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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ruth 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ ruth-2.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ruth 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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THE GLEANER IN THE HARVEST FIELD
CONTENTS.—Ruth, in her poverty, is led by seeming chance to glean in the field-portion of Boaz, Naomi’s kinsman, and a great man in Bethlehem. Boaz, coming dawn from Bethlehem, is attracted by her, and makes inquiries concerning her. He afterwards shows her great kindness, and gives his reapers directions to favour her. She returns to Naomi to hear that he is near of kin to them, and to receive the approbation of her mother-in-law. She gleans in the field-portion of Boaz until the end of the harvest, dwelling with Naomi.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—And Naomi had a kinsman. According to Rabinical tradition, which is not well established however, Boaz was a nephew of Elimelech (Keil). Lyra saith Elimelech and Salmon—other Hebrews say Elimelech and Naason—were brethren. Some more probably hold that Elimelech was the son of Salmon’s brother, and so his son the kinsman of Boaz once removed, for there was one nearer (Trapp). Not the kinsman who is meant, but a kinsman, as there were several (Wright). Boaz was only a מִיֻדָּע (Lange); γνωριμος, a friend, a person known (LXX., Wordsworth). This not only explains a certain remoteness of Naomi from him, but it makes the piety, which, notwithstanding the distance (manifest also from Ruth 3:12) of the relationship, perform what the narrative goes on to relate, more conspicuously great than it would appear if, according to an unfounded conjecture of Jewish expositors, he were held to be a son of Elimelech’s brother (Lange). The Hebrew word is not the same as that rendered kinsman in Ruth 2:20; Ruth 3:9-13. Literally, it means only an acquaintance, but it expresses more than we mean by that term. The man was not a very near relative, but one “known” to the family as belonging to it (Lange). A mighty man of wealth [a valiant hero] (Lange). Here it signifies a man of property (Kiel). These words are applied to Boaz in no other sense than to Gideon (Judges 6:12), Jephthah (Judges 11:1), and others, and have no reference to his wealth and property (Lange). The phrase undoubtedly points to his valour and capacity in the field of battle (Cox). It is to be understood in the sense of “a leading man; a great man.” Hence the Jewish tradition that Boaz is another name for Ibzan, the only judge connected with Bethlehem. He was a strong and able man in Israel in war and in peace (Lange). And his name was Boaz. Signifies strength (Fuerst, Wordsworth, Wright). Son of strength (Lange, Cox). Alacrity (Gesen., Keil). To be explained by reference to the name of one of the pillars erected by Solomon (Lange, Wordsworth). Cf. 1 Kings 7:21, 2 Chronicles 3:17, in connexion with Solomon’s temple. The signification alacritas would hardly be applicable to the pillar (Lange). The name Boaz found a contrast to that of Ruth’s former husband, Mahlon, which signifies weakness (Wordsworth). The Chaldee reads “mighty in the law.” Boaz, son of Salmon and Rachab the harlot (Matthew 1:5).
Ruth 2:2. And glean ears. Literally, glean among the ears. Let me gather (Sc., some ears) among those that are left lying in the field by the harvesters (Lange). The right to glean was a legal privilege of the poor in Israel (cf. Leviticus 13:22; Leviticus 19:9, and Deuteronomy 24:19). But hardhearted farmers and reapers threw obstacles in the way, and even forbade the gleaning altogether (Keil). Hence Ruth proposed to glean after him who should generously allow it (ibid). Gleaning conceded, not as a matter of right, but as a favour (Kitto). Of corn. Corn is in Syriac the generic word for grain of any kind (Steele and Terry). After him in whose sight I shall find grace. Whoever he might be. Did not mean Boaz (A. Clarke). The owner had a right to nominate the persons who might glean after his reapers (Steele and Terry). In other words, the poor applied as Ruth did (Ruth 2:7) for permission to glean. Some think, however, that she did this only as a foreigner.
Ruth 2:3. And she went and came. That is, she went out of the house where she was, and out of the city, and came into the field (Gill). According to the Midrash, however (vide Jarci and Alshech, in loco.), she marked the ways as she went, before she entered into the field, and then came back to the city, that she might not mistake the way (ibid). And gleaned in the field after the reapers. Still regarded by the rural poor as one of their rights, though the decision has been against them in courts of law. The popular notion probably derived from Jewish customs (see Kitto). The law of Moses directed very liberal treatment of the poor at the seasons of harvest and ingathering. The corners of the field were not to be reaped; the owner was not to glean his own field; and a sheaf accidentally left behind was not to be fetched away, but left for the poor (Kitto). As landowners were not subject to money taxes for the support of the poor, this claim was liberally construed by them (Kitto), at least by the better-disposed among them. And her hap was to light. More literally, “And her lot met her on the field of Boaz” (Lange). Literally, her hap happened (Schaff, in Lange), her chance chanced to hit upon the field (Keil. Wordsworth). A part of the field belonging unto Boaz. “The field-portion,” i.e., that part of the grain-fields about Bethlehem which belonged to Boaz (Lange). The grain-fields, unlike the vineyards, are not separated by any enclosure. The boundary between them is indicated by heaps of small stones, or sometimes by single upright stones, placed at intervals (Lange).
HOMILIES AND OUTLINES
CHAPTER II—Ruth 2:1
Theme.—THE CLAIMS OF THE WEAK UPON THE STRONG
“Who gain their titles not by birth,
But win them by the lordlier worth
Of noble deeds,—true chivalry,
These men are God’s nobility.”—B.
“Howe’er it be, it seems to me
’Tis only noble to be good:
Kind hearts are more than coronets.
And simple faith than Norman blood.”—Tennyson.
And Naomi had a kinsman [lit. acquaintance] of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth [a valiant hero (Lange)], etc.
The second chapter opens up a new act, as it were, in this beautiful and touching drama; poetry of the highest order, and not the less poetry because it is fact; for far more romantic things are recorded in history, than ever yet were created in novel or romance (Cumming). Mark, too, that thus early in the narrative, what is the key to the whole story is plainly pointed to, viz., redemption, salvation, help, from one near of kin, one of the same family and blood. No wonder the old Puritans saw a spiritual suggestiveness in the character of Boaz. “My Redeemer liveth” is “my Goel liveth,” and the very word is applied to Boaz (Ruth 4:0), My strength and my Redeemer (Psalms 9:14), in the Hebrew is my Boaz and my (Goel (Cumming).
The text suggests as worthy consideration—
I. The relationship between the rich and the poor. Every branch of the tree is not a top branch (Matt. Henry). Must be and will be subordination, mutual dependence, and mutual responsibility, as long as the world lasts, or as long as the world is what it is. God wills that it should be so. He puts the rich and the poor side by side, and has linked them together a thousand times in this way. Beautiful when life repeats what is seen here, for the narrative goes on to show how Boaz came to respect Ruth and Naomi, first for kindred and then for virtue’s sake. Note. (a) A wealthy man may be a good and godly man, ready to meet the responsibilities which come to him. Riches neither further nor hinder salvation, but as loved and trusted in. Not money, which is “the root of all evil,” but the love of money. It is rare that religion and riches meet, yet Boaz was both rich and religious (Macgowan). Not many rich, etc. (b) Poverty a thing not to be despised in and for itself. The poor may be virtuous and attractive, as Ruth and Naomi evidently were. Boaz had “a poor relation,” a most uncomfortable fact, as many respectable people know (Braden). And yet they neither begged of him nor thrust themselves unduly on his notice. They were an example to all the world of that quiet self-respect which feels the claim, and yet waits the opportunity when that claim is to be presented by circumstances and providential leadings rather than by themselves.
Note. (c) It is not in the outward estate to alter blood and kindred, or the claims which come from thence. Poor Naomi and rich Boaz were of the same stock after all. Joseph, though governor of Egypt, had poor Jacob for his father, and plain shepherds for his brethren (Fuller). Mark the frailty and vanity of worldly dignity. However parents provide for their posterity, these contrasts are common enough in family life. The posterity of the righteous are brought into poverty, that they set not their minds on temporal glory (Topsell).
II. The relationship between the strong and the weak. A link here between the two extremes. Boaz, whose very name signifies strength, a hero and a great man, perhaps a judge in Israel; and this poor bankrupt widow, forced to live upon another’s gleanings. Naomi could say as does the Psalmist, “Thou hast put my kinsman far from me” (Lange). But Boaz had other qualities besides his strength. He shows himself morally brave in every relationship (Lange). All the claims which came to him in life are recognized and responded to,
(1) as master;
(2) as servant of God;
(3) as a man of action;
(4) as one not insensible to worth, hiding itself under the garb of poverty, he is an example of what is meant by the godly and righteous man. He stooped from his high estate, as Christ Himself humbled Himself to rescue the poor from their lot of ignominy and poverty; and he clothes them with his own dignity. His strength like the Saviour’s strength—to compare human things with Divine—is shown in his works. Note. Jesus is our near kinsman and Goel (Macgowan), a mighty man of wealth in a natural and in a spiritual way (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:3).
IMPROVEMENT.—Learn from the whole narrative, as shadowed forth here,
(1) The nobleness of strength nourishing weakness, true greatness recognizing the claims of those beneath it, where many would pass by and despise. “We that are strong,” etc. (Romans 15:1).
(2) Recognize the claims, which make the whole family of God as one. We are all of the same blood. Go back far enough, and you will find relationship. Remember the words of that noble Roman, received even then with tumultuous applause, “I am a man; nothing that concerns man can be a matter of indifference to me.”
“The improvement of the ground is the most natural obtaining of riches; for it is our great mother’s blessing, the earth’s; but it is slow. And yet, when men of great wealth do stoop to husbandry, it multiplieth riches exceedingly.”—Lord Bacon.
“It is not the having of wealth, but the having confidence in wealth; not the possessing it, but the relying on it, which makes rich men incapable of the kingdom of heaven: otherwise, wealth well used is a great blessing, enabling the owner to do God more glory, the Church and commonwealth more good.”—Fuller.
“Naomi, though a poor, contemptible widow, had rich relations whom yet she boasted not of, nor was burdensome to, nor expected anything from, when she returned to Bethlehem in distress. Those that have rich relations, while they themselves are poor, ought to know that it is the wise providence of God that makes the difference (in which we ought to acquiesce), and that to be proud of our relation to such is a great sin, and to trust to is a great folly.”—Matt. Henry.
“How came it to pass, then, that a man so bold and generous and pious left Naomi un-helped and uncomforted in the time of her penury and grief? We cannot altogether tell. He may have been absent on military service when she returned from the field of Moab, and have only got leave of absence, as soldiers then commonly did, during harvest. He may only just have heard the tale of Naomi’s sorrow when he met Ruth in the harvest-field.”—Cox.
“One would suppose that to the proud heart of man anything would be preferable to beggary; but so inconsistent are its workings, that more are led to beggary by pride than poverty, as people imagine that a certain distinction attaches to dependence on relatives, or even on friends, while they regard the lower kinds of industry as disgraceful.… It would be well for all classes to remember that meanness is not humility; it is the miserable resource by which disappointed pride seeks to steal that distinction which has been denied it, and to avoid the humiliating and correcting lessons which Providence sends; it is the crouching to man of those who will not bow to God. In proportion as pure religion enters the soul, this hateful spirit leaves it, and a love of independence takes possession of it,—a love of independence arising not from pride, but from the genuine desire not to encroach on human kindness, not to forget the Divine declaration, “That if any would not work, neither should he eat.”—Macartney.
“Behold therefore as in a glass the perfect image of temporal felicity, the father a king, the children beggars, the father honourable, the son not worshipful, the predecessors the chiefest in authority, but the successors the meanest in calling: this made the fathers think that the world was like a sea, here a mighty wave, there a great downfall. Some thought it to be like ice, where a man can never stand sure, but the one will be breaking or he be sliding; some like to trees whereof the tallest are soonest overturned; but all agree in this, that worldly felicity is miserable vanity; for our present wealth is like a pleasant summer which must needs come to an end, though all the world should strive to the contrary.”—Topsell.
“Therefore make you friends of the unrighteous mammon, that when you shall have need they may receive you into their everlasting habitations. Distribute liberally. give plentifully, live peaceably, walk humbly; for the wealth of the world doth not always last, neither the crown from generation to generation.”—Topsell.
“Let this confute such as having gotten a little more thick clay than the rest of their family, the getting of new wealth and honour makes them to lose their old eyes, so that they cannot see and discern their poor kindred afterwards. When Joseph was governor of Egypt, it is said that he knew his brethren, but his brethren knew not him; but now-a-days it happeneth clean contrary. If one of a family be advanced to great honour, it is likely that his kindred will know him, but he oftentimes comes to forget them. Few there be of the noble nature of the Lord Cromwell, who, sitting at dinner with the lords of the council, and chancing to see a poor man afar off which used to sweep the cells and the cloisters, called for the man, and told the lords,’ This man’s father hath given me many a good meal, and he shall not lack as long as I live.’ ”—Fuller.
“Who knoweth whether God hath raised thee up, who art the best of thy kindred, to this very intent that thou mightest be the treasure and the storehouse to supply the want of others which are allied unto thee?”—Fuller.
“There are multitudes of men like the summer vines, which never grow even liqucous, but stretch out a thousand little hands to grasp the stronger shrubs; and if they cannot reach them they lie dishevelled in the grass, hoof-trodden, and beaten of every storm.… As yet the world will not understand that he governs whom love makes serviceable. The strong are few, the weak are many, and God appoints the strong to serve the weak, saying, ‘We, then, that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself; but, as it is written. The reproaches of them that reproach thee fell on me.’ ”—Beecher.
“A Christianity which will not help those who are struggling from the bottom to the top of society needs another Christ to die for it.”—Ibid.
“How seldom, friend, a good great man inherits
Honour and wealth, with all his worth and pains!
It seems a story from the world of spirits
When any man obtains that which he merits,
Or any merits that which he obtains.
For shame, my friend! renounce this idle strain!
What wouldst thou have a good great man obtain?
Goodness and greatness are not means, but ends.
Hath he not always treasures, always friends,
The great good man? Three treasures—love and light,
And calm thoughts, equable as infant’s breath;
And three fast friends, more sure than day and night—
Himself, his Maker, and the angel Death?”
“How blessed he
That feels not what affliction greatness yields!
Other than what he is he would not be,
Nor change his state with him that sceptre wields.
Thine, thine is that true life; that is to live,
To rest secure, and not rise up to grieve.”
Theme.—HUMBLE TOIL, THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS AN AFTER RECOMPENCE
“O woman! in our hours of case
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as is the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou!”—Scott.
“Oh, what makes woman lovely? virtue, faith,
And gentleness in suffering,—an endurance
Through scorn or trial,—these call beauty forth,
Give it the stamp celestial, and admit it
To sisterhood with angels!”—Brent.
And Ruth said … Let me now go into the fields, and glean. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter.
This is the first movement of the machine which brought such grand things about. From gleaning she arose to be ancestress to Jesus (Macgowan). This request led to the recompence; proved a step towards her highest preferment.
Note. (a) Great things often arise from very small beginnings. A restless night by Ahasuerus produced that great revolution in favour of the Jews (Esther 6:0) (Macgowan). (b) High buildings are raised upon the lowest foundations (ibid.). Christ’s Church was to be built upon the truth contained in Peter’s confession (Matthew 16:16-18). So upon Ruth’s fidelity the human nature of our Lord is, as it were, to be engrafted.
I. A truly filial spirit. Gentle obedience, willing submission to Naomi. Her nativity of Moab; her behaviour that of an Israelite indeed—a true daughter of Abraham, though she springs from Lot (Lawson). Mark how her meek and beautiful spirit begins to show itself. She did not go of herself, obstinately and selfishly. She consulted her mother-in-law, and this was even more commendable than if it had been done to her natural parents. Possibly, too, she wished Naomi to enjoy the rest suitable to her time of life. Note. (a) A wise, thoughtful, considerate spirit one of the true signs of grace. This not always exhibited, especially where the pangs of want are felt. A parent’s poverty at times the source of discontent (Braden). Many become hard, cold, cynical in reverses. Not so Ruth. (b) These charities of the heart sweeten life (Lawson). We have here a beautiful example of courtesy between children and parents, as in Ruth 2:4, between masters and servants.
II. A truly humble spirit. Mark the lowliness of her employment. She will work in the hot sun as a poor gleaner, and never murmur (Braden). Some way of earning a livelihood was a necessity. Ruth desirous of an honest though never so simple a calling (Topsell). Takes that which is nearest to hand. Will not depend upon Naomi, but would rather that Naomi in her old age should lean upon her. Will not even wait until, perhaps, Naomi’s relatives, out of very shame, step in with succour and assistance. No! Like that one in the Gospel, she cannot dig, and to beg she is ashamed. But unlike that one, she is not above using every honest means to maintain herself and assist her mother. Note. Female feelings are keener than those of men (Macgowan). Contact with the rude, unfeeling world means more to them. Ruth must have shrunk with a woman’s sensitiveness from the step. And yet she adapts herself to the new circumstances. She goes out to glean with the poor around her. So Paul: “I have learned in whatsoever state,” etc. “I know both how to be abased,” etc. (Philippians 4:11-12).
III. A truly noble spirit. The best natures show best when most tried, and they are lovelier in poverty than in wealth. Note. (a) Brave toilers have always made the worst drudgery sublime (Braden). Work is not degradation, and only mean spirits think it to be so. Paul laboured with his own hands as a tent maker. Not what I have, but what I do, is my kingdom (Carlyle). There is a perennial nobleness, and even sacredness, in work (ibid). However humble, it exalts the man. Labour is man’s necessity … is man’s glory (Caleb Morris), and brings its own reward. Especially so when an affection like Ruth’s prompts us to it.
“Offices of love
Wrought for a parent lighten duty’s labours.”—Sophocles.
(1) Before honour is humility.
(2) Great things come to pass by poor and unlikely beginnings (Bernard).
(3) The way of our abasement may become, in God’s providence, the way of our advancement.
Bernard on this:—
Honest hearts truly entertaining religion, do not forsake it or the godly for worldly wants.
Godly children hold themselves bound to be at the disposing of their parents.
Honest minds will stoop to base means, so they be honest, to relieve their wants in their poor estate. The truly religious will not live idle.
Gleaning then, as now, was a lawful means for the poor to get food.
In whose sight I shall find favour.
The godly, in using lawful means to live, hope to find favour with one or other for their relief. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter.
Requests are to be granted of parents, unto children, when they be lawful and fit.
A meek and loving spirit giveth a meek and loving answer.
“What cold entertainment do they find at Bethlehem, even in the Church of God, for whose sake one forsook her country, the other her wealth, and both of them their welfare.… Is this the profit of your profession, which promises mountains of security, and pays a multitude of miseries?… A man that hath a thousand pounds laid beside him, and layeth it out upon a bargain, whereof he shall receive no profit in many years, but the date expireth and the day of receipt come, receiveth his own and many thousand pounds for his gain.… Even so with religion, it is a pearl for which we must sell both living and lands, and yet it is worth both, and many a thousand times more; if thou feel not the profit at first tarry awhile, thou hast the promise and bond of the Lord of hosts.”—Topsell.
“For this, then, she had left paternal house and land … But the love she cherishes makes everything easy to her. It not only gives utterance to good words, but it carries them into practice. She forgets everything in order now to remember her filial duty to Naomi, and Naomi accepts her offer. Until now she has only silently endured every expression of Ruth’s self-sacrifice. She had indeed ceased to dissuade her from going with her, but she had also refrained from encouraging her.… The meekness with which she asks permission to encounter toil and misery overcomes in Naomi every other ulterior consideration. Such a request could no longer be silently accepted, nor could it be refused. Naomi has no other reward for Ruth’s self-sacrificing disposition, than that she is ready to accept its effort for herself.”—Lange (condensed).
“What prosperity had concealed, adversity brings to light. Nobleness that we never suspected, with powers that would have remained uncultured and unfruitful, have been manifested. They are like some grand mansion surrounded and hidden in summer time by large full-foliaged trees; the passer-by cannot discern the fine proportions and ornamental sculpture that make it ‘a thing of beauty;’ but when winter tears away with ruthless hand every leaf, until the trees stand clear and bare, then behold the magnificent handiwork appears in all its glory and perfection.”—Braden.
“I do not hear Ruth stand upon the terms of her better education or wealthy parentage; but now that God had called her to want, she scorns not to lay her hand upon all homely services, and thinks it no disparagement to find her bread in other men’s fields. There is no harder lesson to a generous mind, nor that more beseems it, than either to bear want or to prevent it. Base spirits give themselves over to idleness and misery, and because they are crossed will sullenly perish.”—Bishop Hall.
“High spirits can more easily starve than stoop; Ruth was none of those. She does not tell her mother. She was never brought up to live upon crumbs. Though she was not brought up to it, she is brought down to it, and is not uneasy at it. Nay, it is her own motion, not her mother’s injunction. Humility is one of the brightest ornaments of youth, and one of the best omens. Before Ruth’s honour was this humility.”—Matt. Henry.
Let this teach even those whose veins are washed with generous blood, and arteries quickened with noble spirits, in their prosperity, to furnish, qualify, and accommodate themselves with such gentile (gentle) arts and liberal mysteries as will be neither blemish nor burthen to their birth; that so, if hereafter God shall cast them into poverty, these arts may stand them in some stead towards their maintenance and relief.”—Fuller.
“There are compensations even in this world, of which we little dream, and God sets one thing, and often a better thing, over against another in human life. Riches fly, but character is developed; we are compelled to work, and out of work spring our truest joys. Our life is paradoxical, but without contradictions; we are made the least, that we may become the greatest, and the way down is, with God as guide, always the road to exaltation.”—Braden.
“Young persons should be cheerfully willing to bear fatigues and troubles for the sake of their aged parents, that they may enjoy such case as the infirmities of age require. Let those who are in the vigour of age, if their parents are feeble, remember what their mothers endured for them in infancy or sickness, how they willingly suffered anxiety of mind, the want of sleep, and many fatigues of body, that their beloved offspring might enjoy pleasure, or be relieved from distress. How selfish are the spirits of those young persons who grudge toil or expense for their parents in that time of life when they can enjoy little pleasure but what arises from beholding the affectionate attachment of their children.”—Lawson.
“I am told that the Court of Common Pleas, which is not infallible, has decided that nobody has a right to glean. It was hitherto supposed to be a universal right; that prescript had made it law; but one of our courts has decided that it is not law, and that nobody has a right to glean. And therefore we have got what I suppose is thought politically a better substitute—the Poor Law, instead of the ancient usage of gleaning in the fields after the reapers.”—Dr. Cumming.
“Labour is, and must be, the foundation of our earthly livelihood, must be the price of our natural, our bodily, our animal happiness. Labour in some shape or other is, in fact, the very foundation of everything that is good for man.”—Caleb Morris.
“Do the duty which lies nearest thee, which thou knowest to be a duty. Thy second duty will already have become clearer.… Hence also our whole duty, which is to move, to work, in the right direction.”—Carlyle.
“As frosts unlock the hard shells of seeds, and help the germ to get free, so trouble developes in men the germs of force, patience, and ingenuity, and in noble natures ‘works the peaceable fruits of righteousness.’ A gentle schoolmaster it is to those who are ‘exercised thereby.’ Tears, like rain-drops, have a thousand times fallen to the ground and come up in flowers.”—Beecher.
Theme.—SEEMING CHANCES, REAL PROVIDENCES
“Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well,
When our deep plots do pall; and that should teach us
There’s a Divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will,”—Shakespeare.
“All Nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good,
And spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, whatever is, is right.”—Pope.
And she went and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and her hap was to light, etc.
Inspiration speaks here after our human ways and methods of speech. Christ Himself did so in His wonderful parable of the Good Samaritan. “By chance,” He says, “there came” (Luke 10:31). Note. A revelation from God to man necessarily implies this condescension. Just as the Word was made flesh, so the Divine thought, when it was revealed to holy men of old, must clothe itself with the limitation and imperfection which belong to speech. How else could we receive it—understand it? Elsewhere, however, the Scriptures teach us there is no such thing as chance. “Not a sparrow falleth,” etc. And where men think they appeal to fortune, the hand of God is to be seen. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the disposing of it is of the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33).
I. That by what appear mere accidents, we may alight upon our best blessings (Braden). Wandering at her will, going whithersoever she would, she was still treading in the path of destiny. Possibly she had neither choice nor desire, which could bias either to the right hand or to the left. At best, it was only a question as to where she would be allowed to glean that absorbed the mind (Ruth 2:2; Ruth 2:7). Yet it was one of the critical moments of her life. So with ourselves. How many things have happened, about which we were strangely indifferent; yet their issues have proved unspeakably momentous (Braden). Note. Human life itself is made up of little things, of small, and seemingly unimportant events, upon which greater things depend.
“Guard well the boon, ’Tis trivial
In seeming only, and shall win
A dower of heaven for faithfulness,
The curse of hell, if there be sin.”—B.
Observe, II., as following this—
That these seeming chances are real providences. If we could see the end as God does, we should see that every event is for the believer (McCheyne). With regard to Ruth, this was hap or chance; she knew not the fields of Boaz from those of another. With God it was providence. Outwardly, and as men speak, it was an accident, but mark to what the accident led! It brought her to that part of the field belonging to the man to whom, of all others, it was of the greatest importance she should be introduced. Note. (a) That which we call chance, casualty, accident, “good luck,” is included in the all things that work together for good (Romans 8:28). What though it be a catastrophe or a crime!—there may be second causes and the action of human evil, but the great first cause is in all (Spurgeon).
Note. (b) Those things which with us are accidental, are all the determinations of a holy Providence (Macgowan). Ruth’s purpose was to glean, God’s purpose was to direct her into the way of meeting with Boaz. So always. In the eye of man, mere chance brought Jacob and Rachel together (Genesis 29:0). So with Pharaoh’s daughter going to bathe (Exodus 2:5-10). None the less there was the Divine purpose being accomplished, which had respect to the future of Israel. So with the Syrian arrow drawn at a venture (1 Kings 22:34). God directed it. Note. (c) The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10:23). We go blindly, not knowing what a day or even an hour may bring forth. All is chance in one sense. We stumble upon the best things that come to us in life. It is all a surprise, and God has intended that it should be so. But then this is only the human side. Look deeper, and there is a plan, a purpose. Life unfolds itself to the wise man more and more as if it were a premeditated thing. There is a fitness, an appropriateness about all that happens, which speaks the Divine direction and control. Note. (d) Providences to the righteous, are but the fulfilment of promises.
III. That God does direct and give success to the efforts of the right-minded. David says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Psalms 37:23). If so, the way and its issue alike must be well. Who can guide himself aright in this perplexing world? (Braden). Ignorance, confusion, the tangled thread of human affairs, everywhere apparent!
“Mystery enshroudeth ever,
Unknown shores on either side,
And for ever through the darkness
Flows the deep and troubled tide.”—B.
So men have said as they travel onward down the stream of time. But faith has its answer amid these perplexities of human life,—“This God is our God for ever and ever, and He will be our guide even unto death.”
Note. (a) That this Divine guidance, however apparent, does not set aside individual responsibility. The angel hands were laid upon Lot when he left Sodom, but he himself must yield to them—the human will working with the Divine will—if his salvation is to be secured. He might have cast off the angel hands, and perished with his sons-in-law, who mocked alike at the threatened danger and the offered guidance (Genesis 19:14-16). Note. (b) “I being in the way, the Lord led me” (Genesis 24:27), the principle upon which God deals with men.
So it was with Ruth. Mark
(1) God’s blessing met her in the way of humble toil. Lange gives as a more literal translation, “And her lot met her in the field of Boaz.” Her destiny was decided there—humble gleaner as she was, she found favour with the man upon whom everything depended. So always. God’s blessing can come to us in the cornfield, or in the workshop, or in the counting house. And He Himself can be with us there. “Not man’s manifold labours,” says Dr. Pusey, “but his manifold cares, hinder the presence of God. Labour ordained by God, and wrought for and in God, invites God’s fuller presence.” Note. A principle in this choice of the humble who are to be exalted [cf. Luke 1:48-53]. He who chose a gleaner to be the ancestress of David, of Christ, chose the fisherman, and the tax-gatherer, and the tent maker, to confound the wisdom and the greatness of the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-28).
(2) God’s blessing met her in the way of a self-denying as well as a self-appointed duty. Her reward found her where her love led her. This one of the main lessons of the history, a lesson pointed out by the pen of inspiration itself [cf. Ruth 2:12].
Tyng on this (Ruth 2:2-6) condensed:—
God brings His children by ways they know not. The manifestation of His plans gradual. No accident in our lives. How ample was the portion He had provided for Ruth, a kinsman prepared to protect, to sustain, and to exalt her—a mighty man of wealth. But as yet she had no personal knowledge of him—no means of knowing the gracious purposes of God regarding her. So God has prepared an all-sufficient and waiting Saviour for the poor and perishing sinner, a Saviour able to meet his wants, his dangers, his future need. But the perishing one knows nothing of Him. The way in which God is pleased to lead us to Jesus illustrated in the method of Ruth’s introduction to her rich kinsman.
I. The first step is to reduce her to the deepest necessity. In great poverty, and with no apparent means of relief, Ruth proposes to glean. The very necessity brought out a proof of her excellency. So God brings the soul to an experience of utter want. Looks round in vain for relief. His conscious necessity urges him to come as a beggar. And it is when he can say, “I am willing to be the lowest of the low, if the Saviour will receive me,” that the day of his salvation draws nigh.
II. The next step is to take away all feeling of rebellious pride in this state of want. Sinful pride, a most common attendant on earthly distress—a very different feeling from self-respect. Ruth had great self-respect, and yet she was not ashamed to be poor. Willing to glean—to do anything. So the sinner must be made to feel his deep unworthiness, his complete nothingness, etc.
III. The next step is one of gracious providence to bring her, as it were by accident, to an unexpected introduction to her rich kinsman. God had disposed and prepared her way before her; and leads her to the very place where He designs to bless her. Her coming seemingly accidental, but far enough from accident in reality. So the gracious providence of God is often manifested in bringing poor, perishing souls under the ministry of the Word! This the point to which everything else is tending, and to which everything else is subordinate.
IV. The next step in Ruth’s history is the peculiar crisis at which she came into the field. The time of a gracious visit from the master, etc.
Bernard on this (condensed):—
And she went and came and gleaned. She craved leave to go, and when it was granted, she accordingly went.
(1) Honest motions and intentions to well doing are to be put into practice, else they are worth nothing. Paul had a mind to visit the brethren, and he did so; the prodigal son had a purpose to return home, etc. If motions be good, it is good to put them into execution, and that speedily … and not to lose the fruit of good thoughts.
(2) Whom necessity moveth, and confidence in God encourageth, they fear no danger. Trusting in God, and being urged of necessity to use honest means to live, she feared no peril, though in those days, every one did what they listed (Judges 18:0, Judges 21:25). When men have faith in God, when the duty of their calling warranteth them, they grow courageous and bold, and put on a resolution without fear.
And her hap was. When things fall out beside a man’s purpose, or otherwise than was intended, and whereof a man is ignorant before the thing come to pass, then it is counted hap, or luck, or as the heathen used to speak, fortune.
(1) It is not unlawful to speak according to men thus: It happened, it chanced, it was my luck; so that we understand thereby that which happened beyond our purpose and expectation, but yet guided by God’s hand and providence … always excepting in clear cases, where the apparent hand of God is seen; for thus offended the Philistines (1 Samuel 6:6-9).
(2) God doth so govern men’s actions, as things fall out beyond expectation, and as they were to be wished. See it in the success of Abraham’s servant sent to fetch a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:0); in Elijah coming to the poor widow of Sarepta in a most fit hour, etc. This should make us to rely upon God’s providence as Abraham did (Genesis 24:7).
(3) God will prosperously direct the well-minded which use honest means to relieve themselves.
“She went out, not knowing whither she went; taking either the right hand, or the left, scarcely being able to assign a reason why she preferred the one to the other.”—Toller.
“The misery or happiness of our life is often derived from accidents that appear quite trivial. Time and chance happeneth to all men, and no man can tell what consequences the slightest accident may leave. Connections, happy or pernicious, riches or poverty, life or death, may be the consequences of a walk or a visit intended for the amusement of a single hour.”—Lawson.
“As the star (Matthew 2:0) guided the wise men to Judea, to Bethlehem, to the inn, to the stable, to the manger; so the rays and beams of God’s providence conducted Ruth, that, of all grounds within the compass and confines, within the bounds and borders of Bethlehem, she lighted on the field of Boaz.”—Fuller.
“We take our steps without thought of consequences, and imagine that we are following out our own arranged designs, when all the while we are unconsciously fulfilling the purposes of a sovereign Providence.”—Braden.
“How comes the Holy Spirit to use this word—a profane term which deserves to be banished out of the mouths of all Christians? Are not all things ordered by God’s immediate providence, without which ‘a sparrow lighteth not on the ground’? Is not that sentence most true, ‘God stretcheth from end to end strongly, and disposeth all things sweetly: strongly, Lord, for Thee; sweetly, Lord, for me’? So St. Bernard. Or was the providence of God solely confined to His people of Israel, that so Ruth. being a stranger of Moab, must be left to the adventure of hazard? How comes the Holy Spirit to use this word ‘hap’?”—Fuller.
“Things are said to ‘happen,’ not in respect of God, but in respect of us; because oftentimes they come to pass, not only without our purpose and forecast, but even against our intentions and determinations. It is lawful therefore in a sober sense to use these expressions. ‘It chanced,’ or ‘It fortuned’ (Luke 10:31). Nor can any just exception be taken against those words in the collect. ‘Through all changes and chances of this mortal life,’ provided always that in our forms of speech we dream not of any heathen chance. It is observed that τυχή is not used in all the works of Homer; but sure St. Austin, in the first of his ‘Retractations,’ complaineth that he had too often used the word fortuna, and therefore, in the pagans’ sense thereof, we ought to abstain from it.”—Ibid.
“Scripture speaks of all things as being what they appear to be: were it otherwise, its language would be incomprehensible to us. We would not talk to a savage of chemical affinities, in endeavouring to explain to him the uses of salt or soap; we would speak of their apparent properties, and thus be enabled to carry his mind with us. Were God to speak to us of things as they are, that is, as He sees them, how utterly unintelligible would such address to us be! Let us mark attentively the course of events connected with, and depending on, this chance event—the birth of Obed, and through him of David—the promises made to the man after God’s own heart fulfilled by the appearance in that family of God manifest in the flesh; … and let us cast from us as unscriptural and absurd the theology which would teach us that great events are indeed ordered by God, but that smaller matters are beneath His notice, and unworthy of it. While the greatest events are made to spring from minute causes, the Lord of the universe must be recognised alike in the smallest as in the vastest of His works, whether of providence or of creation. ‘The very hairs of your head are all numbered.’ ”—Macartney.
“The story describes it as a fortunate incident, a curious coincidence; that is, it speaks in a natural human manner about it, because, when unable to trace the immediate action of a Divine hand, we are inclined to speak of chance rather than law, and of fortune rather than God. But we believe that it was by a supernatural guidance she was led there that day.… It was ‘her hap,’ but it was God’s will.”—Braden.
“Things do not happen—casualty, accident, chance, are mere words used to conceal our ignorance. Look deep enough, and you will find law, order, and purpose in the most chaotic circumstances; listen attentively, and you will hear the sound of a Divine harmony beneath the discordant and confusing noises of our present existence.”—Thomas Jones.
“People say, ‘How fortunate it is that things have turned out just as they have—that I was prepared for this!’ As if God did not arrange the whole! One might as well say, ‘How fortunate it is that I have a neck beneath my head, and shoulders under my neck!’ ”—Beecher.
“Doubt Providence—and what the better are you? You have the liability to accident, and nothing to control it, nothing to throw light upon it, nor to which you yourself may fly. You are the creature of chance, driven to and fro as a fallen leaf, and when you cry, there is none greater than you to help you.”—Wardlaw Mc All.
“This circumstance was with Ruth merely accidental, and not the result of choice and contrivance; but it was the effect of the Lord’s secret direction, in whose providence great events depend upon apparently trivial incidents.”—Scott.
“Accidit accidens vel eventus. By mere chance in respect of Ruth, who, being a stranger, knew not whose field it was; but by a sweet providence of God, who led her hither by the hand, as it were, for her present encouragement and future advancement.”—Trapp.
“Little do we know, when we go forth in the morning, what God means to do with us ere night. There is a providence that attends on us in all our ways, and guides us insensibly to His own ends; that Divine hand leads Ruth blindfold to the field of Boaz.”—Bishop Hall.
“Blindfolded and alone I stand,
With unknown thresholds on each hand;
The darkness deepens as I grope,
Afraid to fear, afraid to hope:
Yet this one thing I learn to know
Each day more surely as I go,
That doors are open’d, ways are made,
Burdens are lifted, or are laid,
By some great law unseen and still,
Unfathom’d purpose to fulfil
Not as I will.”—Helen Hunt.
“I do not deny that these things happened in the natural order. I say I am grateful for what happened; and look back at the past not without awe. In great grief and danger, may be, I have had timely rescue. Under great suffering I have met with supreme consolation. When the trial has seemed almost too hard for me, it has ended, and our darkness has been lightened. Ut vivo et valeo—si valeo. I know by whose permission this is, and would you forbid me to be thankful? To be thankful for my life; to be thankful for my children; to be thankful for the daily bread which has been granted to me, and the temptation from which I have been rescued? As I think of the past and its bitter trials, I bow my head in thanks and awe. I wanted succour, and I found it. I fell on evil times, and good friends pitied and helped me.”—Thackeray.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—
Ruth 2:4. And behold Boaz came. Not only to see the progress of the work, but also to take part in the entertainment provided for his labourers (Wright). The Lord [Jehovah] be with you. The first time this emphatic expression occurs in Scripture (Scott). Cf. Judges 6:12. The same salutation as that addressed by the angel to Gideon (Speaker’s Com.). The salutation one almost universally hears between the peasants in the fields are identical with those used by Boaz and his reapers (Dr. Porter). The Targum is, “May the word of the Lord be your help.”
Ruth 2:5. Then said Boaz [And Boaz said] unto his servant that was set over the reapers αγροχομος; the land steward (Josephus). נער is not only used in its primary significance as a boy, but also in its more general meaning as a servant (Wright). Whose damsel is this? τίνος ἡ νεᾱνις ἅυτη (LXX.). Cujus est haec puella (Vulgate). What nation is this girl? (Targum.) What is the news of this girl? (Syr.) What is the state of this maiden? (Arab.) It seems that Boaz found her resting in the tent where the reapers took their meals (cf. Ruth 2:7-14).
Ruth 2:6. It is the Moabitish maiden. Or she is a Moabitish maiden, who came back with Naomi, etc. (Lange). Thus taken, the answer does not assume that Boaz is acquainted with the return of Naomi, The E.V. may, however, be justified by taking הַשָּׁכָח as a participle (cf. Ges. Ruth 3:2, a) (ibid.) [cf. on Ruth 1:22]. Boaz had heard of her, and had been much interested in her history (Ruth 2:11), but he had not seen her before, so that this was their first meeting (Steele and Terry.)
Ruth 2:7. And she said. And she has said (asked). Pray I will glean [i.e., pray allow her to glean] (Keil). And gather among the sheaves [Greek, handfuls]. The Israelites appear generally to have made up their corn into sheaves (Kitto), cf. Genesis 38:7; Leviticus 23:10-15; Job 24:10, etc. In the most ancient times, however, the corn was plucked up by the roots, and in Egypt at this day, barley and dourra are so gathered. Wheat as well as barley does not grow half so high as in England (Russell). So she came, and hath continued. And has come and stays (here) from morning till now (Keil). And she has gleaned from morning even to resting (Syr,). The LXX. renders it freely: “And she came and stood from morning till evening, and rested not even a little in the field.” That she tarried a little in the house. Thus her sitting in the house is but for a little (Lange); i.e., she has been sitting in the house as you see her now, only for a short time (Wright). Boaz, it would seem, had remarked Ruth sitting in the cottage or tent in which the reapers were accustomed to rest themselves and to take their meals (ibid.). Wordsworth thinks it hardly probable, that she would have entered a tent of the reapers, and translates rather as to her stay in the house, that is little; i.e., she spares herself no time to go home for rest and refreshment. Her sitting in the house that is little (Keil). Evident from this answer,
(1) that Boaz did not prohibit any poor person from gleaning in the fields;
(2) that Ruth asked permission of the overseer, and availed herself of that permission, with untiring zeal from the first thing in the morning;
(3) that her history was well known to the overseer, and also to Boaz, although Boaz sees her now for the first time (ibid.).
Theme.—THE RIGHT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MASTERS AND SERVANTS
“It is a kind of good deed to say well;
And yet words are not deeds.”—Shakespeare.
“Large-hearted souls that turn with love
To all beneath and One above:
To heaven they constant bow the knee,
And prove them God’s nobility.”—B.
And behold Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord [Jehovah] be with you, etc.
Now that Ruth is in the field, the plans of Divine Providence are not completed until Boaz has been led there. Note. (a) Providence is the execution of the Divine decree, always infallible and well-timed (Macgowan). How opportunely it brought Pharaoh’s daughter to the infant Moses; Ahasuerus to have that part of his chronicles read which concerned Mordecai (Esther 6:1-2); Pharaoh to dream when Joseph is to be delivered from prison. A similar guidance to be recognized in connexion with the text. [See on Ruth 2:3.] Note. (b) God’s thoughts are above ours, and He so orders our actions as we, if we had known, should have wished (Bishop Hall). Looking back, how often do we see that He has not only given us the thing that is best for for us, but brought about events even as we ourselves could have desired.
I. On the character of a righteous man as illustrated here. Boaz seen in the text as
(1) diligent in business,
(2) fervent in spirit. Rich but religious, a rare bird (Trapp).
Mark his industry. Did not sit at home, and leave his affairs to his servants. There is an overseer [a land steward—Josephus] but everything is not left to him. Not one of those who are ashamed to be seen in the fields with his labourers. No! he goes to inspect, to oversee, to direct, to look well after his business affairs. An example (a) to masters. “No eye like the master’s.” If a man would thrive, let him do his business himself (Toller). Careful personal superintendence not only necessary, but beneficial—work performed more rapidly—vast waste prevented, etc. (Braden). (b) To ministers. Oportet Episcopum conscionantem mori (Bishop Jewell).
Again mark his benevolence and kindness to a stranger (Ruth 2:8-16), as well as the courtesy and piety expressed here. The salutations are earnest prayers. Like every good man, he carries a devout atmosphere about with him wherever he goes, into the cornfield as well as into the closet. Note, (a) Real goodness will display itself in every relationship of life. Naaman, although a heathen, appears to have showed kindness to his servant (2 Kings 5:1-3). Our faith barren, unless it make itself seen in the character and the life. If a man cannot be a Christian in the place where he is, he cannot be a Christian anywhere (Beecher). Note. (b) Good men will pray for a blessing upon those around them, especially those of their own household. The Lord be with you! This address, with the response, is one of the earliest examples of family prayer (Wordsworth).
II. On the right relationship between master and servants, as illustrated here. They must be very depraved men who are not faithful servants and sincere friends to such masters as Boaz. “Even publicans,” says our Lord, “love those who love them” (Lawson). Note. Good masters generally make good servants. Treat men with kindness and courtesy, and they will return it, as here. The just demeanour of their master, refined by humility, controlled these (Lange).
(1) The mutual respect and good-will between master and servant expressed in these salutations. The picture a very beautiful one, the master praying a blessing upon his servants, the servants in return praying a blessing upon their master. Can a pious mind read these godly salutations without wishing for a return of those simple, primitive times? (Adam Clarke.) Note. (a) Christians are to bless, and curse not. Religion requires rather than prohibits these salutations [cf. Matthew 10:12; John 20:26; Luke 1:28; Psalms 129:7-8, etc.], so that our greeting be sincere. It is to be neither that of an Absalom (2 Samuel 20:10) nor a Judas, but free from guile, and without hypocrisy. (b) A sign of an ungenerous nature to be outvied with courtesy (Fuller). Charity hopeth all things, and if they [whom we salute] be not sons of peace, our peace returneth to us (Trapp). Those passages, as 2 Kings 4:29, and Luke 10:4, which the Anabaptists formerly quoted against Christians saluting each other, to be explained by the haste of the messenger, etc. (Bernard).
(2) The harmony between employer and employed. The secret of it to be found in the joint dependence upon the Divine providence expressed. “The Lord,” etc. Living faith in God is the best bond between master and workman; preventing a wrongful use of power on the one side, and presumptous insubordination on the other (Lange). Note. Only a true Christian can make either the highest type of master or of man. Until men are inspired by God’s love … until they have confidence in each other as religious men, there will be neither mutual sincere courtesies, nor any profound trust in each other’s dealings (Braden).
This happy relationship expressed in the text useful, if only by way of contrast. Class alienation our country’s greatest curse (Braden); little of genial unity between employers and employed; the breach between capital and labour seriously widening (ibid.). Where is the cure? Laws, however wisely framed, can never altogether amend relationships which depend upon mutual esteem and good-will. The cure must go deeper than the realm of law. Is to be found alone where Christianity promises it, in the regeneration of human nature itself.
(1) Let us learn to use (a) courteous salutations as expressions of a sincere good-will (M. Henry). (b) Pious ejaculations, lifting up our hearts to God for His favour (ibid.) upon ourselves, our friends, households, servants, etc.
(2) See how grace humbles the heart, teaches men to be sociable—is the very cement of society. It makes mighty men of wealth not above their fellows (Macgowan). Among the Moslems, the salutation.… a sign of their brotherhood in religion, and their actual equality before God (Kitto). We may go to the East to learn how the poor may be treated with courtesy, and be continually reminded, in every passing form of speech, of their natural and religious brotherhood (ibid.).
“It appears safe to conclude that the inn of Joseph and Mary was the inn of Jeremiah; and if it was the inn of Jeremiah, it was also beyond doubt the house of Chimham, and consequently it was presumably the house which had once been that of David and Ruth.
“Every hint afforded by the Bible narrative as to local fact and local colour helps to prove that the birthplace of David, and that the khan, or residence of Jesse, in which the two men were born, stood here in Bethlehem, on the very ridge now crowned by the Church of the Holy Nativity.… As the shape of the ridge, and its relation to Jerusalem imply, the spot on which the house of hospitality would stand must have been a little below the town, at the junction of roads coming up the great valleys … on a spot lying below the gates and above the fields; in fact, the very ground on which the inn of Jesus stood, and on which the church and convent of the Grotto stand.
“Here, then, where by all analogies we should seek it, the Bible tells us that the house of Boaz stood on the green slopes some paces below the town, between the gates and the cornfields. Ruth, living in the town with Naomi, had to go down into these fields as the gleaners go down now (Ruth 3:3), the descent from the hill on which the city is built to the fields being sharp.”—Hepworth Dixon’s “Holy Land.”
“So a king, in Homer, is represented as among his reapers, with his sceptre in his hand, and cheerful, Pliny relates it, as a saying of the ancients, that the eye of the master is the most fruitful thing in the field; and Aristotle reports, that a Persian being asked what fattened a horse most replied, The eye of the master; and an African being asked what was the best dung for land, answered, The steps of the master.”—Gill.
“Say to a Turk according to custom, ‘May your morning be propitious!’ he replies, ‘May you be the pledge of God!’ Ask a Turk, ‘Is your health good?’ he answers, ‘Glory be to God!’ Salute him, as you pass him rapidly in travelling, he exclaims, ‘To God I commend you!’ and is answered, ‘May God be with you!’ ”—Hartley.
“The pious, affectionate language interchanged between him and his reapers, and which appears to have been familiar to them, shows that there were many godly persons in Israel, notwithstanding national defections; and it beautifully illustrates the genuine effect of true religion in producing affability in superiors, and respect and affection in inferiors, and mutual unaffected goodwill in all. It is lamentably true that such language as this is seldom heard in our fields, while the bounty of Paradise is gathered in, but frequently the reverse; yea, whatever can inflame the passions and corrupt the morals; so that a stranger, who should be occasionally present, would be apt to form a very different opinion of the religion of England, than Ruth did of that of Israel, from the conversation and conduct of Boaz and his reapers.”—Scott.
“ ‘If a civil word or two will make a man happy,’ said a French king, ‘he must be wretched indeed who will not give them to him.’ ”—Dictionary of Illustrations.
“Observe, courteous and loving salutations beseem Christians. Indeed, our Saviour (Matthew 10:0) forbade His disciples to salute any in the way; but His meaning was that they should not lag or delay, whereby to be hindered from the service wherein they were employed. And St. John, in his second Epistle, saith, that to some we must not say ‘God speed,’ lest we be made ‘partakers of their evil deeds;’ but that is meant of notorious sinners, which have discovered their impious intents. It is commonly said that the smallpox is not infectious until it be broken out, so that before the time one may safely converse, eat, drink, lie with them; but after the pox is broken out it is very dangerous; so we may safely salute and exchange discourse with the most wicked sinners, whiles yet they smother and conceal their bad designs; but when once they declare and express them, then it is dangerous to have any further familiarity with them.”—Fuller.
“Piety not only stands with humanity and civil courtesy, but also exacteth and requireth it (Matthew 12:0; 1 Peter 3:8; Luke 10:5). God hath His ethics, and commandeth good manners as well as good conscience. Affability and courtesy is the way to win others; men’s minds are taken with it, as passengers’ eyes are with fair flowers in the springtide; whereas a harsh, sullen, sour, churlish conversation is very distasteful to all, galleth the best (witness David, 1 Samuel 25:0), and openeth bad men’s mouths to speak evil of religion.”—Trapp.
“This was a real prayer from the mouth of Boaz. It is too common with men to say ‘God be with you,’ when God is not in their thoughts. The name of God is profaned when it is used without consideration. It is reported of the great philosopher Boyle, that he never mentioned the name of God without making a visible pause in his discourse.… All good things are requested in this prayer, The Lord be with thee. God’s presence and favour will satisfy our souls, will supply every want, will turn sorrow into joy, and the shadow of death into the morning. But without God’s presence and blessing, the richest confluence of sublunary blessing will leave us wretched and miserable, poor and blind and naked.”—Lawson.
“These salutations are well paraphrased by Dr. A. Clarke:—‘May God be with you to preserve you from accidents, and strengthen you to accomplish your work,’ ‘May God bless thee with the increase of the field, and grace to use His bounty to the glory of the Giver.’ They impress us as beautiful indications of the pious and simple courtesy of the ancient Hebrew people. Such salutations, both between equals and superiors and inferiors, are still common in the East, but a Moslem will not thus knowingly hail one of another religion.”—Steele and Terry.
“Men must strive to understand each other’s position, to look upon it with broader sympathies, to learn that the interest of master and servants cannot be separated. For this class alienation is our country’s greatest curse, and must prove utterly disastrous to the prosperity of its commerce and the growth of its social well-being.”—Braden.
“Where a pious and brave spirit like that of Boaz pervades the community, social questions and crises do not arise; for external laws can never restrain the inward cravings of the natural man. But where the landed proprietor, in his relations to his people, is governed by other principles than those of self-interest, and cares also for their moral and religious development; where, further, the labourer understands that an increase in wages is not necessarily an increase of peace and happiness; where, in a word, the consciousness of an omnipresent God regulates the uprightness and care of the one, and the honesty and devotion of the other; there, no artificial solutions of conflicts between capital and labour will be required. Boaz lives in God, and therefore knows what duties of faith and love are obligatory upon him.”—Lange.
“I think it looks as if Boaz and his servants were really on friendly terms, and had one another’s interests at heart; he was pleased to see them cheerful and happy, and they to see him prosperous; he piously wished a blessing upon their labours, and they devoutly returned a benediction upon his substance.”—Fuller.
“The master of the great household of the world gives us an example of the case, whose eye is in every corner of his large possession. Not civility only, but religion, binds us to good husbandry. We are all stewards, and what account can we give to our Master, if we never look after our estate? I doubt whether Boaz had been so rich if he had not been so frugal, yet was he not more thrifty than religious. He comes not to his reapers but with a blessing in his mouth, ‘the Lord be with you,’ as one that knew if he were with them, and not the Lord, his presence could avail nothing. All the business of the family speeds the better for the master’s benediction. Those affairs are likely to succeed, that take their beginning at God.”—Bishop Hall.
Theme.—ATTENTION TO THE STRANGER AT THE GATE
“The fragrant sheaves of the wheat
Made the air above them sweet;
Sweeter and more divine
Was the scent of the scattered grain,
That the reaper’s hand let fall
To be gathered again
By the hand of the gleaner:
Sweetest, divinest of all,
Was the humble deed of thine,
And the meekness of thy demeanour.”—Longfellow.
Then said Boaz … Whose damsel is this?
And the servant that was set over the reapers answered, etc.
And she said, I pray you [thee] let me glean, etc.
A finer picture of rural harvest-scenes is nowhere extant. We hear, as it were, the rustling of the reapers’ sickles (Lange). The interest, however, here, as always, centres in the human elements of the picture—most of all, in Ruth pursuing her humble and lonely task, a stranger in a strange land. Possibly the poet’s words are only too true, where he speaks of
“The sad heart of Ruth, when sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn.—Keats.
Rural life not that paradisiacal thing Virgil contrasts so enthusiastically with the luxuriant life of Rome (Lange). Even in Israel a gleaner, conspicuous by her foreign garb, may have been in danger of insult (Ruth 2:9). Only when a pious and Godfearing spirit rules in the heart of proprietor and dependants, is it good to live amid the quiet scenes and rewardful toil of the country (Lange). Only then “the chaste dwelling preserves virtue [casta pudicitiam servat domus] (ibid.). The text gives a fine example of the best aspects of rural life, where religion comes in to soften and refine its usual asperities.
I. The prompt attention as well as careful although courteous bearing towards a stranger on the part of the master.
(1) Prompt attention. The Hebrew law held a master, in some measure, accountable for the stranger at his gate [cf. Exodus 20:10]. Nehemiah recognized this responsibility (Nehemiah 13:16-22). So does Boaz in the text. He does not wait for information, but asks at once, Whose damsel is this? An example (a) to masters and heads of households, which followed, will assuredly bring its own reward, as here. “Be not forgetful,” says the Apostle, “to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2). (b) To ministers. One of the complaints of modern worshippers is, that they come and go from the sanctuary unheeded; no one making inquiries concerning them or their welfare; no one doing for years what this fine old Hebrew gentleman did at once, and in a spirit which lifted it above all possibility of being misunderstood. Even Eli, although mistaken, was not indifferent to the stranger in the sanctuary (1 Samuel 1:1-18). Note. “No man careth for my soul,” a terrible inditement, if true, against any Christian church or community.
(2) Carefulness. Boaz, in doing good, evidently would know the persons and recipients; who they are, whence they came, whether they were worthy or not. A modern tendency to be lax on all these, and kindred points, rebuked here. True that God sends His rain upon the just and the unjust, that the wicked are not to be left to perish in times of want; but also true, that the Church has a special duty towards its own [cf. Galatians 6:10; Luke 24:47, etc.]. Charity is to begin at home, as well as to begin with the worthy, though it is not to remain there. Note. Strict inquiry should be made respecting those damsels who glean in the field of gospel ordinances. Whose are they, God’s or Satan’s? (Macgowan.)
II. The ready and unhesitating answer on the part of the steward.
(1) He answers without hesitation; can give a ready account of those whom he has suffered to glean in his master’s fields. Evidently he has performed his duty as overseer diligently and faithfully, as one who may at any moment be called to an account by the master. An example (a) to servants, (b) to church officers, elders, deacons, ministers, etc. Note. Church stewards ought to be capable of giving an account of those they suffer to partake of her bounty (Macgowan).
(2) He makes no attempt at concealment. Had done nothing but what he knew the master would approve. His kindness to the damsel had not made him unfaithful to his master; nor did his faithfulness to his master make him surly to the poor (Macartney).
(3) He is just and accurate in the account he gives. He neither misrepresents nor overstates,—a model steward. “Faithful in that which is least,” in that which simply concerns a poor gleaner, he is likely to be “faithful also in much.” A contrast to the unjust steward mentioned by our Lord (Luke 16:0).
(4) He displays a kindly and considerate spirit. Little did he think that this damsel was his intended mistress (Macgowan). But, like master, like servant. He had caught some touch of the generous and considerate spirit which belonged to Boaz; he knew his master’s benignity, and imitated it. Honourable of him, that he at once recommends Ruth by praising her diligence (Lange). Note. The well-disposed will praise virtue wherever they see it.
III. That which made this attention and kindness on the part of master and servant of value in the case of Ruth.
(1) She was a stranger, one of an alien race, a Moabitish damsel. Kindness, sympathy, slight attentions of especial value to such. [Example, Mungo Park and the African women.] This gave her, too, a special right to gather the gleanings of the harvest (Leviticus 19:9-10). Even the law pointed out the stranger as one not to be forgotten and overlooked by the benevolent—how much more then does the gospel! Ruth’s position illustrates that of many to-day, just coming into similar relationships with the Church of God. Note. All are Moabites by birth, who glean in the gospel fields (Macgowan).
(2) She was a proselyte—had left all for Naomi and Naomi’s God. This evidently procured her favour in Israel, and ought to have done so. Note. Such deserve the deepest sympathy and the warmest welcome from the Church of Christ. Only those who have passed through the same, or a kindred ordeal, can understand what it means, this tearing oneself away from old associations and affections, for the sake of a new principle, possibly to be met with coldness and even distrust and prejudice.
(3) She was humble and modest in her behaviour. Not merely the natural charm and grace of her presence, not merely her modest and reserved bearing, not merely the fact that she was a foreigner, makes her conspicuous; the narrative reveals other and more sterling qualities: (a) gratitude (Ruth 2:10), (b) humility. Did not glean until she had asked leave: “I pray you let me,” etc. (Ruth 2:7). Little did she think that this rich field was to become her own. Note. In all this she is a type of the true convert. What mean thoughts have such of themselves when they come first to glean in the gospel fields! (Macgowan.) They cannot think they have a right to the handfuls, much less to the sheaves, less still that the field is their own; and least of all, that the unsearchable riches of the owner are theirs (ibid.).
(4) She was diligent and unsparing of herself. Gleaning not a dignified employment, but she evidently did it thoroughly and heartily. Note. (a) There should be fidelity, heartiness, thoroughness, sincerity, honest truthfulness, in the minutest things (Beecher). [Example, Phidias; see extracts.]
Mark her constancy, too, in industry. Not merely diligent at first, as many, but all day long. A type of those who are really and truly Christ’s, We are His if we continue in well-doing, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end (Hebrews 3:14). Ruth continued in her labour “from the morning till now,” till night, till the end of the harvest (Fuller). Oh that we could imitate her constancy in the working out of our salvation! not only to be industrious in the morning, when we first enter into Christianity, but to hold out and to persevere even to the end (ibid.).
Again, observe on the other hand, as taught here, that rest is a necessity with the most urgent and diligent. Allowed and blessed of heaven (Psalms 127:2). True Christians, however, feel like Ruth, that they must be up and doing; “her resting in the house is but for a little” [see Crit. and Exeg. Notes]. They feel emphatically that to-day is for work; to-morrow, the to-morrow of eternity for rest.
Eraden on this (Ruth 2:5-16) condensed:—
Theme.—INTRODUCTION TO A FUTURE WIFE
Divine Providence led Ruth into that particular harvest-field, and under the same mysterious guidance, Boaz directs his steps thither. Judging from the subsequent history, may we not say, that God designed this meeting in order that the two might become husband and wife? The truth of the proverb (not always applicable, however,) that marriages are made in heaven, illustrated here.
1. Notice here Boaz’s introduction to His future wife. As he enters the field, he notices a stranger,—his curiosity aroused, little dreaming what consequences would follow. May have been attracted by the beauty of her face, by her industry in the field, or her Moabitish dress. Inquires “Whose damsel is this?” (Ruth 2:5.) The reply shows how well known, and equally appreciated is her behaviour to her mother-in-law. Evidently the universal theme of conversation. Good deeds done modestly need no trumpeter, they are speedily recognised.
(2) Notice the first conversation between this future husband and wife. Ruth, absorbed in her work, heard not Boaz speaking to her (Ruth 2:8-9). Note how sensitive, thoughtful, and delicate his offer. He makes provision that she shall not only be unmolested, but refreshed (Ruth 2:9). Seems a little thing to do, but character is shown more in small than great deeds. The needy often deeply touched by trivial gifts. Ruth deeply moved. “Why have I found grace?” etc. (Ruth 2:10). Has no vanity, no pride; she knows how to receive a gift. Does not regard this generosity as a right, nor accept it with grim sullenness. Evidently Naomi has told the story of her daughter-in-law’s fidelity, love, and self-sacrifice. An Israelite, like Boaz, devotedly attached to Bethlehem, appreciates the intensity of affection which could so unreservedly forsake the home of childhood and the associations of youth,—a rare instance of high virtue (Ruth 2:12). Did not, however, let his admiration rest in fine utterances of praise, but gives substantial proof of its sincerity in gifts. His sympathy and benevolence unlike that described by James 2:15-16. His kindness exquisitely delicate. He will not offend her sense of independence, so practises a little harmless deception. She shall gather much, and go home fancying her abundance is the result of her own industry. The secret of judicious giving is to help the poor in all possible ways, and not destroy the proud and noble virtue of self-reliance. Indiscriminate charity has produced the pauperism, and lazy beggardom under which society so grievously suffers.
(3) Observe how Ruth won his affection. Not by art, stratagem, nor, perhaps, even by her personal beauty. But by her virtues, by her faithful attachment to a poor, distressed mother-in-law, by her steady industry, by her sweet humility, and above all, by her love to the God of Israel. In all this Ruth an example to English maidens. Unfortunately, many seek husbands, if husbands do not seek them—attempt to catch them by meretricious guile and superficial qualities.
(4) Notice where Ruth won the affection of Boaz. In the harvest-field. Engaged in common and humble tasks. A hint as to the best place in which to estimate a woman’s virtue: not in the ball-room or the music-hall, not in the excitement of a holiday or of the social party, not on the Sunday and in company, but in the quiet routine of her ordinary life. This followed, and there would be fewer mistakes made in matrimonial alliances. Look for a wife, not amongst those who gad about in ostentatious grandeur, nor amongst those whose chief amusement is gossip and flirtation; but seek one whose gentle, unassuming manners, industrious habits, and filial affection, will ensure a happy future, and make a real home. Beware of marrying a slothful woman, or one who speaks against her parents, or one who does not lovingly perform all home duties. Essentially true that a good daughter makes a good wife.
“Thus the Saviour comes to visit His earthly field, and calls the servants to account for their charge. He walks amidst the candlesticks, and holds the stars in His right hand. His ministers watch for souls as they who must give an account. Not the poorest stranger is unnoticed, or forgotten by Him. It is a blessed thought. The Saviour sees. The poor, the lonely, the neglected, in all their needs and sorrows, are marked by His eye. The poor widow’s two mites were not forgotten. The Syro-Phœnician was not sent away. Bartimeus was not despised. Lazarus was not rejected. Jesus may be considered as asking His ministers continually, of one and another in their flock, ‘Who is that?’ And they should be able to reply. He will call them at last to an account for all, and for every soul entrusted to them they must answer.”—Tyng.
“To create and maintain a familiar and intimate acquaintance with the members of the flock committed to him is a most important instrument of usefulness to a faithful pastor.”—Ibid.
“The first thing required in stewards is, ‘that a man be found faithful’ to his employer; but it is also a good property in a steward to be humane towards his lord’s servants, and towards all that have any dependence upon him for employment or favours. The man that was set over the reapers of Boaz had already shown such favour to Ruth as it was the part of a steward to do, and by his answer to his master’s question concerning her, he was a means of procuring her such favour, as a steward could not confer without permission. Words fitly spoken may do much good, and indicate good sense and good disposition in the speaker.”—Lawson.
“Let masters, therefore, in choosing the stewards to be set above the rest, take such as are qualified, like Jethro’s description of inferior judges (Exodus 18:21), ‘men of courage, fearing God, dealing truly, hating covetousness.’ And however they privilege them to be above the rest of their servants, yet let them make them to know their duty and their distance to their masters, lest that come to pass which Solomon foretelleth (Proverbs 29:21): ‘He that bringeth up his servant delicately in his youth will make him like his son at the last.’ Let stewards not be like that unjust one in the Gospel, who made his master’s debtors write down fifty measures of wheat, and fourscore measures of oil, when both severally should have been a hundred; but let them carefully discharge their conscience in that office wherein they are placed; whilst inferior servants, that are under their command, must neither grieve nor grudge to obey them, nor envy at their honour. But let this comfort those underlings, that if they be wronged by these stewards, their appeal lies open from them to their master, who, if good, will no doubt redress their grievances.”—Fuller.
“No sooner is she come into the field, but the reapers are friendly to her. No sooner is Boaz come into the field, but he invites her to more bounty than she could have desired. Now God begins to repay into her bosom, her love and duty to her mother-in-law. Reverence, and loving respect to parents, never yet went away unrecompensed; God will surely raise up friends amongst strangers, to those that have been dutiful at home.”—Bishop Hall.
“Had a sister Moabitess met her in this employment, and inquired what it was that could urge her to it, she would have answered her as Elger von Hohenstein did his brother, who, finding him away from his castle and its life of ease, engaged in taking care of the poor, exclaimed, ‘Alas, my brother! what are you doing? What distress compels you to this?’ ‘sir brother mine,’ was the answer, ‘distress compels me not; but the love of Christ my Lord constrains me.’ ”—Lange.
“Observe, that what happened to Ruth is analogous to what happened to us. For she was a stranger, and had fallen into the extremest distress; but Boaz, when he saw her, neither despised her poverty, nor contemned the lowliness of her family. So Christ took up the Church, and chose the stranger, who lacked the most necessary possessions, for His bride. But as Ruth would never have attained to such a union had she not previously left her parents and given up people, home, and kindred, so the Church also does not become dear and deserving in the eyes of her Bridegroom until she has left her ancestral (heathen) morals and customs.”—Chrysostom.
“Even the greatest, in respect of God, is but a gleaner. God, He is the Master of the harvest; all gifts and graces, they are His, in an infinite measure; and every godly man, more or less, gleans from Him. Abraham gleaned a great glean of faith; Moses, of meekness; Joshua, of valour; Samson, of strength; Solomon, of wealth and wisdom; St. Paul, of knowledge and the like. Now, if we would be glad at our hearts that the Lord would give us free leave and liberty for to glean graces out of His harvest, let us not grudge and repine that poor people glean a little grain from our plenty. To conclude: when God hath multiplied our ‘five loaves,’ that is, when of our little seed He hath given us a great deal of increase, let poor people, like Ruth in the text, be the ‘twelve baskets’ which may take up the fragments of gleanings which are left.”—Fuller.
“The plume-like waving of the autumn corn,
By soft winds to a dreamy motion fanned,
Still bring me back thine image, O forlorn,
Yet not forsaken, Ruth! I see thee stand,
Lone ’midst the gladness of the harvest-band,
Lone as a wood-bird on the ocean’s foam,
Fallen in its weariness. Thy fatherland
Smiles far away! Yet to thy sense of home,
That finest, purest, which can recognise
Home in affection’s glance, for ever true,
Beats thy calm heart; and if thy gentle eyes
Gleam tremulous through tears, ’tis not to rue
Those words immortal in their deep love’s tone,
Thy people and thy God shall be mine own.”
“It is related that when Phidias, the great sculptor, who carved statues for one of the temples in antiquity, was labouring with minute fidelity upon the hair on the back of the head of one of the historic figures, which was to be elevated from the pavement to the very apex of the building, or placed along the frieze, some one expostulated with him, saying, ‘Why do you take such great pains with the hair? it is never to be seen.’ His simple reply was, ‘The gods will see it.’ So he laboured thoroughly in the minutest things, not for the eyes of men, but for the eyes of the gods.”—Beecher.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—
Ruth 2:8. Then said Boaz [and Boaz said], Hearest thou not? Dost thou hear (i.e., thou hearest, dost thou not? interrogatio, blande affirmat) (Keil). Lit. Hast thou not heard? (in the perfect,) the effect of the use of this tense being to mark the permission to glean as irrevocably fixed, not subject to uncertainty or change (Speakers’ Commentary). My daughter. A kind phrase, indicating at the same time Boaz’s mature age (ibid.). He recognizes the existence of a certain relationship, the benefit of which is due to Ruth (Lange). The good report of the overseer (Ruth 2:7) would strengthen any claim he felt Ruth had upon him through Naomi. Spoke with fatherly kindness therefore (Keil). Neither go from hence, and go not away from here (Keil). He has called her to him where he stands by the reapers (Lange). Abide here. Lit. cleave (Wordsworth). κολληθητι (LXX.). Fast by my maidens. And keep so to my maidens (Keil). The gleaner who was allowed to approach nearest the reapers had the best opportunity (Lange). Boaz seems to have had women-servants employed. Also perhaps other gleaners in the field, whom he would include among his maidens (Steele and Terry). Robinson saw nearly two hundred reapers and gleaners at work in one field (ii. 394). Gleaning was often almost as important as reaping, since the latter was done in a very slovenly manner.
Ruth 2:9. Let thine eyes. Thine eyes (directed) upon the field which they reap, go behind them (i.e., behind the maidens, who probably tied up the sheaves whilst the men-servants cut the corn (Keil). The maidens were probably only gleaners, for the verb they do reap is in the masculine, while after them is in the feminine (Speakers’ Commentary). In the absence of fences, Ruth might go unlicensed on another’s possessions; hence the charge to keep near his maidens (Steele and Terry). Have I not charged the young men? Such precautions are not out of place at this day. The reapers are gathered from all parts of the country, and largely from the ruder class, and being far from home, throw off all restraint, and give licence to their tongues, if nothing more (Dr. Thomson). That they should not touch [molest] thee. That is, either to hinder, or to injure. Go unto the vessels. Doubtless a special indulgence to a gleaner. The harvest-field was often at a distance from springs or wells (Steele and Terry).
Ruth 2:10. She fell on her face. With Oriental reverence (Speakers’ Commentary). [Cf. Genesis 33:3; 1 Samuel 25:23, and 2 Samuel 1:2] Bowed herself to the ground. Towards the earth (Wright). Why have I found grace? [Cf. 2 Samuel 7:18-19, and Luke 1:43.] A stranger. She is so unassuming as to deem this very fact an enhancement of his kindness (Lange). Keil trans. “Why have I found favour in thine eyes, that thou regardest me, who am only a stranger?”
Ruth 2:11. It hath been fully shown me. Everything has been told me (Keil). Boaz could have derived his knowledge only from narrations proceeding from Naomi (Lange). All that thou hast done. So Christ knows all concerning those who would be recipients of His favour (ver. 30–36; John 1:48). And how thou hast left. Hast therefore done what God commanded Abraham to do (Genesis 12:1) (Keil). Thy father and thy mother. [Cf. Matthew 10:37; Matthew 19:29.] One of the plain signs of discipleship. Unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. Lit. Which thou knewest not the day before yesterday (Wright). Here also is a figure of the Gentile Church coming to Christ; see Psalms 45:11-17 (Wordsworth).
Ruth 2:12. The Lord [Jehovah]. And a full reward. A complete reward (Lange). And let thy reward be perfect (Keil). Recalling Genesis 15:1 (Keil). Under whose wings. A figure of speech derived from Deuteronomy 32:11 (Wordsworth). Jehovah represented as an eagle there, spreading abroad her wings over her young. Others think the allusion is to the mercy seat overshadowed by the outstretched wings of the cherubim. Cf. also Psalms 91:4; Psalms 36:8; Psalms 57:2; and our Saviour’s words, Matthew 23:27. In these words we see the genuine piety of a true Israelite (Keil, Groser). The Syriac renders this verse quod sensum, thus, “May the Lord, the God of Israel, reward thee, and give thee thy reward, to whom thou hast come, that He may protect thee under His wings.” Very similarly the Arabic (Wright).
Theme.—CARE FOR THE STRANGER AT THE GATE
“With countless sheaves of golden grain
The joyful reapers strew the plain.”—Anon.
“She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament.
I saw her upon nearer view,
A spirit, yet a woman too;
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature’s daily food.”—Wordsworth.
Then said Boaz … Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not, etc. Have I not charged the young men? etc. And when thou art athirst, etc.
Grace humbles oven mighty men of wealth to utter the law of kindness to the poor and needy (Macgowan). With Boaz, Naomi’s nearness of kin, and Ruth’s worth, were both at work to produce this favourable treatment. He recognises the latter (Ruth 2:11-12) even more plainly than he does the former; for to good men virtue is even more precious than kinship, and goodness will make itself friends always, as here. His good-will shown at once.
(1) He has a care to be understood. Hearing is often without taking heed (Macgowan). Age and experience may fittingly claim a special attention from the young. Note. This was a favourite method of appeal on the part of the Great Teacher.
(1) Commands attention.
(2) Claims a special and thoughtful consideration for what follows. [Cf. Numbers 12:6; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 5:21; Matthew 27:13; Matthew 7:26; Luke 8:8, etc.]
(2) He has a care to put her in her right position as toward himself. Calls her daughter; a respectful, even affectionate, yet delicate form of salutation, most appropriate under the circumstances. Rich men who have poor relations are not always found saluting them in this way. The same noble yet thoughtful spirit is to be seen in every word he utters.
I. See the delicacy of his help.
(1) Does not despise her labour, respects it, forwards it, helps it,—the sign of a truly noble spirit. He calls her near, and makes her gleaning more productive. So the Saviour, signalized His approach to His disciples, on a memorable occasion, by a miraculous draught of fishes. He entered into their toils, and increased its returns so much, that the net brake, etc. (Luke 5:6; cf. also John 21:6).
(2) He managed to supply her wants without taking away her sense of independence. A hint to the benevolent, too often forgotten. Note. Charity itself may be and is an evil, if it pauperize the poor. Depend upon it, the best way is to help them to help themselves. The benevolence of Boaz a model in this: (a) practical; (b) unostentatious. Made the obligation as light as possible, and apparently scarce of a pecuniary nature (Macartney).
II. See its genuineness. Is not anxious to get rid of the burden, or to share it with another; rather would take it all upon himself, be it much or little. “Go not to glean in another field … abide here fast by my maidens.” As if he had said, “Depend upon me and mine.” A right royal, large-hearted spirit; he has at least enough and to spare for her. Note. (a) It is so he begins to show himself already, her Goel, her kinsman. Mercy is never miserly. Boaz in all this, his giving and his doing, an illlustration of the way Christ receives (a) strangers, (b) gleaners in the gospel fields, (c) young converts. His provisions are ample—there is enough and to spare; His fields are wide—there is no need to wander from them. Nay, He is even jealous at the thought of our looking elsewhere. Note. (b) In wandering, a snare is more likely to be met with than a blessing (Macgowan).
III. See its thoroughness. He offers not only help, but protection, and provision for all her wants.
(1) He provides for her society. “Abide fast by my maidens.” Hence we gather it is most decent for women to associate with those of their own sex (Fuller). The disciples wondered that Christ talked with a woman (John 4:27), showing hereby that it was not His ordinary course to converse alone with one of another sex (ibid).
(2) He provides for her safety. “Have I not charged the young men?” etc. Boaz evidently felt that his servants had need of the caution, and that they would stand in awe of his word. Note. (a) Servile natures are most prone to wrong strangers, (b) It is the part of a good master, not only to do no harm himself, but also to take care that his servants do none (Fuller). This instinct to protect the young and the defenceless from wrong and harm, belongs to every truly noble nature, and the want of it, is a certain sign of baseness and churlishness of spirit. See how it finds its noblest expression in the pathetic words of Christ, “How often would I have gathered,” etc. He would that all men should come unto Him and find safety, salvation, life eternal.
(3) He provides for her refreshment. “When thou art athirst,” etc. Matthew Henry thinks the water was drawn from the famous well of Bethlehem, which was by the gate, the water of which David longed for (2 Samuel 23:16). Wherever it came from, there it was (a) already provided; (b) freely offered; [cf. Revelation 22:17]; (c) to be partaken of whenever thirsty [cf. Isaiah 51:1]. Note. (a) Thus generosity a faint type of the liberality of Christ (John 4:10). (b) A work of mercy and love may be shown in a small matter (Bernard).
“Mothers and nurses are very careful, tenderly to handle infants when they are but newly born. So Ruth: Christ was newly formed in her, a young convert, a fresh proselyte; and therefore Boaz useth her with all kindness, both in words and works: ‘Hearest thou, my daughter?’ ”—Fuller.
“Christ knows the heart of a ‘stranger’—a stranger to the work of grace, yet a seeker after it—and He bids such stay by Him, among His people, and in His pastures: ‘Go not to glean,’ etc. He shows not the fulness of His love all at once, lest the trembling soul should be overpowered; but by His gentleness He attracts her love, showing more of the kindness of His heart in acts for her than by any personal expressions of tenderness: ‘Have I not charged?’ etc. Christ forgets not the sensitiveness of the newborn spirit; vigorous faith shall not boast itself against budding hope, neither shall the strength of manhood urge beyond its power the feebleness of childhood; rather growing experience shall lend a helping hand to new-born desires; and freely as we have received, we must freely give.”—The Believer Filled with Christ’s Strength.
“You have with you, and around you, many who are striving to walk in the strait and narrow way which leadeth unto life. Their light shines before you; their daily walk encourages and animates you. Keep fast by them. You have a faithful and simple ministry of the gospel. You have a pure and blessed form of public worship. Every benefit and advantage for you is there. You have the simple and appropriate ordinances of the Lord’s house. Jesus has promised to meet you there. It will be good for you to be found in no other field.”—Tyng.
“According to a proverb of the fathers, benevolence is one of the pillars upon which the world rests. ‘The world,’ said they, ‘is sustained by virtue of three things—the law, Divine worship, and active benevolence.’ … To do a person a favour is to act beneficently towards him, without any hope or desire of return, and may be practised in two cases—to oblige a person to whom we are not under obligation, and to accommodate or oblige a person, with more trouble to ourselves and more gain to him than he deserves. The mercy which is mentioned in the Bible is that which is given freely and without desert upon the part of one to whom it is granted; for instance, the benevolence of God is called mercy, because we are in debt to God, and He owes us nothing.”—Talmud.
“Rabbi Jochanan has said that it is as pleasing in God’s sight if we are kind and hospitable to strangers, as if we rise up early to study His law; because the former is in fact putting His law into practice.”—Ibid.
“The pilgrim and the stranger, who through the day
Holds over the desert his trackless way,
Where the terrible sands no shade have known,
No sound of life save the camel’s moan,
Hears at last, through the mercy of Allah to all,
From his tent-door, at evening, the Bedouin’s call:
‘Whoever thou art, whose need is great,
In the name of God, the Compassionate
And Merciful One, for thee I wait!’
For gifts in His name, of food and rest,
The tents of Islam of God are blest,
Thou who hast faith in the Christ above,
Shall the Koran teach thee the Law of Love?
O Christian! open thy heart and door—
Cry, east and west, to the wandering poor,
‘Whoever thou art, whose need is great,
In the name of Christ, the Compassionate
And Merciful One, for thee I wait!’ ”
“In this wonderful universe around us, when the full play of life is seen, it is all a giving, the ocean to the clouds, and the clouds to the earth, and the earth to the rivers, and the rivers to the ocean back again; the sun sends its radiant beams and benign influences among the stars, and the planets reflect them around, each in his lesser sphere; the ground yields its sustenance to the trees, and the trees their fruit and foliage to man; the flowers send their perfumes abroad to the winds of heaven, nor is there a cessation of these sweet interchanges until that moment when activity ceases, and the stagnation of decay begins. The penurious spirit, the spirit which has but to withhold, is an anomaly, a blot in the whole realm of nature. Nothing is made for itself, and it is a sign of death rather than life when the creature begins to circumscribe its influences, and ceases or refuses to give.”—B.
“Nature says it is ‘good,’ but grace says it is ‘better to give.’ Nature knows something of that lavishness which bestows, because it must bestow, which feels and knows that withholding is to poverty; but grace teaches a higher thing, that ‘giving to the poor is lending to the Lord.’ ”—B.
“One day a philosopher inquired of Rabbi Akiba, ‘If your God loves the poor, why does He not support them?’ ‘God allows the poor to be with us ever,’ responded Akiba, ‘that the opportunities for doing good may never fail.’ ”—Talmud.
“I have noticed in travelling, that when one with a face wrinkied and worn walks into the car, there is not a seat to spare for her; and I have noticed that if one comes in who is young and blooming, of radiant eye and most comely face, there is not one in the car who has not a seat for her. Beauty wins its way. And if it be so in the outward life, which is but a mere shadow of the inward, how much more is it so, in the inward! And nothing is more beautiful, than duty performed under adverse circumstances.”—Beecher.
“He [Boaz] begged she would keep to his grounds during the harvest, and not, in the hope of bettering herself on the one hand, or in the fear of presuming on the other, remove to the lands of any other person. And it will be observed how, in the absence of enclosures, he gives her the means of knowing his grounds, by telling her to adhere to the company in which she already finds herself, that of his own labourers, among whom she might rely upon being perfectly safe. We gather that the persons employed in the field were men-servants, women-servants, and day-labourers, the women seemingly being chiefly employed, in ministering to the wants of the men engaged in active toil, and in performing some of the lighter labours. One of the most important provisions of the harvest field was water, often necessarily brought from some distance, and placed so as to be kept cool.”—Kitto.
“Had he been actuated by the spirit of modern sentimentality, he would probably have been ashamed of her. He would have offered her a piece of money, and sent her away, that it might not become known that this Moabitish beggar is his relative. He would at all events, not have allowed her to go on gleaning. But according to the ancient delicate and religious view, he cannot act thus. Nothing has been asked of him; consequently he has no right to wound the self-respect of others. The privilege of gleaning belongs of right to the widow and the stranger. It is not well that she needs it; but needing it, he cannot hinder her from using it. Even while he admits her relationship, he can only support her in the right, and enlarge its advantages. And this is what he does. Ruth had modestly, gleaned at a distance from the reapers and binders. He calls her nearer, and says, ‘Go not to glean in another field.’ In these words he acknowledges the first degree of the interest to which his relationship binds him.”—Lange.
“Young men, in any station of life, are often, by their rudeness or licentiousness, the terror of modest young women; but Boaz would allow of no indecency in words or conversation amongst his servants. A good man will not only refrain from doing or speaking evil, but will restrain all that depend on him from licentious or rude behaviour. Paul will have none to be admitted to the office of elders in the church, who do not rule well their own houses. Not that it is a duty incumbent on elders only, to keep their families in due subjection, but because elders must be exemplary in everything worthy of praise. We are all accountable for those evils which it was in our power to have prevented.—Lawson.
“’Tis a little thing
To give a cup of water; yet its draught
Of cool refreshment, drained by fevered lips,
May give a shock of pleasure to the frame
More exquisite than when nectarian juices
Renew the life of joy in happiest hours.”
“The Rabbis particularly insist that we are not to confine the exercise of charity to our own people, for the law of Moses inculcates kindness and hospitality towards the stranger within our gates.”—Talmud.
Theme.—THE LOWLY ATTITUDE OF A GRATEFUL HEART
“When gratitude o’erflows the swelling heart,
And breathes in free and uncorrupted praise
For benefits received, propitious Heaven
Takes such acknowledgment as fragrant incense,
And doubles all its blessings.”—Lillo.
Then she fell on her face.… Why have I found grace in thine eyes … seeing I am a stranger?
Outward courtesies should be done in humility of heart, not out of mere compliment or affectation, or an apish imitation of others. Our finest feelings, like the flowers, open and display themselves almost insensibly and unconsciously. If Boaz proves himself the ideal of a true gentleman, Ruth displays no less delicacy and refinement of feeling throughout the whole interview.
I. What deep and touching humility is expressed here. Modesty, unostentatious unassuming worth and humility, are always becoming in the young—more especially so when they are recipients of favours, as here. She cast down her eyes, not looking impudently upon him; she bowed to the ground (Bernard), wondering at his great kindness, though it was but permission to glean and to drink water out of the vessels (Ruth 2:9). Neither regarded this as her right, nor an insult to her independence.
II. What affectionate gratitude is here. How thankfully doth Ruth take these small favours from Boaz! Perhaps some rich jewel in Moab would not have been so welcome (Bishop Hall). Her words were few and to the point, a rare grace in man or woman. Note. (a) Gratitude in the recipient is as beautiful as generosity in the benefactor. It requires as much grace to receive a favour becomingly, as to bestow one. (b) The humble are always disposed to be thankful. They think everything better than they deserve.
We have a rebuke here.
(1) To such as receive favours, and will not acknowledge them, like the nine lepers (Luke 17:18).
(2) To such as scornfully refuse favours, and will not be beholden to others. Note. (c) Ingratitude is a soul-sin, a stoppage to all favours (Bernard).
III. What confessions of unworthiness are here. Humble souls wonder at kindnesses, however small, rather than make light of them and disparage the givers; look into themselves and their own unworthiness, rather than remember anything that is of worth in them, or might win them attention. So with Ruth. Her mind is fixed upon that which might have hindered, viz., the fact that she is a stranger, rather than upon anything else. So with the pardoned sinner. He feels himself the object of such grace and boundless mercy, that his own unworthiness and guilt are more apparent to him than ever (Tyng).
IV. What consciousness of need is here. She knows what she is, a “stranger,” but does not attempt to disguise the fact, and all that it means, either from herself or Boaz. A perilous test this, for nothing but goodness in a man will make him kind to strangers (cf. Matthew 5:43-46). Note. Her very frankness is an appeal to his better nature for a continuance of his succour and protection. So humble souls cast themselves always at the feet of Christ. They disguise nothing, they feel that they deserve nothing.
Notice that two things were in her favour, and would naturally tend to lead Boaz to listen to her appeal.
(1) His own mother, Rahab, was once a stranger to Israel’s hope.
(2) The children of Israel had themselves been strangers, and were required to remember this (Deuteronomy 10:19). Ruth, however, very properly looks upon her position as enhancing this kindness. So with man’s low estate and the lovingkindness of God as displayed in the gift of Christ (Luke 1:48). Man’s salvation must ever be a wonder to man, a source of never-ending gratitude and adoration. “Why have I found grace in Thine eyes, that Thou shouldest take knowledge of me?” the language of every regenerate heart (cf. Ezekiel 16:0; John 15:16).
(1) “He that exalteth himself shall be abased, but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Notice. That this was a presage of her better estate. Those which shall receive great blessings are ever thankful for little (Bishop Hall).
(2) If poor souls be so thankful to us for a handful, or a sheaf, how should we be affected to our God, for whole fields-full, for full barns, full garners!
“He that has nature in him must be grateful;
’Tis the Creator’s primary great law,
That links the chain of beings to each other,
Joining the greater to the lesser nature,
Tying the weak and strong, the poor and powerful.”
“In her humility, Ruth, who had done so much for Naomi, and made so many sacrifices, expects no grace or help from others. Even the slight kindness of Boaz overwhelms her with gratitude. She flings herself at his feet, and pours out her thanks for the kindly notice he has taken of an alien and a stranger.”—Cox.
“The Scripture often noteth this civil gesture and comely behaviour as worthy imitation.… What difference [is there] between this which is done to men and that which is done to God Almighty? Surely, in respect of the outward act, no difference is there at all, but of the mind, which doth conceive of God herein as God, and so this outward humiliation becometh divine adoration; and of man, but as man, worthy of reverence and honour for his place, his age, and gifts; and so the reverence and worship done him is only civil.”—Bernard.
“Civil honour may and must be given to all in authority, according to the usual gestures of the country. Now such bowing was the custom of the Eastern people (Genesis 33:3). As for Mordecai’s instance, it makes not against this, he being either immediately warranted by God, or else he refused to bow to Haman as being an Amalekite, betwixt which cursed brood and the Israelites the Lord commanded an eternal enmity.”—Fuller.
“It is a beautiful thing to see persons in reduced circumstances really humbling themselves to their situation, and receiving kindness as it is intended. It is sad to witness the sullen contempt, the haughty dissatisfaction with which every benefit is received by such persons, when their hearts are not softened by grace. It is more blessed to give than to receive, and far, far easier to give in a right spirit than to receive aright. It is most difficult to find the correct medium between a proud rejection of needful relief and an indolent, self-indulgent dependence; between a haughty ingratitude of manner, if not of mind, and degrading sycophancy; but all things are possible to him that believeth; and he who has treasure and a name in heaven will know how to give to the things of earth their due value; and, governed by the will of God rather than by the ebullitions of pride and selfishness, will tread the narrow way.”—Macartney.
“It may be clearly seen here, that only such as can exercise love understand how to receive it. No one is humbler than he who truly gives from love; of that Ruth is a proof; and for that reason humility never shows itself more beautiful than when love receives. Ruth had made the greatest sacrifices, although no one had a right to expect them from her, and is withal so unassuming as not to look for anything from others. Most people in her place would have made the first favour shown them the occasion for saying, that in truth they were not at all used to such work. Their thanks would have been combined with complaints and accusing insinuations about the distress in which they found themselves, although they had exchanged the people and god of Moab for those of Israel. Ruth’s love did not spring from selfishness, and hence did not give birth to any proud self-consciousness.”—Lange.
“Oh, then, if Ruth interpreted it such a kindness that Boaz took notice of her, being a stranger, how great is the love of God to us, who loved us in Christ when we were ‘strangers and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.’ As the never-failing foundation of the earth is firmly fastened, for ever fleeting, yet settled on no other substance than its own ballasted weight; so God’s love was founded on neither cause nor condition in the creature, but issued only out of His own free favour. So that in this respect we may all say unto God what Ruth doth unto Boaz in the text, ‘Why have we found favour in Thine eyes, that Thou shouldest take knowledge of us, seeing we are but strangers?’ ”—Fuller.
“Here shines forth her humility, modesty, and many other graces: she was, as Gualther saith of the Lady Jane Grey, ‘Pietatis, prudentiæ, et modestiæ delicium.’ Hence she found so much favour, for true goodness is very lovely, οττι χαλον φιλον εστι.… ‘Non sum dignus. Domine, quem diligas,’ saith Augustine. Every saint may say with admiration, as he did in John 14:22, ‘Lord, how is it that Thou hast manifested Thyself to us, and not to the world?’ ”—Trapp.
“Receiving, unless we keep a watch upon our hearts, tends to nurture the meaner and the baser self, the churl spirit within us, which is ever stretching out its greedy hand for gain; but giving belongs to that larger life, which was ours when man was made in the image of his God, ‘for it is God that giveth liberally, and upbraideth not.’ ”—B.
Theme.—THE SECOND GRACIOUS APPROVAL
“Kindness in woman, not her beauteous looks,
Shall win my love.”—Shakespeare.
“Think not the good,
The gentle deeds of mercy thou hast done,
Shall die forgotten all: the poor, the pris’ner,
The fatherless, the friendless, and the widow,
Who daily own the bounty of thine hand,
Shall cry to Heaven, and pull a blessing on thee.”—Rowe.
And Boaz answered, It hath been fully showed me all that thou hast done.… and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother.… and art come, etc.
Never was there given to man such a manual for elegance and delicacy in his social relations as the Bible gives (Tyng). Many of the Old Testament saints models in this respect.
“He is gentle that doth gentle deeds.”—Chaucer.
Boaz an instance of politeness growing out of real sympathy and benevolence. We have in his words condescension without haughtiness, commendation without assumption, familiarity without coarseness, delicacy without pretence. Note. (a) Defect in manners is usually the defect of fine perception (Emerson). (b) Refinement of heart springs only from faith (Lange). It is the natural outgrowth of a disposition permeated with the humility of the gospel of truth (ibid.).
I. We can never live a truly noble life without its being known sooner or later. Fame follows virtue as the shadow does the body (Trapp). Well-doing not only deserves praise, but brings favour. Beauty may be defaced, strength may decay, but virtue must always be lovely to those who themselves are virtuous. They seek it, appreciate it, love it wherever it is to be found. So Ruth, and even Orpah, with that which they saw in Naomi (Ruth 1:10), and now Boaz with that which he sees in Ruth.
“He whose mind
Is virtuous, is alone of noble kind;
Though poor in fortune, of celestial race.”—Dryden.
Ruth’s virtues shine conspicuous (a) in her good deeds to Naomi and the dead (see on i Rth. 2:8-9, p. 39); (b) in that which she denied herself; (c) in her choice of Israel and Israel’s God [Ruth 1:14-17, pp. 60–70].
(1) She did no more than she apprehended to be her duty—no more than satisfied her own conscience. Hence her surprise. “Why have I found grace?” (Ruth 2:10.) So the Psalmist. “What is man, that Thou art mindful, etc.?” A common attribute of noble spirits displayed here. They do not see the dignity of the life they lead. It seems insignificant, even commonplace. What could be more insignificant than a gleaner’s history? Still conscience reigns; there is loyalty to duty, to convictions, to God; and it is this that will elevate and ennoble the meanest life.
(2) She thought herself unknown and perhaps neglected. This gracious stranger appears to be perfectly familiar with her whole history. So our fidelity may be secret: He with whom we have to do brings our secret things to light. “There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, nor hid that shall not be known”—a promise often and partially fulfilled in this world, certainly and completely in the next. It hath been fully showed me. Note. God’s revealing a full one, when His purposes are ripe.
II. We can never do good to others without its bringing a due and appropriate reward. Naomi must have spoken and told all. How, indeed, could she keep silent? Note. Virtue shall not want trumpeters (Bernard). Even the very stones would have cried out, when Goodness incarnate stood among men, and the hour of His triumph had come (Luke 19:40), rather than that He had been without the praise which was His due. A story like Ruth’s sure to touch a cord of sympathy somewhere or other. Who can tell where or how? Note. The ways in which reward is to come, mysterious, but certain—unexpected, but how often nearer than we could have imagined! Ruth begins to reap now for all her past fidelity. Faithful in that which is least, she is to be rewarded with that which seemed to be much.
III. We can never really come to trust in God, and be disappointed either of recognition or recompence. This at the root of all else, the moral of the whole history. Ruth had honoured God, now she finds God begin to honour her. Little did she expect it! Had not, could not have had, the remotest idea of temporal reward. Naomi’s words were too plain. [See on Ruth 1:11-13, pp. 46–48.]
So with all those in the position pathetically described by Mynster, the Danish bishop: “I know that I am among the called, and I muse night and day, in watching and praying, that I may be also among the chosen.” So with Abraham leaving his fatherland, like Ruth, for God. So with Moses leaving the court of Pharaoh to be with God’s people in affliction. So with the apostles, who became aliens for Christ’s sake. So with true converts and proselytes in all ages; they come out, leaving all, not knowing whither they go.
Notice, then, as encouraging and always true of such. God gives to them
(1) He receives such; not a single instance of one ever having been rejected. “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” Even sin cannot hinder, if we are persuaded; for it is said of Him to whom we come, “This man receiveth sinners.”
(2) He recognizes such; knows them as His own (John 10:3; John 10:14), and causes them to be known as His. “His Church is to be as a city set upon a hill” (Matthew 5:14), and His people are to be “as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign” (Zechariah 9:16). Said that “by faith the elders obtained a good report;” and Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, says, “In every place your faith Godward is spread abroad” (1 Thessalonians 1:8).
(3) He recompenses such. (See next outline.)
(1) Well-doing provides favour to the poor, though strangers, at the hands of the virtuous (Bernard).
(2) Let the rich in Christ learn where the first claim upon their charity must always lie, viz., to the poor who are of the “household of faith.”
(3) Let the poor labour for grace and godliness (Bernard); they may deserve help when they need it.
“Always say a kind word if you can, if only that it may come in, perhaps, with singular opportuneness, entering some mournful man’s darkened room like a beautiful firefly, whose happy circumvolutions he cannot but watch, forgetting his many troubles.”—Helps.
“Did it ever strike you that goodness is not merely a beautiful thing, but the beautiful thing,—by far the most beautiful thing in the whole world? So that nothing is to be compared for value with goodness; that riches, honour, power, pleasure, learning, the whole world and all in it, are not worth having in comparison with being good; and the utterly best thing for a man is to be good, even though he were never to be rewarded for it.”—Kingsley.
“A beautiful form is better than a beautiful face; a beautiful behaviour is better than a beautiful form: it gives a higher pleasure than statues or pictures; it is the finest of the fine arts.”—Emerson.
“As might have been expected, the generous heart of Boaz opens all the wider as he listens to her thanks, and learns how unassuming she is, how grateful even for the easy kindness he has shown her. He knows who she is and what she has done. And the piety as well as the generosity of the man comes out in his reply: ‘You have left all,’ he says, ‘in your love for Naomi,—father, mother, and the land of your nativity. The Lord recompense you for this good deed,’ etc., etc. Obviously, Boaz had the history of his great ancestor in his mind. Like Ruth, Abraham had left all, and gone out into a strange country. And to him God had said, ‘I am thy great reward.’ May the blessing of faithful Abraham come on faithful Ruth; this is the wish and prayer of Boaz. He speaks not as a Hebrew landowner to a Moabitish vagabond and beggar, but rather as a Hebrew judge and prophet,—as a prophet who knew that even the stranger who works righteousness and shows kindness is acceptable to God.”—Cox.
“Nothing can be meaner than flattery addressed either to the rich or poor, but it may frequently be proper to praise those who deserve to be praised. Our Lord praises His disciples when He tells them that they were the men who had continued with Him in His temptations. Paul often commends the Christians to whom he wrote his epistles, although he never failed to remind them that they were indebted to the grace of God for all that was worthy of praise in their conduct or temper. Boaz commended Ruth, not to inspire her with vanity, but to animate her resolution, to comfort her dejected spirit, and to encourage her to use those freedoms which he wished her to use with himself and with other Israelites.”—Lawson.
“Let this encourage men in their virtuous proceedings, knowing that their worthy deeds shall not be buried in obscurity, but shall find tongues in their lively colours to express them. Absalom, having no children, and desirous to perpetuate his name, erected ‘a pillar in the king’s dale,’ and the same ‘is called Absalom’s pillar unto this day.’ But the most compendious way for men to consecrate their memories to eternity is to erect a pillar of virtuous deeds, which shall ever remain, even when the most lasting monument in the world shall be consumed, as not able to satisfy the ravenous appetite of all-consuming time. And to put the worst, grant the envious men with a cloud of calumnies should eclipse the beams of virtuous memories from shining in the world, yet this may be their comfort, that God that ‘sees in secret’ will ‘reward them openly.’ ”—Fuller.
“The merit which Boaz imputes to Ruth is of a twofold nature. Induced by affection. she has left the highest possessions of life. She was no orphan; she was not homeless: she had what she needed; but left all, and that for something unknown, the value of which she was not able to estimate. ‘Thou camest,’ he says, ‘to a people which yesterday, and the day before yesterday (formerly), thou didst not know.’ How? had she not known her family, Naomi, and her own husband who were of Israel? But this family lived in Moab, where Israel’s law was not in force. The national usages and institutions which had been impressed upon Israel by Israel’s God she did not know; and notwithstanding this she had said, ‘Thy people is my people, and thy God my God.’ ”—Lange.
“Many who are connected by affinity think that no more duties remain to be performed when the bond of connection is broken by the death of that husband or wife on whom the relation depended. Naomi and Ruth were of a different spirit. Naomi never could forget Ruth’s kindness to her son. Ruth testified her regard to the memory of her deceased husband by her attentions to his mother. She not only did ‘good and not evil’ to her husband ‘all the days of her life,’ but she did all the good she could to him when he was dead, by performing those services to his mother which he would gladly have performed if he had been still alive. The apostle John testified his affection to his departed Lord by taking His mother to his own house and treating her as a mother There are kindnesses due to the dead as well as to the living, and in these a generous spirit will be careful not to fail.”—Lawson.
“Rouse to some work of high and holy love,
And thou an angel’s happiness shalt know,—
Shalt bless the earth while in the world above;
The good begun by thee shall onward flow
In many a branching stream, and wider grow;
The seed that in these few and fleeting hours
Thy hands unsparing and unwearied sowed,
Shall deck thy grave with amaranthine flowers,
And yield thee fruits divine in heaven’s immortal bowers,”
Theme.—THE RECOMPENCE OF REWARD
“The soul that works and lives throughout all time
Embrace you in the happy bonds of love.”—Goethe.
“ ’Tis Thine alone to calm the pious breast
With silent confidence and holy rest;
From Thee, great God! we spring—to Thee we tend,
Path, Motive, Guide, Original, and End.”—Johnson.
The Lord [Jehovah] recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee.
Naomi in her poverty had blessed Ruth (Ruth 1:8-9), now Boaz takes up the same strain. Must be something good in those whom poor and rich alike join to praise. Note. (a) The craving of the human heart for the approval of others not necessarily wrong in itself. It is the undue craving, etc. Unexpected, unsought in the present instance, and therefore all the sweeter. When we have the prayers and good wishes of the righteous, heaven itself is touched; and when we win their approval and blessing, it is as though the benediction of God rested upon us (Psalms 37:22). Note. There is a sense in which every believer may be a priest and prophet to those around him [cf. on i:8, 9, p. 39].
I. On the Divine recompence as expected and looked for by the righteous. “I know it shall be well with them that fear God;” the language of every truly believing heart. Much that seems against this; but faith looks through the darkness, and beyond the shadows; knows that there is a power that works for righteousness at the centre of all things, and that every deed of love is sure to meet with its due acknowledgment, and cannot pass unregarded of God (Matthew 10:41-42). Note. It is only our little side of the world which is in the shadow at night time, the whole universe else is filled with light.
(1) then, That there is a recompence of reward [Genesis 15:1; Psalms 19:11]. God is no respecter of persons. In every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is accepted (Acts 10:34-35). Such have the promise of this life and of that which is to come. But note, Our doings stand linked in Scripture with our reward. Not that they earn the recompence, but that they regulate, they measure, they foreshadow that which is to be given as only God can give [Matthew 7:2; Matthew 25:21; Matthew 25:23].
(2) That the godly earnestly desire this recompence of reward. (a) For themselves. They look forward, as the hireling, to the end of the day, when rest begins, and every man shall receive, etc. (Matthew 20:1-16). Not that they look forward merely with the hireling’s spirit. No! but reward means with them, life completed, holiness manifested, nearness to Christ. Therefore they have a desire, like Paul (Philippians 1:23; 2 Timothy 2:8). (b) For others, as here. They see the righteous in times of trial and poverty, as Boaz saw Ruth. They feel how inadequate is any reward they themselves may bestow. And where they fall short, they turn to God: “The Lord recompense,” etc. Note. Boaz did something to bring about this recompence himself—a hint to such as are lavish in good wishes, lax in corresponding deeds.
Remark, II. then, On the Divine recompence as prayed for by the righteous.
(1) These prayers for the recompence of reward may have a personal aspect, as here. There are some deeds that men can repay; others God Himself only can recompense. Ruth’s heroism and self-denial, a type of that which is sustained “as seeing things that are invisible;” which looks for a reward not manifested as yet. Note. (a) Boaz prays for God’s recompence, not man’s; a full reward, abundant as His love; so that she shall miss nothing, but recover all (Lange). But mark, he prays for this only in the measure of her worth and her work. His prayer has respect to what he has seen and heard, even while he is calling upon the Unseen for a blessing beyond the power of man to bestow—a characteristic of all true prayer. There is nothing wild, nothing random, nothing extravagant, in the good wishes and supplications of the righteous. But again note, (b) that God’s reward is always a full reward. Oh! the sure and bountiful payments of the Almighty! Whoever came under His wing in vain? Whoever lost by trusting Him? Whoever forsook the Moab of this world for the true Israel, and did not at last rejoice in the change? (Bishop Hall)
(2) These prayers for the recompence of reward may have a wider aspect. There is a mysterious connection between prayer and Christ’s own recompence upon earth. He is to see of the travail of His soul, but this only as the Church waits upon God in prayer. For this He will be inquired of by the house of Israel (Ezekiel 36:37). The righteous prosper as prayer prevails, the kingdom of heaven spreads as men have power with God. Hence the Church is always to be a praying Church; and when her arms are weary, as with Moses (Exodus 17:11-12), the enemy prevails, and the Divine recompence lingers. Wrong, confusion, evil, seem to have the best of it. It is an age in which the spirits of the martyred ones are represented as crying out, “How long, O Lord?” (Revelation 6:16.)
III. On the Divine recompence as certain to the righteous. Dionysius is said to have promised a great reward to some musicians who played before him. When they came for it, he told them it was theirs already. They possessed it, in their very hope and expectations of it. A truth taught in this, but not the whole truth. Righteousness is good in and for itself, and brings its present reward in the glorious hope it inspires. But this is not all. God does not disappoint His children. There is something more awaiting us, something hereafter.
Notice then that God’s reward comes
(1) Sometimes in temporal gifts and blessings, as here; always in the approval of conscience. The Mosaic economy recognized both these, but laid a stress upon the former; while the Christian dispensation makes the spiritual, the inner reward, the great thing.
(2) Sometimes in the recognition and approval of good men, as here; always in the recognition and approval of God. A craving for the former becomes Pharisaism; and therefore the latter is rather to be the distinguishing sign of Christian discipleship [cf. Matthew 6:1-6; Matthew 6:16-18].
(3) Sometimes in the spiritual growth and changes which accompany right doing, as here; always in the after reward of eternity. No doubt that right actions draw us nearer to God, bring peace and quietness of heart now, incline us to become recipients of His mercy, who alone can save. Every deed of righteousness is an acknowledgment of the law which He would bind upon men, and so is a turning to Him and His; not unreward here, not unreward in itself, but to be more fully recompensed hereafter. Note. (a) The workman is not fully paid until his work is done (Matthew 20:8); and (b) That all earthly rewards are partial and unsatisfactory (Luke 14:14). It is heaven that is to compensate for the inequalities in the Divine recompence here. As the end approaches, the reward will become more and more apparent (Psalms 37:4-6; Psalms 37:22-37).
“We find in the Scriptures three sorts of blessings among men. The first is the blessing of a simple wish, which is the most common. Men, naturally limited and feeble, have scarcely anything to bestow but good wishes; they can hardly give anything but their promises, of which, for the most part, they are not very sparing. Their blessings in this particular consist of prayers, which they mutually offer, that the Almighty will deign to preserve—to fill with grace, with joy, and happiness—the persons whom they bless.… The second kind are paternal blessings, which include, besides the wish, an act of approbation and authority. Fathers, then, represent in some sense the Deity. Thus almost all the blessings of the patriarchs were prophetical, because in effect the Spirit of God inspired them.… The third kind are blessings of command, which are given with authority, by a power received from God to bless in His name and in His stead. Thus Moses blessed the people in the character of their leader and mediator. Melchizedec, both a king and a priest, blessed Abraham, and in his person all the patriarchs. Jesus Christ, the King of peace and righteousness, blessed His apostles, and in their persons the whole Church.”—Superville.
“The kindness I show thee is little in comparison of thy desert; God alone can give thee a full reward for thy kindness to thy husband and mother-in-law, and He will do it because thou art come to trust under His wing.”—A. Clarke.
“Boaz does not discourse as one would speak to a Moabitish beggar. Having heard who she is, he looks upon her with eyes full of joy over her pious actions. He speaks to her as a priest and prophet. And since he spake from the enthusiasm of piety, and she was deserving, his words found fulfilment. She received a reward that was not only full, but which completed and wholly filled her; all of which is implied in the [Heb.] words.”—Lange.
“When we begin to feel ourselves lag in Christianity, let us spur on our affections with the meditation of that ‘full reward’ which we shall in due time receive; with our Saviour, let us ‘look to the joys which are set before us;’ and with Moses, let us have ‘an eye to the recompence of reward;’ yet so that, though we look at this reward, yet also we must look through it and beyond it. This meditation of the reward is a good place for our souls to bait at, but a bad place for our souls to lodge in. We must mount our minds higher—namely, to aim at the glory of God, at which all our actions must be directed, though there were no reward propounded unto them.”—Fuller.
“Plutarch tells of a complaint which came from the Islands of the Blessed because improper persons were sent there by the judges in the earthly courts. It was found that titled and noble persons went before the judges with their friends, who solemnly swore that they deserved to be sent to the Islands of the Blessed when they deserved the contrary. It was then decreed by eternal doom that no judgment should be passed till after death, and then only by spirits who could discern the qualities of those whom they judged.”—Dictionary of Illustrations.
“There are great rewards like jewelled crowns; there are little rewards like diamond dust; the great deed of love shall receive its great reward, and the little deed shall receive its measure too; and so it shall be found hereafter that nothing was forgotten.”—Power.
“Reward and recompence unto our good works are not due unto us for any worth of our own, but merely from God’s free favour and gracious promise. For to make a thing truly meritorious of a reward, it is required, first, that the thing meriting be our own, and not another’s. Now our best works are none of ours, but God’s Spirit in us. Secondly, it is requisite that we be not bound of duty to do it. Now we are bound to do all the good deeds which we do, and still remain but ‘unprofitable servants.’ Thirdly, there must be a proportion between the thing meriting and the reward merited. Now there is no proportion between our stained and imperfect works (for such are our best), and that infinite weight of glory wherewith God will reward us. It remains, therefore, that no reward is given us for own inherent worth, but merely for God’s free favour, who crowns His own works in us.”—Fuller.
“Longing for heaven, if there be no yearning and endeavour for present pureness of life and inward peace, … can be but an eager, sanguine lust—never a solemn, inspiring hope.”—Lynch.
“He who sacrifices a whole offering shall be rewarded for a whole offering; he who offers a burnt-offering shall have the reward of a burnt-offering: but he who offers humility to God and man shall receive as great a reward as though he had offered all the sacrifices in the world.”—Talmud.
“There is an invariable connection between the outpouring of spiritual influence and the ascent of prayer, and the latter is the antecedent of the former; and we believe, verily, that there never was an instance yet, in the history of the Christian Church, signalized by the revival and extension of true religion, which was not preceded by another period of humiliation and anxious and agonizing prayer.… At the sixty-second chapter of the prophecies of Isaiah, you read. ‘For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace’—that is, in prayer—‘until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth; and the Gentiles shall see Thy righteousness, and all kings Thy glory.’ Then God speaks in the sixth verse: I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night’—that is in prayer. ‘Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence’—that is in prayer; ‘and give Him no rest till He establish and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.’ ‘Give Him no rest’—that is, in prayer. Shake off the lethargy which has oppressed you. enter into the holiest of all, bring before it the blood of propitiation, and stand before the Shekinah with unwearied and importunate prayer.”—Parsons.
Theme.—THE WINGS OF THE ALMIGHTY
“The while He sits whose name is Love,
And waits, as Noah did the dove,
To see if she would fly to him.
“He waits for us, while, houseless things,
We beat about with bruised wings
On the dark floods and water-springs,
The ruin’d world, the desolated sea;
With open windows from the prime,
All night, all day, He waits sublime,
Until the fulness of the time
Decreed from His eternity.”—Jean Ingelow.
Under whose wings thou art come to trust.
In all ages and nations conversion is essentially the same; irreligion or false religion is exchanged for the spiritual worship of the true God (Scott). The alien in birth, or in heart and life, comes to take shelter under the wings of the Almighty. The hour of repentance and conversion is the hour of this turning and taking shelter, whenever and wherever it may be. Note. We are all aliens by birth. Humanity left the Ark of shelter ages ago, and has been wandering about like the poor fluttering dove (Genesis 8:9) ever since.
You will notice—
I. That the Divine willingness to receive men is assumed here. And this, although they are aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, and children of the sinful race of Moab. So with ourselves. There are times when we must have help or perish; there are dangers from which none but God can save us. Note. We seek wisely only when we seek Godward, as here. The wings under which Ruth had come to trust,
(4) gentle (Talmage). She had come to that One who had revealed Himself to Israel, as a personal God, tender, sympathetic, mighty to save. It is so with all true proselytes. They come not merely to Israel, but to Israel’s God; not merely to the Church, but to Him who is Head of the Church. Note. The two aspects of the Divine character brought together here. God the Refuge is also God the Rewarder. So Christ (Hebrews 12:2) is the author and finisher of faith, One strengthening and supporting, and yet “holding forth the crown of life.”
Observe, then, that when the sinner seeks pardon, or the soul seeks help,
(1) It is here, in God. He has undertaken to protect, to save such [cf. Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 55:6-7; John 3:16-17].
(2) It is ready and waiting. The wings outspread from the foundations of the earth. Outside is danger, inside is protection; outside is wandering, inside is rest; outside is destruction, inside is salvation. Note. The grace that comes too late is no grace at all. What you and I want is a God now (Talmage).
II. That the human readiness to seek God is looked upon as necessary. Ruth had come, etc. Blessed truth! for that opened the way to all the rest of her history. Man’s great sin always is that he will not come. More, Boaz takes it for granted that she had faith; for he that cometh to God must believe, etc. (Bernard).
Men come to God
(1) To trust. Where else can man find a fitting sphere for faith but Godward?
(2) To find shelter (Psalms 91:0).
(3) To find deliverance.
(4) To find rest and reward.
R. Macbeth on this:—
Theme.—THE SHELTERING WING
We have here one of those grand and suggestive figures of speech with which the Old Testament Scriptures abound, and by which those Scriptures become, to the “scribe well instructed,” an inexhaustible mine of “things new and old,” “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.”
The figure—suggested perhaps in the first instance by the divinely prescribed symbolism of the cherubim overshadowing with their wings the mercy-seat—is of frequent occurrence, with richly beautiful variations of aspect, especially in the earlier books of Scripture and in the Psalms [cf. Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:11-12; Psalms 17:8; Psalms 36:7; Psalms 57:1; Psalms 61:4; Psalms 63:7; Psalms 91:4]. By this image we are taught to think of God—
I. As a beneficent sheltering power, to whom the spirit of man, wounded, wearied, baffled by the ills of life, turns and flees for refuge and rest (Psalms 46:1). But this primary conception by no means exhausts the significance of the figure.
II. The paternal relationship of God to His people, and the benign constancy and carefulness with which He fulfils the obligations of that relationship. “As an eagle stirreth up her nest,” etc. (Deuteronomy 32:11-12). This implies
It suggests further—
III. The beauty, grace, and tenderness of the Divine action towards man. We naturally ascribe these qualities in a special degree to the feathered tribes. And the inspired writer takes this natural conception of ours, and fills it with an inspired thought of God. Just as elsewhere it is said, “He that formed the eye, He not see?” etc.; so here we would say, He that taught the dove to soften the nest for her young with the feathers from her own breast, shall He not deal tenderly, graciously, even to self-sacrificing acts of love, with those whom He regards as His own offspring?
(1) He covers them with His feathers (Psalms 91:4);
(2) He keeps them as the apple of His eye (Psalms 17:8), etc. We have here, not the mere negations of the agnostic, but the God of Israel revealing Himself to the hearts of men; not the vague sentiment of the Pantheist, but the living, personal God, entering into human relationships with human spirits. “Immanuel, God with us.” Not the mere “fate,” or “law” of either ancient or modern paganism, but the loving Friend who knows His friends, and is known of them (Proverbs 18:24). In short, we have here a foreshadowing, “as men were able to bear it,” of the final manifestation of the fulness of the Godhead in Him who said, “How often would I have gathered you,” etc.
E. Price on this:—
Theme.—THE HABIT OF HOLY COMMUNION
In this benediction we see—
A clear definition of the happiness the soul desires.
It would feel it is under Jehovah’s protection, like a bird under the wing of its mother.
It would find repose in communion with Him, confiding unsuspectingly in His favour.
The act of the soul itself that would enjoy the blessing.
It must put itself under the Divine protection.
God always works through our willinghood.
The law illustrated by the facts under consideration.
The holier the life, the deeper is to be the enjoyments of the soul.
In this sense, the fellowship a Ruth has with her God is the reward of grace.
“The living God was exhibited to the faith of His ancient people, as the God who dwelt between the cherubims that spread their wings over the mercy-seat, the throne of His grace. It was perhaps in allusion to this symbol of God’s residence amongst His people, that those who sought protection from Him were said to trust under the shadow of His wings. ‘He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. His feathers shall cover thee; under His wings shalt thou trust; His faithfulness shall be thy shield and buckler.’ ”—Lawson.
“This life is but a sort of outward stage, on which we act for a time, and which is only sufficient and only intended to answer the purpose of trying whether we will serve God or no.”—Dr. Newman.
“How inexcusable are we, if we do not make the Lord our refuge, when we were born in a land blessed with the knowledge of Him, baptized in His name, and trained up to know and serve Him! If a Moabitess came to trust under the wings of the Lord God of Israel, how shameful was it in Israelites not to know and trust the God by whose name they were called!”—Lawson.
“Truly this poor stranger is like some poor, helpless, fluttering bird exposed to wild storms and unfriendly influences; she needs shelter and fostering, and God will cover and nurture her beneath His protecting wing—wing that ensures perfect safety, but brings no darkness. Ah! it is a grand belief this man has in the ‘God of Israel.’ It is no cold speculation about a distant incomprehensible Deity, a Being of icy mountainous magnificence, a Being who is but a combination of mysterious forces and laws; but a firm faith in One who is a very Father, tenderly cherishing the weak, caring for every child’s life, comforting in sorrow, sheltering in danger, abundantly rewarding every good word and work. Would that the strong confidence of this man were ours!”—Braden.
“There is nothing softer than a feather. You have noticed, when a bird returns from flight, how gently it stoops over the nest. The young birds are not afraid of having their lives trampled out by the mother-bird. The old whip-poor-will drops into its nest of leaves, the oriole into its casket of bark, the humming-bird into its hammock of moss, gentle as the light. And so, says the Psalmist, He shall cover thee with His wing. Oh, the gentleness of God!”—Talmage.
“In summer the hen’s wings are a canopy to keep her chickens from the heat of the scorching sun; and in winter they are a mantle to defend them from the injury of the piercing cold. So God’s providence and protection makes His children to sprout, thrive, and prosper under it. In prosperity, God’s providence keepeth them from the heat of pride; in adversity, it preserveth them from being benumbed with frozen despair.”
“Let not us trust to the broken wall of our own strength, or think to lurk under the tottering hedge of our own wealth, or wind—shaken reeds of our unconstant friends; but fly to God, that He may stretch His wings over us, as the cherubim did over the mercy-seat.”—Fuller.
“Thou, O God, hast created us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.… I have heard all that philosophers can say, but none of them ever said what Jesus of Nazareth has said, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ ”—Augustine.
“What cares the child when the mother rocks it, though all storms beat without? So we, if God doth shield and tend us, shall be heedless of the tempests and blasts of life, blow they never so rudely.”—Beecher.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Let me find favour. I find favour (Le Clerc, Bertheau). This trans. not in accordance with the modesty of humility, which Ruth manifests in the following words (Keil). Lange and Keil take it as optative, and translate, “May I find favour.” The sense rather is as in Psalms 41:11. (By this I know that) I am finding favour, because Thou comfortest me, etc. (Speaker’s Com.). She had found favour in his sight already. The words are to be translated as expressing this, and not a further desire. So Gill and others. Spoken friendly. Lit. to the heart. Trans. kindly (Genesis 24:3; Genesis 50:21); comfortably, (2 Samuel 19:7), etc. (Speaker’s Com.). Be not like unto. Lit. be not as—that is, not on a par with them (Wordsworth). But what am I saying when I call myself thy maiden? I am not worthy to be compared to the least of thy maidens (Carpzov). The LXX. leaves out the negative particle, and trans., “I shall be as one of thy handmaidens.” So the Syriac, which reads, “And she said to him, Because I have found mercy in thine eyes, my lord, and thou hast consoled me and comforted me, I will be as one of thine handmaids.” So the Arabic, with some variations. Boaz had placed her among his handmaids (Ruth 2:9), and goes on to treat her as such (Ruth 2:14). Nothing could be more delicate or appropriate than the language of the Syr. trans., or more in accordance with Eastern ways of speech.
Ruth 2:14. At mealtime. Lit. at the time of food (Wright). The time of the noontide lunch. The principal meal was taken after the labours of the day were over (Steele and Terry). Bread, provisions generally. Vinegar, Heb. chomets. a cooling and refreshing drink made of sour wine mingled with oil; still used in the East (Keil, Wordsworth, Rosen., etc.). A kind of acid sauce (A. Clarke). Used because of the heat of the season (Jarci, Aben Ezra). The Midrash gives an allegorical sense to this, as meaning the chastisement and affliction of the Messiah. Dip thy morsel in the vinegar. Cf. Christ’s words when He gave the sop to Judas (John 13:26). The Arabs to this day dip the bread and hand together (Dr. Shaw). It is truly incredible how the biscuit, eaten with vinegar and oil, strengthens the weary and exhausted system, and restores its powers (Heberer). The drink of the Roman soldiers, called posca. consisted of water and vinegar (Lange). Sat beside the reapers. From this we may not infer the two sexes ordinarily took their meals together (Steele and Terry). Parched corn. Made of the best ears, when they are not too ripe. Roasted in a pan or on an iron plate (Robinson). The green ears become half charred by the roasting, and there was a pleasant mingling of milky wheat and a fresh crust flavour as we chewed the parched corn (Tristram). And was sufficed [satisfied] and left [over]. Was obliged to leave some, which it seems (Ruth 2:18) she carried home to her mother-in-law (Gill).
Theme.—THE HEART REALIZING A MINISTRY OF LOVE
“Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful.”—Shakespeare.
“Low at Thy feet I lie, my Saviour and my God,
Low at Thy feet I lie, nor feel the chastening rod;
Who lose their all to find the Spirit here,
Have found this freedom from all further fear,
Safe at Thy feet.”—B.
Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord; for that [or, I am finding, etc., because] thou hast comforted, etc.
A thankful heart will seek the continuance even of undeserved favours. Ruth did not wonder more at the kindness of Boaz (Ruth 2:10), than show herself ready to respond to it. The text is not so much a request as an acknowledgment;—she had found favour in his sight already [see Crit. and Exeg. Notes],—and should be so translated.
I. The secret of all true and effective ministries.
(1) He had “spoken to the heart” [so the Heb., LXX.]. The hidden springs of sensibility had been opened, and here is the response. So when the Jews comforted Mary and Martha (John 11:19), the Syriac translates, “they spake with their heart.” All other speech ineffective in comparison with this, especially so when speaking on such tender and momentous subjects as the soul’s refuge, “the wings of the Almighty.”
(2) He had spoken kindly in praising her virtues and in praying for her. Kind words generally, if not always, unlock the human heart.
(3) He had comforted her in deed as well as in speech. What wonder that she says, or seems to say, “I know by this that I am finding favour in thy sight”!
II. A beautiful instance of the heart becoming conscious of this ministry of love. The meaning of his kindness dawns upon her, and is dawning, as she recounts the manner of its manifestation. [Trans. (I see that,) I am finding favour in thy sight, because thou comfortest me (Speaker’s Com.)] So there is a special moment in the history of every Christian, when the heart begins to realize the Divine love. His comforts and His tenderness to us are seen, and shine out the more conspicuously as tokens of His regard.
Note. She was not one of his handmaids, and yet she realizes that he is treating her as such. Gives her a position among them, etc. So the Apostle sees himself as one born out of due season, not meet to be called an apostle, and yet raised to these privileges, etc. (1 Corinthians 15:8-10). So the prodigal finds himself placed among the children, and possessing a goodly heritage [comp. Jeremiah 3:19 with Luke 15:21-23]. So with all who are truly called and chosen of God. They see themselves the recipients of mercies and comforts, as unexpected as they are gracious; and exalted to a position and privileges not only dignified, but prophetic of still livelier favours yet to come. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God,” etc.
III. An instance of the heart responding to these tokens of goodwill. Ruth evidently felt that this was her one opportunity, and acts as though she felt it. Had not been forward in making known her claims, but, on the other hand, is not backward in responding to his kindness.
(1) She exalts her benefactor. She calls him “my lord,” and so magnifies his mercy.
(2) She is not unduly exalted herself. Rather she feels her own humble position the more, and deprecates her own unworthiness: “I am not like unto one of thine handmaidens.” So the centurion did not think himself worthy that Christ should come under his roof. To the humble, every mercy comes as the voice of undeserved kindness, which encourages without puffing up (Macartney).
So in spiritual things. The soul’s response to “Seek ye my face” is, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” While it magnifies the Divine mercy, and enlarges upon the tokens of the Divine love, it is ready like Ruth to humble itself in the dust at the Master’s feet.
(1) It is lawful to give honourable titles to men, such as befit their place [cf. Genesis 23:6; Numbers 12:11; 1 Samuel 1:15; 1 Kings 18:7; 2 Kings 8:12].
(2) The more humble men of wealth show themselves, the more honour they get (Bernard). Those stars seem to us the greatest, and shine the brightest, which are set the lowest (Fuller).
(3) Comfortable words do good like a medicine (Trapp). They do more, they bring out that which is good in the recipient. So here, the more generously Ruth is dealt with, the more unassuming does she become. So with the saints at last (Matthew 25:0): “Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred?” etc.
E. Price on this:—
Theme.—THE OUTWARD PROOF OF THE DIVINE REGARD
He predisposes influential men to give us their affection.
Note the steps of the process:—
1. We are rendered acceptable to them, finding “favour” with them.
2. We are solaced amidst the providential movements around us. They comfort the heart.
3. We are addressed by the assuring words of sympathy.
They express the affection borne to us, and hence
(4) we are astonished at the Lord’s wonderful condescension to our unworthiness.
Infer. Humility bears direct proportion to our sense of the Divine favour.
Whenever a Ruth trusts in God, a Boaz is sure to appear.
“To the humble mind of Ruth the words of Boaz were the first sunbeam that broke through the grief and tears of many weeks. Hitherto she had tasted only parting sorrow. Now, for the first time, she is addressed about the God of Israel and His grace. The full import of his words her humble heart does not presume to appropriate. But the kindness of the speaker’s voice is for her like the sound of a bubbling spring in the desert to the thirsty. A word of love comes on a loving heart like hers, long afflicted by sorrow, like morning dews on a thirsty field.”—Cassel (in Lange).
“Oh that ministers had this faculty of speech! not to tickle the ears, teach the heads, or please the brains of the people, but that their sermons might soak and sink to the root of their hearts. But though this may be endeavoured by them, it cannot be performed of them without God’s special assistance. We may leave our words at the outward porch of men’s ears; but His Spirit must conduct and lodge them in the closet of their hearts.”—Fuller.
“Pleasant words are like an honeycomb, sweet to the soul. Those words which at once indicate friendship and nourish piety are doubly pleasant. Boaz had not only expressed his affection and esteem to Ruth, but raised her views to the Lord God of Israel, from whom he encouraged her to expect her reward. His words were no less valued by her than his gifts. Words are cheap to ourselves, and they may be very precious to those to whom they are addressed, especially to those who need our sympathy.”—Lawson.
“A little word in kindness spoken,
A motion, or a tear,
Has often healed the heart that’s broken,
And made a friend sincere.”
“There are occasions when speech is golden rather than silence, and when an encouraging word would be of more real value than the richest material gift.… Some persons are far too much afraid of the effect of a little generous and well-timed praise. They would keep all their flowers in an ice house. Letting in a little sunshine upon them at times would not be amiss. How lavish was the wise and large-hearted Paul with his words of commendation, whenever they could be honestly spoken or written!”—Dr. A. Thomson.
“Opportunity is the flower of time, and as the stalk may remain when the flower is cut off, so time may remain with us when opportunity is gone.”—Bond.
“Augustine being asked what was the first article in the Christian religion, replied, ‘Humility;’ and what the second, ‘Humility;’ and what the third, ‘Humility.’ ”—Dic. of Illustrations.
“ ‘Lord, when did we do all this?’ So completely is their mind and memory filled with His goodness, that there is no standing-place there for any recollection of their own acts of love to Him. So abounding and immeasurable appears His love to them, that less than nothing, in the comparison, seems every act of theirs for Him in return. Like Ruth, they can praise Him for the comfort He has bestowed upon them, for the gracious and friendly way in which He has spoken to them; but all this only increases their sense of their own unworthiness of such mercy.”—Tyng.
“The train of our adorable Immanuel is so august, so glorious by His communicated grace, that the poor believer cannot easily be brought to consider himself amongst the happy number. All the holy angels, all the glorified saints, day and night attend upon His pleasure; ten thousand times ten thousand stand before Him, and thousands of thousands fly at His command. The patriarchs and prophets, the apostles and evangelists, the noble army of martyrs, and all the spirits of just men made perfect, swell His brilliant train; and how can I, who am so black and swarthy, so wretched and sinful, be numbered amongst company so honourable? Whence is it to me that my Lord should regard me with favour, and permit me to approach Thy sacred presence, and encourage me to feed on the bounties of Thy grace?”—Macgowan.
Theme.—PROVISION FOR THE STRANGER AT THE GATE
“That best portion of a good man’s life;
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love.”—Wordsworth.
“A poor man, served by thee, shall make thee rich;
A sick man, helped by thee, shall make thee strong;
Thou shalt be served thyself by every sense
Of service which thou renderest.”—Mrs. E. B. Browning.
God has from the beginning made the cause of the poor man His own (Baldwin Brown). Rich men, if good men, are to be His almoners. To such Christ says, “The poor ye have always with you.” See how natural kindness is to such! one deed of love leading to another and a better almost unconsciously. That of Boaz like an open fountain when it has once begun to flow (Dr. Thomson). From kind actions he goes on to comforting words, and from comforting words to kind actions once again. Wonderful how Providence does open the heart to strangers! Joseph was so affected by the treatment he received as such in Egypt, that he called one of his sons by a name expressive of what he felt (Toller). Boaz, in his treatment of Ruth, a beautiful illustration of the way Christ receives such.
I. He invites her to come and partake of the meal provided for his servants. Not meet to give the children’s bread unto dogs (Matthew 7:6; Mark 7:27); and yet, from the voice calling Adam in the garden, to the Spirit and the bride saying “Come,” in the Apocalypse, the Word of God is full of invitations to wandering, weary men.
II. He seats her in honour among his reapers. So the Saviour calls the Gentiles to be co-heirs with His own people; puts the alien among His children; exalts Saul the persecutor to be the chiefest among the apostles; gives His saints at last an inheritance among the angels of God.
III. He reaches forth his own hand to provide for her wants. So the Saviour sent not a servant, but came Himself, to provide for man’s need. “He saw there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor” (Isaiah 59:16), “Therefore,” He says, “mine own arm brought salvation” (Isaiah 63:5).
IV. He satisfies these wants completely. There was plain fare, but it was sufficient. Nature is content with a little, and hunger hunteth not after delicacies (Trapp). So in the spiritual realm, every real want of man is provided for by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Spurgeon on this (condensed):—
Theme.—MEALTIME IN THE CORNFIELD: A HARVEST SERMON
I. God’s reapers have their mealtimes. A good master will not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. Christ’s reapers not only have a blessed reward at last; they have also plenteous comforts by the way. They have
(1) mealtimes, when they come together to listen to the word preached. Where the doctrines of grace are plainly and boldly delivered in connection with the other truths of revelation; where the cross is lifted up, where the work of the Spirit is not forgotten, there is sure to be food for the children of God. Our hearers must have their portion of meat in due season. There must be something for all—milk for babes, etc.
(2) Mealtimes in our private readings and meditations. Meditation is digestion, and the finest wheat is to be found in secret prayer. The shepherd of Salisbury Plain said, when his wallet was empty, his Bible was meat to him.
(3) One mealtime that is specially ordained—in the supper of our Lord. In keeping the Master’s command there is great reward. Like poor Mephibosheth, we are made to sit at David’s table. The prodigal eats the meat of children.
(4) Mealtimes which God gives us at seasons when perhaps we little expect them. In the street, in the middle of business; when dull and earth-bound; suddenly. In the morning, as if the dew was visiting the flowers; in the evening, etc.
(5) Mealtimes at certain seasons when we may expect them. The Eastern reaper has a set time. So in affliction we may expect them; after toil we may look for them; and again, before a trial. Elijah must be entertained beneath a juniper tree, for he is to go forty days in the strength of that meat. After trouble or arduous service.
II. To these meals the gleaner is affectionately invited. The poor trembling stranger, who has no right to be in the field, except the right of charity, is called to the meals of the strong-handed, full-assured reaper.
(1) The gleaner is invited to come. “At mealtimes come thou hither.” None should be kept away from the place of feasting, the house of God, by personal character, or poverty, or physical infirmities. A poor deaf woman, asked why she was always there, replied, “that God was pleased to give her many a sweet thought upon the text while she sat in His house.”
(2) Again, not only to come, but to eat. Whatever the sweet and comfortable word, the broken and the contrite spirit is invited to partake of it. You are saying, “I have no right;” but He gives you the invitation. “You are unworthy;” but He bids you come. Further, Ruth was not only invited to eat the bread, but to dip her morsel in the vinegar—a sauce which the Orientals used with their bread. So the Lord’s reapers have not merely doctrines, but the holy unction which is the essence of doctrines—not merely truths, but the hallowing and ravishing delight which accompanies the truths.
III. Boaz reached her the parched corn. Christ does this to believers
(1) when He inspires their faith;
(2) when He sheds abroad the love of God in their hearts;
(3) when He gives us close communion with Himself;
(4) when He gives us the infallible witness that we are born of God. Philip de Morny was wont to say that the Holy Spirit had made his salvation as clear to him as ever a problem proved to a demonstration in Euclid could be.
IV. She did eat, and was sufficed, and left. Sooner or later every penitent shall become a satisfied believer—head, heart, hope, desire, conscience, judgment, memory, imagination, all filled.
E. Price on this:—
Theme.—THE COMMON MEAL
It should be characterized by the following particulars:—
It should indicate the Divine hand in providing it.
It should minister to the calm contentment of our hearts.
It should indicate a self-respect before men.
It should prepare for the next duties in life.
If God provide for a Ruth, the daily bread will not only come to the hand, but satisfy all the longings of the heart.
“One fact I think I have everywhere observed: the farther one moves from the high road and the busy marts of men, the more people are shut in by the mountains, isolated and confined to the simplest wants of life, the more they draw their maintenance from simple, humble, and unchangeable pursuits; so much the better, the more obliging, the more friendly, unselfish, and hospitable are they.”—Goethe.
“You have seen the stagnant pool, overgrown with weeds, into which the rain falls and the showers descend, but which gives out no fertilizing stream to water the barren earth around. There is the image of an avaricious and selfish life—a life stagnant and noxious in the sight of God and man. And you have seen the mountain lake, clear as crystal, into which the brooks run and the streamlets flow, but which sends them forth again a broad river to refresh and make glad the earth. There is the image of a life responding to the law of Christian usefulness, counting itself as steward only for a while, and not as owner of all that it possesses.”—B.
“Wherefore doth the Lord make your cup run over, but that other men’s lips might taste the liquor? The showers that fall upon the highest mountains should glide into the lowest valleys.”—Secker.
“The precept of love was given also in the moral law. That law contains ten commandments, but they may all be reduced to this, ‘Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.’ … If we go farther back still, we shall find the ancient commandment in existence; for the law of love is as old as human nature itself. ‘God created man in His own image’—gave him a spiritual nature, possessed of the powers of thought, will, conscience, imagination, and the faculty of goodness or love. Two things should be noticed with regard to the last of these. First, the faculty of love belongs to him as man—is part of his nature. Treat the flower rightly, plant it where the sun-rays play, and it will grow and become beautiful, and will fill the surrounding atmosphere with its fragrance, for it is made to give itself away; and if man had been true to himself, if he had avoided sin, and lived in all his faculties, his good-will and love would have gone forth to his fellows as naturally as perfume from the flower. Second, the sense or feeling that love is right, that it is a duty; and that to hate others, or even to be indifferent to them, is wrong. This is the Divine testimony in man’s conscience, the ‘old commandment’ of the gospel and of the law in another form—a silent commandment which makes itself heard and felt without the use of words.”—Thomas Jones.
“The very essence of charity is disinterested goodness; and although we may like it the better for its returns of benefit, we must obey its impulses from delight itself. Where we fail in this, our charity fails, although our deeds of beneficence still be abounding.”—Anon.
“The rich man’s superfluity was ordained to relieve the poor man’s necessity. A lady, on giving sixpence to a beggar, accosted him thus: ‘I have now given you more than God ever gave me.’ To whom he replied, ‘No, madam; God hath given you all your abundance.’ ‘That is your mistake,’ said she, ‘for He hath but lent it me that I might bestow it on such as you.’ ”—Secker.
“Men resemble the gods in nothing so much as in doing good to their fellow-creatures.”—Cicero.
“Seneca the heathen inculcates a principle worthy the credence of every Christian: I believe I truly enjoy no more of the world’s affluence than what I willingly distribute to the necessitous.’ Without your mercy the poor cannot live on earth, and without God’s mercy you shall not live in heaven.”—Secker.
“This also is given to pious souls by God, that being devoted to Him, He often secretly, and even without their becoming aware of it, impels them to this or that good action.”—Starke.
“Is not this the very way in which our rich Kinsman deals with those whom He loves and saves?… He calls poor fainting sinners to come without doubt or fear, and take their place among the company of the redeemed; for everything is there provided which they can need—abounding grace for abounding sin. He ministers Himself to their secret wants. He reaches forth with His own hand the parched corn of His sacrifice for them. And in this secret, personal, divine ministration, they eat and are sufficed.”—Tyng (condensed).
“ ‘Oh! but,’ says one, ‘how can it be? I am a stranger.’ Yes, a stranger; but Jesus Christ loves the stranger. ‘A publican, a sinner;’ but He is ‘the Friend of publicans and sinners.’ ‘An outcast;’ but He ‘gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.’ ‘A stray sheep;’ but the shepherd ‘leaves the ninety and nine,’ to seek it. ‘A lost piece of money,’ but He ‘sweeps the house’ to find it. ‘A prodigal son;’ but He sets the bells a-ringing when He knows that thou wilt return. Come, Ruth! Come, trembling gleaner! Jesus invites thee; accept the invitation. ‘At meal-time come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar.”—Spurgeon.
“We must not look upon this as being some sour stuff. No doubt there are crabbed souls in the Church, who always dip their morsel in the sourest imaginable vinegar, and with a grim liberality invite others to share a little comfortable misery with them; but the vinegar in my text is altogether another thing. This was either a compound of various sweets expressed from fruits, or else it was that weak kind of wine mingled with water which is still commonly used in the harvest-fields of Italy and the warmer parts of the world—a drink not exceedingly strong, but excellently cooling, and good enough to impart a relish to the reapers’ food.”—Ibid.
“You may suspect some danger nigh when your delights are overflowing. If you see a ship taking in great quantities of provision, it is bound for a distant port. And when God gives you extraordinary seasons of communion with Jesus, you may look for long leagues of tempestuous sea. Sweet cordials prepare for stern conflicts. Times of refreshing also occur after trouble or arduous service. Christ was tempted of the devil, and afterwards angels came and ministered unto Him. Jacob wrestled with God, and then afterwards, at Mahanaim, hosts of angels met him. Abraham wars with the kings, and returns from their slaughter; then it is that Melchisedec refreshes him with bread and wine. After conflict, content; after battle, banquet. When thou hast waited on thy Lord, then thou shalt sit down, and thy Master will gird Himself and wait upon thee.”—Ibid.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Ruth 2:15. And when she was risen up. Evident from this and the previous phrase that Boaz said, “Come thou hither,” as he himself sat among his reapers at the mid-day meal. So that a pause may be understood between the first conversation, ending with Ruth 2:13, and the invitation itself, during which Ruth goes on with her gleaning. Then there is the rest lasting throughout the hour of meals, in the tent or house for the reapers, followed by fresh toil until the evening. Commanded his young men. He had charged them already not to touch her (Ruth 2:9). Let her glean even among the sheaves. She may also glean between the sheaves (Keil). A rare privilege, not allowed to ordinary gleaners (Steele and Terry); and a still greater concession than that in Ruth 2:9—“after the reapers.” And reproach her not. (Heb. shame her not); μὴ καταισχύνητε (LXX.). Ye shall not shame her [do her any injury (Judges 18:7)] (Keil). In other words, they were not to say things to her which would make her blush (Lange), not to remind her of her poverty, etc.
Ruth 2:16. And let fall also of the handfuls. Let fall also out of your armfuls that you have reaped (Vulg.). Pull out from the bundles (Lange). Ye shall also draw out of the bundles for her (Keil). It is necessary to distinguish carefully between “the sheaves” (Ruth 2:15) and the “handfuls.” The former is the sheaf already bound by the maidservants, and lying on the ground; the latter is the bundle as taken up and still held in the arm, manipulus (Lange). And leave them. Let them lie (Keil). And rebuke her not. Scold her not (Lange, Keil). These directions of Boaz went far beyond the bounds of generosity and compassion for the poor, and show that he felt a peculiar interest in Ruth, with whose circumstances he was well acquainted, and who had won his heart by her humility, etc.,—a fact important to notice in connection with the further course of the history (Keil).
Ruth 2:17. And beat out, ἐῤῥάβδισεν (LXX.). With a stick (Wordsworth). A process often witnessed by modern travellers in the East (Steele and Terry). About an ephah of barley. About a bushel and a half (ibid). About twenty to twenty-five lbs. (Keil). Impossible to ascertain the quantity, still less its weight, exactly, but it was considerable, say fifty-five pounds (Lange). About eight gallons; see Exodus 16:36 (Wordsworth). She had gleaned so much, she could not carry it home in the ear (ibid.). An ephah exactly equal to an English cubic foot (Conder). The quantity of manna contained by the ephah was sufficient for ten men (cf. Exodus 16:16, with Exodus 16:36).
Theme.—LIBERAL GIVING, LIKE GOD’S
“And the more thou spendest
From thy little store;
With a double bounty,
God shall give thee more.”
“Thrice happy man! enabled to pursue
What all so wish, but want the power to do!”—Pope.
And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean among, etc., and reproach her [shame her] not. And let fall, etc., and rebuke [scold] her not.
Rested, refreshed, invigorated with food, as well as comforted by the kind words of the master of the harvest-field, Ruth evidently rises up to her labour with new pleasure and fresh earnestness. Note. (a) The poor can appreciate and respond to all this, without presuming upon it, or without being encouraged to idleness. Kindness to the deserving is a stimulus, an incentive to fresh enterprise and diligence. (b) The true use of rest and food is to strengthen us for resuming our toil.
Again, mark how the diligent hand obtains new and ever-increasing favours. God’s law is, to him that hath shall be given, and labour is the appointed way of increase, from which even Paradise itself was not exempted (Genesis 2:15). He who would have must get, and he who would have much, must get diligently. We are all gleaners, and the world is our harvest-field; and productive gleaning is, and always has been, to the earnest and the industrious. God helps us, both in spiritual and temporal things; but He in no way does so with a desire to do away with human responsibility. He scatters His blessings around us, but we ourselves must gather and make them our own. His giving is never intended to abate our diligence. Boaz here gives from pure goodness and nobleness of heart, and therefore his benevolence is a type of the divine and perfect giving of God.
I. He gives unexpectedly. This is seen in two ways:
(1) He allows her to “glean among the sheaves,” in a place where her labour will be more productive. So the Divine hand, in reward for past diligence, and as a proof of present favour, leads men to new spheres and employments, more fertile, as well as more dignified and productive. Joseph is exalted in Egypt, and David in Israel, and Paul among the apostles. Note. It is lawful to extend favours more to one than another (Fuller), in those things which are free favours (ibid.), in those things which are our own (Matthew 20:15), as with Boaz here. So with the Divine grace, and those privileges and opportunities He bestows in a seemingly unequal way among men. He gives and rewards not without a meaning, and not without a reason—this were impossible with God; but He will be accountable to no man for His dealings with the most highly favoured among men. The answer of sovereign grace to the caviller is, and always must be, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?” “Is thine eye evil?” etc.
(2) He charges his reapers to scatter handfuls for her. He increases her gleanings, and yet makes it appear the fruit of her own industry (Thomson). [See on Ruth 2:8-9, div. I., p. 108.] And in our own lives how often God has given (a) beyond our fondest anticipations, and (b) in ways which seem the result of our own thrift and endeavours. [Examples: Jacob in Laban’s household; Daniel in Babylon.] We say, in our short-sightedness, possibly, that our own hand and our own wisdom has gained us all this increase; but is it so?
II. He gives liberally. Nowhere have the poor been cared for so liberally as among the Jews (Baldwin Brown). The law made it a sacred duty not to reap “wholly the corners of the field,” etc. (Leviticus 19:9-10), but to leave something behind for the destitute and the stranger. Boaz, however, goes beyond his creed; and so Ruth, who expected to gather a little, gathers abundantly. This is the Divine idea, “good measure, pressed down, running over;” not the giving with a niggardly spirit and a grudging hand, but largely, overflowingly, beyond that which is due, beyond that which is expected or even deserved.
(1) So good men give. They live to bestow happiness. Riches are lent, not given, and bring the purest pleasure when scattered around upon the worthy and the necessitous. Wealth—
“By disburdening grows
More fruitful, which instructs us not to spare.”—Milton.
So God gives (a) largely, (b) liberally, (c) lavishly, (d) constantly. Note. He can make the world, to every one of us, a harvest-field, full of temporal and spiritual blessings.
III. He gives without reproach and without rebuke. His reapers are only his agents in this matter; the master’s will is to control all. An alien, and a daughter of the sinful race of Moab, shall glean in the choicest portions of his harvest-field, shielded from prejudice, and without a single word to remind her of her poverty, or her unworthiness (as some would think it), or of the unexpected favour bestowed upon her. A word to a delicate, sensitive spirit like that she has displayed would spoil all; therefore rebuke her not. Note. Kindness shows itself not only in doing good, but also in preventing evil and reproach. How exactly all this corresponds to the Divine dealings with sinful men! When they come in humble, suppliant attitude, it is said, “None of their sins shall be mentioned unto them.” God shields from shame, as well as bestows pardon, and sovereign grace is always willing to blot out the past. The inspired conception of the Divine benevolence is that He “giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not” (James 1:5).
Again, God charges others, lest they should reproach the sensitive and the tender-hearted among His children (Isaiah 40:1-2; Isaiah 65:25), as well as the wanderer and the stranger who cast themselves on His protecting care. The Saviour’s disciples were reapers in a field “white unto the harvest,” and yet, when they would have rebuked others who were not “of them,” He said, “Forbid them not” (Matthew 19:14).
IV. He gives in encouragement of her own labours. The kindness of Boaz suited
(1) to her situation,
(2) to her employment as a gleaner in the harvest field. So God gives in kind as well as in degree, according to our present capacity. He gives along the lines we ourselves are laying down—a solemn yet certain truth—and according to the spirit and diligence we ourselves are displaying. He gives “wood and hay and stubble” to such as are seeking such; the pure and precious grain of the kingdom only to those whom He is certain have sought, and sought diligently, for the same.
(1) Charity, wisely directed, will not tempt the poor to idleness (Lawson).
(2) If we come into fellowship with God, He will protect our characters from shame (E. Price), as well as our lives from want. We are to do our duty, and leave the rest with Him. When led into danger, we are to go quietly on, trusting to His guidance, as well as to our own integrity.
“The end of feeding is to fall to our calling. Let us not therefore, with Israel, sit down to eat and to drink, and so rise up to play; but let us eat to live, not live to eat. We need not make the clay cottage of our body much larger than it is by immoderate feeding: it is enough if we maintain it so with competent food, that God, our Landlord, may not have just cause to sue us for want of reparations.”—Fuller.
“That bird was once a woman, and it is a good lesson she reads us. One day she was kneading bread in her trough, under the eaves of her house, when our Lord passed by, leaning on St Peter. She did not know it was the Saviour and His apostle, for they looked like two poor men travelling past her door. ‘Give us of your dough, for the love of God,’ said the Lord Christ: ‘we have come far across the field, and have fasted long.’ Gertrude pinched off a small piece for them; but on rolling it in her trough, to get it into shape, it grew and grew, and filled up the trough completely. She looked at it in wonder. ‘No,’ said she, ‘that is more than you want;’ so she pinched off a smaller piece, and rolled it out as before; but the smaller piece filled up the trough, just as the other had done; so she put that aside too, and pinched a smaller bit still. But the miracle was just as apparent, the smaller bit filling up the trough the same as ever. Gertrude’s heart was hardened still more; she put that aside also. ‘I cannot give you any to-day,’ said she; for the greed of her heart was to divide all her dough into little bits and roll it into loaves. ‘Go on your journey, and the Lord prosper you.’ Then the Lord Christ was angry, and her eyes were opened, and she fell down on her knees to hear Him say, ‘I gave you plenty, but that hardened your heart, so that plenty was not a blessing to you; I will try you now with the blessing of poverty; you shall henceforth seek your food day by day, and always between the wood and the bark.’ ”—Norwegian Legend of the Gertrude Bird.
“We learn, that is the best charity which so relieves people’s wants as that they are still continued in their calling. For, as he who teacheth one to swim, though haply he will take him by the chin, yet he expecteth that the learner shall nimbly ply the oars of his hands and feet, and strive and struggle with all his strength to keep himself above water; so those who are beneficial to poor people may justly require of them that they use both their hands to work and feet to go in their calling, and themselves take all due labour that they may not sink in the gulf of penury. Relieve a husbandman, yet so as he may still continue in his husbandry; a tradesman, yet so he may still go on in his trade; a poor scholar, yet so he may still proceed in his studies. Thereby the commonwealth shall be a gainer. Drones bring no honey to the hive; but the painful hand of each private man contributes some profit to the public good. Hereby the able poor, the more diligent they be, the more bountiful men will be to them; while their bodies are freed from many diseases, their souls from many sins, wherof idleness is the mother. Laziness makes a breach in our soul, where the devil doth assault us with greatest advantage; and when we are most idle in our vocations, then he is most busy in his temptations.”—Fuller.
“There can be no wrong in those things which are free favours. I am not less just to him to whom I give less, but I am more merciful to him to whom I give more.… Shall it not therefore be lawful for the Lord of heaven to bestow wealth, honour, wisdom, effectual grace, blessings outward and inward, on one, and deny them to another? You, therefore, whom God hath suffered to glean among the sheaves, and hath scattered whole handfuls for you to gather; you that abound and flow with His favours, be heartily thankful unto Him. He hath not dealt so with everyone, neither have all such a large measure of His blessings.”—Fuller.
“I know some preachers who never went to Martin Luther’s school; they may have prayer and meditation, but they have never been schooled by temptation; and if we are not much tempted ourselves, if we are not emptied from vessel to vessel ourselves, we are in very great danger, when we are dealing with these Ruths, lest we be hard with them, and rebuke and reproach them, when instead thereof we should hear the Master say, ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people; speak ye comfortably unto Jerusalem.’ Now I take it that we do very much reproach these tender ones when we set up standards in our ministry to which we tell them they must come or else perish.”—Spurgeon.
“But then, brethren, you will notice that these reapers were to let handfuls fall on purpose for her. Well, then, ye reapers in God’s field, let your preaching be very personal. Oh! I love, when I draw the bow, not to do it at a venture, but to single out some troubled heart, and speak to you all as though there were but one here; not pouring the oil over the wound, but coming up to the edge of the gaping sore to pour in oil and wine. These poor Ruths will not dare to take the corn unless we put it right in their way. They are so faithful, so timorous, that though it seems to be scattered for everybody, they think it cannot be for them: but if it be there, put there so that they cannot mistake it, then they say, ‘Well, that is for me; ay, that is what I have felt; that is what I want;’ and they cannot, unbelieving though they be, they cannot help stooping down and picking up the handful that is let fall on purpose for them. Then, if it be so, our preaching must always be very affectionate.”—Ibid.
“Dr Manton once preached in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and a great crowd went to listen to him. A poor man, who had walked fifty miles to bear the good doctor, afterwards plucked him by the sleeve, and said, ‘There was nothing for me this morning.’ The doctor had preached a very learned sermon, full of Greek and Latin quotations which the poor countryman could not understand; but the doctor had not expected him, and there was nothing for him. I think there should always be in our ministry some things for poor Ruth, so plain and so simple, that the wiseacres will turn up their noses, and say, ‘What platitudes!’ Never mind, if Ruth gets a handful of corn, our Master at the last shall know who did His errand best, and served Him with a perfect heart.”—Ibid.
“While such a practice as is here enjoined would have been dishonest and unfaithful without the express authority of the master, not to have done it after it was enjoined would have been undutiful in its turn,”—Thomson.
“Doubtless Boaz, having taken notice of the good nature, dutiful carriage, and the near affinity of Ruth, could not but purpose some greater beneficence and higher respects to her; yet how he fits his kindness to her condition, and gives her that which to her seemed much, though he thought it little. Thus doth the bounty of our God deal with us. It is not for want of love that He gives us no greater measure of grace, but for want of our fitness and capacity. He hath reserved greater preferments for us, when it shall be seasonable for us to receive them.”—Bishop Hall.
Theme.—LABOUR UNTIL THE EVENING
“When the corn’s rustle on the ear doth come,
When the eve’s beetle sounds its drowsy hum,
When the stars, dewdrops of the summer sky,
Watch over all with soft and loving eye.”—Nicoll.
“Night is the time for rest;
How sweet, when labours close,
To gather round an aching breast
The curtain of repose,
Stretch the tired limbs, and lay the head
Upon our own delightful bed.”—J. Montgomery.
So she gleaned in the fields until even, and beat out, etc.
The longest and most eventful day must come to a close at last. So with this of Ruth’s toil, and the beginning of her recompense.
(1) She was not weary in well doing.
(2) She did not presume upon the fact that Boaz had so greatly and so generously increased her gleanings. No! She perseveres in her labour of love until the due and proper hour for retiring; then, pleased with what she had gained by her own industry, and careful to secure it, she lingers to beat out the corn, instead of taking it where it might trouble Naomi—a thoughtfulness surpassing even that of most natural children to their parents.
Learn, as suggested here—
I. That it is good to abide where we do well. Boaz had charged her not to glean in another field, but to stand fast by his maidens (Ruth 2:8), and here is the result. She reaped the fruit of her constancy;
(1) a lesson to the unstable in temporal things. Prosperity only follows persevering labour. It is the diligent hand that maketh rich; “the rolling stone gathers no moss” (Braden).
(2) To the unstable in the kingdom of God—men who wander from one church to another, from one preacher to another, from one sphere of duty to another. Note. Every man has his appropriate place: the aim of life should be first to find it and then to keep it.
II. That it is good to labour where God sends success. Can Ruth return to the city with a dejected countenance? Never, while Jehovah lives (E. Price). And why? Evident that she was in the place God had appointed for her. We misread the whole narrative, too, if we fail to see that Boaz is only an instrument in the Divine hands. In all labour, even that of gleaning, there is profit; but see what gleaning is when God guides to the harvest field! The humblest toil then becomes not only productive, but beautiful, and pregnant with after consequences.
III. That it is good to toil on until God’s appointed time of rest. “Man goeth forth to his labour until the evening.” There is a time, then, for going forth, and there is also a time for returning. The day for toil, the night for repose, this is God’s great appointed law. Labour is man’s heritage (Genesis 2:15), and we are happy only as we bow to this. Life, health, man’s physical and moral well-being depend upon obedience. But mark! Labour, too, has its boundaries, the time when it must end; and from this thought comes a stimulus to which even the great Master Himself responded, “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day,” as well as a hope which looks forward to rest and reward when toil is over. Note. Rest time is not waste time (Spurgeon). The pause prepares mind and body alike for further service.
“King Alphonsus doing something with his hands, and labouring so, as some which beheld him found fault, smiled and said, ‘Hath God given hands to kings in vain?’ ”—Bernard.
“I do not like to see a Christian man too eager for holidays, nor doling out his services in exact and precise proportion to his wages, bitterly complaining if he is requested to do a little more than is in ‘the bond,’ ready to fling down his tools before the first stroke of the clock has fairly struck which tells that the day’s work may cease. A man should be in love with his work, and should take as the mottoes for his inspiration the words, ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,’ etc., ‘Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit,’ etc.”—Braden.
“Sarah kneaded cakes; Rachel fed sheep; Rebekah drew water; Tamar baked cakes. Suetonius reporteth of Augustus Cæsar, that he made his daughters to learn to spin; and Pantaelon relates the same of Charles the Great. Yet now-a-days (such is the pride of the world) people of far meaner quality scorn so base employments.”—Fuller.
“Such diligence is supremely praiseworthy. and deserves, nay, ensures an abundant reward. It is a great thing in life to be wholly devoted to the work we have in hand, and to be able to say, ‘This one thing I do.’ For there is an incalculable multitude of people who are ‘everything by turns and nothing long.’ Shifty, changeful, dissatisfied, untrustworthy, they pass from one occupation to another with the ease and rapidity with which the wind veers round all the points of the compass; busy, fussy folk who are excited, enthusiastic about one thing to-day, and equally excited and enthusiastic about another and totally opposite thing to-morrow. All they undertake is regarded of the same importance, to be entered upon with unrestrained vigour; but nothing prospers that they touch, because they only touch it, and soon it droops and fades.”—Braden.
“Seek a retentive memory, to keep in thy hand what thou hast gathered, or else thou wilt be like a silly gleaner who stoops to glean one ear, and drops another at the same time. Carry home what of truth thou canst. Take notes in thy heart. And when thou hast gathered and hast thy hands full, take care to discriminate. Ruth, we are told, threshed her corn, and left the straw behind, and took home the good wheat. Do thou the same.”—Spurgeon.
“Corn, even the finest kidney of the wheat, grows encompassed with chaff, and therefore must be beaten out and winnowed before it is fit for use.… Paul, that incomparable preacher, freely confessed that he saw and prophesied but in part: if he in part, surely we in a very little part; consequently much of our own chaff is mixed with our Redeemer’s wheat: and that you our hearers are called to beat out what you glean, by a diligent search of the Scriptures, by meditation and prayer.”—Macgowan.
“The materials of the temple were so hewed and carved, both stone and wood, before that they were brought unto Jerusalem, that there was not so much as the noise of a hammer heard in the temple. So Ruth fits all things in a readiness before she goes home, that so no noise might be made at home, to disturb her aged mother.”—Fuller.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Her mother-in-law saw. With astonishment at the quantity evidently. And she brought forth. And she showed (Vulgate, Syr.-Arab., Wright, Lange). Brought forth out of a wallet (Targum). Drew out of her pocket, as the Chaldee has correctly supplied (Keil). That she had reserved. Of the parched corn (see Ruth 2:14). After she was sufficed. Satisfied (Lange). Lit. From her satiety (Morison).
Ruth 2:19. Where wroughtest thou? Where didst thou procure? (Dr. Cassel). Where hast thou stayed? (Wright). Where strayedest thou? (Gesen). As in EV. LXX. Vulg. Rosen. Bertheau. Blessed be he. Naomi seems to have seen at once that someone must have treated Ruth with unexpected and unwonted kindness. Did take knowledge. Friendly and special notice. The same word used by Ruth (Ruth 2:10) in expressing her gratitude to Boaz (Lange). With whom I wrought. Certainly a better translation than “with whom I spent my time,” as Wright would appear to propose. Boaz. She could not know what a consolation and joy the utterance of this name conveyed to Naomi (Lange).
Ruth 2:20. Who hath not left off. Precisely the same expression Eliezer uses when he meets Rebekah, after having prayed for guidance (Genesis 24:27). There, however, it is Jehovah Himself who is pronounced “blessed” (Speaker’s Com.). Naomi possibly only applied a general formula or even a common proverb to her special case, and in this sense Jehovah alone is to be seen as the source of kindness to the living and the dead. So the Syriac, Arab, Bertheau, Keil, Lange, &c. The Chaldee, LXX., and Vulg. apply the words, however, to Boaz. [See on Ruth 1:8, and also cf. Genesis 14:19; Psalms 115:15.] To the living and the dead. Here is a profession of faith in the existence of the faithful after death (Wordsworth). Not so (Bertheau, Morison). If these words do not presuppose the immortality of the soul as an article of Israelitish faith, what meaning can they have? (Lange). God is not the God of the dead [those who have passed away and are no more for ever] but of the living (Matthew 22:32). Ruth is still the wife of the dead in the Hebrew way of thinking and speaking (Ruth 4:5). And does not this and kindred Jewish notions as to the dead having claims upon the living, receiving kindnesses from them, having seed raised up by them, &c., necessarily point to an underlying conviction of the continuing existence of those who have only passed away to the outward senses and sight? The man is near of kin. Is our relative (Keil). Lit. Near, not in comparison with other relatives, but with men in general (Lange). One of our next kinsmen. One of our redeemers (Lange, Keil). One that hath a right to redeem (Kitio). The second in the order of the Goëlim (Michaelis, Gesenius). The Redeemer had a right
(1) of redeeming the inheritance of the person,
(2) of marrying the widow,
(3) of avenging the death (Speaker’s Com.). Cf. Leviticus 25:25-31; Leviticus 25:47-55; Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Deuteronomy 19:1-13; Jeremiah 32:8-12.
Ruth 2:21. He said unto me also. Even so may he be blessed (Carpzov, Wordsworth, Wright). Not so (Lange). Yea also he said to me (Morison). More! I have not told you all, for he said, &c. (Lange) Keep fast by my young men. My people (Keil). My servants (Lange). The people also belong to my house as distinguished from the people of other masters (Keil). The masculine here to be taken as including both sexes (Gesen, Furst, Maurer). Boaz (Ruth 2:3) and Naomi (Ruth 2:22), however, use the feminine form, which seems to show that the distinction of gender was no longer neglected (Lange). A special point is made of Ruth being allowed to glean among the sheaves close to the reapers (Ruth 2:15), that is, the young men, evidently a special and privileged place. The young men had a commission, too, from their master to countenance and encourage her (Ruth 2:16).
Ruth 2:22. It is good. The key to much which follows as well as an approval of what has passed. That they meet thee not. Lit., that they do not fall upon thee (Keil, Wordsworth). Originally means to light upon, whether for good or evil (Morison). Keil views the verb, however, as having only a bad meaning, and as signifying to fall upon a person to smite and ill-treat him. Fall not upon thee, or solicit thee to folly. Vulgo dicitur castam esse quam nemo rogarit (Trapp). In a strange field she would be exposed to annoyances and, possibly, insults (Steele and Terry), from which Boaz has specially guarded her in his (Ruth 2:9; Ruth 2:15-16). To go elsewhere also would be to show a want of appreciation for the kind words and actions of which she has been the recipient already. Her seemingly needless repetition of this idea of clinging to the fields and servants of Boaz, is, indeed, highly artistic, and serves to prepare the mind for what is to follow.
Ruth 2:23. So she kept fast. And she kept gleaning along with the maiden of Boaz (Wright) (cf. Ruth 2:9; Ruth 2:21). Gives the opportunity for Boaz to acquire that knowledge of Ruth and respect for her implied in Ruth 3:10-11). By the maidens. Showing clearly that his maidens were only gleaners (Speaker’s Com.). Unto the end of barley and wheat harvest. Until about the beginning of June. The two harvests would cover from two to three months. And dwelt with her mother in-law. After she returned to her mother-in-law (Vulg., Luther, Coverdale). And lived with her mother-in-law (Kiel). A tacit allusion to the fact that a change took place when the harvest was over (ibid). She did not gad abroad, but kept her aged mother company at home (Patrick).
Theme.—THE BREAD-WINNER AND HER PRECIOUS BURDEN
“Find out men’s wants and will
And meet them there. All worldly joys go less
To the one joy of doing kindnesses.”—Herbert.
And she took it up … and she brought forth, and gave, etc.
Ruth returns to the city, bearing herself the results of her toil, but not for herself alone. True affection is always carrying some burden or other, and love’s crosses are never her own entirely.
She returns to bestow of her labour. The needy may often play the benefactor to others. Christ carried a bag to relieve those who were in want, and the poor widow had still “two mites to spare” (Luke 21:2). How the text condemns the covetousness of such as Nabal, who have plenty and yet give not out of their abundance!
I. She was frugal. Carefulness as necessary as industry. That nothing be lost for want of frugality comes with the force of Divine authority. “Gather up the fragments,” etc. Wisdom teaches us to have an eye upon the future as upon the present. Even dumb creatures, like the ant and the bee, have this instinct. Note. Wastefulness as much a sin as idleness.
II. She was frugal amid unexpected abundance. A contrast to such as plunge into mad riot and wanton, reckless wastefulness at such times. The prodigal, when he had obtained his “portion,” made all haste to spend it among harlots. Must be confessed that the poor are not always the most careful when fortune favours them. “Beggars on horseback ride the faster to the devil.” Note. A true test of character to be found here.
“Who cannot live on twenty pound a-year,
Cannot on forty; he’s a man of pleasure,
A kind of thing that’s for itself too dear.”—Herbert.
III. She was frugal for the sake of others. The thought of Naomi at home had evidently stimulated her to carefulness as well as industry in the harvest-field. Ruth not one lost in vacant reveries and so missing the hour of service. The spirit of love and self-sacrifice breathes in all that she does. Note. (a) Extravagance is especially reprehensible when there may be those in want at home. Becomes doubly a sin then to waste, or to neglect opportunities of providing for them. (b) A kindred thoughtfulness to Ruth’s not unusual among the poor. Only that while the good deeds of the rich are concealed with difficulty, theirs are too often passed by unnoticed. How many a heart has thrilled with joy at the thought of being able to minister to the joy of those at home! Burns gives us the picture of the eldest daughter, in his “Cotter’s Saturday Night,” bringing home
“her sair-won penny fee
To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be.”
Ministries like this have gladdened and sweetened family life all the world over. Note. Men may and ought to find the sweetest and noblest use of all their gains at home.
(1) Even love must have its burden, if it would enjoy its after-recompense and approval. There are who would scatter without first having gathered, but that is not God’s law.
(2) The lavishness of this evening hour only follows the gleaning and carefulness of the day.
(3) What is gained in a nook of the harvest-field comes to be seen and reported in the city (Price).
“They come home from their busy toil feeling that they have the day’s sweetest and not always lightest task before them—to lighten the heares and gladden the lives of those whom they love best. Whatever the world has done to them or for them they have one thing to do—to do the very best they can for the dear ones round their fireside. Not that these are to be kept always ignorant of the cares, troubles, and losses without which the world’s business cannot be carried on.”—Baldwin Brown.
“See here, the shoulders of God’s saints are wonted to the bearing of burthens. Little Isaac carried the faggot wherewith himself was to be sacrificed; our Saviour, His own cross, till His faintness claimed Simeon of Cyrene to be His successor. Yet, let not God’s saints be disheartened: if their father had a ‘bottle’ wherein He puts the tears which they spend, surely He hath a balance wherein He weighs the burthens, which they bear, He keeps a note to what weight their burthens amount, and, no doubt, will accordingly comfort them.”—Fuller.
“It is no less necessary to be careful of the fruit of our labours, than to labour with diligence. Christ Himself, who could multiply bread at His pleasure, commanded the fragments of the barley loaves and fishes to be gathered up, that nothing might be lost. ‘In all labour there is profit,’ says the wise man; yet there are some that labour for the wind. They lose what they have wrought, because they suffer it, through their carelessness, to slip through their fingers. This folly, however, is much less frequent in things relating to the body than in those which relate to the soul.”—Lawson.
“The Church is our mother, whom we are called to serve and comfort; therefore every comfort you glean ought to be brought home to her; so disposed of and applied that she may share in your pleasure.”—Macgowan.
Theme.—HOME CONFIDENCES, MUTUAL CONFESSIONS, AND ENQUIRIES
“And none can say but all my life
I have His wordis kept,
And summed the actions of the day
Each night before I slept.”—Chatterton.
“Think nought a trifle, though it small appear—
Small sands the mountain, moments make the year,
And trifles life.”—Young.
And her mother-in-law said, Where hast thou, etc.… Blessed be he, etc.… And she showed, etc.
It is in the very nature of affection to feel the interest, solicitude, anxiety expressed here. Parents see their children go out to the snares and difficulties of life. Will they be preserved spotless? etc. More, it is the duty of such to ascertain how their children have been employed, what associations they have formed, with whom and where they have been. Such sympathetic questioning
(1) elicits confidence,
(2) shows thoughtful interest,
(3) offers opportunity for wise counsel and encouragement (Braden). Carelessness on these points
(2) dangerous. Even Eli did not sin in neglecting this duty. He noticed and enquired (1 Samuel 2:23-24). His sin was that he restrained not after knowledge (Ruth 3:13).
But see how “love thinketh no evil,” and makes even a duty like this free from whatever might be otherwise irksome or unpleasant. Naomi asks from a desire to know who was the instrument in God’s hands through whom His bounty came, not from curiosity merely, or from any suspicion concerning Ruth. Favours bestowed naturally bring the desire to know from whom they come.
I. A fitting conclusion to a well-spent day. Note. Good to sum up the actions of the day
(1) to ourselves,
(2) to others when convenient and proper, as here. “Confess your sins one to another.” The New Testament idea of a confessor, however, not that of an official person, a “priest,” but a friend whom we can trust and to whom we can unbosom, as Ruth evidently did to Naomi [cf. Malachi 3:16; Judges 5:11]. Especially is such confession one to another good when accompanied and permeated by a devout spirit such as breathes through the whole context. Note. When integrity directs our steps there is no need for evasion. Can give a minute account of our conduct.
II. A mutual stimulus and encouragement to gratitude. Gratitude kindles gratitude. Good deeds to ourselves, recognised and pointed out, bring thankfulness to other hearts beside our own, to the devout everywhere.
“Whene’er a noble deed is wrought,
Whene’er is spoken a noble thought,
Our hearts in glad surprise
To higher levels rise.”—Longfellow.
Many men niggardly in letting it be known they have received favours. They would hide the sunshine which has gladdened life in their own hearts, were it possible. Not so Ruth. She brings to her home, and to her friend, these abundant signs and tokens of that which has made the labour of gleaning a light and pleasant task. Christ’s command, “Return to thine own house,” etc. (Luke 5:39), enforces the duty illustrated here.
III. A mutual stimulus and encouragement to piety. The heart naturally looks upward and thanks God when it comes face to face with noble deeds of any kind. Men stifle the feeling if they can, it may be, and feel ashamed of it, but it is there. Note. Thanksgiving as natural as prayer.
Here the kindness of Boaz and the success of Ruth both come in to fan the flame of piety in the heart of Naomi. Her first thought is not that the wants of the morrow are satisfied, and that abundantly, but “Blessed be he,” etc. True always that—
“The tidal wave of deeper souls
Into our inmost being rolls,
And lifts us unawares
Out of all meaner cares.”
Noble deeds, when seen and realised, lead men almost unconsciously to think and to speak nobly. Note. Prayer is sometimes the only possible way left us of expressing our gratitude. [On these ejaculatory expressions see Ruth 2:12 pp. 116, 117.] The debt contracted in the currency of earth is paid back in the coin of heaven (Thomson).
(1) We should take special notice of such as do us good (Bernard).
(2) A good heart rejoices in the welfare of another (ibid.).
(3) How naturally the name of God comes in on occasions like these!
(4) How potent our kindness may be in quickening the sense of God’s kindness (Cox).
E. Price on this:—God’s Providence an excitement to a question. Wherever can such a blessing have come from? to a benediction. Blessed be God in the fact and in the agent of His will; and to a recognition of His inscrutable but merciful designs. Who can this man be—coming at the very time when needed—but a Boaz, and he the father of blessings yet beyond the present hour?
Observe.—A man may be as a stranger to-day, and yet God may cause him to appear an angel of blessedness to-morrow. Despise nothing—hope in everything, and unite the actions of life by the spirit of cheerfulness. If Providence be a fact, trust in it!
J. P. Allen, M.A., on this:—Ruth 2:19, “Where hast thou gleaned today?”—A simple question is sometimes startling, and is often stirringly suggestive.
The Sphere: Life’s opportunities.
The law of labour is the law of life. In this world but little can be accomplished without energy and enterprise. In every department this is true.
To the open and eager eye openings invite and opportunities multiply. “Let me now go to the field.” “I have set before thee an open door.” “The field is the world.” See Isaiah 6:8.
Forms of activity, how diversified they are. There is not only the reaper but the “gleaner” also. “All works are good, and each is best when most it pleases Thee.” “Gather up the fragments,” and despise not “the day of small things.”
Scope exists for all. “How many serve, how many more may to the service come.” “Even I, in fields so broad, some duties may fulfil.”—Woman’s work.
Each “day” brings its demands. “To-day.”
The Service: Our use or neglect of life’s opportunities.
Neglect possible. There is no compulsion. The parable of the talents. The field of the slothful (Proverbs 24:0).
Success attainable. Satisfaction in healthful industry. Beneficent results are an “ephah of barley.” “Neither man nor work unblest wilt thou Thou permit to be.” “He shall doubtless come again bringing his sheaves with him.” “Enter into the joy of thy Lord.”
Co-operation here desirable. “Let fall some for her.” “Reproach her not.” Community in labour. Unselfishly thinking of others and their work, without unkindliness or rebuke. Cp. moroseness and malevolence. “Each worker pleases where the rest he serves in charity.”
The Scrutiny: Direct investigation into our use of life’s opportunities.
The “day,” however, varying in incident and duration, soon “goeth away.” “The shadows of the evening are stretched out.” “The night cometh when no man can work.”
After that, the Tribunal and award. (a) The Fact of Judgment [cf. Matthew 25:19.] (b) Its characteristics
(1) Personal and individual: “Those.”
(2) Practical: “Where.”
(3) Precise: each “day” and its doings. How wise to let the inquiry here anticipate the inquiry hereafter. Day by day and every day should conscience put the question—“Where hast thou gleaned to-day?”
“If we are not our brethren’s, yet surely we are our children’s keepers; and we know what a son Adonijah proved, that had never been chidden. Parents should examine their children, not to frighten nor discourage them, not so as to make them hate home or tempt them to tell a lie, but to commend them if they have done well, and with mildness to reprove and caution them if they have done otherwise.”—Matthew Henry.
“It is a good question for us to ask ourselves in the close of every day, ‘Where have I gleaned to-day? What improvements have I made in knowledge and grace? What have I done or obtained that will turn to a good account?’ ”
“Sum up at night what thou hast done by day;
And in the morning what thou hast to do.
Dress and undress thy soul: mark the decay
And growth of it: if with thy watch, that too
Be down, then wind up both; since we shall be
Most surely judged, make thy accounts agree.”
“Spirits rest in duty, in the interchange of the communications and ministries of thought and love.”—Baldwin Brown.
“The recording of these small matters showeth how dear to God are His saints, and how He is taken with everything they say or do, if not sinful.”—Trapp.
“They are rich who have friends. There is no living without friends.”—Portuguese Proverbs
“And whether a man be poor or rich, caressed of fortune or crushed under difficulties, if he be homeless in this sense, if he have no loved ones caring for him and not for his substance, sympathizing in his trials and rejoicing in his successes, the veriest dog that has a kennel to creep in out of the cold wind at nights, is to be envied more than he.”—B.
“Piety, however, does more than indulge in curiosity. The natural heart would have rejoiced, received, enjoyed, and inquired just as Naomi did, but withal with no thought except of self. She, on the contrary, before her inquiries are answered, induced simply by the abundance of the gifts and the manifest happiness of Ruth, blesses the giver.”—Lange.
“The blessings of grace also are scattered abroad in the gospel field in the greatest abundance, but they must all be gathered in a diligent use of the appointed means. Sovereign grace could, if infinite wisdom saw meet, save its object without the intervention of means; and so might Boaz have given Ruth the handfuls unscattered, but he did not choose to do that, neither does grace choose to do this. God has therefore bound His people to as strict, as conscientious a use of the means, as if upon them only salvation was entirely dependent.… What He gives in a way of sovereign goodness must be gathered in the way of the strictest diligence.”—Macgowan.
“If the rich can exchange their alms with the poor for blessings. they have no cause to complain of an ill bargain. Our gifts cannot be worth their faithful prayers: therefore it is better to give than receive; because he that receives hath a worthless alms: he that gives receives an invaluable blessing.”—Bishop Hall.
“If we would but recollect that life is a mosaic, made up of very little things, and that the very smallest and meanest well done, is as thankworthy as the greatest.”—Anon.
“Before even her question can be answered, and moved simply by the manifest happiness of Ruth in the abundance of her gleanings, she ‘blesses’ the man who has given her this happiness. For this she does not need to know who he is. Whoever had been kind and bountiful to Ruth must have meant to show that he appreciated her virtues and felt for her misfortunes.”—Cox.
“ ‘For the last ten years I (Gambetta) have made a pledge with myself to entirely avoid introducing the name of God into any speech of mine. You can hardly believe how difficult it has been, but I have succeeded, thank God!’ (‘Dieu merci!’). Thus the name so sternly tabooed rose unconsciously to his lips at the very moment when he was congratulating himself on having overcome the habit of using it.”—E. D. Pressense.
Theme.—KINDNESS TO THE LIVING AND THE DEAD
“Those that he loved so long, and sees no more,
Loved and still loves—not dead, but gone before.”—Rogers.
“The dead are like the stars by day,
Withdrawn from mortal eye,
Yet holding unperceived their way
Through the unclouded sky.”—Bernard.
Blessed be he of the Lord [Jehovah] who hath not left off His kindness to the living and the dead.
It is just possible these words apply entirely to Boaz. New favours cause a fresh remembrance of former courtesies (Fuller). Memory is busy, and Naomi may see in the kindness of to-day only a continuance of similar acts to the dead Elimelech done years ago. If so, she recognises in this the habit and spirit of his life. The new benefactor is the benefactor of old. He “hath not left off,” &c. Note. Benevolence grows upon men. One deed of charity leads to another, fosters the spirit, forms, or helps to form, the habit. Characteristic of a good man that he has not “left off” those deeds of kindness which bring down lifelong blessings and benedictions upon him [cf. Job 31:16-22; Job 29:11-16.] While some give from impulse merely, and others from ostentation, he gives from a heart permeated by the spirit of love, and so he is always ready to respond to he wants of those around him. Note. What a noble and spontaneous testimony to the worth of Boaz, if the words are to be so employed and applied.
Again, the phrase is a very significant one as to the whole action and scope of the book. Among the Hebrews kindness to the widow, duties performed to and for the bereaved were looked upon as done to and for the dead. This one of the fixed ideas in Naomi’s mind seemingly hopeless at first [see on i:11–13; p. 46] as to any outward accomplishment, but now to be seen as beginning to shape itself in another way. Note. There is a sense in which we may be kind to the dead—to his memory, to his loved one [see on Ruth 1:9, p. 40; Fuller’s remarks.]
The very close relationship, however, between the name of Jehovah and the following sentence seems to intimate that it is the Divine Mercy as bestowed upon the living and the dead which is filling her heart with a gratitude not to be concealed [cf. Crit. and Exegetical Notes.] She thinks of God, not so much of Boaz as the author of this new kindness. It is, “Jehovah who hath not,” &c. Note. Naomi recognizes this even more profoundly than Eliezer. (Genesis 24:26.) (Lange.)
May be looked upon if taken in this way.
I. In the sense of the unbroken continuance of the Divine favour throughout the ages, to children, and children’s children. He is the God of Abraham and of Isaac, and of Jacob. He blesses Ruth to-day, even as He blessed her husband yesterday. To each new generation there is this revelation of new mercies, for He is the God of each “succeeding race.” Men there are whose charitable deeds are as rare as an eclipse or a blazing star (Fuller). Not so with Him. He ceaseth not. “He hath not left off,” &c.
Note. The pious have recognised this in all ages. Moses saw Him as, keeping covenant to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9) and as, “the dwelling-place” of His people in all generations (Psalms 90:1). David conceived Him as keeping mercy for ever (Psalms 89:28), and as not suffering His “faithfulness to fail”
(33). Isaiah speaks of Him as hearing and preserving and establishing His own (Isaiah 49:8). Jeremiah says, “His compassions fail not—they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23). This unchanging faithfulness and compassion of God
(1) Comes from the Divine Nature (Isaiah 49:0; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:24).
(2) Endures with the Divine existence [146:3].
(3) Shows itself in the Divine action at all times.
It may be looked upon
II. In that completer sense in which God controls the unseen world as well as this. The dead are with Him even as the living are, and this thought may possibly have been in Naomi’s mind. For how can mercy be shown to such as exist no longer? (Lange). Would never occur to speak of that as mercy [kindness] to the dead, which is mercy to the living and nothing more (Ibid). [See Critical and Exeg. Notes, and Lange in loco]. Certainly the dead held a very conspicuous and important place in Naomi’s speech and thoughts [cf. i:8, 21], as well as in that of the Hebrews generally [iv:5, 10]. And can we imagine this as side by side with the conception that they had ceased to exist for ever? To do so is to commit the error of the Sadducees, who erred, “not knowing the Scriptures.” All the light of subsequent revelation has not made the dead one whit more real to us, more clearly identified with ourselves, than we see them here. Why, then, refuse to believe that Naomi saw her loved ones as resting even then in Abraham’s bosom? Where otherwise is the force of Christ’s appeal (Matthew 22:31-32), “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living?”
Blessed thought if taught here! He comforts us to-day, and He comforts those who are no longer with us but with Him. Death has not removed them from the sphere of His kindness. Separation from us does not necessarily mean separation from Him; rather it means, with the righteous, to come more completely within the scope of His love (Revelation 14:13). They serve and we serve (Revelation 6:15). He feeds them
(17) and He feeds us. He strengthens the heart of the mourners here, and He wipes away all tears from their eyes yonder. He hath not left off, etc. Note. The dead and the living are linked together still in the eyes of God and of good men. Not so much two worlds as one, that the other side of this and God over all blessed for evermore. Parted only by a thin and perhaps, from their side, transparent veil (Braden).
(1) Kindness to the living may be, and is sometimes, kindness to the dead.
(2) As health is the poor man’s patrimony, so prayers are the poor man’s requital (Trapp).
Bernard on “Blessed be he of the Lord.”
(1) That prayer in and by every true member of the Church hath been only made unto God.
(2) That it is the Lord who doth bless and make happy.
(3) That the Lord will bless the merciful.
(4) That the poor’s reward unto the rich for their work of charity is only their prayer to God for them.
E. Price on this:—God’s Blessing.
(1) In its nature, it is “kindness”—the very soul of tenderness to the God-fearing among men.
(2) In its continuance. He can’t “leave off” making His children happy.
(3) In its application to both worlds—to the “living” as the song of a Ruth may testify; to the “dead,” as the hope of a Naomi must imply. Both are in the covenant of the God of Israel. And
(4) in its expression. He knows how to prepare some lip to give it adequate expression before the world. The old shall ever confirm the faith of the young.
“It is kindness to the dead as well as to the living. The natural human protectors are gone, but the Almighty Father has taken their place. It is what Elimelech and Mahlon would hare desired, and it is kindness to them. Can we not imagine that those who have passed from earth, leaving poor disconsolate ones behind to struggle with life’s difficulties, often find, in their glorified condition, fresh and continuous reasons for rejoicing, because they see how the ever-watchful love of God is constantly shown towards beloved ones, whose comfort was their desire and endeavour?”—Braden.
“Though old Barzillai be incapable of thy favours, let young Chimham taste of thy kindness. Though the dead cannot, need not, have thy mercy, yet may they receive thy kindness by a proxy—by their friends that still are living.
“Mercy, then to the dead, makes nothing for the Popish purgatory, and yet no wonder if the Papists fight for it.… In a word, were purgatory taken away, the Pope himself would be in purgatory, as not knowing which way to maintain his expensiveness.”—Fuller.
“Call upon the Almighty, He will help thee; thou needest not perplex thyself about anything else: shut thy eyes, and while thou art asleep, God will change thy bad fortune into good.”—Arabian Nights.
“The Lord is the fountain from whom all blessedness flows. Indeed, Jacob blessed his sons; Moses, the twelve tribes; the priests, in the law, the people: but these were but the instruments, God the Principal; these the pipe, God the Fountain; these the ministers to pronounce it, God the author who bestowed it.”—Fuller.
“The dead. So silent now. Never to come back for us to touch imperfectness into riper good; never to charm away with pleasant thoughts the dull hours; never to fill with deeper meanings of love the half empty words; never to make more divine the common service of life; never to put the best interpretation upon conduct; never to lift the leaden crown of care from the anxious brow; never to help to transfigure the mean and lowly with heavenly hopes and aspirations. Gone! What a world of vacancy and silence and subtle mystery! Is it strange we should wish well to those who were kind to the dead? And Naomi links her own being with them still.… With true hearts they can never be disassociated.”—Statham.
“Oh, ye beloved ones!
Though speechless, though unseen,
Love’s bond is strong to-day,
As love has ever been.
“Deathless the memories,
And though unspoken now;
Dear names and tender words,
Binding as lover’s vow.
“Tender and true ye were,
All passionless ye lie
Beneath the churchyard grass,
The weird wind wanders by.
“We speak, the murmuring wind
Wanders earth-born above;
They rest below;—that calm,
Speaks God’s best gift of love.”—B.
“In the wonderful providence of God which made Ruth find a friend in Boaz, the rich relative of her husband, she feels herself justified to find an indication that God is once more gracious to her, and has not left off his kindness. If now it was through the fault of her dear departed ones that she had hitherto experienced distress, then it also follows that, since God’s goodness again manifests itself so conspicuously, his anger against those must likewise be come to an end. For that reason she speaks of his kindness, not only to the living but also of the dead. For these had died through the same sin which had brought suffering on herself. Hence, God’s help to her in her suffering is a manifestation of His unwearied grace toward both the living and the dead.”—Lange.
“If we would enter into the force of this outburst of praise, we must remember that Naomi had lost her faith—not in God, indeed, but in the goodwill of God for her.… Now she descries a proof that God had not wholly abandoned her. No one who has witnessed such a revulsion from spiritual despair to renewed hope in the Divine goodness and compassion will marvel at the ecstasy which breathes in Naomi’s words.”—Cox.
Theme.—KINSHIP THE GROUND OF REDEMPTION
“O God, O kinsman loved, but not enough!
O man, with eyes majestic after death,
Whose feet have toiled along our pathways rough,
Whose lips drawn human breath!
By that one likeness which is ours and thine,
By that one nature which doth hold us kin;
By that high heaven where sinless Thou dost shine,
To draw us sinners in.
Come, lest this heart,” etc.—Jean Ingelow.
And Naomi said, the man is near of kin etc.… And Ruth said, He said unto me also, etc.… And Naomi said, it is good, my daughter, etc.
In this exquisite dialogue Ruth goes on, we can imagine, to relate and unfold at greater length than is here written the goodness of Boaz. She is evidently pleased to speak well of him and his. Then comes out in reply what has all along possibly been in the mind of Naomi. She had been no boaster of her rich friend and kinsman, as many, and that only to be disappointed at last. But the right moment for speech has arrived. It is not merely “by chance” that this Good Samaritan has come along. She sees that Providence has been playing its part in the unfolding of events, and the loneliness and bitterness of spirit which found expression in her cry, “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara,” is already a thing of the past. It is no casual helper who has come forward to relieve their necessities, but one of the goelim. “The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen.”
I. That this nearness of kinship gives the right to redeem. (a) A principle underlying the whole Jewish economy to be seen alike in the patriarchial and Mosaic systems. Everything centred from the family centre. Kinship the very cement of their society.
The law has, however, a wider application, (b) kinship is a natural and so a Divinely ordained institution. The principle as true to-day as when laid hold of by Naomi. When kindred show themselves kind they only follow and satisfy the law of nature. The apostle says, “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). So that men even standing aside from the claims of God, allow and respond to these claims.
Again (c). The law touches a deeper realm still, that of spiritual and eternal things. Christ Himself must conform to it when He came to redeem.
(1) There was a necessity for this, a needs be. In all things “it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren,” says the apostle (Hebrews 2:16-17).
(2) There was a reason for it. Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He Himself took part of the same, that through death He might destroy, &c., and deliver them who through fear of death, &c. Note. Christ is the kinsman—Redeemer of all men. [cf also on iii:2, iv; Ruth 4:9.]
II. This nearness of kinship points out and emphasises the direction in which to look for help. Naomi saw their safety secured by this intervention, their wants provided for, therefore she says in effect, “Cling to the deliverer thus providentially pointed out.” So God often, and still opens up the path of safety and plenty in life
“It is good,” she says, immediately and prospectively. Usual both in the Old and New Testament to put the positive for the comparative in this kind. [Mary hath chosen the good part, i.e. the better part, Luke 10:42. It is profitable for thee; i.e. more profitable, Matthew 5:29.] (Fuller). Note. God not only gives us providential directions, there are special moments when He opens our eyes to see them as such. Such a moment comes when the scales fall from our eyes and we see Jesus as our kinsman and our all (cf. Luke 24:31; John 11:40; 2 Kings 7:7). It came to doubting Thomas, and he cried, “My Lord and my God.”
Again, mark that just as natural affection, and the Levirate law alike, bound Boaz to render this help: they laid the obligation upon both Naomi and Ruth look to him for it. He had opened the way to aright relationship between them, and now there can be no excuse on their side. Note
(1) How exactly this illustrates Christ’s position towards us. He has taken the first step—given invitations which are unmistakable; now it is ours—under charge of the blackest ingratitude if we refuse—to respond.
(2) It is a discourtesy where we are beholden to alter our dependency (Bishop Hall). Generosity dislikes to have its gifts slighted or its sincerity doubted (Thomson). Ruth evidently felt that because the kindness of Boaz was so great her obedience and dependence should be complete, while Naomi encouraged her thus to regard his orders as obligatory.
(1) Follow Providential guidances as they unfold in life.
(2) Fall in with the natural and Divinely-appointed way of redemption.
(3) May we not say that these words express the duty of the spiritual Ruth to labour in Christ’s fields and believe steadfastly in Him, and not to stray from His presence into other fields even till the end of the world (Wordsworth).
“So suggestive is this figure, which was not a mere random selection, but an institution designed to foreshadow a great truth, that it is constantly referred to in the Word of God. We all recollect the touching case of Job. In the depth of his affliction, when all seemed desperate, he said, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ [Heb., ‘My Goel liveth’].”—Dr. Cumming.
“Christ came into our home, breathed our air, clad Himself in our dress, wept our tears, and was penetrated and pierced with more than all the accumulated sorrows that humanity is heir to, that we thus—there being no other process in the world besides—might be rescued from our sins, and might hear, ringing in the depths of our hearts, with the opening of the prison doors to the captive, ‘There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.’ ”—Dr. Cumming.
“I have seen the twine-thread of a cordial friend hold, when the cable-rope of a rich kinsman hath broken. Let those therefore be thankful to God, to whom God hath given means to be maintained of themselves, without dependance on their kindred. Better it is to be the weakest of substances to subsist of themselves, than to be the bravest accidents to be maintained by another.”—Fuller.
“Our blessed Saviour is our Goel; it is He that hath a right to redeem. If we expect to receive benefit by him, let us closely adhere to Him, and His fields, and His family; let us not go to the world and its fields for that which is to be had with Him only, and which He has encouraged us to expect from Him. Has the Lord dealt bountifully with us? Let us not be found in any other field, nor seek for happiness and satisfaction in the creature. Tradesmen take it ill if those that are in their books go to another shop. We lose Divine favours if we slight them.”—Matt. Henry.
“Even the lump of clay, when it was placed near the rose, according to the beautiful Persian proverb, caught some of its fragrance. It is the direction of Him in Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, ‘Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherd’s tents.’ ”—A. Thomson, D.D.
Theme—CONSTANCY AT HOME AND ABROAD
“Man to thy labour bow,
Thrust in the sickle now,
Reap where thou once did plough—
God sends thee bread.”—Montgomery.
“Home to calmer bliss invites,
More tranquil and more true.”—Bowring.
So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end, etc. And dwelt with her mother-in-law.
The homely history repeats and re-repeats this idea of keeping fast by, etc. The wandering sheep never thrives (Thomson). Wisdom to prevent danger by not exposing ourselves to peril (Bernard). Naomi has wisely and affectionately warned her against the danger of going elsewhere (Ruth 2:22). Boaz, too, has spoken to the same end (Ruth 2:8; Ruth 2:21). Here we see the good counsel (a) thankfully accepted, (b) carefully followed [cf. Proverbs 13:20].
Note. Ruth an example to the young in this—obedient, scrupulously attentive in carrying out the advice which has been given. Even Ishmael obeyed his mother in matters of moment (Genesis 21:21), and Herodias first consulted her mother before she asked a boon of her father Herod (Matthew 14:7-8,). In this respect they condemn many undutiful children of our days (Fuller).
Labour and rest go a long way to make up life. Here is constancy in both.
I. The commendable constancy and continuity in connexion with labour enforced here. Harvest prospects naturally
(1) reconcile to exertion,
(2) animate to diligence,
(3) stimulate to constant and continual toil. Whether as gleaners or reapers we should respond to the appeal. Ruth evidently laboured as one who felt that the present gracious season of ingathering would not last for long. Blayed the ant and not the grasshopper (Bernard). A few days or weeks, and it would be all over—its opportunities gone for ever. Reasonable, therefore, that every other concern should give place to this, and that every exertion should be made to improve the short, but all-important, period.
How true the principle in other directions! (a) So with life itself—fleeting—once ours, then gone for ever. (b) So with gospel opportunities. The season for repentance and the ingathering of faith
(3) uncertain in duration. Hence the wisdom of improving the present opportunity. To-day if ye will hear His voice, etc. (Hebrews 4:7). He that gathereth in summer is a wise son; but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame (Proverbs 10:5). Note. The best thrift is to use the present opportunity.
Again, Ruth laboured until the end of the barley and wheat harvest—a double chance, and no part of it neglected. There are who at first have a ravenous appetite to work, but quickly surfeit thereof (Fuller). So in spiritual things many who begin well, as Orpah did, (i:14) (cf. Galatians 3:3; Galatians 4:9; Matthew 13:5-6, etc.) Note. (a) The constant pace goes farthest and is freest from being tired (Fuller). (b) He that endures unto the end is to be saved (Matthew 24:13). (c) Opportunities neglected are not likely to return again. How solemn the responsibility, then, of this present! lest we should be found saying, “The harvest is past,” etc. (Jeremiah 8:20).
II. The commendable constancy and continuity in connection with home and rest enforced here. And she dwelt with her mother-in-law
(1) Shows her discretion. She constantly came home to her mother at night as became a virtuous woman, that was for working days, and not for merry nights (Matt. Henry);
(2) Shows her affection for Naomi. No favour abroad, or gain reaped there, made her neglect the friend with whom she had come from Moab. Clinging fast to her new acquaintances in the harvest-field did not interfere with “cleaving to Naomi” at home. A lesson and an example to the inconstant here. Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy ways [cf. on Ruth 1:1. p. 11]?
(3) Shews her love for home. Had what so many men in these days want, a centre for her duties and affections, and was true to that—fixed—not given to change. Christ’s command to his disciples “go not from house to house;” enforces this in connection with the interests and spread of his kingdom (Matthew 10:16). Note. (a) Children are to cling to home so long as they may be of use there. How can they show their gratitude for the past better than as Ruth did by affection and care in the present? (b) Change apart from God’s guidance is always a foolish thing.
IMPROVEMENT.—An interesting illustration of youthful fidelity in the Saviour’s work (Tyng). Such fidelity makes its distinct and decided choice. The aim single, the pursuit absorbing. “This one thing I do,” said Paul. Suggest
(1) that every one should have his chosen field in which to gather instruction;
(2) And that having chosen it he ought to keep to it (Thomson). Wandering may very possibly lead on to dangerous ground.
(3) The necessity there is for the “home life”—(a) guard it, (b) cherish it. Go forth to work, come home to live (Baldwin Brown). Note. Home and heaven are kindred spheres (Ibid).
“Maids are the fittest company for maids; amongst whom a chaste widow, such as Ruth was, may well be recounted. Modesty is the life-guard of chastity.”—Fuller
“Dinah went out to see the daughters of the land, and we know what a disgrace her vanity ended in. Ruth kept at home, and helped to maintain her mother, and went out on no other errand than to get provision for her, and we shall find afterwards what preferment her humility and industry ended in. Seest thou a man diligent in his business? Honour is before him.”—Matt. Henry.
“Perhaps some will say, that Christ willeth us not to take care. But doth He ever will any man not to labour? The care which Christ speaketh of, is immoderate care, care without faith, or care full of doubting, and little faith, and that which is without care of religion, the mind being taken up wholly with the world; else men may, yea, and ought to labour for the things of this life to be provident for the time to come, and frugal in expenses for the time present.”—Bernard.
“It was Christ’s counsel to His disciples, (Matthew 10:2) to “abide” in the place wherein they did enter, and not to go from house to house. Such the settledness of Ruth,—where she first fastened, there she fixed; she “dwelt with her mother.” Naomi affords Ruth house room, Ruth gains Naomi food; Naomi provides a mansion, Ruth prays for meat; and so [they] mutually serve to supply the wants of each other. If envy, and covetousness, and idleness were not the hindrances, how might one Christian reciprocally be a help unto another! All have something, none have all things; yet all might have all things in comfortable and competent proportion, if seriously suiting themselves as Ruth and Naomi did, that what is defective in one might be supplied in the other.”—Fuller.
“This Ruth the Moabitess, a heathen by birth, may rise up in judgment against such as should be natural children, who having gotten from under their parents, when they can live of themselves, they make no reckoning of them being altogether unwilling to live with them, and most of all to relieve them.”—Bernard.
The Saviour’s field is perfectly distinct.… We can never doubt what positive and true religion is in the human character, or what it requires of us; our questions are never on the side of things which are certainly right, but on the side of those which are possibly wrong. In such cases there can be no question that it is right to abstain from that which is not perfectly free from doubt in its indulgence. Happy is it for the young christian to take a decided, positive standard of conduct; and in all things to seek and to pursue that which is manifestly good to the use of edifying, and adapted to minister to a growth in grace, and a real likeness to a holy Master. Such will avoid the scenes and instruments of temptation. “It is good that they meet thee not in any other field.”—Tyng.
“She stood breast high amid the corn,
Clasped by the golden light of morn,
Like the sweetheart of the sun,
Who many a glowing kiss had won
“On her cheeks an autumn flush
Deeply ripened—such a blush
In the midst of brown was born,
Like red poppies grown with corn.
“Round dark eyes her tresses fell,
Which were blackest none could tell,
But long lashes veiled a light
That had else been all too bright.
“And her hat with shady brim,
Made her tressy forehead dim;
Thus she stood amid the stocks,
Praising God with sweetest looks.
“Sure,’ I said, ‘Heaven did not mean
Where I reap thou should’st but glean
Lay thy sheaf adown and come,
Share my harvest and my home.’ ”