our article on the name Rahab), and the wealthy beaux of Ruth, eventually the father of Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of King David (Ruth 2:1).
Boaz and Ruth are possibly the most delightful couple in the Bible. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names notes somewhat melancholically, "By obligations of the Levitical law, Boaz became Ruth's second husband. There is great sweetness in the character of Boaz, and also of Ruth."
The law that Jones refers to is commonly known as levirate law (from the Latin word levir, meaning brother-in-law), and is recorded in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. According to this law, Boaz and Ruth's first son was supposed to be named Mahlon, after Ruth's first husband (Deuteronomy 26:6; Ruth 4:10) but the neighbors call him Obed and that name sticks.
Since Boaz is an ancestor of Christ, both Matthew and Luke mention him. In Greek the name Boaz is spelled Βοοζ; Booz (Matthew 1:5, Luke 3:32), and there's no way to determine whether Booz is the more proper pronunciation or Boaz. There are, after all, no sound recordings of those days, and even though we have what seems two distinct ways of spelling this name, we still don't know how either was pronounced and how much the Greek differed from the Hebrew.
Etymology of the name Boaz
The single word בעז does not exist in Hebrew and the name Boaz can only be explained as a compound. Most Bible scholars go with the common Hebrew preposition ב (be), in, at or by; and the Hebrew verb עזז ('azaz), to be strong:
The name Boaz literally means By Strength, and it appears to celebrate man's personal vigor. Personal strength may truly be a gift, but it, like anything else, should not be revered too much and certainly not held responsible for anything that was achieved by God. Whether Solomon named one of his pillars after his great-great-grandfather or that this is coincidence can not be determined, but note that via Zechariah, YHWH tells Zerubbabel, the restorer of the temple after the return from Babylon: "Not by might (בחיל) nor by power (בכח), but by My Spirit (ברוחי)" (Zechariah 4:6).
NOBSE Study Bible Name List simply reads Strength. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names does not ignore the letter beth and reads In Him (i.e. the Lord) Is Strength, but this connection to the Lord is somewhat forged.
BDB Theological Dictionary points towards a possible etymology in an Arabic verb meaning to be quick or swift, and reads Quickness? (their question mark). But, in discussing the name of the temple pillar, BDB also refers to the venerable Thenius who proposed He (God) Establishes In Strength, and Keil, Berthau and Ottli who suggest it to be an exclamation: In Strength!