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Ruth the Gleaner
1. Boaz] (’quickness’) was a kinsman of Elimelech’s. We are not informed of the precise degree of relationship. Here and at Ruth 3:2 he is designated an ’acquaintance.’ It is by no means certain that we are to think of him as a mighty man of wealth’; the phrase here employed sometimes points out a capable, active man (1 Kings 11:28; Nehemiah 11:14). The Targum is of course wrong in explaining it by ’a man strong in the Law’—an explanation which reminds us of Apollos, ’mighty in the scriptures’ (Acts 18:24).
2, 3. Ruth will not sit with folded hands. Like any other poor person she has a right to glean (Leviticus 19:9.; Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19), but the landowner can make the exercise of this right easier or more disagreeable. Hence she is not sure where her task will be prosecuted, and it seems a piece of rare, though undesigned, good fortune that she lights on the portion of the field which belongs to Boaz. The portions belonging to different owners were not separated by walls, hedges or ditches, but by a stone, a stoneheap, or a marked tree (Deuteronomy 19:14).
4-6. These ancient forms of salutation were distinguished by politeness, heartiness, and religious feeling (cp. Genesis 43:29; Jer 19:20f; 2 Kings 4:29; Psalms 129:7-8). The Arabic formula now is ’God be with you’: in Egypt the first speaker cries ’Peace be on you,’ and the reply comes, ’On you be peace, and the mercy of God and His blessings,’ or simply ’On you be peace.’
7. Ruth’s good qualities appear at every turn: she was careful to ask leave; she worked steadily all through the long, weary day, not resting during its hottest hours. The last words of this verse are now corrupt: the original statement was ’she has not rested at all,’ or ’she has not been home at all’; Ruth 3:7 shows that there was no building in the field to rest in.
8, 9. His maidens were the women-servants who went over the ground after the reapers, reaping being done in so slovenly a manner in the East that much would be wasted if this supplementary work were not performed. The note on Ruth 2:3 indicates how easy it would be to stray into another’s field. The young men are the harvesters who come together from all parts of the country, and, away from the restraints of their own homes, are apt to be free of speech, and loose in conduct.
10-12. She throws herself prostrate on the ground, as Orientals have always done before their superiors. She acknowledges herself a foreigner, destitute of right or claims. But Boaz sees only the heroism implied in her having committed herself to the uncovenanted kindness of a strange people. And he commends the wisdom and piety which have brought her to take refuge under the protecting wings of Jehovah the God of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalms 36:8; Psalms 57:2; Psalms 91:4; Luke 13:34).
13. With joyful surprise she exclaims, Let me find favour in thy sight! or, rather, ’I find grace in thy sight!’ There is something very beautiful in the literal meaning of the words rendered ’Thou hast spoken friendly’: it is ’Thou hast spoken to the heart’ (Isaiah 40:2; Jeremiah 19:3): the words are so friendly that they fall on the heart like dew. And this is all the more wonderful to her, seeing that, as a foreigner, she does not stand on a level even with his women-servants. ’Make me as one of thy hired servants’ (Luke 15:19).
14. Vinegar and water was the customary drink of Roman soldiers and slaves. The harvesters in Palestine still dip their bread in vinegar and find it very refreshing. Parched corn is also a favourite article of food: the ears are gathered when not quite ripe, and are roasted on an iron plate, or are thrust in small bundles into a fire of dry grass and thorns; there is a milky and yet crusty flavour about it which makes pleasant eating. ’She did eat, and was sufficed, and left thereof’ (RV).
15-18. As a special favour she is to be allowed to glean not only where the sheaves have been removed, but amongst them as they stand. Curiously enough she is represented at Ruth 2:7 as requesting this. The reapers are also to pluck out ears as they gather them up for binding and let them drop as if by accident. No wonder that when she had beaten it out with a stick (Judges 6:11; Isaiah 28:27) she had about a bushel of grain. As one has seen poor women taking home food for their children from some feast which has been given them, so the thrifty, affectionate Ruth carries to Naomi the parched corn which had remained over from her unexpected midday meal.
19-23. Ruth now learns for the first time that Boaz is related to them, a near kinsman, one of those who have the right to buy back for them the land that has been parted with. If an Israelite was compelled by poverty to dispose of his property, such a kinsman could compel the purchaser to sell it back (Leviticus 25:25, Leviticus 25:47-48); the object of the law being to preserve each family in possession of its land. Naomi felt that Providence was not only showing loving-kindness to her daughter-in-law and herself, but also to her husband and sons, by bringing about the prospect of the land which had once belonged to them again being called by their name. Her deepseated piety comes out too; the bitterness of Ruth 1:20 yields immediately to faith, hope, and gratitude. And her practical wisdom is seen in the injunction not to vex this kindhearted man by failing to make use of his offered kindness. Wheat-harvest is two or three weeks later than barley.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ruth 2". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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