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Bible Commentaries
Ruth 2

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary



This chapter affords us a perfect picture of an oriental harvest scene. The traveller who at the present day passes, in the harvest time, through the fields of Beth-lehem, is struck with delight at beholding the rural incidents of the Book of Ruth passing in actual reality before his eyes. He sees vast numbers of reapers cutting barley, and companies of women and children gleaning behind them. He hears the salutations between master and servants in the very words of Boaz and his reapers. Here and there a company of reapers may be seen under a temporary booth taking their refreshment, and ready to extend to the traveller handfuls of parched corn; and at evening time the maidens sit down by the wayside and with a stick or a stone beat out what they have been gleaning through the day.

Verse 1

1. A kinsman of her husband’s An acquaintance and friend, and also a relative. But the Hebrew word is not the same as that rendered kinsman in Ruth 2:20 and Ruth 3:9; Ruth 3:12-13. According to a Rabbinical tradition, Boaz was a nephew of Elimelech. He was a wealthy and influential citizen of Bethlehem, and perhaps had also distinguished himself in war.

Verse 2

2. Let me now go to the field To this course she is prompted by love and care for her mother in law: and by gleaning she hopes to provide subsistence for them both in their loneliness, for they were doubtless poor and needy. She sees not now that this labour, undertaken in love, is to lead her to blessing and honour.

Glean Gather up what the reapers leave behind them. The right to glean was a legal privilege of the poor in Israel: “When ye reap the harvest in your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest; thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger.” Leviticus 13:22. See also Leviticus 19:9, and Deuteronomy 24:19-22.

Ears of corn Corn is in Scripture the generic word for grain of any kind, as barley, wheat, or rye. In Scotland the use of the word is restricted to oats, in America to maize or Indian corn. Ears of corn, as used of barley or wheat, means the heads, or seed ends, of the stalks.

After him in whose sight I shall find grace As yet she knew nothing of Boaz; she proposes to glean after him, whoever he may be, who will generously allow it. Though the law secured to the poor the right to glean, the owner of the harvest field had a right to nominate the persons who might glean after his reapers; otherwise the right to glean might have been carried to serious inconvenience and injury to the owners of the harvest.

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Verse 3

3. She went… and gleaned But not without first asking permission of the overseer of the reapers. Ruth 2:7.

Her hap was To human observation her lighting upon Boaz’s field was accidental; in the Divine economy it was providentially designed.

Verse 4

4. Boaz came from Beth-lehem His dwelling was in the city and his grainfield some distance out in the neighbouring country.

The Lord be with you… The Lord bless thee These salutations are well paraphrased by Dr. A. Clarke: “May God be with you to preserve you from accidents, and strengthen you to accomplish your work!” “May God bless THEE with the increase of the field, and grace to use his bounty to the glory of the Giver!” They impress us as beautiful indications of the pious and simple courtesy of the ancient Hebrew people. Such salutations, both between equals and superiors and inferiors, are still common in the East, but a Moslem will not thus knowingly hail one of another religion.

Verse 5

5. His servant that was set over the reapers An officer or steward whose business it was to oversee the work of the reapers and exercise authority in the absence of the owner.

Whose damsel is this That is, Whence comes she, and where does she belong? It seems that Boaz found her resting in the tent where the reapers were accustomed to take their meals. Compare Ruth 2:7; Ruth 2:14. Other maidens, too, were there, (Ruth 2:8,) but he saw that she was a stranger. “It may be supposed, also,” says Cassel, “that her modest and reserved bearing served at once to mark her. She who had so long been mistress herself had not the look of those who have grown bold in beggary.”

Verse 6

6. The Moabitish damsel Boaz had heard of her, and had been much interested in her history, (Ruth 2:11,) but he had not seen her before, so that this was their first meeting.

Verse 7

7. That she tarried a little in the house Literally, This her resting in the house is little. That is, This rest which you now see her taking in the tent has been but for a little time, for her toil has been most assiduous from early morning until now.

Verse 8

8. My maidens These seem to have been women servants employed by Boaz, and they probably assisted the men by performing some of the lighter labours of reaping, such as making bands and arranging the form and size of the sheaves. There were also, perhaps, other gleaners in that field, who, before Ruth came, had obtained permission of Boaz to glean after his reapers, and whom he might also include among his maidens.

Verse 9

9. That they do reap… go after them The words they and them refer respectively to the reapers and the maidens of Boaz, for in the Hebrew the verb יקצרון reap, is in the masculine, and the suffix הן them, is in the feminine form. In the absence of fences to mark the exact limits of Boaz’s field, Ruth might, if she allowed herself to become far separated from his reapers, go unlicensed on another’s possessions; hence the charge to keep near his maidens.

Have I not charged the young men From this remark it seems that the reapers were apt to be rude in their deportment towards defenceless females, if they received no charge from their masters. “Such precautions,” says Dr. Thomson, “are not out of place at this day.

The reapers are gathered from all parts of the country, and largely from the ruder class, and, living far from home, throw off all restraint, and give free license to their tongues, if nothing more.”

Go unto the vessels This was doubtless a special indulgence to a gleaner. The harvest field was often at some distance from springs or wells, but the occasional refreshment of a drink of water was all important to the heated labourers; hence the vessels of water provided by the young men.

Verse 10

10. Fell on her face Prostrated herself in the humblest attitude before him, so as to show her gratitude by ceremony as well as by word. See note and cut at Matthew 8:2.

Take knowledge of me Regard me with such sympathy, kindness, and care.

A stranger She was better known than she imagined.

Verse 11

11. It hath fully been showed me The story of Ruth’s bereavement, and of her sacrifices for and attachment to Naomi, had become a topic of conversation among the families of Beth-lehem, and touched a tender chord of sympathy in all who heard it.

Thou hast left thy father… mother… land Far back in the dark age of the Judges the Moabitish ancestress of the Messiah bears one of the heaviest crosses of the Gospel age. Surely she showed herself worthy of New Testament discipleship, and for her recompense has already received in sacred history a hundredfold reward. Compare Matthew 10:37; Matthew 19:29.

Verse 12

12. Under whose wings thou art come to trust Jehovah in his care for his people is represented as an eagle fluttering over her young, and spreading abroad her wings over them. Compare Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalms 57:1; Psalms 91:4. Boaz here speaks as the true Israelite, and recognises in Ruth the Moabitess a proselyte who has come to be incorporated with Jehovah’s chosen people.

Verse 13

13. Thou hast comforted me “To the humble mind of Ruth the words of Boaz were the first sunbeam that broke through the grief and tears of many weeks. Hitherto she had tasted only parting sorrow. Now, for the first time, she is addressed about the God of Israel and his grace. The full import of his words her humble heart does not presume to appropriate. But the kindliness of the speaker’s voice is for her like the sound of a bubbling spring in the desert to the thirsty. A word of love comes on a loving heart like hers, long afflicted by sorrow, like morning dews on a thirsty field.” Cassel.

Though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens Though I be a stranger from a foreign land, and have done thee no service as these maidens who assist thy reapers, yet thou speakest to my heart words of comfort.

Verse 14

14. At mealtime At the time of the noontide lunch. The principal meal was taken after the labours of the day were over. Ruth 3:7.

Come thou hither Into the house (Ruth 2:7) or tent which was pitched in the harvest field for the accommodation of the reapers, and in which they kept their provisions and ate their meals.

Bread A generic word for provisions. The meaning is, Come and take of the provisions here in store.

Vinegar Wine or strong drink of some kind turned sour, which would form a nauseous draught if taken in any considerable quantity alone, (Psalms 69:21,) but served a useful purpose as a sop. “Pliny describes it as being refreshing to the spirits, binding and bracing the nerves, and very sustaining and strengthening for labour. The use of vinegar by reapers is alluded to by Theocritus in his tenth idyl.” Kitto.

She sat beside the reapers From this we may not infer that the two sexes ordinarily took their meals together, for this noontide lunch in the harvest field is no proper example of the ordinary domestic customs of the ancient families in Israel. Ruth came to this lunch by special invitation from Boaz.

He reached her parched corn In passing from Gaza to Hebron in May, 1838, Dr. Robinson saw nearly two hundred reapers and gleaners at work in one field. He saw some taking their refreshment, and as he passed they offered him some parched corn. The manner of its preparation, according to Dr. Thomson, is this: “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 burned off. The grain is thus sufficiently roasted to be eaten, and it is a favourite article all over the country.” Mr. Tristram gives a similar description of the parching of grain which he witnessed in northern Palestine in May of 1864. He and his party were invited to partake, and he adds: “We found the dish by no means unpalatable. The green ears had become half-charred by the roasting, and there was a pleasant mingling of milky wheat and a fresh crust flavour as we chewed the parched corn.”

Verse 15

15. Let her glean even among the sheaves This was evidently a rare privilege, not at all allowed to ordinary gleaners.

Reproach her not Or, as in the margin, Shame her not. Offer her no injury or annoyance either by word or deed. See note on Ruth 2:9.

Verse 16

16. Handfuls of purpose for her “These directions of Boaz went far beyond the bounds of generosity and compassion for the poor, and show that he felt a peculiar interest in Ruth, with whose circumstances he was well acquainted, and who had won his heart by her humility, her faithful attachment to her mother in law, and her love to the God of Israel a fact important to notice in connection with the further course of the history.” Keil.

Verse 17

17. Beat out… had gleaned This process is often witnessed by the modern traveller in the East. In passing a harvest field near Gaza, Robinson observes: “Several women were beating out with a stick handfuls of the grain which they seemed to have gleaned.” About an ephah About a bushel and a half, a large amount for a gleaner to gather in a single day.

Verse 18

18. Her mother-in-law saw With manifest surprise at the large quantity of her day’s gleaning.

She brought forth Out of a wallet, according to the Targum.

That she had reserved Namely, of the superabundance of parched corn which Boaz had given her. Ruth 2:14.

Verse 20

20. Blessed be… the Lord That was a joyful evening both to Naomi and Ruth, and the Israelitish mother’s heart was filled with thanksgiving towards Jehovah.

Kindness to the living and to the dead By the living she means herself and Ruth; by the dead her deceased husband and sons. He who provides for the widow and the fatherless does at the same time a kindness to those dead ones who can provide for them no more. In these words we may also recognise the true Israelites’ consciousness of immortality. To Naomi the beloved dead are not annihilated, and Jehovah’s kindness towards them has not ceased with their departure from gifts world. Jehovah is still the God of Elimelech and his departed sons, just as He declared himself to be “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Exodus 3:6. He lovingly preserves them in conscious existence and blessedness though they die. From this lofty point of view Jesus urged his mighty argument against the Sadducees, “God is not the God of the dead, (the annihilated,) but of the living.” Matthew 22:32.

One of our next kinsmen One whose right and duty it is to redeem the name and inheritance of a deceased blood relative. Naomi had doubtless before this instructed her Moabitish daughter in law on the nature and requirements of the levirate among the Israelites. See note at the beginning of chap. 3.

Verse 22

22. Not in any other field This was prudent counsel for Ruth, for in a strange field she would be exposed to annoyances and possible insults, from which in Boaz’s possessions she was now happily shielded by his careful charges to the reapers.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ruth 2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/ruth-2.html. 1874-1909.
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