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II. NAOMI AND RUTH’S PLANS CHS. 2-3
Chapter 1 prepares for chapters 2-4, which constitute the heart of the book. Chapter 1 presents a problem, but chapters 2-4 provide the solution. The key to the solution, on the human level, was the planning of Naomi and Ruth.
There are really two plans, one to obtain food, the immediate physical need of the two women (ch. 2), and one to obtain a male heir, the long-range covenant-related need of the women’s extended family (Ruth 3:1 to Ruth 4:17).
A. The plan to obtain food ch. 2
Chapter 2 has its own chiastic structure. [Note: See W. S. Prinsloo, "The Theology of the Book of Ruth," Vetus Testamentum 30:3 (July 1980):334.]
A Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 2:2-3)
B Boaz and the reapers (Ruth 2:4-7)
C Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 2:8-14)
B’ Boaz and the reapers (Ruth 2:15-16)
A’ Naomi and Ruth (Ruth 2:17-22)
Boaz’s conversation with Ruth is the focus of this section. The chapter also shows how Ruth was received in Bethlehem as a Moabitess.
1. God’s providential guidance of Ruth 2:1-7
The motif of God’s providence, His working out His own plan through the circumstances of life, which runs through the Book of Ruth, is especially strong in this pericope.
The writer introduced Boaz as a kinsman (lit. acquaintance or friend, Heb. myd’) of Elimelech.
"According to the rabbinic tradition, which is not well established however, Boaz was a nephew of Elimelech." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 447.]
Scholars debate the etymology of Boaz’s name because it is obscure (cf. 1 Kings 7:21), though most of the suggestions are similar. Keil and Delitzsch believed Boaz’s name means "alacrity" (promptness, or eager and speedy readiness), whereas J. Vernon McGee and Warren Wiersbe wrote that it means, "in whom is strength." [Note: Ibid.; McGee, p. 70; Wiersbe, p. 185.] Boaz lived up to this personality trait name, which his parents evidently gave him at birth, hoping that he would provide swift strength for many people.
Boaz was, by virtue of his family relationship, someone who was eligible to perpetuate Elimelech’s line, the larger of Naomi and Ruth’s needs. He was also wealthy, so he could provide food and physical protection for Naomi and Ruth, their immediate need (Ruth 2:1). The same Hebrew words (’ish gibbor hayil), translated "man of wealth," later described Ruth (Ruth 3:11) and, earlier, Gideon (Judges 6:12). Here, for the first time in the book, a man appears in a major role.
Ruth’s plan to secure favor (Ruth 2:2) was a plan to obtain food. She did not realize how favored she would become. God commanded farmers in Israel not to harvest the corners of their fields so the poor and needy, such as aliens, widows, and orphans, could glean enough food to live (Leviticus 19:9-10; Leviticus 23:22). The reapers were free Israelites who hired themselves out to do this work for a stipulated payment. [Note: Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions, 1:76.] Ruth qualified for gleaning as an alien and as a widow. She submitted her plans for Naomi’s approval and received her blessing.
Ruth "happened" to glean in Boaz’s field, from the human viewpoint (Ruth 2:3), but, as the story unfolds, God’s hand of blessing obviously guided Ruth’s choice to go to that particular field (cf. Proverbs 3:5-6; Matthew 2:1-8).
". . . the author’s real meaning in Ruth 2:3 b is actually the opposite of what he says. The labelling [sic] of Ruth’s meeting with Boaz as ’chance’ is nothing more than the author’s way of saying that no human intent was involved. For Ruth and Boaz it was an accident, but not for God. The tenor of the whole story makes it clear that the narrator sees God’s hand throughout. In fact the very secularism of his expression here is his way of stressing that conviction. It is a kind of underplaying for effect. By calling this meeting an accident, the writer enables himself subtly to point out that even the ’accidental’ is directed by God." [Note: Hals, p. 12. See also Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "A Rhetorical Use of Point of View in Old Testament Narrative," Bibliotheca Sacra 195:636 (October-December 2002):409.]
Boaz’s love for God and other people, those qualities most important in a human being from God’s perspective (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; cf. Matthew 22:37-39), are obvious in this record of his dealing with his employees (Ruth 2:4). There was no labor management tension here since Boaz treated his workers with kindness and consideration.
"Significantly, the two greetings form a chiasm with the name Yahweh at its beginning and end. Hence, the exchange dropped a subtle hint which followed up the ’luck’ of Ruth 2:3: in a simple, undramatic way, it affirmed the presence of Yahweh in this scene. . . . Thus, by this simple device the narrator reminded his audience that, though offstage, Yahweh was nevertheless within earshot" [Note: Hubbard, pp. 144-45.]
Ruth’s character too was of high quality, as the reaper foreman reported (Ruth 2:7) and as Boaz later testified he had learned earlier (Ruth 2:11). We should probably understand the last part of Ruth 2:7 to mean that Ruth had rested only a short time. [Note: Morris, p. 273.] In other words, Ruth was a hard worker.
2. The maidservant of Boaz 2:8-13
Boaz called Ruth his daughter (Ruth 2:8) because she was considerably younger than he (Ruth 3:10) and because of his affection for her. He explained why he felt as he did for her in the following verses. Normally the poor migrated from field to field to glean. However, Boaz graciously made Ruth one of his maidservants (Ruth 2:8-9; Ruth 2:13), so she would not leave his field, and so he could provide for her needs more easily and fully.
"Boaz is hereby instituting the first anti-sexual-harassment policy in the workplace recorded in the Bible." [Note: Block, p. 660.]
The foreigner was integrating nicely into Israelite society, as her spiritual ancestors Sarah and Rebekah had done (cf. Genesis 20:6; Genesis 26:29). One of the benefits she enjoyed as a maidservant was drinking drawn water (Ruth 2:9). Water was a great blessing in the parched Near East.
Why was Boaz blessing her (lit. with "grace," "favor," or "acceptance;" Heb. hen)? Ruth wanted to know (Ruth 2:10). The Israelites did not normally treat foreigners this way during the period of the judges. Boaz explained that it was not her nationality but her unselfish love for Naomi (Ruth 2:11) and her trust in Yahweh (Ruth 2:12) that had moved him to bless her.
". . . Boaz’s kindness toward Ruth simply reciprocated hers toward Naomi. He was, indeed, a true son of Israel: he treated foreigners kindly because Israel itself knew the foreigner’s life in Egypt." [Note: Hubbard, pp. 164-65. Cf. Atkinson, pp. 67-68.]
Ruth 2:12 makes clear that Ruth was trusting in Yahweh and that her trust had become public knowledge in Bethlehem. Boaz used a figure of speech called a zoomorphism, comparing an aspect of God to an animal. The Hebrew word translated "wings" here, kenapayim, reads "skirt" in Ruth 3:9 (cf. Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalms 36:7; Psalms 57:1; Psalms 91:4).
"Union of the individual believer with God is therefore expressed in the same way as union between man and wife." [Note: Arthur H. Lewis, Judges and Ruth, p. 115.]
Ruth had found the favor she had sought (Ruth 2:2; Ruth 2:13). She was now not just a gleaner but a maidservant. Her lord, Boaz, would take care of her physical needs. However, she was an unusual maidservant because she was a poor alien widow.
3. Ruth’s privileges and responsibility 2:14-16
Boaz treated Ruth generously and courteously, yet she continued to glean. Her maidservant status did not provide her with sufficient income so she could abandon her gleaning. By allowing her to work, Boaz preserved Ruth’s dignity, but by providing generously for her he lightened her duties. The fact that Boaz permitted Ruth to eat with his household servants was another blessing from the Lord.
4. Ruth’s blessing of Naomi physically 2:17-23
At the end of the day’s work Ruth beat out and winnowed the grain she had gleaned. She had collected about three-fifths of a bushel of barley, "the equivalent of at least half a month’s wages in one day" (Ruth 2:17). [Note: Hubbard, p. 179. Cf. Huey, p. 532.] Ruth also took the food she had left over from lunch back to Naomi (Ruth 2:18; cf. Ruth 2:14).
Naomi twice blessed Ruth’s benefactor (Ruth 2:19-20). She prayed that Yahweh would bless Boaz who had been a source of blessing to her and Ruth. Every prayer in this book is a prayer of blessing, and God answered every one of them. [Note: Hals, pp. 4, 7.] She also identified Boaz’s kindness as loyal love (Heb. hesed, Ruth 2:20). Previously she had asked God to deal "kindly" (hesed) with Ruth and Orpah for dealing kindly with her husband, her sons, and herself (Ruth 1:8). Boaz had proved to be God’s agent in extending kindness to Naomi and Ruth, and indirectly to their husbands (Ruth 2:20).
"For Naomi, who at 1.20-21 delivers a scathing indictment of Yahweh as her oppressor, to declare the munificence of his hesed conduct at 2.20 without any redress is to scuttle the plot and reduce everything that follows to a disappointing anticlimax. The vindication of Yahweh is not to be found in the utterances of Naomi but in the utterances of the women in 4.14 to whom Naomi addressed her indictment in 1.20-21." [Note: B. Rebera, "Yahweh or Boaz? Ruth 2:20 Reconsidered," The Bible Translator 36 (1985):324.]
The beauty of Ruth’s character shines forth in Ruth 2:21. She did not view her relationship with Boaz as a way out of her own responsibility to provide for herself and her aged mother-in-law. Instead she rejoiced that she could continue to discharge her duty in safety.
The wheat harvest followed the barley harvest by a month and a half (Ruth 2:23). The Feast of Unleavened Bread in late March or early April inaugurated the barley harvest. The Feast of Firstfruits seven weeks later in late May or early June terminated the wheat harvest. Ruth must have been out in the fields for six or seven weeks. [Note: See Block, p. 677.]
Chapter 2 marks God’s initial blessing on Ruth for her faith in Yahweh. She received blessing and became a channel of blessing to Naomi. So far God’s blessing had been the provision of food and safety. These blessings came through Boaz, another channel of blessing, because of his faith in Yahweh seen in his fear of God and his love for people. Still more abundant and more significant blessing was yet to come.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ruth 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26