Read the Passage: Ruth 2:1-23
Ruth’s Labor (2:1–7)
From a human perspective, the circumstances of Naomi and Ruth were quite dire. They were both widows, Ruth was a foreigner, and they were living in a place in which neither one of them had resided for at least ten years. However, in noting that it was “the beginning of the barley harvest” (Ruth 1:22), the author of Ruth gave a clue that things were about to get better for Ruth and Naomi. In Ruth 2:1, Boaz is introduced. That he was related to Naomi’s deceased husband, he was unmarried (i.e., single or a widower), and he was wealthy, would have caused Jewish readers to think about the possibility of levirate marriage (cf. Deut. 25:5–10), which Naomi had ambiguously mentioned at Ruth 1:11–13. Note that we are not told in this passage exactly how close of a relation Boaz was to Elimelech; yet, from Ruth 4:3 it seems that he was a brother, or perhaps a cousin.
Orphans and widows had little social or economic power in ancient agricultural societies. Consequently, the Mosaic civil law stipulated that the poor were allowed to harvest the corners of the fields, as well as to gather grain after the first cutting (cf. Lev. 19:9–10; 23:22; Deut. 24:19–21). This passage reports that Ruth volunteered to glean in the fields in order to get food for herself and for Naomi. Providentially, Ruth happened to glean in the fields of Boaz, whom she did not know. From the beginning, the godly character is Boaz is evident in the way he greets his workers, and is greeted by them (cf. Ruth 2:4). Upon seeing Ruth gleaning in his field, Boaz asked about her identity. He learns that she is Ruth the Moabitess. Further, Boaz learns that Ruth has been industrious in her gleaning. We later learn that Boaz knew of Ruth’s good reputation (cf. Ruth 2:11–12).
Boaz’s Kindness (2:8–16)
In Ruth 2:8–13 we read of the first of three blessings Boaz bestowed upon Ruth. This blessing was an invitation to remain in his fields to glean, with the promise that Ruth would not be harassed by the workers and could drink of the water that was drawn for the laborers. This lavish blessing caused Ruth to ask the reason for Boaz’s generosity. Ruth was keenly aware that she was a foreigner, and was perhaps aware that Moabites were specifically prohibited from entering the assembly of the Lord (cf. Deut. 23:3–4). In response, Boaz noted that he was aware of Ruth’s kindness toward Naomi. Ironically, Boaz would become God’s answer to his own prayer that he prays at Ruth 2:12, saying, “The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
In Ruth 2:14–16 Boaz’s second blessing upon Ruth is reported. In this passage we see that Boaz invited Ruth to dine with him and his workers, and provided her with bread and drink. Such kindness was extravagant, given that Ruth and Boaz were practically strangers and Ruth was a foreigner. Further, there was a great age difference between Boaz and Ruth. Since Boaz was a relative of Elimelech, we can assume that he was 15–25 years older than Ruth. Note that he calls her “daughter” (Ruth 2:8) and later refers to Ruth’s contemporaries as “young men” (Ruth 3:10). Therefore, Ruth may have been ~25 years old and Boaz 40–50 years old. Ruth 2:15–16 reports that Boaz gave Ruth a third blessing in allowing her to glean among the sheaves, which she had earlier requested (cf. Ruth 2:7). Note, too, that Boaz directed that grain purposefully be dropped for Ruth.
Naomi’s Hope (2:17–23)
Ruth 2:17–19 records Ruth’s return home to Naomi, after a hard day of gleaning grain. The fact that Ruth had gathered an astounding ephah of barley, which was equal to a bushel and weighed about 35 pounds, caused Naomi to ask where Ruth had gleaned. Ruth 2:20 marks a turning point in Naomi’s circumstances—or, at least her perception of them—as she is reminded of Boaz. Surely upon seeing Boaz’s material blessings upon Ruth, and learning that he had commanded her to remain in his fields, Naomi began to think about redemption. Under Hebrew civil law, a kinsman-redeemer could redeem, or buy back, a relative and/or their property. This included redeeming a relative from slavery (cf. Lev. 25:47–49), redeeming property sold due to economic need (cf. Lev. 25:25–28), and redeeming family lineage through levirate marriage (cf. Deut. 25:5–10).
- Why does Naomi claim twice in the first chapter of Ruth that God was against her? What favorable things were present in Naomi’s life that she overlooked?
- Upon arriving from Bethlehem, why do you think Boaz inquired about Ruth’s identity? What about Ruth caught Boaz’s attention?
- Why was Boaz so unusually kind to the foreigner Ruth? Is there anyone in your circle of influence to whom you could show kindness as Boaz did to Ruth?
- Since he was aware that he and Ruth were related, do you think Boaz had any thoughts about marrying Ruth prior to her proposal at Ruth 3:9?
- In what ways that are parallel to Boaz’s kindness toward Ruth did Jesus serve as a kinsman-redeemer for mankind?