Verse 4: Just then Boaz came from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you.” They answered, “The LORD bless you.” (NRSV)
- This verse opens with “behold” which not only puts the focus on Boaz, but shows how surprising it is that he should be there at all (Block 654).
- This greeting could be a traditional greeting during harvest time (Hubbard 144), but that alone stands out in the time of the judges.
- The author is here introducing Boaz as possibly a godly man, but leaves some question in the reader’s mind because he could just be a traditionalist.
- He is definitely being presented as a decent man here at the very least. This is a good place to work.
- This is also subtly bringing God back into the picture as a player behind the scenes.
Verse 5: Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “To whom does this young woman belong?” (NRSV)
- ”Servant” is more literally “young man” (Block 655).
- This ties in with the “young women” scattered throughout this passage.
- Regardless, the young man is the one in charge of Boaz’s fields (Hubbard 145).
- The assumption here is that Ruth is not on her own.
- It is unclear whether he is thinking or a master or a husband, but definitely not on her own. This is probably because he does not recognize her.
- This also draws attention to her dead husband and her line, that there is still a connection there (Block 655).
- It is also possible that he was inquiring about her clan or family in general (Hubbard 146).
- There are some remarkable comparisons here with a young man today checking out a woman he fancies and seeing if she’s available. Whether this is intentional or not is unclear.
Verse 6: The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. (NRSV)
- Notice that Ruth is not mentioned by name. Naomi is known, but Ruth is simply known by her ethnicity. She has not been accepted yet.
- The assumption here is that Boaz would know Naomi, a safe assumption as this was a small town and she was Boaz’s relative.
- This statement also assumes that even if Boaz had never met Ruth before, he would have heard about her.
Verse 7: She said, ‘Please, let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.’ So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.” (NRSV)
- Israelites were not allowed to pick everything from their fields, or the gather right to the edges of their fields, but were supposed to leave some grain behind for the poor to gather for food. It is unclear why Ruth asked permission to gather.
- She might not have know the law and so did what she would have done in her homeland.
- Ruth also might have asked because she was a foreigner and did not know if the rules applied to her.
- Finally, the law might not be applied, this is a time of relative chaos. Verse 19 indicates that Ruth had been gleaning for a while before this day, she might have had some negative experiences before this.
- There is a lot of discussion about whether she was asking to be among the workers and get better gleanings or whether she was asking to be a gleaner at all. Due to the difficulty of the words here, there is no consensus.
- The word translated here as “on her feet” usually just means “stand.”
- It could indicate that the servant had not granted her request yet and she had been waiting this time for Boaz to answer it (Hubbard 149, Campbell 96). If this is the case, then she was requesting more than the normal amount of gleaning and wants to go among the workers.
- Or, it could indicate “to remain” and that she stayed at that field all day, she did not leave and was not turned away (Block 657). This goes well with the idea that she was gleaning behind everyone like normal.
- The last phrase in this verse (translated in NRSV as “without resting even for a moment”) is extremely tricky and literally reads “this her sitting/dwelling the house a little.” Any meaning is basically a guess, not definitive (Block 657).
Verse 8: Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. (NRSV)
- ”Now listen” is more literally “have you not heard” and is a rhetorical phrase with an expected “yet” answer (Campbell 96).
- Boaz went to find Ruth, the master meeting the servant. This was not needed or expected.
- Boaz apparently had his own people following along after, which is odd.
- Calling Ruth his daughter is a remarkably personal remark that shows Boaz overcoming the racial issue that was just raised (Block 659).
- If these young women are normal workers to Boaz and not gleaners he had taken on, then he is placing Ruth in a much better place to gather than would be expected.
Verse 19: Her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” 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.” (NRSV)
- The first two phrases are redundant, they are the same basic thing repeated to add emphasis and show surprise.
- The amount that Ruth had brought home made it obvious that she did not go to any normal field, but got help, someone took notice of her.
- Naomi is calling a blessing on this person before she even knows who it is (Hubbard 185), but just went bananas when she learned who it was.
Verse 20: Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a relative of ours, one of our nearest kin.” (NRSV)
- There is a real question about who “he” is at the beginning of this verse. Is it God remembering, or Boaz (Campbell 106? Both have ways and reasons to care for them and be faithful to the women.
- Naomi is recognizing God’s role in getting Boaz and Ruth together even for a moment. This was not a chance encounter to Naomi, it is a sign.
- This appears to be the moment when Naomi came out of her depression. The previous mention of Naomi had her cursing God and calling herself “bitter”, and yet Boaz’s kindness seems to snap her out of it.
- ”Kindness” is “hesed” and is what Naomi had prayed that God would match the “hesed” Ruth had shown Naomi and give Ruth a husband in 1:8 (Block 673).
- God the living and the dead are here probably not just vague terms, but referring to Naomi and Ruth (living) and their husbands (dead) because a redeemer saves their future as well.
- Naomi had not mentioned the idea of a kinsmen redeemer before this. Either she forgot about it, or did not think that any relatives would want to help in any way.
- Naomi is showing how much she associates Ruth as her family because Boaz is not “my” relative but “our” relative.
- ”Redeemer” or “near kin” is a very important concept in this book. Jewish law in Leviticus 25, Leviticus 27, Numbers 35, and Deuteronomy 19 deal with this term, “goel”.
- This is the near relative that is responsible for the well-being of a family member in need. It was about restoring wholeness to the clan/family as much as the individual.
- The key role of the redeemer in this situation was to buy back hereditary property that a family member had to sell off (Hubbard 188).
- There is no biblical reference to the redeemer marrying a widow. However, based on the way it is used in Ruth it’s assumed that the redeemer also came to take on Levirate marriage roles and marrying the widow (Block 675).
- Levirate marriage, however (Deuteronomy 25:5-10), was about one brother marrying the widow of another brother and fathering children for his dead brother to continue the line.
- There is nothing about marrying a distant relative’s wife, or to marry any foreigner.
- Boaz is not under any obligation we know of to marry Ruth, but he has already shown that he will go above and beyond the words of the law to do what is right and that gives Naomi hope.
Verse 21: Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay close by my servants, until they have finished all my harvest.’ ” (NRSV)
- Basically, Ruth is saying “we have hope” while at the same time the writer identifies her as a “Moabite” again, bringing up the major obstacle in the way of this goal.
- ”Servants” is different than what Boaz said. He used “young women.”
Verse 22: Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is better, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, otherwise you might be bothered in another field.” (NRSV)
- That anyone would be hindered from gleaning is a sad statement about how most people were treating the poor and disadvantaged.
Verse 23: So she stayed close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests; and she lived with her mother-in-law. (NRSV)
- Instead of going from one field to another like Ruth apparently had been doing before, she basically had a steady job for a little bit.
- This time frame was probably about six to seven weeks from late April to early July (Block 677).
- This is such an odd verse because it follows so closely on excitement about the possibilities of Boaz as a redeemer, and yet weeks pass by.
- By mentioning that Ruth was still with Naomi, the writer is pointing out that she did not have a home of her own yet (Hubbard 193). They have food, but not peace.
Message Ideas/Scripts/Liturgy That Use This Chapter
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