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THE CLAIMANT IN THE THRESHING FLOOR
CONTENTS.—Ruth, at the instigation of Naomi, by laying herself down at the feet of Boaz, claims an acknowledgment of the relationship between them. He explains to her that there is a nearer kinsman than himself, but promises to undertake the duties of a goel [redeemer] should the prior claim not be insisted upon. He dismisses her with a present, and she returns to Naomi to await the issue.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Then [and] Naomi … said. The plan had matured itself slowly in her mind during the harvest season, now comes the proposal. Boaz, by his kindness and attention to Ruth, has evidently removed whatever difficulties she has felt heretofore [cf. on Ruth 1:11-13 : p. 47]. Shall I not seek? I must seek rest for thee. הֲלֹא as usual an expression of general admission or of undoubted certainty, in the sense of “Is it not true I seek for thee?” It is my duty to seek for thee (Keil). The obligation to enforce the claims of a Levirate marriage lay on the side of Naomi and Ruth. In accordance with ancient usage to leave the assertion of a right with its possessor (Lange), the widow could demand her rights of the nearest relative, and if refused, put him openly to shame (Ibid). Rest [a resting place, Numbers 10:33] for thee. A secure life, under the guardian care of a husband (Rossenmuller) Cf. on Ruth 1:9 as to this “rest in the house of a husband;” with the respect and protection it implied. That which made the fate of the daughter of Jephthah so sad was, that she never found a resting place in the house of a husband (Lange). That it may be well with thee. Which shall be good for thee (Carpzov Rosen.) That marriage may be to thee a merry-age (Trapp). She assumed that every true rest was good (Morison.)
Ruth 3:2. And now is not Boaz of our kindred? Our relation (Keil). Our acquaintance, i.e., relative (Lange). Hence the justness of the claim. Is he not therefore thy husband according to the law (Wordsworth). Cannot reasonably suppose that a pious woman would counsel against the law of God or the moral sense of good men, such as Boaz. To do so, would have alienated and repelled him, and so have frustrated her own purpose (Ibid). With whose maidens thou wast. A delicate reminder that Boaz has himself placed her on a level with his own Israelitish people [cf. on Ruth 3:13-14]. Behold he winnoweth barley to-night. Naomi must have come into closer connection with her relative. She is minutely informed of what he does, and where he is (Lange). The claim which Ruth had to make, could hardly be urged by her publicly in the harvest field, in the light of day (Wordsworth). He winnoweth barley. Literally, he is winnowing the threshing-floor of barley. He is winnowing the barley floor (barley on the threshing-floor) (Keil). Performed by tossing up the grain against the wind with a fork (Jeremiah 4:11-12). Shows the simple manners of the times. This “mighty man of wealth” assisted personally (Speakers’s Com.). It is not unusual for the husband, wife, and all the family, to encamp at the baiders, or threshing-floors, until the harvest is over (Dr. Thomson). o night. Chosen for the advantage of the breeze which blew then (Genesis 3:8). In the night wind (Targum). Much agricultural labour of various kinds performed on bright nights (Kitto). In the threshing-floor. Nothing more than a level place in the field, under the open heavens (Keil). Constructed of a circular form, perhaps 50 feet in diameter, merely by beating down the earth hard (Robinson) [cf. Thomson 2:314]. Both the threshing and winnowing are done in the open air, rain in harvest time being almost unknown (Wordsworth) [cf. Judges 6:37; 2 Samuel 6:6.]
Ruth 3:3. Wash thyself therefore and anoint thee. Not done in order to win Boaz by external beauty; for she is especially cautioned against allowing him to see her by day (Lange). Yet she is to go as a bride adorned for her husband, appropriately and symbolically dressed. And put thy [best] raiment upon thee. And ornament thyself with thy garments (Syr. Arab). Use all lawful means to ingratiate (Trapp). And get thee down to the floor. Bethlehem situated on a hill (Stanley), cf. on Ruth 2:4; p. 101. Serve God’s providence by demanding marriage of him, which in those days, and in Ruth’s case, was neither unlawful nor immodest (Trapp). Consilium hoc est re legitimum specie inhonestum (Junius). Nothing in these directions which was considered improper under the special and peculiar circumstances of the case (Kitto). This was a bold expedient, but it must be remembered that it was undertaken at the instigation of an aged and pious woman, and simply to remind Boaz of the relative positions in which they stood to each other. Make not thyself known unto. Suffer not thyself to be perceived by (Lange). The grain heaps probably surrounded the threshing floor, and would offer a chance for concealment, even though the place itself was under the open heavens. Until he shall have done eating and drinking. Until the moment of leisure and ease. Men more disposed to listen attentively then.
Ruth 3:4. Thou shalt mark. For the sake of finding it in the darkness coming on. And uncover his feet. Rather the place of his feet, the foot of his bed, as we should say (Sp. Com.). Sleep at his feet (Syr. Arab). Boaz probably slept under a rug, sheep skin, or thick quilt, and was covered with another, or by his cloak (Kitto). In Palestine men lay down with their clothes on, but are careful to cover their feet with a long mantle now called the Chudda, a wrapper of coarse cloth (Postans). All that thou sayest. Her consent that of faith and obedience, the conduct of one conscious of her own purity of purpose, and willing to encounter suspicion in the exercise of duty (Wordsworth). Unto me. Omit (Cassel, Bertheau, Bellamy, &c.) I will do. Evident that inclination, judgment, and all that she had seen of Boaz came in to enforce Namoi’s advice. His age and his character probably shrinking and diffident, yet pious and honourable, encouraged her in obedience.
Ruth 3:6. And she went down unto the floor. Probably while it was yet light.
Theme—ONE SEEKING REST FOR ANOTHER
“As if with marriage came the end,
The entrance into settled rest,
The calm to which love’s tossings tend,
The quiet rest.”—Jean Ingelow.
“Whatever hypocrites austerely talk
Of purity, and place, and innocence,
Defaming as impure what God declares
Pure, and commands to some, leaves free to all,
Our Maker bids increase.”—Milton.
Shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?
All Scripture given by inspiration of God and profitable (2 Timothy 3:10). That is when rightly understood and intrepreted. Some passages however peculiarly liable to misunderstanding (Thomson). Divine ways often strange at first sight, and seemingly unsatisfactory to first judgments. We have to look at them as a whole before we can see them aright. So with the Divine Word. Parts which a false delicacy would expunge and which would never have appeared had the Bible been a merely human book. To understand them aright you must look (a) at their scope, (b) at the motive (c) at the underlying principle. Theend aimed at right, the spirit which prompts the aim right, rest assured that the means employed will fall under the same great law. This true
(1) of the Divine doings however mysterious,
(2) of the doings of all who are truly led of Him.
See how this is illustrated here.
I. Naomi’s motive is right.
(1) Justice to the dead. The law of Israel was that no branch of the family tree should be allowed to become extinct. The dead Mahlon had claims upon Boaz, and only the fact that Ruth was of Moab, had prevented these claims being enforced earlier. At first the claim seemed a hopeless one (Ruth 1:11-13). Now thanks to the kindness of Boaz, Naomi sees light beginning to break in upon their gloomy prospects;
(2) Justice to the living. Not merely kindness to Ruth and not merely gratitude, although these motives must have moved Naomi powerfully, but a deeper feeling—that instinctive sense of right, which overleaps such petty boundaries as nationalities. Her feelings as an Israelite, exclusive, conservative, unyielding may find expression i:9–14; now comes out the deeper feelings of a woman and a mother. Hence her wisdom projected for her daughter, that which her daughter’s modesty forbade her to project for herself.
Anxiety, solicitude for the settlement of a daughter pardonable, even commendable, so that modesty be not overstepped. Naomi of the same opinion as Paul as to the true sphere of woman: “I desire therefore that the younger widows marry,” &c. (1 Timothy 5:14). Too old to marry herself, she by no means placed the same restriction upon those younger than herself. Such prudery is often only disguised selfishness and callousness of heart. Note. Age must not make itself a standard for youth. Naomi’s care without doubt commendable and recorded for imitation (M. Henry). Analagous to the conduct of a gospel church. Jerusalem always tender towards her daughters (Macgowan).
II. Naomi’s principle is right. That one may seek rest for another—that one may, and ought to forward the well-being of others the essential principle of the gospel itself (Luke 19:10). So Christ sought not his own (John 5:30; John 8:28; John 8:50). So charity seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). So Paul “not seeking mine own profit,” he says, “but the profit of many” (1 Corinthians 10:33). Note. Bearing one another’s burdens we “fulfil” the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 10:24; Philippians 2:20-21).
Again, could Naomi do otherwise for one so near and dear as Ruth. She fulfils not only a religious but a natural duty. The young have claims upon the aged, upon their experience, foresight, judgment, &c. As wrong to withhold these, as to withhold more natural and apparent benefits. Eli doubtless gave his children bread, but seems to have withheld instruction, direction, reproof, restraint, and so came under the anger of God (James 3:12-13). Note. Few greater responsibilities in life than this of providing for the future well-being of children. “Shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee”—the burden of many a parent’s heart and prayers.
Once more mark the kind of “rest” Naomi sought for Ruth—home rest, household well-being, that which is the purest of earth’s pleasures and the foretaste of heaven’s joys. Note. The inspired idea of marriage is, that it is and ought to be “a rest.” “Not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), much less woman, naturally weaker and more defenceless than man: still less a stranger like Ruth. [cf. on Ruth 1:9; p. 36.] With regard to woman marriage was viewed as the natural fulfilment of her calling, without which her life was helpless and defenceless as that of a people without a God (Lange).
The principle true to-day. Where love, patience, unselfishness, &c. are found; married life as much like “rest” as can be discovered in this world (Braden). Of course, cares, anxieties, difficulties are to be expected. As it is said of Egypt no country hath more venomous creatures, none more antidotes; so marriage hath many troubles, but withal many keeps against trouble (Trapp). Note. Those are giddy indeed that marriage does not compose (M. Henry).
Naomi’s plan is right—judged by the time and circumstances. Involved no impropriety (Binney). The face, the worst piece of it, the heart was sound (Bishop Hall.) Certainly it was a bold expedient but not necessarily the worse because of that. She knew the piety and chastity of Boaz and Ruth (Trapp). The customs of the age and country were simpler, freer, but not less pure than the more formal customs of our own land and age (Braden).
Dr. Thomson and others however only vindicate the intentions, while they censure the measures, acquit of designing evil, but blame Naomi for not “abstaining from all appearance of evil.” Too much cuuning and stratagem, and forcing of Providence about the whole transaction (Thomson). Ran the hazard of sacrificing a good name in the use of a too bold and perilous artifice (Ibid). Note. Every action that is reported is not straightway allowed (Bishop Hall). If every act of a holy person should be our rule, we should have crooked lives (Ibid).
(1) Rest a natural desire of all men. David would flee away into the wilderness, leave the city and camp far behind, and be at rest (Psalms 55:6). Take the broad sense of the word and this is what all men are seeking. Recognised by Christ as a necessity. “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile (Mark 6:31). This desire satisfied in Christ (Matthew 11:28-29; Hebrews 4:3. We which have believed, &c). Note. Rest is a thing to be sought.
(2) Thoughtful love a common thing in human history. We cannot always be with those who are dear to us—we may provide for their welfare, however, in that future when we are with them no longer. Bernard on this:—
Shall I not seek. It is the parents’ duty to provide matches for their children. So did God, the general Father, for His son Adam, Abraham for Isaac, Isaac for Jacob. Samson entreated his father and mother to get him a wife (Judges 14:1-2).
Rest for thee. So she called the married estate. The word is “a place of rest” to settle in. Note. The married estate is an estate of rest.
That it may be well with thee. Marriage is for the well-being of such as enter into the holy estate. Doth not God say, “It is not good for man to be alone”? It is the estate in which the holiest have lived, and in which Christ Himself would be born. St. Paul indeed commended single life, but not simply but with respect unto the then present times, full of troubles and persecutions.
While the women are in distress it is Ruth who takes the initiative [Ruth 2:2.]; now, when hope grows large, it is Naomi. When hardship was to be endured, the mother submitted her will to the daughter—for Ruth was not sent to glean, she went of her own accord; now, when the endeavour is to secure the joy and happiness held out in prospect, the daughter yields in all things to the direction of the mother. The thought of labour for the mother originates with the daughter; but it is the mother who forms plans of happiness for the daughter.—Lange.
Luck is ever waiting for something to turn up. Labour, with keen eyes and strong will, will turn up something. Luck lies in bed, and wishes the postman would bring him the news of a legacy. Labour turns out at six o’clock, and, with busy pen or ringing hammer, lays the foundation of a competence. Luck whines. Labour whistles. Luck relies on chance. Labour on character.—Cobden.
This word “menuchah” is used in many weighty sentences in the Old Testament Scriptures. It is used to designate the asylum of honour and freedom which a Hebrew found in the home of her husband, her secure refuge from servitude, insolence, and neglect. It is also used to denote the asylum of freedom and repose on which the Hebrew race entered when it gained full possession of the promised land, when in the days of Solomon, every man might sit under his vine or his fig tree, none daring to make him afraid, It was used by the Prophets in a still higher sense; with them God was the true menuchah or rest of His people, nay, of the whole world; to them it was revealed that only when the Immanuel came, the God-with-us, would the golden days of Paradise return; and the world enter into its final and glorious rest. So that those who first listened to our Saviour’s gracious invitation (Matthew 11:28-30), those on whose weary and fevered spirits His promise of “rest” first fell, would understand that He was offering them an asylum of repose, honour, and freedom, such as the Hebrew wife found in her husband’s house, such as the Hebrew race found in the sacred land when it was wholly their own, such as the Hebrew Prophets had found in God in the moments of their loftiest aspirations.—Cox.
This is Naomi’s conception of wedded life. Very beautiful, but how many realise it in their experience? Have we not heard multitudes of people declare that marriage was the real beginning of their troubles? Then anxiety about providing and regulating a household has commenced; then business and domestic cares have taken away all expected pleasure; then tempers are tried as never before; then disputes and bickerings arise that destroy all peace; then the beautiful illusions of youth have given place to thehard and stern practicalities of maturing life.—Braden.
The estate of holy matrimony is well called a state of rest, for the natural affections and propensities instinctively yearn for it, and in it alone find their lawful gratification. The Rabbin’s say: “The man is restless while he misses the rib that was taken out of his side; and the woman is restless till she gets under the man’s arm, from whence she was taken.”—Steele and Terry.
“I, as a Protestant have been accustomed to assert the purity and dignity of the offices of husband, wife, and parent. Have I ever examined the grounds of my own assertion? Do I believe them to be as callings from God, spiritual, sacramental, divine, eternal? Or am I at heart regarding and using them, like the Papist, merely as heaven’s indulgences to the infirmities of fallen man?”.… Those miserable dilettanti, who in books and sermons are whimpering meagre secondhand praise of celibacy, depreciating as carnal and degrading those family ties to which they owe their own existences, and in the enjoyment of which they themselves all the while unblushingly indulge—insulting thus their own wives and mothers—nibbling ignorantly at the very root of that household purity which constitutes the distinctive superiority of Protestant over Popish nations.”—Kingsley.
Christianity, be it remembered, proposes not to extinguish our natural desires, but to bring them under just control and direct them to their true objects.—Wilberforce.
Theme—AN IMPORTANT REMINDER
“The grey old man was honoured there,
The matron’s words were cherished,
And honesty in youthful hearts
By age’s word was nourished.”—Nichol.
(2) Is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Naomi has laid hold of the fact that they are entitled to use a certain amount of freedom in the affair—
(1) because of kinship;
(2) because of the kindness Boaz has already shown to Ruth. The allowing Ruth to glean under especially favourable circumstance [see on Ruth 2:8; Ruth 2:13-16] not without a meaning. Note. We more readily ask favours from those who have already shown us kindness. In the nature of such to grow and become the foundation of our future actions.
I. An encouraging reminder. We need to put each other in mind, as well as recall to our own memories the thought of our claims and privileges. Naturally
(1) apt to forget;
(2) apt to delay action even when remembering;
(3) apt to re member and yet not realize. “I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things,” says the Apostle Peter, “though ye know them.” This a favourite idea of the Apostle’s in his old age [cf. 2 Peter 1:12-13; 2 Peter 1:15; 2 Peter 3:1, &c.]. So Paul writing to Timothy [1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:14].
II. An implied argument, viz., that he is bound in conscience to take care of our affairs (M. Henry). Is he not our kinsman? How much a kindred question implies to the believer in Christ’s proper humanity.
(1) Can we fear to approach?
(2) Can we do other than expect a welcome? [On the Kinsman Redeemer, see Ruth 4:9-10; Ruth 2:20-21].
III. A duty beginning to unfold itself. Why not bring the claim to the notice of Boaz? The obligation lay upon them to take initiative [see Crit. and Exeg. Notes]. Time and place, both opportune now that the harvest is ending. Note. A well-chosen season is one of the best advantages of any action (Trapp).
So in spiritual things we must seek, knock, ask, &c. In one sense Christ woos, in another He waits to be wooed. No presumption in seeking his feet.
“From labour health, from health contentment springs,
Contentment opes the source of every joy.”—Beattie.
Ruth 3:2. Behold he winnoweth, &c.
Not ashamed to do this himself—lived in the days of ancient simplicity (Lawson). Not too idle to deny himself of sleep that it might be done properly—a model farmer [cf. on Ruth 2:2; Ruth 2:4, p. 93, 100].
I. Work associated with the character and position of a gentleman. Boaz was this, yet he labours with his own hands. Modern refinements and etiquette give no more pleasure to the fashionable gentleman than honest industry gave to this grandson of a famous prince (Lawson). Camillus, Fabricius, and other famous Roman consuls held the plough. Edmund Burke, in the very height of his fame, farmed his own lands near Beaconsfield. Note, (a) Labour the law of God (Genesis 2:15; Genesis 3:19). All are to work, some with hand, some with brain. (b) A false pride that dislikes handwork (Radford Thomson).
II. Work associated with the character and position of a man of God. The claims of the higher life do not exempt us from the calls and cares of the lower. Christ Himself doubtless laboured in the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. And it was while doing so that it was written of Him that He “increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man.”
Ruth 3:3. Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee. Ruth must seek to make herself attractive; even though the coming interview is to be in the dark—a duty always. Preparation necessary even for a duty like this. Note. Cleanliness enforced in the Scriptures as well as godliness; comes down to the lowest duties of life. Much that inspiration takes notice of, which men count mean and unworthy of attention. These trifling details, however correct from an artistic point of view, heighten the effect of the whole picture, suggest the truthfulness of the narrative, &c.
(1) The Bride of Christ is pleasing to her Bridegroom only when anointed with the Spirit and clothed in the garments of salvation (Starke).
(2) We may use all lawful means to ingratiate, &c., if our purpose be right. If decency of apparel is not a virtue, slovenliness is at least an approach to vice (Lawson).
Bernard on this (condensed):—
A true friend is not in show only, or in well wishes, but in devising how to bring to pass what they desire. So Jonathan with David (1 Samuel 19:2-3; 1 Samuel 20:12-13), Abraham with Lot (Genesis 14:0) Note. Godly parents seek to match their children where God alloweth. Naomi’s ground was the law of God, as she thought.
Behold he winnoweth barley to-night. See and consider the providence of God! It is as one would wish, it falleth out opportunely. Warrant from God, experience of the love of man, and fit occasion to effect a matter, are strong inducements to attempt the same. So Esther going in unto Ahasuerus (Esther 5:1-8). Note. It is no unseemliness for men of birth, of place, of wealth, sometime to follow in their own person mean labours of their calling.
Ruth 3:3. Wash thyself, therefore. Outward cleanliness is praiseworthy. Our Christian profession is pure and holy, which outward cleanliness well befitteth. And seeing it is of good report, we are to observe it. And anoint thee. Christians may lawfully use God’s creatures for outward comeliness, and to preserve that seemliness which is God’s own work in us (Psalms 114:5). And put thy raiment upon thee. Touching this necessity of wearing apparel, nature teacheth it, and need enforceth it.
Get thee down to the floor. The widow woman allowed by the law of Moses to claim marriage of the next kinsman. No more immodest for women to claim that right then, than now for one betrothed to challenge the man for her husband. Where God alloweth the thing it taketh away the scandal and the offence. But make not thyself known to the man until he shall have done eating and drinking. Men are more apt to speak freely then and to promise their goodwill than at other times. Note. Her mind must be showed in private, and to him alone. The night and in private make modest persons utter more freely their thoughts than otherwise they would in the light and before company.
When he lieth down. Rest follows after labour, and the night is appointed for the same. So the Psalmist teaches (Psalms 104:13), and Jacob practised (Genesis 18:2). This the right use of time.
Thou shalt mark the place. Careful observation prevents error. Shows also that in those times they had no set place to lie down.
Uncover his feet. Aims at making Ruth his yokefellow, yet teaches her to proceed in humility, to go to his feet. Note. Humility not any hindrance, but the way to advancement.
“Let us look into providences; surely they mean somewhat. They hang so together; have been so constant, so clear, so unclouded.”—Cromwell.
“Perhaps the assurance, which long trial has given her of the good government and firm chastity of her daughter-in-law, together with her persuasion of the religions gravity of Boaz, made her think that design safe, which to others had been perilous, if not desperate. But besides that, holding Boaz next of blood to Elimelech, she made account of him as the lawful husband of Ruth; so as there wanted nothing but a challenge of a consummation, nothing was abated but some outward solemnities, which though expedient for the satisfaction of others, yet were not essential to marriage; and if there were not these colours for a project so suspicious, it would not follow that the action were warrantable because Naomi’s. Why should her example be more safe in this than in matching her sons with infidels, than in sending back Orpah to her father’s gods.”—Bishop Hall.
“Labour is the law of man’s life, in contrast to the creatures Because man became a sinner and God cursed him with it, says a large school of theologians. Because man was a child of God, and the Father worketh hitherto, and the Son also worketh, say others, and, I think, wiser and more far-sighted men. These daily tasks are the dignity and glory of our nature, as sons under discipline.”—Baldwin Brown.
“Naomi’s solicitude for her devoted daughter-in-law is beautiful and motherly. But the form into which it ran and took shape can never recur in the midst of the culture and customs of European society. Even the method of winnowing the golden grains of the harvest field is antique and obsolete. So, too, is the method which Boaz adopted to watch over his cereal treasures. He constituted himself his own watchman and policeman.”—Pulpit Com.
“Ruth was directed to pay special attention to the adornments of her person, to which, to this extent at least, she had been a stranger since the death of her husband. She is to lay aside the weeds of mourning and the garments of toil, and, after bathing and anointing, don the festive garb, for the expedicion on which she goes is of a joyous, bridal nature. All this, however, is not done in order to win Boaz by external beauty, for she is specially cautioned against allowing him to see her by day. But why this caution? Boaz was a believing Israelite, and therefore also a man of strict morals. It would have perplexed and displeased him to think that anybody else had seen Ruth, and might suspect both her and himself of an illicit meeting on the solitary threshing-floor. He would have scarcely listened to her, but removed her at once. The purpose for which she came had also an appropriate symbolism which any previous meeting would have disturbed.”—Lange.
“The church must put on her best attire when she comes to Christ. She is brought to the King in raiments of needlework, in the Psalms (Psalms 45:14); she puts on her beautiful garments, in Isaiah (Isaiah 52:1); she is adorned as a bride for her husband in raiment pure and white, in the Apocalypse (Revelation 21:2).”—Wordsworth.
“She was to discover nothing of her intention to Boaz when she went to the feast, but rather to avoid any particular notice, that he might entertain no suspicion of what was to follow. Concealment of intentions may be very proper and very consistent with uprightness in some cases. But we must beware of doing anything that will not bear the light, or using those arts of concealment in transacting lawful affairs that may be attended with bad effects upon our character. It was perfectly consistent with uprightness in Samuel to conceal his chief intention when he came to Bethlehem to anoint David; and in Solomon, when he commanded a sword to be brought and his guards to slay the living child about which the two harlots contended.”—Lawson.
“Seek him in private when no eye but that of heaven is upon thee; come secretly to his feet, and lay thy helpless, desolate state open before his seat of mercy; freely confess the baseness of thine original; he will not despise thee on account of the hole of the pit from whence thou wast digged.”—Macgowan.
Theme—OBEDIENCE IN INNOCENCE
“Age, by long experience well informed,
As time improves the grapes authentic juice
Mellows and makes the speech more fit for use,
And claims a reverence in its shortening day,
That ’Tis an honour and a joy to pay.”
All that thou sayest unto me I will do. And she went, etc.
Ruth once more a model of filial obedience, and that when called upon to discharge a difficult and delicate mission, one which must have been trying to her modesty as a woman. She errs, if at all, by excess of complaisance. The errors of young people are commonly of an opposite kind (Lawson).
If anyone is to be blamed it must be Naomi. Her acquaintance with the laws and customs of Israel are her defence. Ruth, as a foreigner, was dependent upon her for instruction in these things. She obeys, although she might very naturally shrink from the task. Gratitude, respect for Naomi, as well as reason led her. Goes freely and without fear. Hesitates not, doubts not.
Three things exemplified and enforced here—
I. Humble trustfulness on the part of the young.
(1) On the lowest ground a duty.
(2) On higher ground to be cultivated as a virtue.
(3) On highest, as its own reward, a pleasure. The sequel proves that this obedience of Ruth was not tempting Providence—rather it was acting upon faith. The trust that has brought her so far sustains her now. Goes with unshrinking confidence.
II. Deference to the opinions and judgment of the aged. An important lesson. Note. These more likely to be correct than those of the young. More experienced.
III. That cheerful compliance which adds grace to obedience. The way we obey is something as well as the act itself [cf. on Ruth 1:10, p. 44, Macgowan].
Note, (a) Ruth not only promised but performed. Contrasts with many who say, and do not; or who will not say, and yet do. More, (b) she carries out her obedience to the slightest details of the project. “All that thou sayest I will do.” How important is this that obedience should be thorough [through out]. The fortune of things of the greatest importance often hangs upon the doing or leaving undone a thing which seems very small (Guicciardiani).
“That the conduct of Ruth was in accordance with the law under which she lived cannot be doubted. See Deuteronomy 25:5-10, where no option seems left to the woman. The demand was a duty which she owed to the memory of her dead husband, whose name she was to continue; to that husband’s mother, who was more than a parent to her, and whom she might rescue from indigence and misery; to the nation whose tribes and law of inheritance were thus appointed to be preserved; and to God, whose mandates were thus obeyed, and who held out to her the propect that Messiah possibly might, as we find he actually did, spring from this union.”—Macartney.
“Abraham equivocated; David doubly sinned; Peter denied his Lord; Paul was not faultless; Aaron enticed to idolatry; Moses spoke unadvisedly with his lips; in fact every vessel in the sanctuary has been flawed; only one has been pure, perfect, spotless, unimpeachable; that we may all feel how true is that word, ‘If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves,’ and by the contrast how magnificent is that character which was holy, harmless, and undefiled, and separate from sinners. Suppose, then, Naomi’s advice does not commend itself to you as proper even in these circumstances; let it be regarded as wrong; yet the record of what an individual does in the inspired page, is not, therefore, the justification of his conduct.”—Cumming.
“Tempting God ordinarily is either by acting presumptuously in carnal confidence, or in unbelief through diffidence.… Not the encountering difficulties therefore makes us to tempt God; but the acting before and without faith. If the Lord has in any measure persuaded His people, as generally He hath, of the lawfulness, nay, of the duty, this persuasion prevailing upon the heart is faith; and acting thereupon is acting in faith, and the more the difficulties are, the more the faith.”—Cromwell.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Ruth 3:7. And when Boaz. Illustrates the simplicity of ancient patriarchal times and manners (Lange). The owners of the crops came every night and slept upon their threshing floors, and this we found to be universal in all the regions of Gaza (Dr. Robinson). Had eaten and drunk. An Eastern idea that great men were more kindly disposed after eating (cf. Esther 7:3). And his heart was merry [cheerful]. Not necessarily implying any excess (Sp. Com.); cheerful and happy over a bountiful harvest (Steele and Terry). [Cf. Judges 19:6-9; 1 Kings 21:7; 2 Samuel 13:8.] In Judges 18:20; Proverbs 15:15 it denotes gladness without any reference to eating and drinking. Designed to point out the danger encountered by Ruth, and the virtue of Boaz (Lange). He went to lie down. Betakes himself to rest in the solitude of the open field (Lange). In the open air wrapped up, as it seems, in his cloak (Wright). And she came softly. See Judges 4:21. Secretly (Keil). Not so, but quietly, softly—in a muffled manner (Cassel). And uncovered his feet. Servants in the East often sleep in this position. If the weather is cold usage allows this using the covering of the master’s bed (Kitto). And laid her down. And uncovered the skirt of his cloak, and fell (in sleep) at his feet (Syr. Arab). Natives of the East care little for sleeping accommodation, but rest where weariness overcomes them, lying on the ground (Postans).
Ruth 3:8. The man was afraid [startled, Lange]. The Targum renders it, “and trembled”—the translator explaining his sense of the word by the silly gloss, and his flesh was made soft like a turnip (Wright). And turned himself. Rather “bent forward,” so as to feel what was at his feet (Speaker’s Com.). Same word as Judges 16:29—“took hold of.” “Bent over” (Cappellus, Rosen. Gesen. Bertheau Wright).
Ruth 3:9. Who art thou? What is your news? (Syr.). What is your state?—i.e., What is the matter with you? (Arab). Spread therefore. Lit. And thou hast spread (Morison). A request as in AV (Lange, Wordsworth, Wright, &c). Thy skirt Thy wings (Tremel, Junius, Geddes, Bertheau, Keil, Wright, &c.). Same word as in Ruth 2:12—“Under whose wings thou art come, &c. In Hebrew marriages the bridegroom places his tallith on the head of his bride. The phrase indicates receiving the woman in societatem tori acknowledging her as a wife (Speaker’s Com.). Equivalent to “I have made thee my wife,” in Ezekiel 16:8 (Wright). We are inclined, however, to adopt the opinion of those who consider the word to be employed metaphorically of protection, as in Ruth 2:12, a much more delicate way for Ruth to intimate her wish (ibid). Let thy name be called upon thine handmaid (cp. Isaiah 4:1) by taking her as a wife (Targum). But cover thy handmaid with a corner of thy cloak (Syr.). A near kinsman [a redeemer] a goel, one that hath a right to redeem.
Ruth 3:10. Blessed be thou. The same phrase as in Ruth 2:20 Thou hast showed more kindness. Lit. Thou hast made thy last kindness better than the first. The first was faithfulness to her husband and her mother-in-law, the last was her willingness to accept Boaz, aged as he was. This latter feeling, according to Rosenmüller and Bertheau, allied to her attachment to her former husband, for whom she wished to raise seed (Wright). The kindness which thou art showing to thy husband now that he is gone is still greater than that thou didst show to him while he lived (Michaelis). Inasmuch as thou followedst. Lit. In not going after the young men, whether [after] a poor one or a rich one.
Ruth 3:11. My daughter. Continues to speak as one older than herself. Fear not. A common thing to fear where there is intense desire. All that thou required [sayest]. All the city [Lit. gate] cf. Genesis 34:24; Deuteronomy 17:2 [see on Ruth 4:1]. This not to be understood with the Targumist to signify only the council of the elders, but rather to mean all the people who were wont to assemble at the gate (Wright). A virtuous woman γυνὴ δυναμεος (LXX). Lit. A woman of strength. A good woman (Lange). Strong in a moral sense. Corresponds with the common expression, man of valour (Steele and Terry). Means that Ruth was strong in all that constitutes female excellence and worth; possessed force of character, &c. The same Hebrew word as in Proverbs 31:10 : “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.” Boaz fully justified in ascribing to this very act an honourable principle.
Ruth 3:12. And now it is true. Truly indeed only a goel am I (Bertheau).כּי in order to strengthen the assurance (Lange). Howbeit there is a kinsman [redeemer] nearer than I. But there is also a goel nearer of kin than I (Speaker’s Com.). From this it appears that Naomi had laboured under some mistake. Probably she was ignorant of the existence of this nearer kinsman (Steele and Terry). Or there may have been on her part a knowledge of his inability or unwillingness to act the part of a redeemer (Ruth 4:6). Cox, however, thinks she had a further purpose. Of the women Naomi has the first claim [upon her kinsman]. How is she to show that she waives it in favour of Ruth? Of the men the unnamed kinsman has the first right to redeem. How is Naomi to indicate that she would prefer Boaz? She achieves both points at a stroke by sending Ruth to Boaz [See Cox, p. 115–6].
Ruth 3:13. Tarry this night. Dangerous to return to the city in the darkness, but not in the indistinct twilight (Ruth 3:14). He cannot send her away, nor is he afraid to let her remain (Lange). If he will perform the part of a kinsman. Lit. If he will redeem thee (Lange). Translate redeem and redeemer throughout the verse.
Theme.—A DELICATE MISSION DEFENDED
“Fie on possession
But if a man be virtuous withal.—Chaucer.
And when Boaz had eaten, etc.
We need not dwell on this part of the narrative except to defend it from unfair surmises, and possibly from what men have added to the simplicity of the story. The Scriptures in this very much like human life—we find in them what we take to them. There are who see evil suggestiveness everywhere. The eye, no longer single, the whole world is full of evil. Nothing in these incidents, however, but what is perfectly in accordance with the customs of the East, the habits of the age, or with modesty itself. Note. (a) Men should be judged by the standard of their own times—especially in matters of custom. While virtue and vice are the same always, manners and customs are continually varying. Note. (b) An Eastern custom not necessarily a bad one because we do not approve of it (Cumming).
I. At what is certainly known in connection with the incidents before us.
(1) That Boaz and Ruth must have come into daily contact during the harvest season. Hence mutual esteem and regard may be expected to have sprung up (Ruth 3:10) possibly admiration and affection.
(2) That there were reasons for reticence on the part of Boaz (a) his age (b) the fact that there was a nearer kinsman.
(3) That the widow had a right to claim marriage from the nearest of kin. [For the Levirate marriage, see extract from Lange, and Crit. and Exeg. Notes on Ruth 3:1-2 &c.]. If any one might criticise, and complain of the project it is Boaz, yet he does nothing but commend, (Ruth 3:11) a plain proof that neither Naomi or Ruth had overstepped what was customary or lawful under the circumstances. No apology was made by Ruth, no surprise expressed by Boaz (Statham).
II. At what fairly may be said in defence of the act.
(1) It was in general accordance with the usages of the time and place. The interview in the open air [see Crit. and Exeg. Notes]. The claim made by an act expressive of taking the place of a servant, and of claiming protection (Spread thy skirt, &c.); a more delicate way after all than if done by Ruth in the harvest field before the servants and reapers engaged there. Note. The transaction concerned only those engaged in it,—was a matter of the most private and delicate nature. If followed by a refusal on the part of Boaz it was best for both parties, the thing should be kept as a secret. As the issue proved it showed the confidence of both women in the integrity of Boaz. True love is always bold and may venture where false would fail. Only in the event of Boaz proving untrue could the end be disastrous, and we may rest assured that Naomi had settled this point to her own satisfaction. She knew her man and acted accordingly. His diffidence must be removed, his recollection of duty stimulated in this abrupt and dramatic way. He must be put upon his honour (Statham).
(2) It was done with a definite end and purpose, and that in no way connected with intrigue (a) to do honour and raise posterity to the dead Mahlon. To the pure all things are pure. Ruth simple concerning evil. Had there been the slightest immodesty in the place it would have tended to have defeated its own purpose and alienated Boaz. (b) There was the hope that Boaz would redeem the land (Braden).
(3) It was done by the advice of an elderly and pious woman. Not an English or European mother, indeed bound by the sensitive conventionalities of a highly-civilised and fastidious society, but an Eastern mother, &c. (Braden). Note. Children do not generally sin in collusion with their elders and parents.
(4) This advice doubtless had respect to the upright character and known piety of Boaz. Ruth sent not to a young man but to one advanced in years, one who had previously commended her purity and worth.
(1) All agree that this is not to be drawn into a precedent (M. Henry); laws, customs, etc. differ now.
(2) True also that others may do what it is not wise for us to do, go where it would be dangerous for us to go, (a) because their motives are higher and purer than ours, (b) because their spirit is less liable to be influenced by evil. One man is no law to another as to what would be temptation. Every man must judge for himself as in the sight of God [cf. on Ruth 1:15, p. 65].
Ruth 3:7. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, etc. No asceticism here. Becomes the rich and great to be generous (M. Henry). There is a time to be merry. The phrase here involves no excess (see Crit. and Exeg. Notes). Means that he was physically comfortable (Pulpit Com.) Note. Christ’s glory to declare the sacredness of all natural enjoyments (Robertson). His first miracle wrought at a marriage feast, at which the language of the master (John 2:10) tells us there had been, not excess of course, but happiness and merry-making. He himself called a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber.
“There is but one indivisible point from which we should look at a picture; all others are too near or too distant, too high or too low. Perspective fixes this point precisely in the art of painting; but who shall fix it in regard to truth and morals? (Pascal). Now, there are a right and a wrong point from which we may judge of the scene described in these verses. Judge of it according to the maxims and the manners of our own age and country, and we shall inevitably fall into a most mistaken estimate of the characters and events that pass before us. We must be fully aware of the peculiarities in ancient manners and laws; we must stand in thought amid the simplicities and catch the colouring of Oriental pastoral life; for this is the “point neither too near nor too distant, neither too high nor too low”—the true perspective position from which to look, and to form a correct moral judgment of the whole transaction.—Thomson.
To understand the incidents of this chapter we must have before us the ancient custom and laws of levirate marriage, so called from the Latin word levir, a brother-in-law. We meet the first instance of it in Genesis 38:8, where Judah calls upon his younger son Onan to marry Er’s widow, and thus preserve his brother’s name. The custom, however, was not peculiar to the Hebrews solely, but has been found to exist in several eastern countries. The Mosaic law on the subject is given in Deuteronomy 25:5-10, and is in substance as follows: If a man die and leave no children, his brother is under obligation to marry the widow, and she has a right to demand it of him. This obligation, however, is not absolutely binding.… From this book of Ruth we see that the levirate law was so contrived that in case the deceased husband had no surviving brother the obligation to marry the widow devolved upon his next nearest kinsman.—Lange.
The Hebrew word for this kinsman is גֹאֵל goel which means a redeemer. Its root is the exact equivalent of the Greek λυο to loose, from which comes the New Testament λυτρον a ransom. The meaning of the word is profoundly set forth in the various grand historical unfoldings of its ideas. According to the social philosophy of the Mosaic law no member of the national organisation was to perish, no branch of the tree was to wither; whatever had been dislocated by natural events was to be reset; whatever had been alienated was to be redeemed. This applied to lands as well as to persons; and the duty of redemption rested, as within the nation, so within the families into which the nation branched out. No one could redeem anything for a family who did not belong to it by blood relationship. The Great Liberator of Israel is God. He frees from servitude. For that reason the Messiah who delivers Israel is called Goël-Redeemer. When He appears he will come as Israel’s blood relation and brother, as Christ truly was.—Cassel (condensed).
We must remember that delicacy as distinguished from morality consists not in any particular action, but in the conformity of that action with the habits of the society in which we live; while morality often requires a sturdy opposition to those very habits. To judge of the morality of an action we must therefore inquire concerning its conformity to the law of God; to judge of its delicacy, its conformity to the law of contemporary opinion.… Nothing can be more unrighteous than the measure which ungodly persons apply to the characters of the Old Testament saints; the nations called Christian and Protestant, receive from the Gospel notions of purity and real delicacy, of which man without that revelation, has no conceptions. They receive them, but deny or forget the source from whence they came; and, regarding these Gospel sentiments as natural laws, represent these holy men of God as violating the first principles of the natural law of conscience, when, in fact, they were walking fully in accordance with the light they possessed, and earnestly desiring to see the rising of a brighter day.—Macartney.
What took you there? What right had you to be there? Those are the critical questions on which everything depends. If you are passing through temptation with your eye fixed on a pure, true life beyond it, temptation being only a necessary stage upon your way, so long as you keep that purpose, that resolution, that ideal, you shall be safe. If you are in temptation with no purpose beyond it, you are lost.—P. Brooks.
Theme—A CRY FOR SHELTER AND A CLAIM FOR HELP
“Therefore I come, thy gentle call obeying,
And lay my sins and sorrows at thy feet,
On everlasting strength my weakness staying,
Clothed in Thy robe of righteousness complete.”
Who art thou? I am Ruth, thine handmaid. Spread, therefore, thy skirt [wings] over thine handmaid.
This conversation, a strangely interesting and suggestive one. Fear may possess wise and godly men (Ruth 3:8), yet they moderate it and are not overmastered by it. Boaz evidently has both his terror and his passions completely within control.
Evident, too, that both actors in the scene fully understand the meaning and the teaching of the Hebrew law as to the relationship between them. By a very delicate and thoroughly national figure of speech, the same Boaz has himself referred to and used, (Ruth 2:12) Ruth claims the acknowledgment of this relationship. She asks to do with respect to Boaz what he has already seen her do with regard to Jehovah, i.e., take shelter under his protecting wings. And she uses the strongest argument possible in order to prevail, taken alike from the law and from the word of God, Thou art a near kinsman. The fact that she is of Moab can no longer stand in the way. Has he not himself received and treated her as an Israelitish maiden? (Lange).
In this act,
I. She claims an honourable acknowledgment of the relationship existing between them. He owed it as a duty, she asks it as a right. Mark, too, the petition can no longer be denied without disgrace to one or the other. She comes with boldness, and risks her fair name upon the result. So with Esther going in to Ahasuerus (Esther 4:15), So with the woman (Luke 8:43) approaching Christ, upheld by a similar ground of hope, and a like conviction that help lay in Him. Note. How brave and trusting it such an approach (Wordsworth). This confidence itself is the earnest of success. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, etc.
So, as between Israel and God, the very same idea is used to convey the idea of covenant relationships recognised as toward His own. “I have spread my skirt over thee,” is equivalent to I have made thee my wife (Ezekiel 16:8).
II. She asks protection and help. Rest under the guardianship of a husband, one of the underlying ideas of the whole book. The covering of the bridegroom’s bed called a “wing” among the Hebrews (cf. Deuteronomy 22:30). In word and in symbolical action alike Ruth refers to this fact. Note. Husbands are or should be a protection to their wives.
These natural relationships have their spiritual analogies. The figurative representation of God in this attitude, as one protecting with outstretched wings, is a common and familiar one in Scripture. [See on “The Sheltering wings,” Ruth 2:12, pp. 119, 120.] We have here
(1) a cry for shelter,
(2) a claim for assistance. Means take my all under thy care. So sinners come to Christ.
“Rock of ages cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.”
III. She renounces all else to make this claim (Ruth 3:10). Her near relationship, her encouragement—she takes Boaz for better or worse. And she does all this with abundant and evident humility, self-abasement, and self-renunciation [cf. on Ruth 2:10, page 111.]
(1) What a lowly attitude.
(2) What a significant one. So the Syrophenician woman came to Christ, content to touch the hem of his garment unobserved. So the Gentile Church comes to Christ, humbly, faithfully, and lovingly (Wordsworth).
“In the present day, at a Jewish marriage, they always take up the corner of the plaid or cloak of the bridegroom, and spread it over the head of the bride. I saw in the Roman Catholic Church of Notre Dame a marriage, at which they seemed to retain a fragment of the ancient usage; after the parties were married, and the priest was pronouncing the benediction, he spread a robe over the heads of both—a memorial of the ancient Jewish usage. ‘Spread thy skirt over me.’ ”—Cumming.
“It is our melancholy and miserable misapprehension, that we fancy there is some reluctance on Christ’s part that needs to be overcome, some repulse in His mind that we need to do away with, and that we have to persuade and urge Him to do what we yearn to have done, to forgive us all our sins, and to blot out all our iniquities. This is a great mistake; ten thousand times more willing is Christ to receive you, than ever you were to make application to Him.”—Ibid.
“ ‘Thou art he that has a right to redeem a family and estate from perishing, and therefore let this ruin be under thy hand; and spread thy skirt over me—be pleased to espouse me and my cause.’ Thus must we, by faith, apply ourselves to Jesus Christ as our next kinsman, that is able to redeem us; come under His wings, as we are invited (Matthew 23:37), and beg of Him to spread His skirt over us. Lord Jesus, take me into Thy covenant and under Thy care. I am oppressed, undertake for me.”—Matt. Henry.
“Marriage is a resting place. The wife finds rest under the protection of her husband, as Israel finds it under the overshadowing wing of Jehovah. Even until the latest times, the figurative representation of God as the living Bridegroom of His people, continues instructively and sublimely, to run through Scripture and tradition. Christ says, (Matthew 23:37), ‘How often,’ etc. Israel has rest (menuchah) when God spreads out His wings over them. The Psalmist prays to be covered by the shadow of Jehovah’s wings. Boaz says to Ruth (Ruth 2:12), ‘May thy reward be complete, since thou hast come to take refuge under the wings of Jehovah, the God of Israel.’ That which Ruth there did with respect to the God of Boaz, she now asks to be permitted to do with respect to Boaz himself. The husband gives rest to the wife by spreading out his wings over her.”—Lange.
“Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thy arm alone,
And our defence is sure.”—Watts.
“These times were not delicate. This man, though great in Bethlehem, lays himself down to rest upon a pallet, on the floor of his barn. When he awakes at midnight, no marvel if he were amazed to find himself accompanied. Yet though his heart were cheered with wine, the place solitary, the night silent, the person comely, the invitation plausible, could he not be drawn to a rash act of lust, his appetite could not get the victory of reason, though it had wine and opportunity to help it. Herein Boaz showed himself a great master of his affections that he was able to resist a fit temptation. It is no thanks to many that they are free of some evils. Perhaps they wanted not will, but convenience. But if a man, when he is fitted with all helps to his sin, can repel the pleasure of sin out of conscience, this is true fortitude.”—Bishop Hall.
Theme—VIRTUE RECOGNISED AND BLESSED
“A good man’s prayers
Will from the deepest dungeon climb to heaven’s height,
And bring a blessing down.”—Joanna Baillie.
Blessed be thou of (he Lord, etc. For thou hast shown more kindness, etc. All the city [gate] doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.
A good man will not lightly condemn the virtuous for some show of evil (Bernard). Boaz instead of blaming Ruth blesses her, and praises her virtue, a significant fact to those who question her conduct. Makes no complaint of being disturbed in the night, nor of too great importunateness (Lange). On the other hand entertains no thought of abusing her confidence (Ibid). Note (a) Actions are often to be estimated from the character of the actor (Lawson). Some unknown cause may explain away everything that otherwise might seem suspicious. (b) Piety prevails even in a situation like this. She calls herself “his handmaid,” he calls her “his daughter,” and the actions of both are in keeping with this.
I. On the benediction. [cf. on ii:4, p. 100; ii:12, p. 116; also on i:8, 9 p. 38]. May be looked upon either
(1) a petition.
(2) An expression of good wishes, the opposite of cursing.
(3) An affirmation. Note. The godly although poor may be blessed (Bernard).
Implies (a) Piety. Fervent prayer, even when a mere ejaculation or the expression of benevolent desire, rests upon belief in God and His willingness to bless. (b) Deference to the Divine Will. Bows to that and is in harmony with that. If the words are a mere salutation, they imply sympathy and express friendly and benevolent feelings. How much of the joy and pleasantness of life depends upon a word “fitly spoken!” These courtesies of life not to be neglected by the true Christian. Boaz did not forget them even in such a trying situation. They are everywhere sanctioned by Scriptural usage.
II. The Reasons for this expression of goodwill.
(1) Thou hast showed more kindness at the latter end, etc. The virtuous are better at last than at first (Bernard). Thus love grows stronger as difficulties abound; not only begins, but continues its ministry and its mission. So with Ruth. Her affection for the dead Mahlon to be seen in her present act [See on kindness to the dead ii:20]. Note. Apostates like Judas, Demas, Alexander (the coppersmith) were truly good at the first—grow more evil at the last just because of this (Bernard).
(2) All the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman. A great recommendation—her virtue manifest, known, seen, acknowledged. Graces may exist and yet be hidden. Here they shine forth conspicuous, resplendent. A stranger, a Moabitess, yet not only escaping calumny, but winning favour. Such was Ruth. Note. Virtue makes even the poor to become famous.
Her virtue manifested in her circumspect conduct towards the aged and the young, rich and poor alike. Manifested everywhere, recognised of all. All the city [gates.] Note. Character tells everywhere (Statham). The price of such above rubies (Proverbs 31:10-31). Her works to praise her in the gates
(3), rejoiced over
(4), rewarded by the godly. Note. Virtue a means of preferment, a source of praise, “Blessed be,” &c. (b) See how completely Boaz turns what would have been the hour of temptation to many, into a time when his gifts and graces shine out the more conspicuously. What wise counsel, what just and appropriate speech, what careful thoughtfulness for others, what gentleness, courtesy, and benevolence! Note. Good men praise virtue where others would practise vice. Its spell holds them in the extremest moments of temptation.
“She calleth herself his ‘handmaid;’ he calleth her his ‘daughter.’ There is nothing lost by humility. The humble shall have ‘riches, and honour, and life’ (Proverbs 23:4).”—Trapp.
“How blessed is a man the moment his thought has come into the realisation of this God, who is to-day and to-morrow, night and day, at home and abroad, everywhere, thinking of him and interested in him! Not of a God who is penned up behind marble laws; not a God who is afar off, and who requires that some one shall ascend into the heaven and bring him down; but a God with us; a God in us; a God for us.”—Beecher.
“Exemplary virtue ought to have its due praise (Philippians 4:8), and it will recommend both men and women to the esteem of the wisest and best. Ruth was a poor woman and poverty often obscures the lustre of virtue: yet Ruth’s virtue, even in a mean condition, were generally taken notice of and could not be hid: nay, her virtues took away the reproach of her poverty. If poor people be but good people they shall have honour from God and man. Ruth had been remarkable for her humility, which paved the way to this honour. The less she proclaimed her own goodness the more did her neighbours take notice of it. In the choice of yolk-fellows, virtue should especially be regarded, known approved virtue. Let religion determine the choice, and it will certainly crown the choice and make it comfortable.”—Matt. Henry.
“Instead of touching her as a wanton, he blesses her as a father, encourages her as a friend, promiseth her as a kinsman, rewards her as a patron, and sends her away laden with hopes and gifts; no less chaste, but more happy than when she came. Oh, admirable temperance, worthy the progenitor of Him in whose lips and heart was no guile!”—Bishop Hall.
“A man’s nature is best perceived in privateness, for there is no affectation; in passion, for that putteth a man out of his precepts; and in a new case or experiment for there custom leaveth him.”—Bacon.
“A noble mind!
With this and pleasures under ban,
True faith and holy trust in God,
Thou art the peer of any man.”—
Theme—CARE FOR THE CLAIMS OF OTHERS
Ah me! How dark the discipline of pain,
Were not the suffering follow by the sense
Of infinite rest and infinite release!
This is our consolation!”—Longfellow.
Ruth 3:12-13. l am thy near kinsman [redeemer], howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. If he will perform, etc. [lit. if he will redeem thee], but if not then I will, etc.
Ruth’s recompense and rest begins from this hour. The word of an honorable man is pledged. “Fear not, I will do to thee etc.,” and she may repose in confidence upon that. Note. Where a godly and honest man makes a promise there is little fear of failure. With such to say is to do.
There is a difficulty, however, in the way, of a technical kind indeed, but none the less a difficulty because of that. Evident that Ruth had impressed Boaz favourably, that inclination pointed in the direction outward circumstances and claims were pointing. Note (a) The most subtle and dangerous temptations come in this way. Come as angels of light, etc. We persuade ourselves we are even serving others and not ourselves. (b) How good men act under such circumstances. Boaz remembers even in this hour that there is another and a nearer kinsman. Yields the preference to duty, not to inclination.
I. Care for the claims of others—respect for their rights. Note. Conscientiousness a characteristic of good men always. Justice to give every one his own, to do to others as we would they should do to us.
(a) The danger comes from our feelings and desires in such moments. We naturally seek our own interest, and we are right in doing this, so long as they do not intrude into the sphere sacred to our fellows. Note. The more ardent the man the more earnest the pursuit, and therefore the best of men sometimes feel this temptation to step beyond their own sphere the strongest.
(b) These feelings and desires need to be continually watched. Very easy to wrong others even in our acts of charity and kindness, much more then in pursuit of our own gratification. Note.
(1) Those nighest to a right are first to be preferred.
(2) Personal feelings always increase the urgency of the claims of selfishness.
(3) Grace can conquer even these tendencies in a good man.
II. Promptness to respond to claims upon ourselves. This request of Ruth’s cannot be gainsaid—Boaz does not leave her a moment in doubt. Acknowledges her at once as a kinswoman, and poor as she is, responds to her demand so far as it falls upon him. He himself will prosecute the matter (Lange).
(1) How easy to evade responsibility. A natural sloth and lethargy of soul towards duty in most men. The priest and the Levite pass by on the other side, leaving the poor wounded and bleeding ones to perish. (Luke 10:31-32.)
(2) How natural to let it rest upon others, to lay it upon them, and to criticise them if they fail to respond to it. Note (a) The man who most respects the claims of others is generally the readiest to respond to those upon himself. Boaz an instance of this: tender, true, conscientious all round. (b) Piety, high principles, true nobility in men run contrary to nature in these things; make us careful where we are inclined to be careless [in regard to others] and the reverse.
(3) Goodness should show itself in actions, faith be seen in works, kindliness of heart be manifested in deeds.
Then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee. [Then will I redeem thee] as the Lord [Jehovah] liveth.
The law made it incumbent on the nearest kinsman to marry the childless widow (Deuteronomy 25:5.) so as to redeem the inheritance and prevent the name of the dead husband being forgotten or blotted out. Boaz acknowledges that Ruth’s claim cannot be gainsaid. What an encouragement this to the humble seeker I Her rights deferred, not denied.
The Goel or Redeemer here.
(1) Responds to the first application. No importunity needed. The seeker met half way. The burden and responsibility accepted at once.
(2) Conditionally promises all that is asked. No right to expect more than a conditional promise. Other rights beyond our own in the universe.
(3) Does so on the existence of God. “As Jehovah liveth”—a solemn oath, not to be lightly taken, not to be easily put aside. Note. How strong the hope that is built upon such. [On the Kinsman Redeemer, see Ruth 4:9-10, p.]
“When Alexander the Great took Tyre he was informed of a young prince who had obtained a high character for virtue, and offered him the crown. The young prince refused it, because he had an elder brother who had a better title than himself to the royal dignity, for they were of the ancient blood of the Tyrian kings. Boaz deserves no less praise than this Tyrian prince. Such a wife as Ruth would have been preferred by Boaz to a royal diadem; yet he would not take her to himself to wife whilst there lived another man who had a preferable claim to her, if he was willing to make use of his right. We ought to ‘look every man not on his own things only but every man also on the things of others.’ ”—Lawson.
“Howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. There are different degrees of relation, all of which have their respective duties, and their respective rights belonging to them. We sin either by neglecting any of the duties to these relations, or by arrogating the rights peculiar to nearer relations. Boaz would do everything to serve Ruth that became her nearest relation, but one; and this one thing he declined, because he had no right to do it. He would not intrude into the rights of another man till they were voluntarily surrendered. As every man ought to abide in his own calling, so we all ought to keep our own places in society. Much of the unhappiness, and many of the sins of social life originate in that assuming and meddling disposition, which renders some people a pest to their neighbours and still more to themselves.”—Ibid.
“What true Christian chivalry born of faith, there was in the heart of this Bethlehem yeoman. He was not only sternly honest, but sensitively honorable, bearing his escutcheon without a sinister brand on it. We trace the same quality in some of the most memorable passages in the early life of his illustrious descendant, the greatest of Israel’s kings. David knew from the prophet Samuel that he was divinely selected for the throne of the Hebrew Commonwealth. The life of Saul was more than once in his power, and the unrelenting persecution with which he pursued him and sought to destroy him, would have seemed to a conscience that was less informed and scrupulous, almost to warrant his taking his life, and seizing the sceptre as it fell from his hands. But he will not so much as lift up his finger ‘against the Lord’s anointed,’ or ascend to a throne by steps that are stained with blood. He dare not force Providence, or enjoy a blessing while sitting on the grave of a murdered duty. To wait God’s time, is to prove that ‘We believe in God,’ is not only an article in our creed, but an active principle in our Christian life.”—Thomson.
“A godly life includes every form of moral virtue—temperance, wisdom, fortitude of every kind, moralities, whether on a low scale of individual interest, on a higher scale of society relations, or in the highest form to which patriotism inspires. All these are included in religion—Beecher.
“He is an Israelite, not only before men, but also before God alone. And it was because he did not forget, what man is naturally so prone to forget, that God sees him, that he is so mindful of his duty. Hypocrites, when alone are different from what they appear in company. Israelites like Boaz feel and act in the presence of the all-knowing God alone not otherwise than they would if all the stars of heaven and all the creatures of earth could testify against them. Boaz showed an active faith when he gave no place to temptation. Pious and offenceless as he was when Ruth came to claim the right of the poor, he is equally so now when she asks for her right of redemption. Then the question was only about a few ears of grain, now it involves his own person and estate. Then he was kind in the presence of Ruth’s humility, now he is humble in the presence of her claim to be righted. Then he forgot herself in the fact that she had ever owned another law than that of Israel. Then his tender delicacy made Ruth assured of her safety in his fields; now that same delicacy understands that since she has come to him the right she claims must be fulfilled. He might have released himself by the letter of the law to which she appeals—there was a nearer relative; but his faith is an active faith. The question was one of right, not of ingenious play with the letter. The claimant must be satisfied. And he does what he promised to do.”—Lange.
“According to its derivations, goel means one who unlooses,’ unlooses that which has been bound, and restores it to its original position. The goel did his duty, for example, if he redeemed a promissory note by paying it and handing it back to the man who had given it; or if he had redeemed a piece of land by paying off the liens upon it and restoring it to its original owner; or if he redeemed a captive by paying his ransom and setting him free. So that the fundamental idea of a goel was that of a man who redeemed, or set loose, that which had in any way been bound.”—Cox.
“It is easy to understand, how, in process of time, this title came to be applied both to Jehovah and to Jesus. Jehovah was the Redeemer of Israel; for, again and again, he interposed to save them from captivity, or to ransom them when they had been carried away captives and to preserve them a name and a place in the earth. Jesus is the Redeemer of the whole world; for when we were captives to divers lusts, and groaning under the oppressions of evil, the Son of Man proved Himself our true kinsman by paying a ransom for us and setting us free from our intolerable bonds.”—Ibid.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Ruth 3:14. And she lay at his feet. Lit. The places of his feet. Before one could know another. Lit. Before a man could know his companion. Recognise his friend (Lange). The Mishna has decided daybreak to begin when it became possible to distinguish between white and blue; R. Mair when a wolf and a dog—R. Akiba when an ass and a wild ass—could be distinguished. But others said, when one sees and recognises another person at the distance of four ells (ibid). And [fer] he said, Let it not be known. It might
(1) cause scandal,
(2) prejudice the other kinsman’s choice,
(3) render it difficult for him to prosecute his own suit. One suspected of previous intercourse with a foreigner, even though she were a convert, was not allowed to perform the duty of a levirate marriage (Mishna). That a woman. That “the” woman. The use of the article [the i.e., this woman] forbids us to suppose that these words were actually addressed to Ruth (Wright). Luther and Coverdale explain, “And he said in his heart.” They express Boaz’s opinion which he had previously intimated to Ruth (Wright). The Targumist considers it unlikely from the words that Boaz should have been alone in the threshing floor, and renders it, Boaz said to his young men. This idea, if true, should have its due influence in considering the whole chapter.
Ruth 3:15. Bring. “Allow me.” Lit. “Give me.” A current phrase of courtesy (Morison). The veil. Sheet or apron (Elliot), wrapper (Morison), mantle (Lange). It is merely a square piece of cotton cloth, and I have often seen it used for just such service as that to which Ruth applied hers (Dr. Thomson; Land and Book). The mantle worn by the poorer classes is very coarse and strong, and large enough to envelope the whole person. The word used here occurs again only in Isaiah 3:22, and is translated “wimple.” And he measured six measures of barley. Lit. Six of barley. A considerable load, for he had to put it on her (Lange). He measured six sacks (nearly two bushels) of barley, and placed it upon her, and she received strength from the Lord to carry it, and immediately it was said in prophecy that there should come of her the six righteous ones of the world, &c (Chaldee Paraphrast). The number six is the symbol of labour and service, which is followed by seven, the time of rest (Lange, Cox). She went into the city. The pronoun is masculine. He, Boaz, went (Lange). Possibly at once to settle the matter (?). As in A V. Wright, Vulg. Syr.
Ruth 3:16. Who art thou? In what condition? (i.e., in what character?). As the espoused of Boaz, or what? Cp. Judges 18:8. (So Vulg. Bertheau, Michaelis, Maurer, Wordsworth, Steele and Terry, &c.). Probably still dark when Ruth reached home (Elliot, Drusius). Naomi knew her daughter, and addressed her as such (Bellamy). How art thon? (ibid). Go not empty. Not to return as one unappreciated.
Ruth 3:18 Sit still. Remain quiet (Lange). Stay quietly at home (Steele and Terry). How the matter will fall. How it is decreed from heaven (Targum). The man will not be in rest. Omit “be in” (Lange). His actions and his oath show that he will quickly decide the matter.
Theme—CARING FOR A GOOD NAME
“It is a busy talking world
In which licentious breath blows, like the wind,
As freely on the palace as the cottage.”—Rowe.
She rose up before one could know another [Lit. Before a man could recognise his friend]. And [for] he said, let it not be known, that a [the] woman, &c.
Boaz hopes she may escape unobserved. This necessary, lest the rights of the other kinsman might have seemed to have been infringed upon [see Crit. and Exeg. Notes]. They must act not only with strictest honour and propriety, but with the greatest circumspection and care. Note. Certain situations and circumstances may render it wise and even necessary to do things otherwise uncalled for and improper. Times when secrecy is a duty. If we have done anything that may expose ourselves or other to unjust suspicion if it were known, it is not inconsistent with integrity to conceal it, providing it can be done without falsehood or dissimulation (Lawson).
A. Thomson on this (condensed):—
Let it not be known, etc. We, may generally, suspect the prudence, if not the virtue, of an act when it needs to be concealed. Boaz possibly felt this.
I. The duty of caring for a good name. A treasure no wise man will trifle with. Boaz knew its value—trembled when he found himself unexpectedly in circumstances capable of an injurious construction—sought to screen Ruth from the withering blight of scandal. True
(1) that the judgment of men cannot affect our relation to God;
(2) that the approval of conscience is worth more than the applause of a kingdom. Yet there are two things whereof every man should be specially chary and tender—his conscience and his credit (St. Augustine). Moral power a divine trust. An equivocal reputation seriously enfeebles or entirely neutralises our influence, and so injures our power of benefiting men and of glorifying God. “The sons of God are to be without rebuke.” A good name rather to be chosen than riches. This one of the seals upon the Pentecostal Christians. Said (Acts 2:46-47) of them they were “praising God and having favour with all the people.”
II. The duty of charity in our judgment of others. Boaz judged of Ruth by himself. In the light of the report of her modest and seemly behaviour, overlooked the boldness of the step because of the virtuous motive that had prompted. The wisest course to form our estimate of a doubtful action by the character of the actor. When we stand in doubt let love turn the scale.
Yet how difficult to teach the grand lesson of charity. Perverse ingenuity puts the worst construction, makes up by surmise what is wanting in evidence, hastens to circulate the slanderous tale, etc. Characteristic, however, of a citizen of Zion that “he taketh not up an evil report against his neighbour.”
“To be noble, we’ll be good,
I live not in myself, but I become
Portion of that around me.”—Byron.
Ruth 3:15. Bring the veil that thou hast, etc. He measured six measures of barley, etc. A good man will avail himself of the smallest occasion, the slightest chance of doing good, and conferring benefits upon the worthy. The liberal heart is never weary of well doing. Boaz shows himself the same bountiful, large-hearted man in the threshing floor as in the harvest field. [On “Liberal Giving,” see Ruth 2:15-16, pp. 127–8.]
(1) Here was tangible proof of his regard and thoughtfulness. Every grain a testimony to his esteem and affection for the widow of his kinsman. He said, “Go not empty unto thy mother-in-law.” Did ever a true man send such “empty” away?
(2) Possibly a gift in part to avert suspicion. Her appearance laden with grain, would be less likely to attract attention or call for remark, as she generally left the fields of Boaz laden in this way. A harmless subterfuge unless used to conceal actual guilt. Everything else of this kind must be judged by the motive behind.
(3) Certainly a significant hint to Naomi. Said plainly that the claim had in part been responded to. Lange and Cox see a further significance in the number of measures of barley, six. In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the seventh the Sabbath of rest follows. [See Crit. and Exeg. Notes.] (?) Naomi would see the grain in bulk, and Ruth’s mention of six measures may have been merely accidental. Just possible, however, that Boaz significantly hinted the result in this way, “The day of rest is at hand.”
“Here is a very important lesson; we are not only to abstain from what is evil, but from even the appearance of evil. Some people are more zealous in abstaining from the appearance than from the evil; others are more zealous, and truly so, in abstaining from the evil than from the appearance. Our duty is to abstain from both; not only to do no evil, but, as far as in us lies, to give to no man the opportunity of misconstruing the good that we do. We shall not escape misconstruction; it would be wonderful if we did. Misconstructions of piety and Christian character we shall escape; but the misinterpretations of envy, of pride, of jealousy, of ill-nature, which are not yet rooted out of the world, it will be impossible for any man to avoid, do as he please, and therefore the only way is not to notice murmurs that must soon die.”—Cumming.
“A holy Paul, it has been said, may sometimes be found on board a ship that has Castor and Pollux for its sign. It is recorded of the excellent Bishop Ken, that, when his copy of the Bible was examined after his death, it opened spontaneously at Paul’s great chapter of the Corinthians and charity.”—Thomson.
“There is an over-sensitiveness and over-delicacy which shows not innocence, but an inflammable imagination. The soul spreads its own hue over everything; the shroud or wedding garment of nature is woven in the loom of our own feelings. Persons seem to each man what he is to himself. One who suspects hypocrisy in the world is rarely transparent; the man constantly on the watch for cheating is generally dishonest; he who suspects impurity is prurient,”—Robertson.
“If we indulge in a tendency to criticise our neighbour’s affairs, we shall soon find ourselves speaking things that, to use Solomon’s phrase are ‘like the piercings of a sword.’ We can easily ruin a noble reputation, just as a mischievous child can pull the most beautiful flower in pieces, but like him, we cannot restore again its symmetry and fragrance. We are more powerful for evil than we think. I am aware that an immense amount of scandal is not malicious in intention, and is uttered unconsciously.
“Evil is wrought from want of thought
As well as want of heart.”—Braden.
“Christian, behold the kindness and gentleness of Boaz! Will it then be possible that God, when thou art in need, will send thee empty away? Never! His generous hand is never closed. Only open Him thine heart, and divine gifts flow in upon thee without any action on thy part.”—Starke.
Theme—REST IN OURSELVES AND REST IN ANOTHER
“Who may not strive, may yet fulfil
The harder task of standing still,
And good but wished with God is done.”—Whittier.
Sit still [Remain quiet] my daughter until thou know, etc. For the man will not rest.
The Hebrew bride had to remain at home until her affianced husband came to fetch her (Cox). Naomi’s advice is evidently that Ruth shall take this position. Mark, however! The command only follows strenuous effort. She has done all that she could, all that lay on her side. Now she must wait, not be perplexed, not unduly anxious. Rest in herself, in her own mind, is to foreshadow and be the earnest of rest in the house of a husband [cf. on Ruth 1:9; Ruth 3:1.].
I. On the principle underlying this injunction. A time to speak and a time to be silent; a time to act and a time to “sit still”; a time for enterprise and a time for remaining quiet; a time to work and a time to wait. Note. Two sides to life, the active and passive, and both necessary. Night the counterpart and complement of day, rest and sleep of toil and activity. Men must fall in with the claims of the one as of the other; respond to the laws of “rest” as of motion, quietness, as of activity. Note. A lesson for this busy age here.
“The world is too much with us: late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.”—Wordsworth.
Men are naturally restless in critical moments like this. The mind anxious, perplexed, etc. Yet it may pre-eminently be our duty to sit still then, (a) because it is the Divine will. God said to Israel at the most critical moment in her history, the sea in front, the mountains on either hand, the enemy behind, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13). So in another critical moment, “Who is among you … that walketh in darkness and hath no light, let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon His God” (Isaiah 50:10). Note. In such moments our strength is to sit still, even when we are saying with Saul, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”
(b) Because it is the only wise course. What can be done by disquieting and anxious thoughts? Ruth, for instance, could not alter the laws of the country.
(1) There are times when it is a waste of power to make further effort, and a waste of feeling to allow anxiety to distress the heart (Radford Thomas). The Psalmist pictures such a moment (Psalms 37:0) when men would naturally be fretful and anxious: and the exhortation to such is, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Ruth 3:7 cf. also 1–3).
(2) There are times when we are simply helpless, and effort is impossible. Sitting still certainly justified then. This the underlying thought in Milton’s exquisite “Sonnet on his own Blindness”:—
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?
God doth not need
Either man’s works or his own gifts.
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
A lesson here for those laid aside by sickness and infirmity. Providence is saying to such, “Sit still.” Difficult, but not impossible, to wait while others work. God’s message to such, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
II. The reasons given here for this injunction
(1) To give time and past effort a fair chance. “Until thou know how the matter will fall.” Sometimes wise to wait for the sake of observation—where we are, what we have already done. The traveller has to pause to find his bearings, the sculptor to see the effect of the blow he has already given. Restlessness condemned here, that restlessness which would be for ever rooting in the earth to see whether the seed is growing. Note. Faith and patience are essentials in human life. A lesson to Christian ministers, among others. Preach, labour in season, out of season, etc.; but learn also to wait, to rest in the promises, to leave the results with God. Over-doing condemned here, that overdoing which undoes all that already has been done.
(2) To give time and the efforts of others a fair chance. “For the man will not rest until he have finished the thing.” The past had proved how true and honourable Boaz was—how much to be depended on. Note. (a) We sit still the more readily when we know that others are engaged on our behalf. Nay, we are such, so weak in ourselves, that we never find rest at all until we find rest in another. A deep principle here which lies at the foundation of the marriage relationship (Ruth 3:1). Note. (b) The whole Christian economy and scheme of redemption rests upon this fact, that man needs help from without—that he cannot save himself, and that he cannot “rest” until he finds it.
(1) We may “sit still” when duty has been loyally performed.
(2) When another who is competent has undertaken for us. Note. (a) He who rests in Christ rests not without reason; has found an advocate, brother, friend, kinsman, Saviour, Redeemer; his confidence is not that of the slothful, or the careless. (b) He that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works (Hebrews 4:10). Mary rather than Martha the type of Christian discipleship (Luke 10:42).
Theme—PROMPTITUDE IN DUTIES, SECULAR OR SACRED
“Make haste O man to do
Whatever must be done;
Thou hast no time to lose in sloth,
Thy day will soon be done.”—Bonar.
Dr. A. Thomson (condensed) on The man will not [be in (omit)] rest until he have finished the thing this day.
This favourable estimate Naomi had formed of the character of Boaz. A man who meant what he said and did it—not only held a promise sacred, but went about its fulfilment with a will. Did the right thing at the right time—a person of probity and promptitude.
Another passage of Scripture kindred to this (Ezra 3:4). The Israelites, on their return from Babylon, again offered the daily sacrifice “according to the custom as the duty of the day required.” A rich ethical meaning in this word “duty”—something due by us to God. When it is said we “ought” to do a thing, it means we owe it to God to do it. Not only with the Israelites no omission, but no delay until the morrow. Not “like silver bells out of tune,” their clock always seemed to strike at the right moment. Note. One of our Saxon Kings called Ethelred the Unready. The subject then, punctuality and promptitude in duties, whether secular or sacred.
I. Certain rules which are indispensable if this is to be our characteristic and habit. (a) Not to undertake too much work, grasp at more engagements than there is a reasonable likelihood of being able to accomplish. (b) Endeavour by forethough to make the most of every hour. Wise arrangement makes work easier and the day longer, just as careful packing makes a box contain twice as much, etc. (c) Must be no indolent procrastination or giving away before little difficulties. Keep ourselves masters of circumstances. Examples.
(1) Eliezer of Damascus sent to seek a wife for Isaac. What deliberation! What concentration of aim! What promptitude!
(2) Nehemiah building the ruined wall of Jerusalem. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might!
The benefits of this ordering of time various and great. Makes what we do likely to be well done, saves time, conscience, temper, etc.
II. Apply the principle to some things in detail, e.g. the matter of personal salvation. Every other interest should be made to stand aside as a “grand impertinence” until the man “has given heed to the things of his peace.”
Assuming the supreme interest has been cared for.
(1) There are certain duties which regularly fall to be performed by us, and which may be described as the work of every day, recur almost as regularly as the rising and setting of the sun, or the ebbing and flowing of the ocean tides. (a) The duties of our stated secular vocation. Daily summoned anew in these to serve God. Whatever ye do, in word or deed, etc. (Colossians 3:17). Paul exemplified his own rule, preaching Christ, and making tents at Corinth. The Christian disciple may find in every hour of his daily toil—
“Room to deny himself, a road
To bring him daily nearer God.”
(b) The more direct exercises of religion, especially secret devotion, prayer, reading of God’s Word, etc.
(2) There is another class of special duties appropriate to particular times and circumstances, which may be said to grow out of them. (a) “The weekly rest of the Lord’s day,” (b) “Last will and testament.” Saves family discord. Do it at once. The work of the day should be done in the day. (c) Reconciliation with friend or brother. Be magnanimous, “not in rest,” until you have finished the thing this day.” (d) Warning friend gradually coming under evil habits. (e) Succouring the widow, speaking a seasonable word for those who are struggling. Make haste! To-morrow may be too late. Finish the thing this day.
There are opportunities for doing good, which, if allowed to pass unimproved, can never return. It is often now or never. Other chances or ways may be presented, but this particular service never again. The disciples in Gethsemane lost a golden opportunity. Hence Christ’s words of disappointment, “Sleep on now,” etc. So with our words of warning and acts of goodness. If omitted, the opportunity will never return. Oh, sad neglect! cruel procrastination!—
“Make haste O man to live,
Thy time is almost o’er;
O sleep not, dream not, but arise—
The Judge is at the door.”
“What could she now do better than to sit still, resigning herself to the providence of God. Things that will happen cannot be prevented by our utmost solicitude. Things not appointed will never take place if all the care, and all the toil of men and angels were jointly employed to bring them about.”—Lawson.
“We live one day at a time. God has but laid upon us the burden of one day. If we will attend to daily duty and daily devotion, if we will do the thing He commands, though not knowing whither they may tend, or how they will bring about good, He will see to the issue.”—Lynch.
“Defer nothing till to-morrow that may as well be done to-day, either for yourselves or for your friends. ‘Who knows what a day will bring forth?’ It is said of Richard II. that he lost his crown and life by being a day too late in coming to join his army in Wales.”—Lawson.
“It would be well if this testimony could always be borne to us, that we would not be in rest till we had fulfilled the duty that was once fairly laid before us.”—Macartney.
“It is a comfort to have dealings with such men [as Boaz]. They do not promise and forget to perform, but are men of honour, straightforward, energetic, doing well, while other dilatory people would be dreaming about it”.—Braden.
“There are some men who are never in good time for anything. They appear to have put the clock of their time ten minutes too late for life.”—Hamilton.
“The road of by-and-by leads to the town of never. That which the fool does in the end the wise man does in the beginning.”—Spanish Proverbs.
“Have you ever seen those marble statues in some public square or garden, which art has so fashioned into a perennial fountain, that through the lips or through the hands the clear water flows in a perpetual stream, on and on for ever; and the marble stands there—passive, cold—making no effort to arrest the gliding water. It is so that Time flows through the hands of men.… so that the destiny of nine men out of ten accomplishes itself slipping away from them, aimless, useless, till it is too late.”—Robertson.
“No rest until work be done, until duty be fulfilled! Then rest can never be ours here, but yonder, for here work is never done.”—B.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ruth 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany