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Ruth 2

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Ruth Meets Boaz (ch. 2:1 - 23)

 

In verse 1 we see a man named Boaz.  He was a man of great standing, which in context I believe means, he was a man of wealth.   He was also a relative of Elimelech, Naomi's late husband.  The mere mentioning of this fact might tell us that Naomi had the kinsman redeemer in mind when she returned to her homeland.  Here's another hint of things to come when thinking of the spiritual significance to this story.

 

Rahab was the prostitute who aided Joshua and his army to attack Jericho .  Rahab was Boaz's mother as seen in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5.  Salmon, Boaz's father, married Rahab the prostitute.  Rahab was a Gentile woman blessed by God.  She was blessed because of her faith that was demonstrated in her support for Israel.  Faith always needs to be acted upon in order to receive such a blessing.  It took faith in God to do what she did in helping the Israeli's fight her own people.  She is listed in the Hall of Faith seen in Hebrews 11:31 as being a person of faith, and a woman of faith as that.  This is one of a number of examples in the Old Testament where God blesses a Gentile in the process to fulfill His own purposes.  This is because of the Abrahamic Covenant that states, "whoever blesses Abraham will be blessed.  Whoever curses Abraham will be cursed".  We need to understand that "Abraham here refers to more than just Abraham, but Israel, Abraham's descendents.     

 

In verse 2 Ruth asks Naomi if she could go into the fields and pick up the produce which the hired men, the harvesters of barley, dropped as they harvested the crop.  This tells me that Ruth understands the laws of Israel, that is, the Law of Moses, and why not.  I believe Naomi was a godly woman and she would have obeyed Deuteronomy 6:7 that told all Israelis to teach their children the Law.  I'm sure Naomi did this. 

 

The Law of Moses provided for poor people to follow behind the harvesters while they harvested.   Anything the harvesters dropped on the ground would be given to the poor people following behind, and because of poor harvesting techniques compared to us, there was lots of barley dropped on the ground.  The harvesters were also told by the Law that they couldn't harvest in the corners of their fields or along the edges of their fields.  That was to be harvested by the poor.  This was a right of the poor according to the Law of Moses.  It was not an act of kindness by the land owner or the harvester. This is called the Law of Gleaning. (Leviticus 19:9-10, 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:19-21)

 

This law of gleaning is interesting and maybe even important for us today when it comes to helping the poor.  The Law of Moses provided for the poor, but not through a simple hand out.  The poor had to work for what they got.  This might well be something to think about in today's world of socialism

 

It appears that Ruth had no particular field in mind to glean from.  Whatever harvesters would find favour with her, she would glean from.  Some might not find  favour because she was not an Israeli.   

 

Verse 3 tells us that Ruth just happened to pick Boaz's field to glean in.  From the text, as I read it, she didn't have this particular field in mind.  This was no happenstance, so to speak.  Hebrews back then didn't believe in happenstance or luck.  This, as we will see was clearly God's will for Ruth. That being said, the text doesn't say that Ruth had divine guidance in her choice of fields to glean in.  As the Psalm says, the Lord will direct the steps for those who acknowledge Him. (Psalms 37:23)  I think this is what is happening here.  Both Naomi and Ruth were women who acknowledged the presence of Yahweh in their lives, so the Lord directed the steps of Ruth to the field that would benefit her most, and that was Boaz's field.  This principle is important when attempting to understand the will of God for one's life.  There are many ways the Lord shows us His will.  Sometimes it is through direct speaking to us, whether in a vision, or simply being led by the Spirit.  But here, we see another way.  Jesus directs our paths without even us knowing it.  Of course, this only happens when we are walking with the Lord as we should be.  

 

It appears that Boaz was a righteous man.  I say that because when he came from Bethlehem to his field he said, "the Lord bless you".  Now that might not be sufficient proof of godliness.  That could easily be a common expression of the times, but what we learn from Boaz in the book of Ruth, I believe he meant every word of this blessing.  He cared for his workers.

 

Note that Boaz came from Bethlehem to his fields.  They way things worked back then was that people lived in towns and villages.  Their fields were out in the countryside.  It wasn't like our modern day farms where farmers live on their land.  Those in town had some land outside of town and so they had to go out to their fields to look after their crops.  

 

In verse 5 Boaz asked his foreman of the fields who the young woman belong to.  Some Bible teachers suggest that Boaz saw how beautiful Ruth looked and fell in love with her at first sight.  I think that's pure speculation and stretching things. Those who see that here simply want to make this into more of a love story than what it really is.  The text says nothing about Boaz being struck by love at first sight.  Boaz probably knew most, if not all, the people in the area.  He had simply not ever seen Ruth before, although we will see that he had heard of her.   

 

We need to note here who Ruth belonged to.  All women belonged to someone.  That was the nature of all cultures back then.  It wasn't like today.  Women wouldn't like being viewed as belonging to anyone today.  All woman belonged to a man back then, whether a father or a husband.  If you didn't belong to a man, as was the situation with Ruth, it was somewhat disgraceful.  Ruth actually belonged to Naomi, and belonging to a woman back than was nothing like belonging to a man.    

 

In verse 6 the foreman of the harvest said that she was Ruth the Moabite who returned to Bethlehem with Naomi.  This tells me that most everyone probably knew about Naomi's return to the area, and that she brought a young Moabite woman with her. The wording to me seems to suggest this.  As in many places today, people from different places have different accents and often look different.  Ruth probably had a different accent than was normally heard in and around Bethlehem.   

 

Verse 7 portrays Ruth as a very hard worker.  She gathered all day long, only resting for a short time. Being poor didn't mean she was lazy. 

 

Note the term "gather among the sheaves". Sheaves were bundles of barley, wheat, or whatever was being harvested.  The harvesters would tie the crop together in these bundles, but as they tied the bundles some would drop to the ground.  This is what Ruth was gleaning, and, the Law of Moses forbid the harvesters to pick up what they dropped from the sheaves.      

 

In verse 8 Boaz calls Ruth "my daughter".  This doesn't mean that Boaz was her father.  It is simply a kind expression to a young lady that Boaz had never met, but respected because of what he heard concerning her.  We also know that Boaz was much older than Ruth; how much older we don't know.  He had to be old enough to be her father, thus another reason for calling her "my daughter". The irony here is that "my daughter" would soon become "my wife".   

 

I believe the time in which this event takes place is during a time of revival in Israel.  I say that because the famine that I believe was God's judgment is over and God is now blessing Israel.  He'd only bless Israel if they had repented.  Boaz might well have been a righteous man throughout the famine, but now, in this time of revival, he makes sure that he thinks of Ruth in a righteous and respectful way.  He is more of a father figure than one who wants to be a lover.   

 

In verses 8 and 9 Boaz basically raises the status of Ruth being a poor gleaner to Ruth being like one of his own workers.  She was allowed to gather with the workers.  She could drink water when she was thirsty.  She could be with other young girls in the fields, and, the young men were told not to touch her.  This last statement probably tells us something about young men who were probably uncultured as we know uncultured.  I'm sure the temptation was there for men to touch, and maybe do more than just touch, young women who were gleaning, especially when the young woman was a Moabite and not an Israeli.  They would have had no protection. They could have easily been taken advantage of by the harvesters while in the field.

 

Most Bible scholars say by verse 9 we are at the wheat harvest, which is around the time of the Feast of Pentecost, which again, his another hint to the typological significance here.  It is interesting to note that the acceptance of a Gentile woman by Boaz took place around what would become Pentecost.  This is significant if you read Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit was given to the church, first to the Jews and then soon after to the Gentiles. 

 

Boaz says in verse 9, "watch the field where the men are harvesting".  Boaz told Ruth that whatever field the men are harvesting in, go with them.  In my thinking, this tells me that Boaz had more than one field.  One day the harvesters would be in one field, the next day in another field.  Verse 1 told us that Boaz was a man of standing, probably meaning "a man of money", as seen here, a man with many fields. 

 

In verse 10 we see that Ruth was taken back by what Boaz had told her.  She asked why he was acting so kindly to her, especially because she was a Moabite woman.  This would only be a natural question to ask.  Here is a wealthy older Jewish man treating a younger pagan woman kindly.  Ruth's association with Naomi had something to do with this.  Those who want to make this into a love story suggest that love at first sight caused Boaz to be so kind, but again, the love story aspect to this should be minimized, or so I believe.  Besides, love at first sight here is pure speculation.  

 

If Boaz was the righteous man that I've portrayed him to be, and, if he attempted to follow the ways of Yahweh, some might believe that he would not be interested in a Moabite pagan woman in a romantic sense.  Others might argue the fact that Ruth was a Jewish convert so that would make it proper for Boaz to be interested romantically in Ruth, and they may have a point. 

 

In verses 11 and 12 we see the real reason why Boaz was so kind to Ruth.   He  said that he has heard how kind she was to Naomi.  She left her family, her homeland, and taken up residence with Naomi in a land that wasn't her own.  He had heard of her commitment not only to Naomi, but to Israel , and most of all, to Yahweh.  Boaz spoke words of blessing to Ruth.  Once again, we see that Boaz was a godly man in the way he blessed Ruth in the name of Yahweh.  I believe at this point some kind of spark might have been lit in both the heart of Ruth and Boaz, but again, the text does not say this, and it is pure speculation.  I'm not saying it was love at first sight.  I don't think it was. I'm simply saying that there might have been a spark of affection between the two.  But for the most part I believe that Boaz thought of Ruth in terms of a father, not a lover, at least at this stage in the relationship.

 

Notice the word "wings" in verse 12.  Wings in the Old Testament are often symbolic of protection.  Ruth not only left her homeland for the promised land, but she left her pagan gods to find shelter and protection under the wings of Yahweh.  We will see later that she will find shelter and protection also under the wings of Boaz. 

 

In verse 13 Ruth was very appreciative of what Boaz is doing for her.  She called him "lord'.  Notice "lord" with a small "l", not a capital "L".  The word is "Adonai" in Hebrew, not "Yahweh".  Ruth is being very respectful and thankful to Boaz because, as she says, she's not one of the Jews.  She's not even on the same level as one of Boaz's servant girls.  She is a poor pagan widow.  That's pretty much at the bottom of the barrow, so to speak. Such an appreciative spirit is something we all need, but is something that is progressively lacking these  days.  In the world of internet and blogging, we all want to be seen as experts, not as the servants of the Lord we should be seen as. 

 

Boaz has already offered Ruth land to glean from, but here in verses 14 and 15 he invites her to a meal, something that a good Israeli wouldn't and shouldn't do.   One should never eat with a pagan.  Again, since Ruth was a Jewish convert, eating with Boaz probably was not a big deal and would have been permissible.  Boaz feeds her bread and wine.  This should yet be another hint of the typology that this story is.  I'll talk further about this at the end of this study of Ruth.  Ruth is well fed at this meal.  She eats as much as she wants, and has leftovers to take back to Naomi.

 

In verses 15 and 16 we see yet another step in the acceptance of Ruth by Boaz.  She not only could pick of the crop that falls to the ground, but Boaz told his harvesters to purposely drop some of the crop from the sheaves for Ruth to pick up.  This isn't really gleaning.  This went far beyond what the Law of Moses said must be done.  A kind act of graciousness this was.     

 

Notice how Boaz cared for Ruth.  In verse 15 we see Boaz telling his harvester "not to embarrass" Ruth.  I don't believe that Boaz was saying this or doing any of what he was doing because he had romantic ideas.  He simply cared for Ruth as if she was his own daughter.  Remember, Boaz was old enough to be her father.  I'm sure the men in the fields could have easily said very embarrassing things to Ruth.  Men can be crude.

 

In verse 17 Ruth goes to the "threshing floor" in the evening.  This threshing floor was normally high on a hill where the wind could be felt.  It was an easy way to separate the chaff from the barley or wheat.  You'd throw the barley in the air and the wind would blow away the light chaff while the barley would fall to the ground to keep.

 

After being at the threshing, Ruth went home to Naomi.  She offered her some barley as well as the leftovers from her lunch she eat with Boaz and the other harvesters.  Again, there is typological significance here that I will discuss later.

 

In verse 19 Naomi asked where Ruth gleaned that day.  It's clear that she was wondering who was so kind to Ruth because of all she had brought home.  It was also obvious that Ruth did more than simple gleaning, just picking up the leftovers.  She actually harvested barley and brought part of her lunch home with her.  Naomi is now very curious.  Ruth tells Naomi that the man's name was Boaz.

 

In verse 20 we see a change in the way that Naomi is feeling since chapter 1.  In the first chapter she was quite depressed, thinking the Lord had forsaken her, and even punished her.  Now she says, "the Lord has not stopped showing His kindness towards the living and the dead".  Naomi was now beginning to clue in to what could soon happen.  The living in this verse  probably refers to her and Ruth.  The dead probably refers to Elimelech, Naomi's deceased husband and Ruth's deceased husband.  Naomi is beginning to think in terms of kinsman redeemer and redemption now. 

 

Now that Naomi knows the name of the man who blessed Ruth, the light bulb goes off in her head, as I've just said.  Naomi tells Ruth that Boaz is a relative, "one of their kinsman redeemers", meaning there is more than one kinsman redeemer as we will soon see.  I'm not sure if Ruth understood what this meant, but I'm sure Naomi did, and for this reason, her spirits were lifted. 

 

At this point I will set forth in brief what a kinsman redeemer is.  First of all, a kinsman redeemer isn't necessarily the brother of a dead husband who would marry a widow as in what is call the Levirate Marriage Law of the Law of Moses.  A kinsman redeemer is a relative.  He does not have to be a brother of a dead husband or even part of what we would call an immediate family member.  The closest thing I would compare him to, that is, in terms of is responsibility, would be the executer of an estate, a power of attorney over every aspect of an estate, and even then, that is a poor example.  If a woman's husband dies, she could seek out a kinsman redeemer.  He had all the rights of the deceased husband.  The kinsman redeemer would be on the husband's side of the family.  If there was no kinsman redeemer on the husband's side, you could find one of the wife's side of the family. The kinsman redeemer would marry the widow.  He would be her husband so she could have children to carry on the family line.  He could buy back any land lost due to the death of the wife's husband or for any other reason for the loss of property.  He would avenge the murder of the wife's husband if he was murdered.  He'd find him and have him executed.  He would simply do anything and everything to restore the family, and not only the family, but the clan the family was in.  That was the ultimate goal of the kinsman redeemer, that is, to do what was necessary to keep the clan or the tribe in existence. 

 

The kinsman redeemer, as some say, evolved from the Levirate Marriage law.  The kinsman redeemer is not specified in the Law of Moses.  Some poor widows would have fallen through the cracks of the Levirate Law that specified a brother of the dead husband was to marry the widow.  Naomi had no such brother-in-law.  So, for those like her, Levirate Marriage expanded into the kinsman redeemer to help widows like Naomi.

 

The word "redemption" is an important word when it comes to the kinsman redeemer.  Both the widow and the land were redeemed.  See Leviticus 25.  More than a love story, the book of Ruth is all about "redemption".   

 

Now, I'm sure you can imagine what was going through Naomi's mind when she heard the name Boaz.  All that she lost when her husband and two sons died might now be redeemed, might now be restored back the way they were.

 

There is a textual situation here that you might have noticed.  In my 1978 version of  the NIV the text states, " the Lord has not stopped showing His kindness "  Newer versions of the NIV and other translations insert the pronoun "he" instead of the Lord.  It appears that the Hebrew name for Lord, "Yahweh", is not in the original text, but has been interpreted to be there in the 1978 NIV.  Somewhere along the line, the NIV translators have decided that the pronoun "he" is what is to be in our English text.  The question then is asked, "who does 'he' refer to"?  Some might suggest that "he" refers to Boaz, but I believe "he" refers to "Yahweh", as "Yahweh" is seen in the first half of this statement.  It is the Lord who is now blessing the living and the dead, is now blessing Naomi and Ruth.  He is doing so through Boaz.

 

In verse 21 Ruth tells Naomi that Boaz told her to stay with the harvesters throughout the harvest.  Ruth was no longer seen as just a poor pagan widow.

 

Again, I'm sure Naomi's heart leaped within her. In verse 22 Naomi responds by saying, "this is good for you ..."   And, "good for me", she might have thought.

 

Notice in verse 22 that Naomi told Ruth to stay in Boaz's field because she might be banned in another field.  I suggest the reason for this banning would be because she is a Gentile, a Moabite.

 

This chapter ends with verse 23.  Ruth simply did as Naomi told her.  She stayed in Boaz's fields until both the barley and wheat harvest were over, which, as I've said before is around what would become Pentecost. 

 

 

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