RUTH

The Romance of Redemption

 

The story is told of how Dr. Samuel Johnson, the famous 18th century writer, once took a copy of the book of Ruth and read it before a London gathering of free-thinkers and philosophers, presenting it as if it were of modern composition. Thinking it was of recent creation, they were resounding and unanimous in their praise of the manuscript. It was only then that Dr. Johnson informed them that it was taken from a book which they had rejected - the Bible.

 

A. INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF RUTH.

1. Title of the Book.

Both the Hebrew, the Greek and the English title of this book are the same. It is named after the key character of the book. The name "Ruth" is not a Jewish name. Various meanings have been suggested as to the meaning of the name, but none are certain.

2. The Placement of Ruth in the Canon of Scriptures.

a. The Hebrew Bible is divided into three parts.

(1) Torah - the Law.

(2) Nabiíim - the Prophets.

(3) Kethuvíim (Hagiographa) - the Holy Writings

In the Hebrew Bible, the book of Ruth does not appear after Judges. Instead, it is found in the Writings as one of the five Megiloth ("Scrolls"), each of which was read at one of the feasts of the nation of Israel.

Megiloth Scrolls

Song of Solomon

Passover

Ruth

Pentecost

Lamentations

9th of Ab (Anniversary of Jerusalemís destruction)

Ecclesiastes

Feast of Tabernacles

Esther

Purim

In the modern Hebrew Bible, Ruth stands between the Song of Solomon and Lamentations, with sorrow on one side and rejoicing on the other.

The fact that Ruth is read on Pentecost is perhaps suggestive to the Christian. Pentecost suggests the birthday of the church.

c. The Septuagint & the Vulgate.

In the Septuagint as well as in the Latin Vulgate and the Talmud, the book of Ruth follows Judges. There is a reason for this. Ruth seems to be closely associated with the last several chapters of the book of Judges.

In Josephusí accounting of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures, Ruth is deemed as a part of the book of Judges.

Judges 17 - 21

Ruth

Says four times that "there was no king in Israel."

Begins with the words, "when the judges governed..."

Levite from Bethlehem

Concubine from Bethlehem

Naomi and her family were from Bethlehem

A Spiritual Desert

An Oasis amidst the Desert

Depicts the need of a King

Presents the lineage of the King

Although there is an association with the Judges, Ruth does not share any of the great and momentous deeds, the clamor of battle, or the spiritual failings which are so prevalent in that book.

If Judges is a book of FAILURE, then Ruth is a book of QUIET VICTORY.

3. Date of Writing.

There seems to have been a significant passage of time between the events which the book of Ruth describes and the recording of those events.

4. Outline of Ruth.

The story of Ruth is presented in a chiastic format. It begins "when the judges governed." It ends with the genealogy of the reigning King.

Naomiís Bitterness (1:1-22)

Ruth discovers a potential Kinsman Redeemer (2:1-23)

Boaz agrees to be a Kinsman Redeemer (3:1-18)

Boaz acquires right to be a Kinsman Redeemer (4:1-12)

Naomiís Blessing (4:13-21)

  1. 5. Purpose of the Book.

The word "love" is completely absent from the book of Ruth, though it is a story of love on several levels.

Ruth

Esther

A Gentile girl who married an Israelite.

An Israelite girl who married a Gentile.

"Built the house of Israel"

Saved the people of Israel

Her descendant was David, the King of Israel.

She was married to the King of Persia.

Rural setting.

A Royal Palace.

"No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 23:3).

There was a ten-generation curse placed upon the people of Moab and Ammon during the days of Moses because of their inhospitality toward Israel.

There is no record of a Moabite or an Ammonite being accepted into the assembly of Godís people for the next 10 generations. But this changes with Ruth. She not only enters the assembly of Godís people, but she is also included in the royal line of David. Indeed, she is mentioned in the Messianic line of Matthew 1.

 

B. SETTING FOR THE STORY (RUTH 1:1-4).

Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. (Ruth 1:1).

The story begins "in the days when the judges judged." This was the period when, as we were reminded four times in the closing chapters of the book of Judges, "there was no king in Israel."

Of all the verses in Ruth, only eight of them do not begin with a conjunction ("and").

Have you ever notice how, when you visit a jewelry store, the salesperson will often place the jewelry upon a black velvet background. They do that for a reason. It is because the gems stand out all the more brightly when placed against a black backdrop. The book of Ruth is like that. Its backdrop against the dark days of the Judges makes it shine all the more brightly.

1. A Famine in the Land.

What this meant for an agricultural economy is difficult for us to comprehend. A famine involved complete financial devastation and could lead ultimately to starvation.

2. Bethlehem in Judah.

The name "Bethlehem" is two words meaning "House of Bread." The small town is located on the spur of an east-west ridge 4 miles to the south of Jerusalem. It is surrounded on three sides by lush, fertile farmlands. It is bad enough when famine strikes. But when famine strikes the "House of Bread" then things can become desperate. This was the problem which arose. There was no bread in the House of Bread.

Out of the worst kind of circumstances, God is able to weave something wonderful. Ruth is a lesson that you should not judge the circumstances until the last chapter is over. Indeed, this book would be a book of tragedy were it not for the last chapter.

3. The Land of Moab.

The Mishnah (Yevamot 8:3) restricted this prohibition to males based on a reading that is somewhat obscured in translation: "Lo yavo Ammoni" "An Ammonite shall not come". In Hebrew, Ammoni is male, the female is "Ammonit". Now, of course, in Hebrew the male gender is supposed to include the female when the intent is to include both. The scriptural justification for this ruling was not only that Boaz married Ruth, but that Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, was the son of an Ammonite woman.

The restriction was completely abolished (Berakhot 28a), reportedly in the first century, on the basis that "Sennacherib has long since mixed up all the nations" so that the contemporary inhabitants of the lands of Moab and Ammon could not be said to be descended from the Moabites and Ammonites of the Bible.

Moab was located to the east of the Dead Sea, its northern boarder being the Arnon River and its southern boarder being the Zered Wadi. Rising up from the Dead Sea, 1200 feet below sea level, the land rises up to a large plateau.

These were the descendants of Lot through his incestuous relations with his daughter. Moab had refused the Israelites permission to pass through their land in the days of Moses. During the days of the Judges, the Moabites had invaded the territory of Israel until being driven out by Ehud. Moab was now considered to be an accursed nation.

"No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the Lord, 4 because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you." (Deuteronomy 23:3-4).

Now the nation of accursed people becomes a haven for this Hebrew man and his family. The cursing will be ultimately turned into blessing.

There is a lesson here. It is that God can use anyone. He loves to confuse the orthodox by using the kind of people we wouldnít use. He brings a Messiah out of Nazareth, a King out of Bethlehem, disciples from a fishing boat, and the Son of God from a rough-hewn cross.

3. Departure from the Land.

And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there. (Ruth 1:2).

If there were newspapers published at that time they would have taken no notice of this family of four as they made their way to Moab. They would have reported on the latest events on the national scene. Their stories would have been on the famine, or on the prospects for another raid by the Amorites. But in God's economy, the story of Ruth is the real story.

Then Elimelech, Naomiís husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.

And they took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years. (Ruth 1:2-4).

Elimelech means "My God is King" and stands in contrast to the kingly name Abimelech "My father is King." And yet, when things got tough, this man had departed from the inherited land of his king and went to find a home in Moab.

Where things worse for Elimelech and his family than they were for the other inhabitants of Bethlehem who stayed behind? We do not know. We DO know that neither Elimelech nor his sons ever saw their homeland again.

After Elimelech had died, his two sons found for themselves wives among the Moabites, something that was forbidden in the Law (Deuteronomy 7:1-3; 23:3).

The book of Ruth neither commends nor condemns the actions of Elimelech and his sons. The point is not whether they sinned. The point is what God brought about in the midst of tragedy.

Here is the lesson. You canít call a tragedy a tragedy until the entire story is known. And the entire story is never known this side of heaven.

 

C. NAOMIíS BITTERNESS (RUTH 1:5-18).

1:3 1:5

1:6 1:18

Three Funerals

Three Decisions

Death of Elimelech

Death of Mahlon and Chilion

Naomi decides to return

Orpah elects to stay in Moab

Ruth determines to follow Naomi

1. The Death of Naomiís Sons.

Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband. (Ruth 1:5).

There are few things more tragic than a widow. One of them is a widow who has also lost her children. That was not a day of social security or life insurance. Such a state would leave Naomi unprotected in a harsh world.

Here was a woman who had lost it all. People may have looked at her and said, "Your God must be judging you." But not all bad things happen as a result of punishment.

2. A Yearning for Home.

Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the Lord had visited His people in giving them food. (Ruth 1:6).

Naomi determines to return home to Bethlehem. Why? Because there is food there. And perhaps for another reason as well - because the "Lord had visited His people."

What makes a place home? Not a house. Or familiar surroundings. It is the presence of those whom you love. You have a home. It is a city - the new Jerusalem.

3. Naomiís Care for her Daughters-in-Law.

And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go, return each of you to her motherís house. May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband." Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. (Ruth 1:8-9).

Naomi is not acting out of self-interest. To have her daughters-in-law with her would be a financial advantage. They were young and marriageable.

We live in a society that teaches the looking out for "number one." Even when people come to church, they are so often only looking for a place to meet their own needs. But the Bible never says that the church exists only to meet your needs. That ego-centric philosophy is merely a reflection of our society.

But Naomi said, "Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?

"Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me." (Ruth 1:11-13).

This retort of Naomi is Hebraic humor. She is saying, "I have nothing more to offer you." Under the Levitical Law, a widow who had borne no children was to be given to the surviving brother of the deceased so that she might through such a union bear heirs to the estate of the deceased. But in this case there were no surviving brothers. And Naomi says, "There arenít any on the way."

And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. (Ruth 1:14).

Most women would be weeping if they found that they were going to have to remain with their in-laws. In-law jokes are a reflection of our fallen nature. They go all the way back to the Garden of Eden when God said that a man would have to leaven his father and mother (Genesis 2:21).

But it doesnít have to be that way. We have a picture here of two daughters-in-law who loved their mother-in-law so much that they were willing to go and live with her in poverty. Perhaps the reason there are so few Ruths today is that today there are so few Naomis.

4. Ruthís Commitment.

Orpah finally is convinced to return to her people. Ruth determines otherwise.

But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.

"Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me." (Ruth 1:16-17).

The book of Judges is a book of Heros. But the actions of Ruth are no less heroic. She is turning her back on her family, her people, and the country of her birth to go and live in a place where she shall be considered a second-class citizen.

This is a solemn oath. It is a commitment of loyalty, not only to Naomi, but to the Lord. Are you loyal to your friends, even when they are wrong? I donít mean being a "yes-man." I DO mean continuing to look out for their best interests.

British Prime Minister Lord Melbourne criticized the newspaper for their lack of support of his government. They wrote back, "We always support you when you are right." He replied, "I donít need your support when Iím right. I need it when I am wrong."

There is enough wrong in the midst of us to go for a long way. We need to be loyal to one another, even when we are wrong.

5. Naomiís Return.

So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came about when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, "Is this Naomi?"

And she said to them, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.

"I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?" (Ruth 1:19-21).

There is a play on words here. The name "Naomi" seems to carry the idea of "sweet" or "pleasant." It is used in the Proverbs where we read...

Stolen water is sweet;

And bread eaten in secret is pleasant (Proverbs 9:17).

Naomi had been known as the one who is pleasant. But now she insists that she be known as Mara, "bitter." It seems as though Naomi had kept everything bottled up back in Moab. But now she is back home. And home is where you can let it all out. She is bitter. And her bitterness is directed against God.

 We read of no condemnation from the people. Home is where you can be yourself and not be condemned for it. We arenít home yet. Our home is in heaven. But we have a home away from home. It is called the church.

6. Barley Harvest.

So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. (Ruth 1:22).

We tend to think in terms of a harvest taking place in the fall. But in Palestine, the first harvest began in the spring. There was even a feast to commemorate this harvest. It was known as the Feast of the Firstfruits.

Indeed, the book of Ruth came to be associated with this particular feast.

Barley is typically harvested a month prior to the wheat harvest. Barley was cheaper than wheat. It was used for the feeding of animals. It was also eaten by the poor.

It is into this setting that we read of the return of Naomi and Ruth. Even though Ruth had never been to Bethlehem, it is still described as a "return."

 

D. IN THE FIELDS OF BOAZ (RUTH 2).

The first chapter of Ruth reads a lot like the first chapter of Job. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. There was a famine and Naomi lost her home and then her husband died and then her two sons died. She lost everything except her daughter-in-law. If Ruth had been of a different character, Naomi might have prayed, "Lord, will you take her, too?" But Ruth was a blessing, not a cursing.

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Begins with a Famine

Begins in the Season of Harvest

In Moab

In Bethlehem

The Shadow of Death

The Specter of New Life

With this chapter comes relief. This is a chapter of hope.

1. Boaz Introduced.

Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. (Ruth 2:1).

Boaz was "a man mighty of wealth." He also happened to be a relative of the deceased Elimelech. Here we see the "accident" of Godís providence. Things donít happen just by chance. They happen because there is a divine design. Accidents do happen, but they are not just accidents, for they are a part of Godís providence.

2. Ruthís Request.

And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor." And she said to her, "Go, my daughter."

So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. (Ruth 2:2-3).

Notice that Ruth is called "Ruth the Moabitess." This title shall be used a total of 5 times throughout this book.

Ruthís request was considered acceptable among the poor of Israel. The Law actually provided for the poor to enter a field on the heels of the reapers.

"When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, not gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 23:22).

This was the Israelite version of social security. The Law mandated that the leavings of the field reapers were to be left behind for the poor and the illegal alien to take. Ruth fit into both of these categories. She had no other means of caring for herself and Naomi.

The significant point of the story is that she happened to pick the field which belonged to Boaz. The Hebrew says that she "chanced a chance" or "her chance chanced."

There is a lesson here. It is that chance is not blind - its path is directed under the eyes of the Lord. God is not only concerned with kings and princes and great battles. He is also concerned with the mundane and the everyday happenstances. They are all within the realm of His plan.

3. Boazís Inquiry.

Boaz arrives and sees Ruth working in the fields. We can tell from his statements that he is immediately interested in her.

Come and eat (2:14).

Help yourself to the water jars (2:9).

Stay here and do not go to the other fields (2:8).

Who is she? (2:5).

By the time we get to verse 11, we find that Boaz has done some detailed investigation of Ruth. He has asked around about her. And he is taken by what he has heard. In verse 8, he refers to her as "my daughter," indicating that he was considerably older than she.

4. Words of Blessing.

Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?"

And Boaz answered and said to her, "All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know." (Ruth 2:10-11).

There is a play on words here which does not come through in our English translation.

Ruth says, "Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me (LeHakkiyreni), since I am a foreigner (Nakkriyah - foreigner, one who is conspicuous or noticeable)?"

Ruth is cognizant of the special attention which is being accorded her. She knows that she is a foreigner. And to make matters worse, she is from Moab. Moab has been an enemy of Israel.

Ruth is...

There is nothing in the Law that says Boaz has to go to the lengths which he has gone. Her question is a legitimate one.

The words of Boaz to Ruth are strikingly similar to that which the Lord spoke to Abraham.

Genesis 12:1

Ruth 2:11

Now the Lord said to Abram...

All that you have done has been reported to me...

Go forth

  • From your country
  • And from your relatives
  • And from your fatherís house,

How you left

  • your father and mother
  • and the land of your birth,

To the land which I will show you.

And came to a people that you did not previously know

While Ruth is not a physical descendant of Abraham, she shows herself to be a SPIRITUAL descendant of him by demonstrating the faith of Abraham. And so, he pronounces the Lordís blessing upon Ruth. As we read this, we should remember that these are not the words of a seminary theologian. These are farmers. Boaz isnít trying to impress anyone. This is how he defines himself.

There is a lesson here. If Christ is a part of your life, then He will also be a natural part of your conversation. This shouldnít have to be forced. It is a testimony to our fallen nature that we have to LEARN a system for presenting the gospel.

"May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge." (Ruth 2:12).

Notice the lack of division between the secular and the sacred. Ruth hadnít been doing church work. She had been working in the field. Common labor. We need to recognize Godís sovereign working in every facet of our lives. He is interested in your work, your chores, and your play. He really is.

Notice also who was it who rewarded Ruthís work. It looks from the passage as though Boaz did. It was his field, his servants, and his grain.

But he gives the credit to God. Why? Because that is how God works. Remember when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush? He announced that He would deliver Israel.

And the Lord said, "I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.

"So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land..." (Exodus 3:7-8).

Who was going to deliver Israel? God was! He said it very clearly. But then he says to Moses, "I will send YOU to Pharaoh." Moses says, "I thought that you were going to go!" There are times when we see the burning bush or the pillar of fire. But more often than not, He works through the familiar. And He usually acts through people. If God is going to work in your church, He is going to do it through you.

5. Ruthís Report to Naomi.

So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.

And she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took it out and gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied.

Her mother-in-law then said to her, "Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed." So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, "The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz." (Ruth 2:17-19).

Ruth returns to the city where she and Naomi are staying, sharing her meal with her and reporting on the dayís activities. Naomi reveals that "the man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives" (2:20).

The phrase "He is one of our closest relatives" is literally, "He is our redeemer clan." It means that Boaz was, by virtue of his relationship with Elimelech, in the position to redeem the estate of Elimelech and to fulfill the duty of a kinsman redeemer by marrying Ruth.

You see, the custom both among the Jews and throughout the ancient world was that, if a man died without having any heirs, it was the duty of his younger brothers or his nearest surviving male relative to take his widow and have children by her who would carry on his family name.

When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husbandís brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husbandís brother to her.

And it shall be that the first-born whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out from Israel." (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).

Boaz was one of those surviving male relatives. But as we shall see in the next chapter, he was not the closest.

So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:23).

 

E. ON THE THRESHING FLOOR (RUTH 3).

In this chapter the plot thickens. While the meeting of Chapter 2 was by chance, the meeting which shall take place in Chapter 3 is contrived.

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

In the Fields

On the Threshing Floor

At the beginning of the Harvest

At the end of the Harvest

Ruthís Service

Ruthís Request

We are not told how much time passed between the events of chapter 2 and the events of chapter 3. It could have been a number of days or even weeks.

1. Naomiís Plan.

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, "My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?

"And now is not Boaz out kinsman, with whose maids you were? Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight.

"Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.

"And it shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what to do." (Ruth 3:1-4).

Naomiís question, "My daughter, shall I not seek security (Hebrew is "rest") for you" points to the fact that the lot of a widow was a difficult one. Gleaning was at best a haphazard livelihood. Therefore, Naomi wishes something better for her daughter-in-law.

Naomi instructs Ruth as to her preparations; she is to look her best. Her best clothes would be none too fancy. But it appears they were able to afford a little perfume, as the word "anoint" indicates. Naomi gives Ruth some very practical and down-to-earth advice.

Christians ought to be the most practical people around ("wise as serpents, innocent as doves"). Naomi knows how men think. The reason most women would rather have beauty than brains is because most men can see better than they can think. So she tells Ruth to wait until Boaz has finished eating and drinking.

Note: She has already picked out Boaz as the future husband for Ruth, even though she is no doubt aware of the fact that there is a nearer kinsman (identified in chapter 4). Perhaps that she knew that this man was already married and was therefore not the best choice (Ruth 4:6).

2. The Threshing Floor.

3. A Meeting in the Night.

When Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came secretly, and uncovered his feet, and lay down. (Ruth 3:7).

At harvest time people would camp out. As the owner of the land, Boaz would have had a place to himself, with his servants sleeping at other places in the vicinity.

The word "softly" means "quietly". It was used of David when he stole in and cut a piece from Saul's robe (1 Samuel 24:4). Ruth waits until Boaz is sound asleep and then she comes to him.

And it happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet.

And he said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth, your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative." (Ruth 3:8-9).

Boaz was startled by something, so he turned, or bent over, and saw Ruth lying at his feet. In reply to Boazí question, Ruth identifies herself as a maidservant, again taking a lowly position. Ruth uses a very expressive metaphor here in asking him to spread his covering over her. The word "covering" here is the same word which is used in Ruth 2:12 where we read, "May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose WINGS you have come to seek refuge." The term can describe both a "wing" as well as the edge of a garment.

She calls Boaz a "close relative." This makes her request a formal one, and she's looking to him to resolve the legal question of redemption.

Keil and Delitzsch say that the word "skirt" refers to the corner of the blanket which Boaz had over him. A man and wife sleeping together would share this blanket. The act of covering Ruth with part of the blanket would have been symbolic of a proposal of marriage (Ezekiel 16:8).

However, Boaz did not take this action. There was a legal question to be resolved before Boaz could marry Ruth. But Boaz does begin the process here that eventually leads to their marriage.

Then he said, "May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich." (Ruth 3:10).

Boazís reply is immediate and positive. He thinks that Ruth has shown more kindness now than when she first came to the fields. The earlier kindness was that shown by Ruth in not leaving Naomi and in gleaning to provide for their needs. To this she has now added a further evidence of her regard for family relationships.

Ruth has not followed natural inclinations but has shown a responsible attitude to the family in looking to her Goíel for marriage.

Boaz knows that she could have married some other eligible young man in Bethlehem; but she did not let these types of personal inclinations rule her. This seems to indicate that Boaz was not a young man. There was likely a significant age difference between them.

"And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence. (Ruth 3:11).

The word translated "city" is literally "gate." As we shall see in the next chapter, the city gates was the usual place of public assembly, the place for business, judgment, and for receiving news.

Ruth is described as a "woman of excellence." The term is nearly identical to the description of Boaz in Ruth 2:1 as a man of wealth." It is also used in Proverbs 31:10 to describe an "excellent wife."

"And now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I.

"Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the Lord lives. Lie down until morning." (Ruth 3:12-13).

Boaz affirms that he certainly is a kinsman; but he goes on to point out that there was a man nearer of kin then he. Ruth may have been unaware of the complexities of the family relationships and the legal implications.

Boaz binds his word with an oath. Indeed, this was the strongest possible oath - "As the Lord lives." To break such an oath would be to break the third commandment and thus take the name of the Lord in vain.

4. Departure.

So she lay at his feet until the morning and rose before one could recognize another; and he said, "Let it not be known that the woman came to the floor." (Ruth 3:14).

The phrase, "before one could recognize another" was an idiom used to describe the time before dawn. Though they had done nothing immoral during the night, Boaz takes steps to protect Ruthís reputation.

There is a principle here. Christians are not merely to do what is right. They are also to avoid the APPEARANCE of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

Again he said, "Give me the cloak that is on you and hold it." So she held it, and he measured six measures of barley, and laid in on her. Then she went into the city. (Ruth 3:15).

Boaz does not want Ruth to go back empty-handed; so he provides her with another generous gift of grain. The amount mentioned is, literally, "six of barley", with no unit of measure given.

And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, "How did it go, my daughter?" And she told her all that the man had done for her.

And she said, "These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said, `Do not go to your mother-in-law empty-handed.í"

Then said she, "Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not be in rest until he has settled it today." (Ruth 3:16-18).

Naomi would also have been encouraged to see another gift of grain from Boaz, which would mean that Boaz certainly would carry out the matter to the end they wanted.

Boaz had said "Go not empty-handed to your mother in law." Remember that Naomi said that "the Lord had brought me home again empty" (Ruth 1:21). Now Naomi's empty days were over.

 

F. REDEEMED! (RUTH 4:1-12).

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

In the Fields

The Threshing Floor

In the Gate

Boaz Sees

Boaz Loves

Boaz Marries

The final chapter is the story of Ruth deals with the act and the results of redemption. We will also see within this chapter a beautiful picture of what Christ has done for the church.

1. Legal Codes within the Book of Ruth.

This chapter contains some rather quaint customs. But the principles go back to the Mosaic Law.

a. Land Ownership and the Law.

According to the Law of Moses, is was the Lord who was the actual owner of the land which He had given to His people for an inheritance. The Israelites merely had the use of the land which the Lord had given. They were stewards of Godís land. Because of this, the existing possessor of the a portion of land could not part with it or sell it, but it was to remain in his family forever.

When anyone was obliged to sell his land, such as by reason of poverty, it was the duty of the nearest relation to redeem it. Even if it should not be redeemed, it would automatically come back in the next Year of Jubilee to its original owner (Leviticus 25:10-28).

Therefore, no actual sale took place in our sense of the word. A sale was actually just a lease, or the sale of the yearly produce of the land until the Year of Jubilee.

b. Levirate Marriage.

The custom of Levirate marriage, or the marriage of a brother-in-law, actually predated the Mosaic Law (Genesis 38), but was also sanctioned by the Law (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).

If an Israelite who had been married died without children, it was the duty of his brother to marry the widow, his sister-in-law, that he might establish his brother's name in Israel by begetting a son who should take the name of the deceased brother, that the name should not become extinct in Israel.

This son was then the legal heir of the landed property of the deceased uncle.

The Law imposed this obligation upon the living brother, but it allowed him to renounce the obligation if he would take on himself the disgrace connected with such a refusal.

But if the man does not desire to take his brotherís wife, then his brotherís wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, "My husbandís brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husbandís brother to me."

Then the elders of his city shall summon him and apeak to him. And if he persists and says, "I do not desire to take her," 9 then his brotherís wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, "Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brotherís house."

And in Israel his name shall be called, "The house of him whose sandal is removed." (Deuteronomy 25:7-10).

c. The Kinsman-Redeemer.

Early Israel had no police force. When a person was assaulted, robbed or murdered, it fell to the nearest kinsman to bring the criminal to justice and to protect the lives and property of relatives. This obligation was called "redeeming", and the man who was responsible for fulfilling this duty was known as a "redeemer" (Hebrew: go-el). The job of redeemer would fall to full brothers first, then to uncles who were the father's brothers, then to full cousins, and finally to the other blood relatives of the family (Leviticus 25:48).

There were four requirements for the redeemer.

Jesus fulfilled all four of these requirements for the human race. He was made a man that He might be our kinsman. He paid the redemption price in His own blood. He was willing to redeem us and He was free from the sin that bound us.

The nation of Israel as a whole required a Redeemer to redeem the lands which had been taken over by foreign powers, so they looked to Jehovah to become their go-el.

The period of exile gave an even greater force and meaning to the term "redeemer" than it had before; and the book of Isaiah contains nineteen of the thirty-three Old Testament references to God as Israel's covenant redeemer.

2. The Meeting at the Gate.

Now Boaz went up to the gate; and sat down there, and, behold, the close relative of whom Boaz spoke was passing by, so he said, "Turn aside, friend, sit down here." And he turned aside and sat down. (Ruth 4:1).

The gate of a town or village played a large part in the cities of Judah in these times. Excavations reveal that cities in Palestine were very closely built, with no large open spaces like the Roman forum or the Greek agora. There was some space at the gate for people to gather and do business, and the gate was the center of city life.

Boaz was in the right place to conduct legal business.

And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, "Sit ye down here. So they sat down. (Ruth 4:2).

The idea here was to gather a sort of jury to hear the transaction and exercise some kind of judicial function.

Elders had far-reaching powers. In this case, the matter was relatively minor, and the elders really had little to do or decide. But any transaction that was witnessed by the elders, and attested to by them, was of absolute validity.

3. Boaz and the Kinsman.

Then he said to the closest relative, "Naomi, who has come back from the land of Moab, has to sell the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech.

"So I thought to inform you, saying, `Buy it before those who are sitting here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if not, tell me that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am after you.í" And he said, "I will redeem it." (Ruth 4:3-4).

Boaz addresses the kinsman and informs him that Elimelech, who was related to both of them, owned some land near Bethlehem, and that the land had to be redeemed in Naomi's favor.

We are not told how the land might have changed hands over the years; it may be that Elimelech sold the land to someone just before he took his family to Moab.

The title to the land would have stayed with Elimelech's family, and such a purchase would have been equivalent to a lease. To redeem the land at this time would have required a payment to the occupant for the balance of his lease. Upon Elimelech's death, the ownership of the land would have passed to his sons.

Further, you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, "If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter.

"And if he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers.

"And if he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his fatherís brothers.

"And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his nearest relative in his own family, and he shall possess it; and it shall be a statutory ordinance to the sons of Israel, just as the Lord commanded Moses." (Numbers 27:8-11).

This passage shows very clearly the sequence of inheritance: first, sons; then, daughters; then, brothers; then, uncles; then, the next nearest kinsman. The widow is not mentioned in the line of inheritance! On the other hand, it seems from this passage in Ruth that Naomi had legal rights to the land and could realize some money from it. But Ruth was the widow of Mahlon and would have had similar rights.

Verse 4 makes it clear that the kinsman is the nearer relative and Boaz is the next directly in line.

The kinsman is quite ready to buy the land and is prepared to come up with the money. However, Boaz brings up a slight complication.

Then Boaz said, "On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance." (Ruth 4:5).

The problem was that the ownership of the land was bound up with the requirement of a Levirate marriage. To take the land, one must also take Ruth.

And the closest relative said, "I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself; you may have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it." (Ruth 4:6).

The fact that marriage with Ruth must accompany the redemption of the field changed the whole picture for the kinsman.

It is not clear what prevented the kinsman from fulfilling his obligation. He was ready to buy the field, so the money was not an issue. But he could not marry Ruth. There are several possible reasons for this:

Whatever the reason, the kinsman was emphatic about it, even repeating his statement so there would be no doubt.

4. Ritual with the Sandal.

Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redemption and the exchange of land to confirm any matter; a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the manner of attestation in Israel.

So the closest relative said to Boaz, "Buy it for yourself." And he removed his sandal. (Ruth 4:7-8).

The author of Ruth describes this as a "custom in former times." This indicates that this ritual was no longer practiced in his day.

Keil and Delitszch suggest that the custom arose from the fact that fixed property was taken possession of by treading upon the soil, and thus, taking off the shoe and handing it to another was a symbol of the transfer of a possession or right of ownership.

"Every place on which the sole of your foot shall tread shall be yours..." (Deuteronomy 11:24).

In this case, there was only a symbolic transfer of the rights to purchase a property, not a transfer of the land itself.

The act of handing over the shoe to Boaz was undoubtedly designed to indicate visually to the elders that a formal agreement had been reached.

Then Boaz said to the elders, and all the people, "You are witnesses today that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon.

"Moreover I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased may not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place; you are witnesses today." (Ruth 4:9-10).

Here Boaz begins his speech to the elders and people. They listen in an official capacity as leaders of the city and as legal witnesses before the "court." Boaz says he will "raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance" that is, he will provide a son who will carry on the name of the deceased. Then he states the same proposition in the negative, "that the name of the deceased may not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place." Boaz concludes by reminding his hearers that they are all witnesses.

5. The Blessing of the People.

And all the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, "We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephratah and become famous in Bethlehem.

"Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the Lord shall give you by this young woman." (Ruth 4:11-12).

The court session ends with a statement from all the witnesses, the people and the elders. First, they affirm that they are indeed witnesses. This seems very much like jury proceedings in which the jury announces a decision.

It is interesting, that although they are citizens of Bethlehem, and thus descended from Judah, son of Leah (Genesis 29:35), they place Rachel before Leah.

The reference to Perez is especially interesting, because Perez is not usually regarded as an example of fruitfulness. But there is a reason that Perez is mentioned. It is because the circumstances of his birth are similar to these circumstances.

Tammar (Genesis 38)

Ruth (Ruth 1-4)

Canaanite

Moabitess

Judah is seduced under the cover of a disguise worn by his daughter-in-law

Ruth approaches Boaz to propose marriage under the cover of the darkness of night

After it becomes apparent that Tamar is pregnant, Judah brings her before the village tribunal in order to accuse her formally of prostitution and seek her death

Boaz and Ruth appears before the elders to announce his redemption of her and their impending marriage

Instead, he himself was found out and became the object of shame and condemnation

The couple is praised and blessed by the elders of the city

In each instance, moreover, the "husband" was advanced in age and sired sons when the prospects for doing so would ordinarily be bleak. Both Tamar and Ruth bore sons in the Davidic/messianic line.

When Jacob was dying, he pronounced the following blessing upon Judah:

"The scepter shall not depart from Judah,

Nor the rulerís staff from between his feet,

Until Shiloh comes,

And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples." (Genesis 49:10).

God delights in working through the one whom is normally considered to be rejected. This is seen in the genealogy of the Messiah as given in Matthew 1. There are four women mentioned in that genealogy.

There is also a double blessing directed toward Boaz. He is told in verse 11, "May you achieve wealth (literally - "make strength", same word which is translated "excellence" in Ruth 3:11) in Ephratah and become famous (literally - "call a name") in Bethlehem."

 

G. NAOMIíS BLESSEDNESS (RUTH 4:13-12).

So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife; and he went in to her. And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. (Ruth 4:13).

Note that the child born is regarded as God's gift. This has a direct impact upon how we are to view such issues as abortion.

The Lord "enabled her to conceive." Though she had previously been married, that marriage had not been blessed with children. Ruth had hitherto been barren.

Then the women said to Naomi, "Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel.

"May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him."

Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and because his nurse.

And the neighbor women gave him a name, saying "A son has been born to Naomi." So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:14-17).

While the book of Ruth opens with Naomiís bitterness, it now closes with Naomiís blessedness. She was blessed because she finally had a grandchild. This child would be reckoned as Mahlonís.

It is because of this that Naomi is said to have a Redeemer. Note that the redeemer is not Boaz. The redeemer is the child which had been born. It is the birth of this child that would take away Naomiís reproach of childlessness. It is this child who would take care of her in her old age. And it is this child of whom it is said, "May his name become famous (literally - "be called") in Israel."

Do you see the point? It is through the birth of a baby born in Bethlehem that Naomi is going to find her redemption. This baby has a name which shall be proclaimed both in Israel and throughout the world. For whoever calls upon this name shall be saved.

A genealogy is, to say the least of it, a curious way to end a book. The author does not tell us why he has done this, and we are left to guess.

Now these are the generations of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron, 19 and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab, 20 and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon, 21 and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed, 22 and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David. (Ruth 4:18-22).

Note the way the genealogy begins. "Now these are the generations of Perez." It is the same formula which is found throughout Genesis. There are ten names mentioned. The unimportant names are left off to preserve this number.

Through the book in all its artless simplicity there runs the note that God is supreme. He watches over people like Naomi and Ruth and Boaz and directs their paths. He never forgets His saving purposes. The child of the marriage of Boaz and Ruth was to lead in due course to the great King David, the man after God's own heart, the man in whom God's purpose was worked out.

These events in Moab and Bethlehem played their part in leading up to the birth of David. But that is not all. David is not an end unto himself. He is merely the forerunner of the Messiah.

Here is the point. Godís hand is over all history. God works out His purpose, generation after generation. Limited as we are to one lifetime, each of us sees so little of what happens. But we need to realize that God is working out salvation - even among little people like Ruth and Boaz and such a little out-of-the-way place as Bethlehem. Bethlehem was a nowhere place. These were unknown people. But they gave rise to a king. God shines His spotlight of history in some very strange places. He will do that for you. It was a backward country town that saw some people who were faithful in the midst of hard times. And as a result, they saw a baby in a manger and angels and awe-struck shepherds.


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