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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ruth 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ ruth-2.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ruth 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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IT is by way of introduction to the remaining narrative that the writer says:—
And Naomi had, on her husband's side, a friend. The C'tib reading מְיֻדַּע (absolute מְיֻדָע) is much to be preferred to the K'ri מוֹדַע. But מְיֻדָּע is ambiguous in import. It primarily means known, well-known, acquainted, an acquaintance (see Job 19:14; Psalms 55:13; Psalms 88:8, Psalms 88:18). But as intimate acquaintances, especially in a primitive and comparatively unwelded state of society, are generally found within the circle of kinsfolk, the word may be used, and is here used, in reference to a kinsman. The Vulgate translates it consanguineus. The translation is interpretatively correct; but the original term is less definite, and hence, in virtue of the ambiguity, there is not absolute redundancy in the appended clause, of the family or elan of Elimelech. This friend of Naomi on her husband s side is said, in King James's version, to be a mighty man of wealth. But the expression so rendered has, in the very numerous passages in which it occurs, a conventional import that stretches out in a different and nobler direction. It is the expression that is so frequently translated "a mighty man of valor (see Joshua 1:14; Joshua 6:2; Joshua 8:3; Joshua 10:7; Judges 6:12; Judges 11:1, etc.). In only one other passage is it rendered as it is by King James's translators in the passage before us, viz; in 2 Kings 15:20. There it is correctly so translated, interpretatively. Here there seems to be a leaning in the same direction, and yet it is not strongly pronounced. Cassel, however, takes the other cue, and translates "a valiant hero "Probably," says he "he had distinguished himself in the conflicts of Israel with their enemies." The expression originally means "strong in strength", but is ambiguous in consequence of the many-sided import of the latter word מִשְׁפָחָה, which means originally, either strength, and then valor; or, clannish following (see Raabe), and then military host, or force, or forces; also, faculty or ability, and then, as so often "answering all things," riches or wealth. The idea the writer seems to be that the friend of the widow's husband was a strong and substantial yeoman. He was of the family or clan of Elimelech. The word family is conventionally too narrow, and the word elan too broad, to represent the import of שָׂדֶה as here used. The idea intended lies somewhere between. And his name was Boaz. The root of this name is not found, apparently, in Hebrew, as was supposed by the older philologists, and hence its essential idea is as yet undetermined. Raabe finds its original form in the Sanscrit bhuvanti, which yields the idea of prosperousness.
And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, Let me go, I pray thee, to the cornfields, that I may glean among the ears after whosoever shall show me favor. In modern style one would not, in referring, at this stage of the narrative, to Ruth, deem it in the least degree necessary or advantageous to repeat the designation "the Moabitess." The repetition is antique, and calls to mind the redundant particularization of legal phraseology—"the aforesaid Ruth, the Moabitess." She was willing and wishful to avail herself of an Israelitish privilege accorded to the poor, the privilege of gleaning after the reapers in the harvest-fields (see Leviticus 19:9; Leviticus 23:22: Deuteronomy 24:19). Such gleaning was a humiliation to those who had been accustomed to give rather than to get. But Ruth saw, in the pinched features of her mother-in-law, that there was now a serious difficulty in keeping the wolf outside the door. And hence, although there would be temptation in the step, as well as humiliation, she resolved to avail herself of the harvest season to gather as large a store as possible of those nutritious cereals which form the staff of life, and which they would grind for themselves in their little handmill or quern. She said, with beautiful courtesy. "Let me go I, pray, thee;" or, "I wish to go, if you will please to allow me." Such is the force of the peculiar Hebrew idiom. "There is no place," says Lawson, "where our tongues ought to be better governed than in our own houses." To the cornfields. Very literally, "to the field." It is the language of townspeople, when referring to the land round about the town that was kept under tillage. It was not customary to separate cornfield from cornfield by means of walls and hedges. A simple furrow, with perhaps a stone here and there, or a small collection of stones, sufficed, as in Switzerland at the present day, to distinguish the patches or portions that belonged to different proprietors. Hence the singular word field, as comprehending the sum-total of the adjoining unenclosed ground that had been laid down in grain. "Though the gardens and vineyards," says Horatio B. Hackett, "are usually surrounded by a stone wall or hedge of prickly pear, the grain-fields, on the contrary, though they belong to different proprietors, are not separated by any enclosure from each other. The boundary between them is indicated by heaps of small stones, or sometimes by single upright stones, placed at intervals of a rod or more from each other. This is the ancient landmark of which we read in the Old Testament". The word field in Hebrew, שָׂדֶה, denotes radically, not so much plain, as ploughed land (see Raabe's 'Glosser'). In English there is a slightly varied though corresponding idiom lying at the base of the Teutonic term in use. A field (German Fold) is a clearance, a place where the trees of the original forest have been felled. The expression, that I may glean 'among' the ears, proceeds on the assumption that Ruth did not expect that she would "make a clean sweep" of all the straggled ears. There might likely be other gleaners besides herself, and even though there should not, she could not expect to gather all. After whosoever shall show me favor. A peculiarly antique kind of structure in the original: "after whom I shall find favor in his eyes." Ruth speaks as if she thought only of one reaper, and he the proprietor. She, as it were, instinctively conceives of the laborers as "hands." And she said to her, Go, my daughter. Naomi yielded; no doubt at first reluctantly, yet no doubt also in a spirit of grateful admiration of her daughter-in-law, who, when she could hot lift up her circumstances to her mind, brought down her mind to her circumstances
Ruth, having obtained the consent of her mother-in-law, went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers. That is, she "went forth," viz; from the city, "and came to the cornfields, and gleaned." "There are some," says Lawson, "whose virtue and industry lie only in their tongues. They say, and do not. But Ruth was no less diligent in business than wise in resolution." The later Jews had a set of fantastic bylaws concerning gleaning, detailed by Maimonides. One of them was, that if only one or two stalks fell from the sickle or hand of the reaper, these should be left lying for the gleaners; but if three stalks fell, then the whole of them belonged to the proprietor. Happily for Ruth, her steps were so ordered that the field which she entered as a gleaner belonged to Elimelech's kinsman, Boaz. And it so happened, runs the story, that it was the portion of the fields that belonged to Boas, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.
On the very day that the Moabitess entered on her gleaning, Boaz, in accordance with his wont, as a good and wise master, visited his harvest-field. And, behold, Boas came from Bethlehem. The law of kindness was on his lips; and while benevolence was beaming from his countenance, piety was ruling within his heart. He said to the reapers, Yahveh be with you! And they said to him, Yahveh bless thee! Courtesy met courtesy. It is a charming scene, and we may reasonably assume that there was reality in the salutations. Such civilities of intercourse between proprietors and their laborers are still, says Dr. W. M. Thomson, common in the East. "The Lord be with you is merely the Allah makum! of ordinary parlance; and so too the response, The Lord bless thee". Modern Moslems are particular in the matter of salutations. "Abuhurairah reports that he heard Mohammed say, You will not enter into paradise until you have faith, and you will not complete your faith until you love one another, and that is shown by. making salaam to friends and strangers" (Kitto's 'Bible Illustrations,' in loc.).
And Boaz said to the young man who was set over the reapers, Whose is that young woman! His eye had been instantaneously arrested by the handsome stranger. Perhaps, as Jarchi remarks, he took note of the modest and graceful carriage of her person while she picked up industriously the straggled stalks. It is too Rabbinic, however, and artificial, finical, bizarre, to suppose with the same Jewish annotator that Boaz would notice with admiration that, while she picked up zealously all available couples of stalks, she left the triplets in the field unappropriated! The question which he put to the overseer is not who but whose is that young woman! She had not the gait or air of an ordinary pauper, and hence he wondered if she could belong to any of the families in Bethlehem.
And the young man who was set over the reapers replied and said, She is a Moabitish young woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. The young man had already received, no doubt from her own lips, particulars regarding the attractive stranger. Instead of the free definitive rendering of Luther and King James's English version, "the Moabitish damsel," it is better, with Michaelis, Wright, Raabe, to adhere to the original indefiniteness, "a Moabitish maiden." Note the Zeugmatic use of the word returned as applied here, as well as in Ruth 1:22, not only to Naomi, but also to Ruth. It is thus used on the same Zeugmatic principle as the word die in Genesis 47:19 : "Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land?"
The steward continues his account of Ruth. She had respectfully solicited leave to glean. She said, Let me glean, I pray thee, and gather in bundles after the reapers. The expression, "and gather in bundles," is in Hebrew וְאָסַפְתִּי בָעֳמָרִים and is rendered in King James's version, as also by Coverdale, Tremellius, Castellio, Luther, Michaelis, "and gather among" or "beside the sheaves." But such a request on the part of Ruth would seem to be too bold, the more especially as we find Boaz afterwards giving instructions to the young men to allow her, without molestation, to glean "even between the sheaves" (verse 15). Hence Pagnin's free version is to be preferred, "and gather bundles" (et congregabo manipulos). Carpzov pleads for the same interpretation, and translates thus: "Let me, I pray thee, glean, and collect the gleanings into bundles (colligam obsecro spicas, collectasque accumulem in manipules). Montanus too adopts it, and Raabe likewise (und sammele zu Haufen). The steward praises Ruth s industry. And she came, and has remained ever since the morning until just now. She had worked with scarcely any intermission, diligently, from early morning. Drusius says that the following expression, rendered in King James's version that she tarried a little in the house, occasioned him critical torture (locus hie et diu et acriter me torsit). Coverdale also had been inextricably perplexed. He renders it, "And within a litel whyle she wolde have bene gone home agayne." The word house troubled these and many other interpreters, as if the reference were to Naomi s dwelling-house in the town. The reference, however, is evidently to a temporary but, shed, tent, or booth erected in the harvest-field for the siesta of the workers, and the accommodation of the master, when he was visiting by day, or exercising supervision by night. We would translate the clause thus—"Her resting at the hut (has been) little." Her siesta in the shade of the but was trot brief. She felt as if she could not afford a long repose.
And Boaz said to Ruth. We are to suppose that Boaz, having communicated with his overseer, and having given some instructions to his rearers, and likewise to the young women who bound the reaped corn into sheaves, moved onward to the place where Ruth, keeping modestly far in the rear, was gleaning. He entered into conversation with her, and, among other things, said to her, Hearest thou not, my daughter! A grave antique way of drawing special attention to what is about to follow. "My daughter" is a fatherly expression, appropriate on the part of an elderly person when addressing a young woman. Do not go to glean in the other field. Pointing, no doubt, as he spoke, to a parcel of adjoining fields, belonging to a neighbor proprietor. Boaz's interest and sympathy went out strong, all at once, toward the daughter-in-law of his deceased relative. His heart was smitten with admiration for the modest and fascinating widow. He said further to her, as he walked on along with her in the direction of the reapers, and also do not pass on hence. The expression is not a redundant repetition of the preceding utterance. It was intended, apparently, to direct Ruth to a particular line of gleaning-ground, probably right behind the sheaf-binders, which it would be advantageous for her to occupy. He would point it out with his hand. And so keep close by my young women. Their proximity would give the stranger a feeling of security, and her nearness to them in their work would be manifestly for her benefit.
Boaz continues his talk, led on by an interest that was, probably, surprising to himself. Let thine eyes be on the field which they are reaping. He feels increasingly anxious concerning the fascinating stranger, and gives her excellent counsel. "Let not thine eyes be wiled away, wanderingly, from the work on which thou art so praiseworthily engaged." And go thou behind 'them.' The reference is not to the same parties, who are indeterminately spoken of in the preceding clause—"which 'they' are reaping." A determinate feminine pronoun makes it evident that the reference is to the maidens, who were working in the rear of the reapers (אַחֲרֵיהֶן post eas). Have not I charged the young men not to touch thee? A fine euphemistic injunction; that was best obeyed, however, when most literally construed. And when thou thirstest, go to the jars, and drink of whatever the young men may draw. Most likely it would be from the well that was "by the gate of the city that the young men would draw—that very well of which her illustrious descendant, King David, spake, when he "longed, and said, O that one would give me drink of the water of the well in Bethlehem, which is by the gate" (see 2 Samuel 23:4, 2Sa 23:15; 1 Chronicles 11:17, 1 Chronicles 11:18). When the water was drawn by the young men, then the maidens would carry the filled jars upon their heads to the resting-place. Gleaners could not be expected to get the freedom of the water which was thus so laboriously drawn, and then fatiguingly carried from a distance. But Boaz made Ruth free, and thus conferred on her a distinguishing privilege, that must have been at once most acceptable and most valuable. The Vulgate renders the last clause too freely—"of which the young men 'drink.'" The familiar well referred-to "appears," says Dean Stanley, "close by the gate" of the town. Yet not very close. "It is," says Dr. John Wilson, "less than half a mile distant from the present village, and is in a rude enclosure, and consists of a large cistern with several small apertures". Dr. Wilson has no doubt of its identity, though Dr. Robinson hesitated to come to the same conclusion.
RUTH WAS EAGER TO WORK (see Ruth 2:2).
1. Work is honorable; it is wholesome; inspiriting too; the best antidote to ennui. If not immoderate, nothing is so efficacious in giving full development to man's physique; nothing is so potent to put reins upon passions, and a curb on the tendency to morbid imaginations. All great men and women have been diligent workers. Jesus worked. He who is his Father and ours "worketh hitherto."
2. Ruth did not hesitate to stoop to very lowly work. She was willing and wishful to glean in the harvest-fields (see verse 2). She humbled herself, and was free from the pride which goes before a fall. She "descended ascendingly." It was in the school of adversity that she had been taught. All honest work is honorable. Dignity is lent to the humblest labors when they are undertaken in a spirit of magnanimity.
3. Ruth expressed her wish to her mother-in-law, and solicited her approval. "Let me go, I pray thee, to the cornfields, that I may glean among the ears after whosoever shall show me favor" (verse 2). The request was put in a beautifully deferential way. Nowhere is courtesy so precious as in the home. It is comely when displayed by juniors to seniors. It is charming when displayed by seniors to juniors.
4. Naomi yielded to Ruth's request, and said, "Go, my daughter." But we may be sure that it would cost her a pang to give her consent. The tears would start as she turned aside and said, "Is it come to this?" of it.
5. "A Divinity" was "shaping Ruth's ends," and leading her by a way she knew not. She was unconsciously led, as if by a guardian angel sent forth to minister, until she lighted on a field belonging to Boaz, a near kinsman of her own. "And she went forth, and came to the cornfields, and gleaned, and it so happened that it was the portion of the fields that belonged to Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech" (verse 3). While the Divinity was thus "shaping her ends" for her, she was herself, to the utmost of her little ability, busy in "rough-hewing them." God's agency does not supersede man's, nor does man's supersede God's. Each of us should be able to say, "My Father worketh hitherto, and so do I."
BOAZ ENTERS ON THE SCENE.
1. He had some preparation for the part he was about to act in the nearness of his relationship to Elimelech. In the absence of infinite comprehensiveness, it is right, as well as natural, for friends to take a special interest in friends.
2. Though not a "husband," he was a "husbandman." He had a house, and was a house-band. He was likewise conspicuous for good husbandry. He was in some respects a model husbandman. Note his habit of personal inspection and superintendence (see verse 4, and Ruth 3:3). Note his courtesy to his workers as he passed along: "Yahveh be with you I" (verse 4). Note the hearty response which his courtesy elicited from his men: "Yahveh bless thee" Note his habit of making inquiries of his overseer in reference to the state of his affairs (verse 5).
3. In position he was a substantial yeoman (verse 1). Stout in person, we may suppose. Stout in principle. Substantial in those resources that make wealth contribute to wealth.
4. The reason of his loneliness at home is not hinted at. Perhaps some great sorrow lay buried in his breast; perhaps some bright, sylph-like form lay buried in the grave.
5. He was now, as regards years, an elder in Bethlehem. Most likely all hopes of a brightened home had been for long lying dormant in his spirit. As to his age, it may be inferred from the fatherly way in which he addressed Ruth: "Hearest thou, my daughter?" (verse 8).
BOAZ AND RUTH.
1. Scarcely had Boaz entered his field, when his eye was arrested by the vision of an elegant and beautiful gleaner, altogether unlike all the rest whom he saw in his field, or had ever seen before. He said to his steward, "Whose young woman is this?"
2. His question was answered, and other information of a highly satisfactory description was communicated. The young woman was a Moabite, who had accompanied home Naomi, her unfortunate mother-in-law (verse 6). She had, with unwonted respectfulness, solicited liberty to glean. "She said, Let me glean, I pray thee, and gather in bundles, after the reapers" (verse 7). She had been peculiarly diligent since early morning. "She came, and has remained ever since the morning, till just now" (verse 7). Nor had she availed herself much of the siesta-booth. "Her resting at the hut has been little" (verse 7). She seemed to grudge every moment that was not devoted to work.
3. Having obtained this information, Boaz wended his way to Ruth, speaking to the young men as he passed. When he came up to her, he was at once thrilled with admiration. He expressed to her his desire that she should continue on his fields all through the harvest season. "Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean on other fields." He showed her, moreover, where she could glean to the best advantage. "Pass not on hence; keep close by my young women." He informed her that, in passing along, he had enjoined the young men not to annoy her. "Have I not charged the young men not to touch thee?" He added that she was to be sure to make full use of the water that was drawn by the young men, and carried to the field by the maidens. "When thou art thirsty, go to the jars, and drink of what the young men have drawn" (verse 9). In all this we see the beginning of the reward which was, in the providence of God, conferred on noble, self-surrendering, self-sacrificing Ruth. The heart of Boaz was moving toward her. The blessing of the Most High was descending on her. So, in one form or another, will it descend on all who, in their different spheres, carry with them, according to the measure of their capacity, the spirit that, in beautiful activity, stirred and heaved within the heart of the Moabitish gleaner.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Ruth 1:22; Ruth 2:3
Bethlehem, "the house of bread" was famous Lethe pastures of its hills, and for the rich cornfields in its fertile valleys. The barley-harvest usually happened in April, and it was then that Naomi and Ruth returned to the village of Judah with which their names are associated. The Mosaic law sanctioned the practice of gleaning, commanded that the produce of the fields and vineyards should not be wholly removed, but that a portion should be left " for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow." Ruth had, therefore, a right to glean.
I. Ruth's gleaning indicates THE POVERTY OF HER CONDITION'. None but the in-necessitous would undertake such an occupation. Naomi and she must indeed have returned empty. In our land, and in our days, happily for the poor, there is always more remunerative work to be had by the industrious poor than this, which accordingly has, with the growing prosperity of the country, almost dropped out of use.
II. Ruth's ABSENCE OF PRIDE is very apparent. The family into which she had married had owned some of the adjoining land; but in changed circumstances she was not too proud to mingle with the gleaners, and in lowly guise to gather ears of corn.
III. We cannot but admire Ruth's VIRTUOUS INDUSTRY. Boaz afterwards said, in praise of her conduct "Thou followedst not young men." She chose a blameless, though laborious, life. An example to all to avoid dependence, and to cultivate the habit of self-reliance and diligence.
IV. Remark Ruth's FILIAL LOVE. She worked not only for herself, but for her mother-in-law, and found a, pleasure in supporting her.
V. SUCCESS attends Ruth s honest toil. She gathered barley with her hands; special favor was shown to her; a friend was raised up to assist her; prosperity crowned her efforts. "Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure."—T.
Words could hardly be more suggestive than these. They may be applied to circumstances in the life of every one of us. There have been turning-points in our history; we took one path rather than another, and with results (as we now see) how momentous to ourselves! So was it with Ruth of Moab, the gleaner.
I. MANY OF OUR ACTIONS ARE PERFORMED WITHOUT ANY THOUGHT OR INTENTION REGARDING THEIR RESULTS. In ordinary affairs how often do we decide and act without any special sense of the wisdom of one course rather than another! And there are positions in which our choice seems quite immaterial. It seemed of little consequence in which field this young foreigner, this friendless widow, went to glean a few ears of barley. So is it often with us. Shall we go to such a place? shall we pay such a visit? shall we form such an acquaintance? shall we read such a book? shall we venture on such a remark? shall we write such a note?
II. UNFORESEEN AND IMPORTANT ISSUES MAY DEPEND UPON CASUAL ACTIONS. Though it seemed of little consequence in which field Ruth gleaned, "her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz," and from this fact sprang results of the greatest importance. "Her hap" determined her marriage, her wealth, her happiness and that of her mother-in-law, her union with Israel, her motherhood, her position as an ancestress of David and of Christ. In such seemingly insignificant causes originate the most momentous issues. Thus oftentimes it comes to pass that family relationships are formed, a professional career is determined; nay, religious decision may be brought about, life-work for Christ may be appointed, eternal destiny is affected.
1. Regard nothing as insignificant.
2. Look out for, and follow, the leadings of Divine providence.
3. "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths!"—T.
It is a pleasant picture of old-world life, among the ancient Hebrews, this of the "mighty man of wealth" coming down from his house to his cornfields to watch the work of the reapers, the progress of the harvest. Boaz seems to have lived on friendly terms with those in his employment, and to have taken an interest in them and in their toils. A lesson for all masters and employers of labor. And how picturesque the scene when the proprietor meets his laborers, and they exchange the customary greeting of the East, sanctified by Hebrew piety! Salutations are—
I. SANCTIONED BY SCRIPTURAL USAGE. E.g. When the mower filleth his hand, and be that bindeth sheaves his bosom, "they which go by say, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we bless you in the name of the Lord!" (Psalms 129:1-8.). E.g. Angels are represented as greeting those they are commissioned to visit. Gideon was saluted thus: "The Lord is with thee;" and Mary thus: "Hail, highly favored one I the, Lord is with thee." E.g. Christ himself' was wont to greet his disciples, saying, Peace be with you!" E.g. The apostles closed their letters with greetings and benedictions. "The Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means: the Lord be with you all!"
II. FOUNDED UPON DIVINELY-IMPLANTED PRINCIPLES OF HUMAN NATURE. They presume our social existence and nature. They imply sympathy. They express friendly and benevolent feelings.
III. CONDUCIVE TO THE EASY AND PLEASANT INTERCOURSE OF HUMAN SOCIETY. We all feel the influence of courteous address, polite expressions, and the minor benevolences of life. Christians should not be offended or contemptuous when well-meaning persons accost them with hand-shaking and minute inquiries after health, &c.; if well meant, courtesies should be kindly accepted.
IV. In the case of pious persons, EXPRESSIVE OF PRAYERFUL WISHES FOR GOOD. HOW many of our common salutations have their origin in piety and prayer! So, in the text, The Lord be with you! The Lord bless thee! So with such phrases as, Adieu! Good-bye! Good morning! God bless you! Farewell! They all convey a desire, a prayer. Let our salutations be sincere, and let our language and our conduct prove that they are so.—T.
Filial, piety and fidelity recognized and recompensed.
As "the whole city was moved" at Naomi's return, it is not surprising that the foreman over the reapers was able to answer the inquiry of Boaz—"Whose damsel is this?" Though Boaz had not seen her before, he knew her story, and was evidently pleased to meet her. His judgments were just, his feelings were appropriate, his language was considerate, his conduct was generous. The character of Boaz commands our respect; and his treatment of Ruth, from beginning to end, was not only blameless, it was admirable. As we follow the simple and interesting narrative, we observe—
I. FILIAL PIETY AWAKENING INTEREST. The beauty of the Moabitess, though in complexion or figure she was "not like unto one of the handmaidens" of Boaz, her modest demeanor and graceful movements, all excited remark and admiration; but, probably, had he not known of her coming back with Naomi, and of all she had done unto her mother-in-law, he would not have addressed her. His interest expressed itself in kindly language and treatment, such as were very suitable in the circumstances. In verse 11, Boaz acknowledges, in appreciative language, her disinterested devotion.
II. FILIAL PIETY PROMPTS AN OBSERVER'S FERVENT PRAYER. In verse 12, Boaz is recorded to have said, "The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust." Who can contemplate a life of self-sacrifice, of affectionate devotion and service, without asking God to reward it with a recompense not in man's power to bestow? No prayers are purer and more effectual than those presented for a devoted, dutiful, affectionately ministering daughter!
III. FILIAL PIETY SECURES A GENEROUS AND PRACTICAL RECOMPENSE. Boaz was so gratified by what he heard of Ruth's conduct, and what he observed in her bearing and language, that he became the agent of Providence in rewarding her excellence. He bade her abide in his fields; he charged the young men to treat her with respect; he bade her take with welcome of the water, the wine, the bread, and the parched corn provided for the reapers. She found favor in his sight, and he comforted her by his friendly words.
Lesson:—Divine providence does not overlook human virtue. Not that man has merit before God; but the fruits of the spirit are pleasing to the Giver of the Spirit. And God will raise up ministers of recompense for the comfort of his faithful children!—T.
HOMILIES BY W.M. STATHAM
"The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee." Nothing is more beautiful in national history than good feeling between masters and men. Religion alone can inspire this feeling. It fails before mere expediency, and can only be secured by mutual dependence on God and on each other.
I. THE LIVING PRESENCE. The Lord with us means courage and consolation—courage to face difficulty, and consolation in all times of depression and disheartenment. Christ has given us his own gracious promise, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
II. THE HARVEST TOIL. "Said unto the reapers." It is hard work everywhere in the glaring heat to put in the sickle, and to gather up the sheaves. We may learn from the spectacle the blessed lesson of our duty in relation to others. Let us try to cheer and inspire. Some are full of cold indifference, and others of critical complaint. We little know what a word of cheer does for others. Blame makes the hands hang down, and quenches that music of the heart which makes work pleasant and successful. Encouragement is like fresh strength to weary hearts.
III. THE KIND RESPONSE. The benediction of Boaz awakens a corresponding benediction from the reapers. The harp answers to the hand that sweeps it. Men are to us very much what we are to them. "The Lord bless thee." We need never despair of this reward. Love begets love. Confidence begets confidence. Blessing awakens blessing. This is what we long and pray for—cessation of war between capital and labor, and mutual benediction.—W.M.S.
"I pray thee let me glean." In rural life no sight is pleasanter than the hour when the gleaners come in and "gather after the reapers among the sheaves." It bespeaks "something to spare." It is like the "commons" or the grass by the roadside for the poor man's cattle. We all like the spectacle of plenty; we all like the consciousness that the overflowings of the cup of plenty are to be tasted by others.
I. THERE IS WORK FOR THE HUMBLEST TO DO. We may not be permitted to take a leading part even in God's great harvest-field, but we can all do something. We can glean words of comfort to carry to the bedsides of the sick and the homes of the poor. We can glean in the fields of Scripture lessons for the little ones, and promises for the broken-hearted. Thank God there is a place in the world for gleaners as well as reapers.
II. THERE IS WORK TO BE SOUGHT OUT. It is asked for. "I pray thee." How many complain that no one finds a service for them. They are waiters and idlers because no one gives them a commission, or secures them a suitable field. They wait to be sought out, instead of saying, "Here am I, send me." They wait to be besought, instead of beseeching for work. What a glorious day for the Church of Christ everywhere when men seek for the honor of service.
III. ALL WORK DEMANDS PERSEVERANCE. How constant Ruth is! "She came, and hath continued from the morning until now." How much spasmodic energy there is; how many ploughs are left mid-furrow; how many begin and do not finish. It is not genius that wins the goal, but plodding earnestness. Ye did run well, glean well; what doth hinder you?—W.M.S.
RUTH did not seize the opportunity for bewailing the hardship of the lot to which she had been reduced, and which now constrained her to undertake a species of work which at one time she little anticipated. With beautiful humility and modesty, and in the profoundest gratitude, she accepted wonderingly the kindness of Boaz. And she fell on her face. A rather remarkable expression, physiologically viewed. Her face was part of herself. How then could she fall on it? It was part of that which fell, and yet she is said to fall upon (עַל) it, as if it had been underneath the self-hood that fell. It was what was undermost as she bowed herself, so that the pressure of the sum-total of the body fell on it as she gracefully stooped. And prostrated herself to the ground. Thus completing, and doubtless in no sprawling or clumsy way, her respectful obeisance. Her face would be made, with aesthetic delicacy of movement, to touch the ground. Wherefore have I found favor in thine eyes; She was surprised, amazed, bewildered. So that thou takest notice of me, and I a stranger! Boaz had done far more than merely rake notice of her. But, with equal gratitude and felicity, she specifies not the culminating acts of kindness, but the very first step that her benefactor had taken. He began by taking notice of her. There is an interesting paranomasia in the two words הַכִּירֵנִי and נָכְרִיָּה. A foreigner, though unknown, and just indeed because unknown, is naturally noted and noticed.
Boaz's interest and admiration grew. And Boaz answered and said to her, It has been fully showed to me, all that thou hast done toward thy mother-in-law since the death of thy husband: and that thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and hast come to a people whom heretofore thou knewest not. When Boaz says, "It has been fully showed to me," he probably refers to the information which he had received from his overseer. The expression rendered "fully showed" is a fine specimen of a very antique idiom, showed-showed (הֻגֵּד הֻגַּד). "Toward thy mother-in-law." The preposition which we render "toward" is literally "with," which, indeed, when laid side by side with the Hebrew preposition, looks as if it were organically identical. (אֵת = eth. Compare the old Hebrew etha with the Sanscrit itah. See Raabe's 'Glossar'). The expression which we render "heretofore" is literally "yesterday and the day before," a very primitive way of representing time past. It must have been like balm to the anxious heart of Ruth to hear from the lips of such a man as Boaz so hearty a "well-done." "Ruth," says the venerable Lawson, "showed no disposition to praise herself. She did not claim a right to glean from what she had done for Naomi, but wondered that such kindness should be showed by Boaz to her who was a stranger, and she hears the voice of praise from the mouth of one whoso commendations were a very great honor. No saying was oftener in the mouth of Jesus than this, He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
May Yahveh requite thy work, arid may thy recompense be complete from Yahveh God of Israel, to trust under whose wings thou art come. Already there were streaks of light shooting athwart Boaz s horizon. His very phraseology is getting tipped with unwonted beauty. He sees Ruth cowering trustfully under the outstretched wings of Him who is "good to all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works" in all lands (see Psalms 91:1-4). The metaphor, says Fuller, "is borrowed from a hen, which, with her clucking, summons together her straggling chickens, and then outstretcheth the fan of her wings to cover them." "Who would not," says Topsell, "forsake the shadow of all the trees in the world to be covered under 'such' wings?"
May I continue to find favor, sir, in thine eyes, for indeed thou hast comforted me, and cheered the heart of thine handmaid, and yet I have not the position of one of thy maidens. To be one of his maidens was, in her estimation, to be in a most desirable condition. She could not aspire to that. But as he had spoken so graciously to her heart, and soothed its sorrows, she trusted he would still befriend her. אֶמְצָא should not be rendered, with the Vulgate, "I have found" (inveni); nor, with Tremellius and Junius, "I find" (in venio); but, with Piscator, optatively, "may I find" (inveniam), that is, "may I still find, may I continue to find. So Luther, Coverdale, and Michaelis. The courtesy-expression, rendered in King James's version "my lord" (אֲדֹנִי Mein-Herr or Monsieur), is used, as Carpzov remarks, in "humility and civility."
And Boaz, at meal-time, said to her, Come along hither. Luther, Coverdale, and King's James's English translators took the expression "at meal-time" as part of the report of Boaz's words: "And Boaz said, At meal-time come along hither." But it is evidently to be taken, in accordance with the Masoretic punctuation, as the historical statement of the narrator: "At meal-time, Boaz said, Come along hither." At meal-time Boaz rejoined Ruth, and said to her, "Come along hither." Then they would walk along in company, till they reached the siesta-hut, ' And eat of the bread, that is going, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar, or the sour wine that was quite a favorite beverage with out-door workers. It had a peculiarly cooling and refreshing effect. It corresponded to the posed used by the Roman soldiery, and would, according to circumstances and individual taste, be taken either "neat" or diluted with water. And she sat by the side of the reapers. Probably along with the other young women, although the refer-once to them is accidentally overlapped by the specification of the male workers. And he prepared for her a bunch of parched corn. יִצְבָּט is only conjecturally rendered "reached" in King James's version, and by many other translators. The rendering is given under the leadership of the Chaldee Paraphrast, who explains the word by אושִׁיט, which is a pure Chaldee word for "reached." But light is thrown on the old Hebrew word by both Arabic and Sanscrit cognates, as well as by the Septuagint version (ἐβούνισε). It meant to bind into a bunch or bunches (see Furst and Raabe). The word is illustrated by modern Oriental usage. Dr. W. M. Thomson says, "Harvest is the time for parched corn. It is made thus:—A quantity of the best ears, not too ripe, are plucked with the stalks attached. These are tied into small parcels; a blazing fire is kindled with dry grass and thorn bushes, and the corn-heads are held in it until the chaff is mostly burnt off. The grain is thus sufficiently roasted to be eaten, and it is a favorite article all over the country". Mr. Legh, in like manner, states, in MacMichael's Journey, 1819, that, traveling in harvest-time in the country cast of the Dead Sea, they one day rested near some cornfields, "where one of the Arabs, having plucked some green ears of corn, parched them for us by putting them into the fire, and then, when roasted, rubbing out the grain in his hands" (Kitto's 'Pictorial Bible,' in loc.). Sometimes, however, the parched corn is otherwise prepared. Dr. Robinson says, "In one field, as we approached Kubeibeh, nearly 200 reapers and gleaners were at work; the latter being nearly as numerous as the former. A few were taking their refreshment, and offered us some of their 'parched corn.' In the season of harvest the grains of wheat, not yet fully dry and hard, are roasted in a pan or on an iron plate, and constitute a very palatable article of food. This is eaten with bread, or instead of it. Indeed, the use of it is so common at this time among the laboring classes, that this parched wheat is sold in the markets; and it was among our list of articles to be purchased at Hebron for our journey to Wady Musa. The Arabs, it was said, prefer it to rice; but this we did not find to be the case. The whole scene of the reapers and gleaners, and their 'parched corn,' gave us a lively representation of the story of Ruth and the ancient harvest-time in the fields of Boaz". Boaz had given Ruth a kind of Benjamin's portion of parched corn. She could not use it all. And she ate, and was satisfied, and left over. Carefully reserving, however, and "basketing up" the liberal surplus.
And she rose to glean: and Boaz charged his young men, saying, Even between the sheaves let her glean, and do not affront her. Boaz would probably thus speak in the hearing of Ruth herself, so that, without any fear of reproach, she might feel free to take full advantage of the privilege accorded her. Boaz wished her to gather a large gleaning, no doubt rightly conjecturing that there must have been for some time past but little superfluity in the larder of Naomi. The space "between the sheaves," as distinguished from the spaces outside their line, would probably be the part whither the maidens conveyed their collected armfuls, and where they bound them into sheaves. It would thus be the place where there would be the greatest number of 'waifs.' It would also be the place in which unprincipled gleaners might have the best opportunity for stealing from the sheaves. Boaz felt unbounded confidence in Ruth, and said to the reapers, "Affront her not," namely, by saying or insinuating anything to the effect that she was either pilfering, on the one hand, or making herself too forward, on the other. The Vulgate version completely merges out of sight the poetic beauty and tenderness of the injunction by rendering it thus: "Do not hinder her."
And even of set purpose draw out for her from the bundles, and leave them, and let her glean them, and do not find fault with her. His kindness grows as he sees her, or speaks concerning her. He gives additional injunctions in her favor, both to the young men and to the maidens, though the line of distinction between the two sexes dips at times entirely out of sight. When the sheaf-makers had gathered an armful of stalks, and there seemed to be so clean a sweep that none were left behind, then they were of set purpose (de industria) to draw out some from the bunches or bundles, and leave them lying. The act of deliberate, as opposed to unintentional, drawing, is expressed by the emphatic repetition of the verb שֹׁל־תָּשֹׁלוּ. The verb thus repeated was a puzzle to the older expositors, inclusive of all the Hebrew commentators. But comparative philology has clearly determined its radical import, and thus illuminated its use in the passage before us. It does not here mean "spoil," though that is its usual signification. Nor can it mean "let fall," as in King James's version. It means draw out. Do not find fault with her. The word is almost always rendered rebuke in our English version; but the force of the preposition may be represented thus: "do not chide 'with' her." "It was," says Dr. Andrew Thomson, "a thoughtful and delicate form of kindness to Ruth, thus to increase her gleanings, and yet to make them all appear the fruit of her own industry.... There are persons to be met with in social life who, while possessing the more solid qualities of moral excellence, are singularly deficient in the more graceful. They have honesty, but they have no sensibility; they have truth, but they are strangely wanting in tenderness. They are distinguished by whatsoever things are just and pure, but not by those which are lovely and of good report. You have the marble column, but you have not the polish or the delicate tracery on its surface; you have the rugged oak, but you miss the jasmine or the honeysuckle creeping gracefully around it from its roots. But the conduct of Boaz, as we stand and hear him giving these directions to his reapers, proves the compatibility of those two forms of excellence, and how the strong and the amiable may meet and harmonies in the same character. Indeed, they do always meet in the highest forms of moral greatness".
And she gleaned in the field until the evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. Gathering together her various sheaves, lots, or bundles (see Ruth 2:7), she threshed them with some suitable rod or simple 'flail' (flagellum), which she had either brought with her in the morning, as part of her equipment as a gleaner, or had obtained at the hut; or perhaps, like many others, she would make use of a convenient stone. Speaking of the village of Huj, near Gaza, Robinson says, "We found the lazy inhabitants still engaged in treading out the barley harvest, which their neighbors had completed long before. Several women were beating out with a stick handfuls of the grain which they seemed to have gleaned. One female was grinding with a hand mill, turning the mill with one hand, and occasionally dropping in the grain with the other". "In the evening," says Dr. W. M. Thomson, "you might see some poor woman or maiden, that had been permitted to glean on her own account, sitting by the roadside, and beating out with a stick or a stone what she had gathered, as Ruth did. I have often watched this process in various parts of the country". The diligent gleaner on Boaz's field found, after threshing, that she had nearly an ephah of barley. It would be a considerable load for a female to curry—about a bushel. Josephus mentions incidentally, in his ' Antiquities' (15:9, 2), that the Hebrew cot or homer was equivalent to ten Attic μέδιμνοι. But as the ephah was exactly the tenth part of a cor or homer, it follows that the Hebrew ephah was equivalent to the Attic μέδιμνος. Moreover, just as the ephah was the tenth part of a homer, so the omer was the tenth part of an ephah (Exodus 16:36); and thus, if an omer of barley would be somewhat equivalent for nutritive purposes to an omer of manna, it would be a sufficient daily allowance for a man (see Exodus 16:16). Hence Ruth would take home with her what would suffice for several days' sustenance to Naomi and herself.
The harvest-field again.
Let us return to the Oriental harvest-field. Harvest-fields in general are lively scenes. Emphatically so in the East, where bright weather may be calculated on with almost absolute certainty. Pleasantry and work go hand in hand. Dr. W. M. Thomson, speaking of Phitistia, says, "When the fog dispersed, the whole plain appeared to be dotted over with harvesting parties; men reaping, women and children gleaning and gathering the grain into bundles, or taking care of the flocks, which followed closely upon the footsteps of the gleaners. All seemed to be in good humor, enjoying the cool air of the morning. There was singing, alone and in chorus, incessant talking, home-made jokes and laughing loud and long". The harvest scene as represented on the shield of Achilles may be recalled (see the eighteenth book of the 'Iliad').
1. We find Boaz and Ruth still standing where we left them (verses 9, 10). Surely some great attraction is detaining the busy husbandman, a 'man of affairs.'
2. A group of Graces are tripping round about Ruth. There is, firstly, gratitude, always lovely and welcome. If in any soul it be meager, stinted, stunted, the soil of that soul is shallow. There is, secondly, respectfulness. "She fell on her face, and did obeisance to the ground" (verse 10). Respectfulness is the homage that is due to a noble nature, and to him who is the Creator of it. We are to "honor the king." True; but we are likewise to "honor all men" (1 Peter 2:17), for there is something kingly after all in the nature of all. Then there is, thirdly, wonder. "Why have I found favor in thine eyes, so that thou takest notice of me, and I a stranger?" (verse 10). Some accept attentions and kind-nesses as things of course. Some almost exact them, as if they were dues. Not so the nobler souls. They wonder when distinction is conferred on them. Moses wondered: "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11). David wondered: "Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?" (2 Samuel 7:18). Paul wondered: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8).
3. Boaz explained to the wondering stranger why it gratified him to show her attention. "It hath been fully showed unto me, all that thou hast done toward thy mother-in-law since the death of thy husband: and that thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and hast come to a people whom heretofore thou knewest not" (verse 11). His spirit seems to kindle as he proceeds, so that his words become tipped with brightness and beauty. He "winds the robes of ideality around the bareness" of mere facts (J. Ingelow). He says, "The Lord requite thy work, and may thy recompense be complete from the Lord God of Israel, to trust under whose wings thou art come" (verse 12). Words "fitly spoken!" "Words spoken in due season!" "How good they are!" A word, in particular, of well-deserved appreciation and commendation is peculiarly "good." It goes to the heart, and is often mighty to animate to victorious courage and hope. Nobler in its aims than "fame," it is yet, like "fame," a "spur: that the clear spirit doth raise, to scorn delights and live laborious days" (Milton).
4. Note the fine expression, "to trust under whose wings thou art come." Compare what the Psalmist says: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust" (Psalms 91:1, Psalms 91:4). Compare what Jesus said: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not" (Matthew 23:37). Compare what the Christian poet says:
"All my trust on thee is stayed;
All my help from thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of thy wing."
5. Just as Boaz was turning to complete the supervision of his harvest-field, Ruth, with delicate acknowledgments for the past, prefers a humble request for the future. "May I continue, sir, to find favor in thine eyes; for indeed thou hast comforted me, and cheered the heart of thine handmaid, and yet I have not the position of one of thy maidens" (verse 13). Thus from one to the other, under the impulse of some subtle spontaneity, was the shuttle of respectful feeling shot and re-shot.
6. The scene is now shifting. The two separate. Boaz proceeds to attend to the various details of his husbandry. Ruth returns to the monotony of her gleaning. Both exhibit a worthy example of painstaking industry.
7. Time advances. The work proceeds. The sun hastens towards its zenith. The hour for siesta is at hand. Boaz turns once more in the direction of Ruth. He rejoins her, and invites her to accompany him to the place of temporary shelter, refreshment, and rest. "At meal-time Boaz said to her, Come along hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar" (verse 14). All the workers—but of course not the gleaners—assemble around the master. Ruth is seated among the rest, and is carefully attended to. "She sat beside the reapers: and Boaz prepared for her a bunch of parched corn, and she ate, and was satisfied, and left over" (verse 14). Then there is more work. Boaz gives still more liberal instructions to the young men. "Even between the sheaves let her glean, and do not affront her" (verse 15). "And even of set purpose draw out for her from the bundles, and leave them, and let her glean them, and do not find fault with her" (verse 16). At length, at the close of the day, Ruth gathered her bundles together, and threshed them, and found that she had about an ephah of barley—as much as a woman could be expected to carry. Thus is the dawn of Ruth's prosperity growing brighter and brighter, and giving promise of a day that shall be as "the bridal of the earth and sky." The Lord is "recompensing her work." The shadows are fleeing.
"As morning in the east,
Stands winged to mount in day,
So for a swift surprise of joy
Our God prepares his way"
So assuredly will there be a corresponding dayspring from on high to all who, in the midst of thickening trials, maintain their integrity, and engage in "works of faith" and "labors of love." There may be, there will be, differences in the degree of prosperity and reward, even as star differeth from star in magnitude and luster. It is not to be expected that all shall have such reversions on earth as were granted to Job and to Ruth. ― Nevertheless, none will be forgotten. Every several blade of grass will have its own drop of dew. Love on the part of man will be crowned with love on the part of God. And when love rises to Jesus, the ideal Son of man, then it is capped with more love; for, says he, "my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). All three will "sup together" (Revelation 3:20). "Sorrow and sighing will flee away."
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Liberality to the poor.
The customs recorded in these chapters remain—many of them—to the present day. As to gleaning, Robinson says, "The way led us through open fields, where the people were in the midst of the wheat-harvest. The beautiful tracts of grain were full of reapers of the Henady Arabs, and also of gleaners almost as numerous. These were mostly women; and this department seemed almost as important as the reaping itself, since the latter is done in so slovenly a manner, that not only much falls to the ground, but also many stalks remain uncut. In one field nearly 200 reapers and gleaners were at work, the latter being nearly as numerous as the former." As to threshing, Robinson mentions that "several women were beating out with a stick handfuls of the grain which they seemed to have gleaned." As to the parching of corn, the same writer says, "The grains of wheat, not yet fully dry and hard, are roasted in a pan or on an iron plate, and eaten along with bread, or instead of it." Boaz showed his practical sympathy with the widows of the narrative by giving parched corn to Ruth to eat, and by securing that her gleaning should be even more successful and abundant than was usual with the maidens.
I. Liberality to the poor should ACCORD WITH THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE GIVER.
II. It should TAKE A FORM ADAPTED TO THE WANTS OF THE RECIPIENT.
III. It should BE UNGRUDGING AND GRACEFUL IN ITS BESTOWAL.
IV. It should BE INSPIRED BY THE MEMORY OF THE UNDESERVED BOUNTY OF THE GREAT GIVER, GOD.
V. It should NOT COUNT UPON, though it may have occasion to rejoice in, THE GRATITUDE OF THE BENEFICIARY.—T.
HOMILIES BY W.M. STATHAM
"I am a stranger!" What a touching word. In some cities there is the strangers' burying-ground. There they sleep as they lived, separated from their brethren.
I. THE HEBREWS WERE KIND TO STRANGERS. Their Divine revelation gave them injunctions concerning the stranger within their gates. They were to be considerate and kind to the cattle; how much more to those made in the image of God like themselves! The young learnt this lesson; from earliest years they were taught the law while "sitting in the house." Boaz knew all this, and he "lived" it.
II. STRANGERS HAVE SENSITIVE HEARTS. Their experiences make them quick to feel insult or blessing. Never can they quite escape the consciousness, "I am a stranger." In other lands, under other skies, the stranger carries far-away visions of the heart within, which make the spirit pensive. Consequently, care and love are intensely appreciated by them. Religion is the life of love and the death of selfishness wherever it lives and reigns in the heart.
III. STRANGERS IN TIME MAKE A FATHERLAND OF THE NEW HOME. So did Ruth.
New ties sprang up; for love looks forward. Children take the place of ancestors, and we live in them. How often we are tempted to forget our own lot. "Remember that ye were strangers," therefore deal kindly with them. Think how precious to you was the fellowship of hearts that stole away your sadness as a stranger at school, or in the new city of life and duty. What a consolation it is that we are never strangers in our Father's sight, and that everywhere we may find "home" in God.—W.M.S.
Ruth 2:12, Ruth 2:13
"The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee." Here we see that the character of God is gloriously revealed. It is understood by Boaz that God is a God of "rewards," and we need not fear that a mistaken notion of rewards and punishments will prevail amongst students of the Bible. God's highest blessings are given to the soul; but it remains true that even in the earthly life the outworking of duty is blessing.
I. HERE IS THE HISTORIC NAME. "The Lord God of Israel." What memories cluster around that, significant sentence! We see in it a "miniature" of all Hebrew deliverance and mercy.
II. HERE IS THE COMPREHENSIVE BLESSING. "A full reward." That must refer to the inner self—to the consciousness of heroic fidelity and filial love. Many rewards are precious, but no reward is full that does not "bless us indeed."
III. HERE IS THE HOMELY ANALOGY. "Under whose wings," &c. All nature is taken into the illustrative record of the inspired word. The wing! How strong without. How easily outspread. How "downy" within. So soft! so warm! The rain cannot reach through the outward covering. Notice how roof-like are the arrangements of the feathers, and notice also how complete is the canopy.
IV. HERE IS THE PERSONAL TRUST. "Thou art come to trust." We must not forget not alone what God reveals himself as, to us, but what responsibility rests on us, to "rest in the Lord."—W.M.S.
And she lifted it up, and went into the city: and her mother-in-law beheld what she had gleaned. She likewise brought forth, and gave to her, what she had left over after she was satisfied. It would be with gratitude and pride that Ruth would let her heavy burden slip off into the hands of Naomi. It would be with gratitude and wonder that Naomi would behold the precious load. Other gentle emotions would stir within the mother-in-law's hungry heart when her beloved daughter-in-law produced and presented the remains of her delightfully refreshing repast at the tent. The expression, "after she was satisfied," is literally, "from her satiety."
And her mother-in-law said to her, Where hast thou gleaned today! and where hast thou worked? May he who took notice of thee be blessed! The grateful eagerness of the mother-in-law to get full information overflows in a delightful redundancy. "Where hast thou gleaned today? and where hash thou worked?" She saw at a glance, from the magnitude of the load, from the bright and beaming countenance of her daughter-in-law, and from the delicious parched corn which the master had given with his own hands, that the day had been crowned with peculiar blessings. The lines had fallen in pleasant places. Hence her womanly and motherly interest to get full particulars. Ruth, on her part, would feel as if a kind of inspiration had seized upon her tongue. And she showed to her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and she said, The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz. A thrill would shoot through Naomi's heart as that once familiar name fell upon her ears.
And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, Blessed 'of' Yahveh be he who—. The expression is literally, "Blessed 'to' Yahveh be, he who," that is, "Blessed in relation to Yahveh be he who," or "Blessed be he! I carry the desire and prayer up to Yahveh," which just amounts, in meaning, to this: "Blessed ' by' Yahveh be he who." See other instances of the same construction in Genesis 14:19, and Psalms 115:15. Who has not let go his kindness to the living and to the dead. Some take these words to be descriptive of Yahveh. Others take them to be descriptive of Boaz. If they be regarded in the former point of view, then the foregoing clause must be rendered, not, "Blessed by Yahveh be he who," but, "Blessed be he by Yahveh who." Dr. Cassel assumes, but without any formal reasoning or apparent reason, that the reference of the relative is to Yahveh, and hence he makes out an ingenious argument in defense of the doctrine, that those who are dead to us are yet alive to God—the doctrine of immortality. It is strained. Yet Raabe thinks that the reference is to Yahveh, inasmuch as Naomi had as yet no evidence of Boaz's kindness to the deceased. The reason thus given for carrying the reference up to God is certainly unsatisfactory; for, looking at the subject from the human point of view, it is obvious that Boaz's peculiar kindness to the living was his kindness to the deceased; whereas, if we look at the case from the Divine point of view, it is difficult, if not impossible, to account for the discrimination between the living and the dead. The first feeling that sprang up in the heart of Naomi at the mention of the name of Boaz was one of adoration. The next was a generous desire in reference to Boaz himself. She prayed that he might be graciously recompensed by Yahveh for the kindness he had shown that day, both toward the living—Ruth and herself—and toward the deceased—Elimelech and his sons. A man of less noble nature might have been ready, in reference to relatives in reduced circumstances, to ignore the present, and to bury in oblivion the past. After giving scope to her feelings of adoration and benediction, Naomi, with the prompt and practical directness of a true woman, said to her daughter-in-law. The man is near to us, adding immediately, and with a rapid glance at bright contingencies that were in the region of the possible, He is one of our peculiar kinsmen (our Goelim). She meant that he was one of those peculiarly near kinsmen who had a right of redemption over' whatever lands may have formerly belonged to her, and the first right of purchase over whatever lands might yet remain in the possession of herself or of her daughter-in-law. Naomi and Ruth, though greatly reduced in circumstances, and painfully pent up in present straits, were far from being Paupers. They were proprietors (see Ruth 4:3, Ruth 4:5). But their property was not, for the time being, available for income or sustenance. It had either been farmed out on usufruct or allowed to lie waste. In the absence of the yod in מִגֹּאֲלֵגוּ we have an instance of scriptio defectiva, as distinguished from scriptio plena. Such defective manuscription might be expected to occur occasionally in transcription from dictation, when, as here, the presence or the absence of the letter made no difference in the pronunciation of the reader. Michaelis, however, and Gesenius ('Thesaurus,' in voc.), instead of regarding the absence of the yod as an instance of scriptio defectiva, have conjectured that מִגֹּאֵל is a noun, or name, meaning the seemed in order of the Goelim. But, notwithstanding the ingenuity of the conjecture, there is not a shadow of evidence to evince that the Hebrews themselves ever knew of such a word. Nor does the supposition or subsumption of such a word in the least facilitate the construction on the one hand, or illumine the narrative on the other.
And Ruth the Moabitess said. It seems to us rather remarkable that Ruth should be here again particularized formally as "the Moabitess." There is apparently no discoverable reason for the re-repetition. It is simply antique particularity, not amenable to any literary law—"the said Moabitess." There is a peculiar abruptness in the initial words of what follows:—Yea also he said to me. Carpzov and Wright understand them thus: "'Yea' blessed be he, 'for' he said to me." But the word blessed, as used by Naomi, is too far removed to make it natural for the yea of Ruth's remark to fall back upon it. Her mind and heart were full. She was profoundly affected by the kindness that had been shown to her. Hence she piles up her representation. "Also,"—so may I well speak,—"for he said to me." Keep close by my young men, until they have finished all my harvest. The "young men" are not here discriminated from the "young women" (see verse 8). The idea, consequently, is not that Ruth was to keep close to them in distinction from the young women. It was understood that she should work behind the young women, who followed in the rear of the young men. But it was the express desire of Boaz that, instead of exposing herself among strangers, on any adjoining harvest-fields, she should maintain her position behind his raspers as long as there remained any golden crops to reap.
And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law. It is good, my daughter, that thou shouldest go with his young women, and that thou be not set upon in another field. Here again we have the archaic repetition, "Ruth her daughter-in-law." Naomi was grateful for Boaz's invitation. Compliance with it would be "good," both immediately and prospectively. In particular, it would save Ruth from running the risk of being rudely handled by utter, and perhaps rough and unprincipled, strangers. "It is good," says Naomi, "that 'they' do not set upon thee in another field." She says "they," but allows the parties she had in view to remain, dimly visible, in the shade. No doubt, however, she refers to the reapers, binders, gleaners, and other workers who might have to be encountered "in another field." "Meaning," says homely Richard Bernard, "some lewd and lustful men whom Naomi would not so much as make mention of." The verb פָגַע־בְ is often rendered in our English version fall upon. It originally means to light upon, whether for good or for evil.
And she kept close by Boaz's young women to glean. Wright translates thus: "And she kept gleaning along with the maidens of Boaz." But the maidens of Boaz are not represented as gleaning. The historical statement of the verse is to be explained from the hortatory statement of Ruth 2:8 : "Keep close to my young women." Till the end of the barley-harvest and the wheat-harvest. Ruth's gleaning labors extended to the close of the wheat-harvest, during which time, no doubt, there would be frequent opportunities for a growing intimacy between the beautiful gleaner and the worthy proprietor. Often too, we may rest assured, would Boaz be a visitor in the humble home of Naomi. "The harvest upon the mountains," says Dr. Robinson, "ripens of course later than in the plains of the Jordan and the sea-coast. The barley-harvest precedes the wheat-harvest by a week or fortnight. On the 4th and 5th of June the people of Hebron were just beginning to gather their wheat; on the 11th and 12th the threshing-floors on the Mount of Olives were in full operation. We had already seen the harvest in the same stage of progress on the plains of Gaza on the 19th of May; while at Jericho, on the 12th of May, the threshing-floors had nearly completed their work". "The Syrian harvest," says Dr. W. M. Thomson, "extends through several months. On the plain of Philistia it commences in April and ends in June; and this not only gives ample time, but it has this great advantage, that the villagers from the mountains can assist the farmers on the plain, since their own crops are not yet ripe. I was struck with this fact while at Mesmia. Several Christians from Bethlehem, who had thus come to reap, spent the evening at my tent, and one of them explained to me the advantages from thus laboring on the plain. He not only, received wages for his own and his wife s labor, but his children were permitted to follow after them and glean on their own account, as Boaz allowed Ruth to do in their native village". When it is said, in the last clause of the verse, and she dwelt with her mother-in-law, the reference is not to be restricted to the time that succeeded the period of harvesting. The Vulgate indeed connects the clause with the following verse, and renders it, "After she returned to her mother-in-law," pointing the verb thus וַתָּשָׁב instead of וַתֵּשֶׁב. The same translation is given to the verb by Luther and Coverdale. But there is no evidence whatever that Ruth slept anywhere else than under her mother-in-law's roof. The clause was written, apparently, for the very purpose of bringing out clearly before the mind of the reader her stainless innocence, and sweet simplicity, and never-tiring devotion to her noble mother-in-law.
Home from the harvest-field.
Evening begins to draw her curtains around the little city of Bethlehem. Let us look on this picture, and on that.
1. "On this picture." See Naomi. She is wistfully and longingly looking out for her daughter-in-law's return. So many a matron looks, evening after evening, for the safe return of her husband, her son, her daughter.
2. "And on that." See Ruth toiling slowly along under her "ephah." Her strength is taxed; yet she is thankful for the precious burden. She is picturing to herself the reception she would receive under the lowly roof of her mother-in-law, and ruminating pleasantly on the cheer which both herself and her burden would bring to the anxious heart of the dear old lady. She is happy, though fatigued. Happy are all other bread-winners who, amid the monotony and weariness of daily toil, are cheered with the prospect of ministering to the comfort of wife, mother, grandmother or grandfather, sick sister perhaps, or little children.
3. At length the long-looked-for gleaner arrives. What a glad welcome she receives!—a model welcome, hearty and animating, such as should always be accorded to the good and faithful bread-winner. See with what pride and gratitude she lets slip off her burden into the hands of Naomi. We read, "And her mother-in-law beheld what she had gleaned" (verse 18). What a looking, what a gazing there would be. All that, my daughter? What a wonderful gleaner you must be! How could you gather all that? How good to us has Yahveh been! Here is good food for days to come. In this matter of gratitude millions should be as conspicuous as Naomi. "Goodness and mercy" have accompanied them all the days of their life. "A table has been spread for them" every day of every year. In looking back over life, for ten, twenty, forty, sixty years, they cannot remember one single day when they had no food to eat. Even in heathen lands "God has not left himself without witness, in that he does good, and gives rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling men's hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:17). Every year is "crowned by him with his goodness" (Psalms 65:11).
4. When Naomi's spirit had become somewhat calmed, and she was about, as we may suppose, to prepare a portion of the gleanings for their simple evening- repast, Ruth produced what she had "left over" of her delicious "parched corn." "She brought forth, and gave to her, what she had left over after she was satisfied" (verse 18). Naomi's astonishment, gratitude, delight would mount up rapidly. She could restrain herself no longer. "Where hast thou gleaned today? and where hast thou worked? May he who took notice of thee be blessed!" "She doth here," says Dr. Thomas Fuller, "dart out and ejaculate a prayer, and that at rovers, aiming at no particular mark. 'Blessed be he who took notice of thee.' Yet, no doubt, was it not in vain; but God made it light on the head of bountiful Boaz, who deserved it." It seems to be in the nature of all great gratitude to ascend to God in praise or prayer. For indeed "every good and perfect gift cometh down from him" (James 1:17).
5. Ruth did not keep her mother-in-law in suspense. "She showed her with whom she had worked; and she said, The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz" (verse 19). It augurs well for both daughters and mothers when there are unreserved intercommunications between them. But mothers would require to be confidential if they would have their daughters to be confiding. There will be danger of tragedies in the home if daughters are reticent in reference to the affairs that are of chief concern at once to their own hearts and to the hearts of their parents. The tragedies will be more tragic still if husbands and sons have haunts of which mention cannot be made in the bosom of domestic confidence. "Boaz!" The name would thrill through Naomi. It instantaneously recalled tender memories of the past; and side by side with these recollections there flitted in before her view visions of the future. But her first utterance was a benison, no longer shot "at rovers." She gratefully lifted aloft her heart, and said, "Blessed of the Lord be he, who has not let go his kindness to the living and to the dead" (verse 20). He had, it seems, been kind to her and hers long ago. The recollection came fresh to her mind. And now there was abundant and gratifying evidence that he was not "weary of well-doing." He had still the old kind heart, perhaps kinder than ever. With "Boaz" as the theme of conversation, there would not be in all Bethlehem a brighter or happier home that evening than the humble cot of Naomi. The genealogical relationship and former kindnesses of their worthy friend would be fully elucidated (verse 20), and Ruth would be sure to dwell at length on the invitation she had received to continue in his fields all the harvest through (verse 21). The evening would glide rapidly on. While they talked, and while, in the intervals of talk, they "mused," the fire within the breast would burn. As it burned, the flame would flicker, now to this side, now to that, but still ever upward toward God. Boaz had said to Ruth—and her heart responded heartily as he said it—that it was under the wings of the God of Israel that she had come to cower and be covered. She had come, he said, to "trust" in Yahveh. She was resolved that she would. Even Naomi would encourage her, and would herself be disposed to revert to the sweet significance of her own name—Jab is sweet, and deals sweetly. The hard thoughts which she had been tempted in the time of her anguish to entertain would be sensibly beginning to thaw and melt. And if one could have read the hearts of both, as at length they laid themselves down to rest, perhaps the thoughts of each might have been found to be running in the strain of the words of a great descendant, as he said and sang, "Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety" (Psalms 4:6-8). "Tired nature's sweet restorer" would not need to be sedulously wooed, on the part of the gleaner at least; and if Naomi's slumber was not so easily obtained, or so uninterruptedly retained, yet she would "commune with her own heart on her bed, and be still." May we not assume that, when both awoke in the early morning, they were "still with God?"
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Kindred and kindness.
When Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem they could scarcely have found friends there, but they found kinsmen. They do not seem, in their circumstances, to have sought assistance from relatives, or even to have brought themselves under the notice of such. Still, Naomi had not lost sight of Elimelech's family connections; and when the name of Boaz was mentioned, she recognized it as the name of one of her husband's nearest kindred.
I. KINDRED IS A DIVINE INSTITUTION. Men have many artificial associations; bonds of sympathy, and of locality, and of common occupation bind them together. But kindred is the Divine, the natural tie.
II. KINDRED IS AT THE FOUNDATION OF SOCIAL AND POLITICAL LIFE. The patriarchal economy was the earliest. The family is the first social unit, out of which springs the tribe, the clan, the nation.
III. KINDRED INVOLVES AN OBLIGATION TO CONSIDERATION AND REGARD. We cannot always cherish feelings of congeniality or of respect with reference to all who are our kindred according to the flesh. But relatives should not lose sight of one another—should not, if it can be avoided, be estranged from one another.
IV. KINDRED MAY, IN CERTAIN CASES, INVOLVE THE DUTY OF PRACTICAL HELP. Christian wisdom must here be called in to the counsels of Christian kindness.
V. KINDRED IS SUGGESTIVE AND EMBLEMATIC OF DIVINE RELATIONS. Apart from human relationship, how could we conceive of God as our Father? of Christ Jesus as our elder Brother? of Christians as our brethren and sisters in a spiritual family?—T.
This Book of Ruth is emphatically the book of the husbandman. It pictures the barley-harvest and the wheat-harvest of ancient days. The primitive manners and usages are interesting, and deserve attentive study. But harvest—as here so vividly brought before us—is full of lessons of a spiritual kind. E.g.—
I. HARVEST WITNESSES TO THE ATTRIBUTES OF THE DIVINE CREATOR. To his power and wisdom. To his goodness. To his faithfulness to his promise: "Seed-time and harvest shall not cease."
II. HARVEST IS A SUMMONS TO MAN'S GRATITUDE AND CONFIDENCE.
III. HARVEST IS SUGGESTIVE OF GREAT SPIRITUAL TRUTHS. There is a moral harvest in the history of the human character and of human society. Seed and soil are presumed. Development and growth are evidenced. The law operates: "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." The fruit is matured and gathered in. The Husbandman—God himself—is interested in the result. To us the result is infinitely important.—T.
"Who hath not left off his kindness to the living and the dead." The prayers of the poor for their helpers are very precious. Naomi remembers the former kindnesses that Boaz had shown to the husband of her youth and to her two boys.
I. HERE IS CONTINUITY OF CHARACTER. Some leave off kindness because they meet with experiences of ingratitude and callousness. The once warm deep within them is frozen up by these wintry experiences. But as God continues his mercy through all generations, so those who are followers of God as dear children walk in love; that is, it becomes the spirit and habit of their lives. Boaz had not left off his kindness. Ruth now drinks at the same fountain of considerate care that had refreshed Elimelech.
II. HERE IS THE GOOD WORD OF A MOTHER. It is well when the mother respects the man who may become allied in marriage to one who is akin to her. Naomi says to her daughter, "Blessed be he of the Lord." Let those who have become skeptical concerning Christianity ask themselves this: Whether should I like to give my child in marriage to a Christian or an infidel? This practical query would suggest many thoughts tending to renewed froth, and would stifle forever many superficial doubts.—T.