RUTH‘S GLEANING IN THE FIELD by Dr. John Boyd, Holywood, N.I.
Verse 1. We are here first introduced to Boaz (quickness). He was a kinsman of Elimelech, and apparently a successful man of business. Although he was wealthy, Naomi did not approach him for help in her extremity, but left it to God to work out His own purposes for her.
Verse 2. From Ruth came the suggestion as to how to provide for their common needs. She was keen to do anything she could towards this end. Food was the prime necessity, and she was quick to notice a privilege of the poor in Israeli the right to glean, that is, to pick up stray ears left in a field being reaped. This formed part of the ritual associated with the Feast of Pentecost, Lev. 23. 22. She was not ashamed to acknowledge her poverty in asking this privilege from one thus graciously disposed. But first she consulted Naomi as to the propriety of doing this menial task. To this Naomi readily agreed.
Verse 3. Ruth left home, and arrived unintentionally to glean barley at the portion of a field belonging to Boaz, without her knowing who owned it, or his relation to her deceased husband. The field was a large one owned by several proprietors, whose portions were marked off by landmarks, usually stones capable of being moved, Deut. 19. 14.
Verse 4. Boaz later arrived at the field to learn of the progressbeing made, and first manifested his good relations with his workers by the friendly exchange of the usual Israelitish greetings, that betokened a close dependence on Jehovah for His blessing. There was no industrial unrest there.
Verse 5. His eye fell on the strange young woman, and he enquired her identity from the overseer of the reapers, to be informed that she was the Moabitish damsel who they had learned had come recently to Bethlehem with Naomi. This information may have been imparted to the overseer by Ruth herself, even though the presence of such a stranger in Bethlehem was general knowledge. Her past history was well known in the city, v. 11.
Verse 7. The overseer told of her humble request for permission to glean in that part of the field, which had been readily granted. He added a testimonial to her industry, for she had continued to work steadily all day until then, at which point she had gone for a short while to rest in the shelter provided to protect the workers from the intense heat. Ruth had in mind constantly the provision of enough food for Naomi and herself.
Verse 8. Boaz then spoke to Ruth, addressing her as “daughter”. This indicated that she was younger than he, 3. 10, and that he had a fatherly interest in her. He urged her to continue gleaning in his portion of the field, under the companionship and protection of his handmaidens.
Verse 9. The maidens would know where his portion lay, and following them would keep her from straying into another’s portion. He instructed the menservants not to molest her, as was common practice in the harvest field. He gave her permission also to quench her thirst from the vessels that the menservants had filled with water for the use of his employees.
Verse 10. Ruth was deeply moved by this display of kindness, and fell on her face, bowing herself to the ground in true humility and gratitude. She wondered why he should have manifested such grace in showing this kindness to her, especially to a perfect stranger.
Verse 11. Boaz revealed something of the reason why he had thus favoured her. He had heard of her devotion to her mother-in-law since her husband’s death, and of her decision to leave her kinsfolk and her homeland, in order to throw in her lot with the people of Israel, whom she had not before known. He realized that, like Abram, she had heard the call of God, and had obeyed Him.
Verse 12. The prayer of Boaz was that she might receive a full reward, as had Abraham, from Jehovah, the God of Israel. She would find that Jehovah would bless His people. In stating that she was taking refuge under the wings of Jehovah, he had possibly in mind Moses’ figure of the eagle teaching her young to fly, Deut. 32.11. The eagle stirs up her nest, and flutters over her young; so did God in sending affliction to Israel in the matter of the famine. When the young birds begin to fall the eagle spreads abroad her wings, and bears them safely on her pinions. In like manner God will bring blessing to His people after their sorrow.
Verse 13. Ruth thanked Boaz for his good wishes, and asked that she might find favour in his eyes. Truly humble, she calls him “lord”, to acknowledge his superiority; she declared the comfort that his words had brought to her; she felt that he had spoken to her heart (marg.); she called herself his handmaiden, though not really one of his handmaidens, for they were in a position to earn and to expect his favours.
Verse 14. At meal-time he answered her request, and gave her further favours. He called her to sit with the reapers, and to share in their bread and vinegar, that is, the sour wine and oil. Boaz also reached her parched corn, consisting of the still soft barley grains roasted in a pan. This was reckoned a great delicacy. She was given so much parched corn that after she had eaten what was a sufficiency, the remnant was kept, to be carried home to Naomi. In her own satisfaction, she did not forget her mother-in-law, v. 18.
Verses 15-16. When she rose up to resume her gleaning, Boaz secretly gave instructions to the reapers to give her some concessions, for example, the right to gather even amongst the sheaves – not generally permitted to gleaners. He also told them to pull out purposely some stalks from the bundles, R.v., and leave them for her to pick without rebuke. Thus Boaz favoured Ruth beyond the usual generosity to poor gleaners -because of her humility, her industry, her attachment to his relative Naomi, and her faith in the God of Israel.
Verse 17. Ruth worked industriously all day, and found that she had gleaned so much that when the ears were beaten out she had collected about an ephah, that is, six gallons dry measure – enough to support Naomi and her for one week.
Verse 18. This she carried home with delight to her mother-in-law in the city. She produced also the remains of the parched corn she had reserved from her meal in the field. Thus, in this extra tit-bit, she kindly remembered Naomi at home, alone, awaiting her return.
Verse 19. Naomi enquired as to Ruth’s success. She asked where she had gleaned, and whose was the portion of the field in which she had worked. Looking on the unexpectedly large quantity of barley, she surmised that someone had paid special attention to the strange gleaner. She prayed God’s blessing on the benefactor. Then Ruth told her the name of the owner of the barley patch, though the younger woman was possibly not aware of his relationship to Elimelech.
Verse 20. When Naomi realized that the day’s benefactor was a kinsman of her late husband, and that he had not withdrawn his kindness for Elimelech, and for his widow and daughter-in-law, who had both been so sadly bereaved, she again besought God’s blessing on him. She appreciated that Jehovah had once more come to her relief. Then to Ruth she broke the news of the near relationship of Boaz to them – he was “one of them that hath the right to redeem for us”, (r.v. marg.).
Verse 21. This made clear to Ruth why Boaz had told her to keep fast by his reapers until the end of the harvest.
Verse 22. Naomi amplified this injunction. If Ruth kept with his maidens, it would keep her immune from the insults that might come from the young men of other masters. Besides, seeing that Boaz had so favoured her this first day, it would ill become her to be seen later by him or his reapers in another portion of the field. Naomi felt that Boaz would likely redeem them, 3. 18, and his overtures must not be refused. She reckoned this to be the cause of his friendliness to Ruth.
Verse 23. Both during the barley harvest, which came first, and during the succeeding wheat harvest, Ruth did as she had been advised. At the end of each day she went home to her mother-in-law, and kept close to her. Thus she earned for herself the reputation of a virtuous woman, 3. 11.
Lessons from Chapter Two
1.Boaz is a type of Christ. He was a mighty man of wealth, a man of ability and prosperity, v. I; he kept uppermost in his mind the things of God, vv. 4, 12; he was ever doing good, w. 9,14; he was a man of grace, v. 10; he gave comfort, v. 13; he was characterized by kindness, v. 20; he was near of kin, that is, able to redeem, v. 20.
2.Poverty at times brings out the real devotion of people.
3.Employers and employees ought always to have respect for each other, v. 4.
4.Good deeds always bring their own recompense, v. 11.
5.Naomi’s question to Ruth, v. 19, may well be put to every believer today relative to the Word of God.