The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4

Ruth 2

Rth 2:1

If Elimelech and Naomi had a wealthy kinsman all along, then why did they go to Moab in the first place, instead of going to him for help? What foolishness it is in the hour of weakness and need to forget the "near kinsman" who is strong and able to help! And when we need help, to whom do we turn? to everything and everyone EXCEPT the One who has promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." We have a "near kinsman" who holds the key to the universe and all of its treasure! Let us go to his fields, and humbly work there, and ask for and wait for his blessing! It will surely come.

RELATIVE: Heb "yada", familiar friend, not "gaal" of Rth 2:20, etc.

MAN: Ish, great man, in ct adam, fleshly. Boaz typ Christ, in both greatness and humility.

STANDING: Heb "gibbor", mighty (AV), strong, or valiant: cp Isa 9:6. Used of David in 1Sa 16:8, and his 30 men in 2Sa 23:8.

BOAZ: Sig "in him is strength". The pillar of 1Ki 7:21. In ct Ruth's first husband Mahlon (sickly: Rth 1:2).

Rth 2:2

There was poverty in the household -- two widows with no visible means of support. Ruth, the daughter of a hated race, and only a proselyte at best, shows a wonderful knowledge of and dependence upon the Law -- which allows special privileges for widows: ie, to glean in the fields during harvest. She represents the anxious person in search of truth; forsaking her old companions and her "gods", she leaves all, and is not ashamed to put on the apron of the "gleaner".

Ruth did not need to keep her poverty a secret; and it is her poverty which brings her to the rich kinsman!

And what about us? When we are weak (and when we know it!), THEN we may begin to find strength in the Lord -- whose strength is perfected, and finds fulfillment, in our weakness. Frail vessels of clay we may be, but we can take our vessels to the place where the riches and glory of our Father are dispensed, and there we can ask for our share!

"Our Master's field is very rich; behold the handfuls. See, there they lie before thee, poor timid believer! Gather them up, make them thine own, for Jesus bids thee take them. Be not afraid, only believe! Grasp these sweet promises, thresh them out by meditation and feed on them with joy" (CHS).

IN WHOSE EYES I FIND FAVOR: Ruth must find an Israelite who is charitable and will not evade his responsibilities.

NAOMI SAID TO HER, "GO AHEAD, MY DAUGHTER": The fact that Ruth went alone implies that Naomi was too old, or was worn out with recently experienced privations.

Rth 2:3

AS IT TURNED OUT: Here is God's hand of providence, seen also in Ruth 2:12,19,20. Nothing really happens to the elect of God by blind chance; God is always working -- even if we don't really know how and when: Mat 10:29,30; Rom 8:28; Pro 3:5,6; Jer 10:23.

"Yes, it seemed nothing but an accident, but how divinely was it overruled! Ruth had gone forth with her mother's [mother-in-law's] blessing, under the care of her mother's God, to humble but honourable toil, and the providence of God was guiding her every step. Little did she know that amid the sheaves she would find a husband, that he should make her the joint owner of all those broad acres, and that she a poor foreigner should become one of the progenitors of the great Messiah. God is very good to those who trust in Him, and often surprises them with unlooked for blessings. Little do we know what may happen to us tomorrow, but this sweet fact may cheer us, that no good thing shall be withheld. Chance is banished from the faith of Christians, for they see the hand of God in everything. The trivial events of today or tomorrow may involve consequences of the highest importance... How blessed would it be, if, in wandering in the field of meditation tonight, our 'chance' should be to light upon the place where our near Kinsman will reveal Himself to us!" (CHS).

TO GLEAN IN THE FIELDS: Gleaning was a privilege of poor and widows (Lev 23:22; Deu 24:19), and also of strangers, or aliens (Lev 19:9,10). (Ruth was all these wrapped up in one: poor, a widow, and a stranger!) Gentiles today, as did Ruth then, may "glean" in fields of Boaz -- who represents Christ. Compare the Canaanite woman (the "little dog") in Mar 7:24-30 -- engaged in another form of gleaning! 'Yes, Master, I know I'm an unclean Gentile woman [not a "righteous" Jewish man!]... but if it's alright with you I'll just hide here under the table like a little puppy, and be happy to eat a few of the crumbs that the "children" carelessly drop.' The delicious irony of that is... the few crumbs are more than enough. The man who turned a few little loaves into a meal for thousands can turn our few little crumbs into a banquet to last a lifetime!

AS IT TURNED OUT: "Her hap was to light upon" (KJV). "Light upon" is sw as "happen" in Eccl 9:11 (time and chance). Suggests divine guidance.

Rth 2:4

Boaz takes his God with him every day, even to the workplace. Bre dwell together in unity: Psa 133:1. Typ: Christ, the master, notices every humble worker in field.

THE LORD BE WITH YOU: That is, to strengthen you in your labor: cp Jdg 6:12; Psa 129:7,8. May mean, in this context: 'The Lord give you a good harvest.' The words come with that meaning in Psa 129:7,8; Jdg 6:12; and also in a more subtle sense in 2Th 3:16; Luk 1:28.

THE LORD BLESS YOU: Happy fellowship, prosperous cooperation -- even in a wicked and chaotic land (Jdg 17:6; 18:1).

Rth 2:5

What set Ruth apart from other gleaners? Physical appearance? Mode of dress? Conduct? Diligence in labor (v 7)? Boaz notices a new worker, and learns that she is Naomi's companion (Rth 2:11). Cp Joh 11:28.

Rth 2:6

Perh Boaz had desired to help Naomi's family years earlier, but had been unable. Now he sees another opportunity.

Rth 2:7

EXCEPT FOR A SHORT REST: Diligence, hardly tarrying at all. RSV has: "without resting even for a moment".

SHELTER: A small tent or shelter in field, where workers might rest during the day.

Rth 2:8

MY DAUGHTER: Boaz was much older: Rth 3:10.

STAY HERE WITH MY SERVANT GIRLS: A privileged position in gleaning. "Abide" here with me: cp Joh 14:17,18,20,23; 15:4. "Do not be moved away": cp Act 27:31; Col 1:23; 2:6,7; 1Jo 2:28; Jud 1:20,21.

Rth 2:10

BOWED DOWN WITH HER FACE: Ruth showed respect and even obeisance to a superior. Do we show thankfulness, meekness, and humility, at being called to truth and grace in Christ?

WHY HAVE I FOUND SUCH FAVOR?: Nowhere is Ruth described as physically beautiful -- and she may or may not have been "beautiful" in the conventional sense. But there is plainly a "beauty" of a spiritual order, which has nothing to do with hair stylists and make-up kits and fashion catalogs, and Ruth has that kind of "beauty" in abundance. And, whatever else she is, she is genuinely modest. That is perhaps her greatest grace: she is unaffected -- she honestly does not realize how attractive she is... how noble is her devotion to an older woman... how exalted is her choice of an unseen God... how impressive is her diligence in gleaning... how touching is her intelligent meekness and her sincere thankfulness. There is no false pride in Ruth; she is the "real thing".

FOREIGNER: Strangers had rights (Rth 2:2n), but Boaz had gone beyond requirements of the LM. From Boaz's point of view: consider Heb 13:2: Boaz "entertained" the "stranger" (Ruth), who turns out to be an "angel" (messenger from God)... the means by which Boaz's line (also) is preserved.

Rth 2:11

HOW YOU LEFT...: A sustained allusion to God's promises to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3).

CAME TO LIVE WITH A PEOPLE: Ruth was a Jew indeed: Rom 2:27-29.

YOU DID NOT KNOW BEFORE: Lit, "yesterday and the day before."

Rth 2:12

MAY THE LORD REPAY YOU: Ruth's work: (1) Leaving Moab (obeying truth in baptism), and (2) care for Naomi (sym hope of Israel).

RICHLY REWARDED: As promised: 1Co 3:8,14; 2Jo 1:8; Rev 11:8; 22:12.

UNDER WHOSE WINGS: Cp Rth 3:9. Also Psa 17:8,9; 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4; Mat 23:37.

TO TAKE REFUGE: Cp Christ's wishes for Jerusalem: Mat 23:37; Psa 91:4.

Rth 2:13

"In her response to all this kindness Ruth showed neither false pride nor cringing self-pity. She could have misinterpreted Boaz's motive, and have acknowledged his generosity coldly. On the other hand, in an attempt to make the most of the situation, she could have told a maudlin tale of adversity and poverty. Instead, marvelling quietly that a man of Boaz's station should take notice of her at all, she thanked him frankly for his help to one so needy: 'Thou hast comforted me... thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid -- though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens,' she added lest the wrong construction be put on the ambiguous term she used" (WJR).

Rth 2:14

The strong one invites the Gentile woman to dine at his "table", where he produces bread and wine!

WINE VINEGAR: Sour, but cooling and refreshing.

ROASTED CORN: Very common in East (LB 648).

ALL SHE WANTED: God tends to our daily needs: Mat 6:11,25; Joh 6:35. This is what Naomi the Jewess had forgotten; but what Ruth the Moabitess knew by faith!

AND HAD SOME LEFT OVER: Or, "reserved" as in Rth 2:18. That is, Ruth kept something back for Naomi. See Rom 15:27: Gentiles aid Jews in material things.

"Whenever we are privileged to eat of the bread which Jesus gives, we are, like Ruth, satisfied with the full and sweet repast. When Jesus is the host no guest goes empty from the table. Our head is satisfied with the precious truth which Christ reveals; our heart is content with Jesus, as the altogether lovely object of affection; our hope is satisfied, for whom have we in heaven but Jesus? and our desire is satiated, for what can we wish for more than 'to know Christ and to be found in Him'? Jesus fills our conscience till it is at perfect peace; our judgment with persuasion of the certainty of His teachings; our memory with recollections of what He has done, and our imagination with the prospects of what He is yet to do. As Ruth was 'sufficed, and left,' so is it with us. We have had deep draughts; we have thought that we could take in all of Christ; but when we have done our best we have had to leave a vast remainder... There are certain sweet things in the Word of God which we have not enjoyed yet, and which we are obliged to leave for awhile; for we are like the disciples to whom Jesus said, 'I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.' Yes, there are graces to which we have not attained; places of fellowship nearer to Christ which we have not reached; and heights of communion which our feet have not climbed. At every banquet of love there are many baskets of fragments left. Let us magnify the liberality of our glorious Boaz" (CHS).

Rth 2:15

EVEN... AMONG THE SHEAVES: Another special privilege. Normally, no one may glean until sheaves are bound and set in stocks.

DON'T EMBARRASS HER: "Reproach her not" (KJV), or "shame her not" (KJV mg).

Rth 2:16

Ample reward: cp Luk 11:9-13; 6:38.

Rth 2:17

Cp LB 647. Ruth had to labor for her living. This was a woman who did not mind working -- who sought out work to do. What she could do for herself she did, willingly and eagerly and diligently. Not only did she gather the grain; she also prepared it! The servant of God must "beat out" the grains of truth -- which are often concealed (Pro 25:2; Mat 13:13,34); she must harvest and press out the olives to make the olive oil (Lev 24:2). And what about us? Do we remember that "faith without works is dead"... that we are called, not just to take up space, but to DO something of service to our God?

"Let me learn from Ruth, the gleaner. As she went out to gather the ears of corn, so must I go forth into the fields of prayer, meditation, the ordinances, and hearing the word to gather spiritual food. The gleaner gathers her portion ear by ear; her gains are little by little: so must I be content to search for single truths, if there be no greater plenty of them. Every ear helps to make a bundle, and every gospel lesson assists in making us wise unto salvation. The gleaner keeps her eyes open: if she stumbled among the stubble in a dream, she would have no load to carry home rejoicingly at eventide. I must be watchful in religious exercises lest they become unprofitable to me; I fear I have lost much already -- O that I may rightly estimate my opportunities, and glean with greater diligence. The gleaner stoops for all she finds, and so must I. High spirits criticize and object, but lowly minds glean and receive benefit. A humble heart is a great help towards profitably hearing the gospel. The engrafted soul-saving word is not received except with meekness. A stiff back makes a bad gleaner; down, master pride, thou art a vile robber, not to be endured for a moment. What the gleaner gathers she holds: if she dropped one ear to find another, the result of her day's work would be but scant; she is as careful to retain as to obtain, and so at last her gains are great. How often do I forget all that I hear; the second truth pushes the first out of my head, and so my reading and hearing end in much ado about nothing! Do I feel duly the importance of storing up the truth? A hungry belly makes the gleaner wise; if there be no corn in her hand, there will be no bread on her table; she labours under the sense of necessity, and hence her tread is nimble and her grasp is firm; I have even a greater necessity, Lord, help me to feel it, that it may urge me onward to glean in fields which yield so plenteous a reward to diligence" (CHS).

EPHAH: Almost one bushel. Enough for both for approx 5 days.

Rth 2:18

Naomi sees that Ruth has received special treatment.

Rth 2:20

Naomi had not asked favors from the rich Boaz. She had faith in God's ways, and thus she had waited.

LIVING AND DEAD: To provide one to raise up seed to the dead husband.

KINSMAN-REDEEMERS: Gaal: see Rth 4:7-9. See Lesson, Gaal: redeemer.

Rth 2:21

WORKERS: Masc or fem. Esp fem here: vv 22,23.

MY: Very emphatic: my harvest, and no one else's.

Rth 2:22

...MIGHT BE HARMED: KJV has: "that they meet thee not" -- or, as KJV mg: "that they fall not upon thee"! Ruth must stay in Boaz's field (Song 1:6). Misfortune may be found in fields of others.

Rth 2:23

Barley harvest was at Passover (Rth 1:22). Wheat harvest was at Pentecost, 50 days later (Lev 23:16). This is the time when Book of Ruth is traditionally read. Deliverance at Passover, then full reward of ingathering at Pentecost.

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