Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Ruth 2

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-23


Ruth 2:1-23

At this point Boaz is introduced as a wealthy man and as belonging to the same family tree as Naomi’s dead husband, Elimelech. Ruth now became the family supporter and sought for some livelihood by gleaning after the reapers in the harvest field. An old custom, legalized in the law code of Deuteronomy (24:19-21), permitted the needy stranger, orphan, or widow to gather what was left by the harvesters. In its legal form, indeed, the injunction implied that the field should not be swept clean but that some should be left. Even so, we can imagine that often little was left, and gleaning might be a thankless task in the heat of the day. It was not made easier for a young foreign woman like Ruth, who might be molested by the laborers.

Ruth gleaned by chance in the part of the field owned by Boaz, although the story shows that, as so often happens in the life of the pious, it was not chance at work but the hand of God. Boaz, coming from Bethlehem, saluted his reapers with a pious greeting which shows the quality of his character, a greeting similar to that used by the angel to Gideon (Judges 6:12) and still employed in Christian liturgies.

Impressed by the appearance of the young stranger, Boaz learned that she was the Moabitess who had returned with Naomi, and who had been industriously gleaning after the reapers since early morning. Boaz gave her special privileges and provided for her safety, since the laborers might be crude in their conduct. He put her with his maidens who gathered the sheaves, and he warned the young men against molesting her. He also provided for her physical needs. Ruth humbly acknowledged his favor, emphasizing by a play on words the fact that she was an alien. (The Hebrew words for "foreigner" and "to take notice of" have the same root.) Boaz apparently knew the story of Ruth’s devotion to her mother-in-law, a devotion that had led her to forsake her own kith and kin. His invocation of the divine blessing upon her acknowledged that she had now put her trust in the God of Israel, and was sheltering under his wing or skirt. Ruth expressed grateful surprise that she, a foreigner, should be so treated (Ruth 2:10; Ruth 2:13). The favor continued at mealtime, for Boaz continued to treat her as if she were an Israelite by making her share in the food.

Because of this gracious treatment Ruth gleaned long and well, returned amply supplied, and shared her leftover food with Naomi. On informing Naomi that she had gleaned in the field of Boaz, Ruth learned that he was a kinsman. Naomi added that Boaz was one of their nearest kin, showing that she was beginning to evaluate the interest of the wealthy farmer and that her mind was turning to the levirate law of the kinsman-redeemer which Boaz later invoked. This is probably implied in Naomi’s blessing upon Boaz, who by his kindness snowed that God had not forsaken either the living or the dead. Boaz must accept responsibility for the widowed and childless Ruth. He must be her redeemer.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ruth 2". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ruth-2.html.
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