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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Ruth 2

 

 

Verse 1

CHAPTER SECOND

Ruth 2:1

The Relative

1And Naomi had [in Bethlehem] a kinsman [lit. acquaintance,] of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth [a valiant hero], of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Before relating the wonderful deliverance through a kinsman, by which faithfulness and love are rewarded, the writer first informs us briefly of the existence of the person who is chosen to effect this deliverance. Hitherto the acting persons have been only women, both of them loving and excellent; now, the portrait of a man is drawn, who is the model of an Israelite, as family-head and as landlord, in war and in peace.

Naomi had a kinsman. The expression for this is מְיֻדָּע. In our texts, it is true, it is pointed מיֹדַע, with מוֹדָע, as Keri, in the margin. But מוֹדָע occurs only once more ( Proverbs 7:4), and there also we must probably read מְיֻדָּע. The reading מוֹדָע was preferred by the Masora only on account of the fem. מוֹדַעַת, which occurs at Ruth 3:2. The participle מְודָּע is of more frequent occurrence, cf. Psalm 55:14. Hitherto, Naomi could say, as does the Psalmist ( Psalm 88:9): “Thou hast put my kinsmen (מְיֻדָּעַי) far from me.” Compare also Ruth 2:19 of the same Psalm, where it stands in parallelism with אֹהֵב, lover, and רֵעַ, companion. She has likewise experienced what is written Psalm 31:12, cf. Job 19:14. Literally, to be sure, the word means only an “acquaintance;” but it expresses more than we mean by that term. The man was not a very near relative, but one “known” to the family, as belonging to it. It was an acquaintance valid within the family lines; hence the word signifies as much as familiaris. It is used in a noteworthy connection at 2 Kings 10:11, where Jehu slays all the great men, the מְיֻדְּעִים, and the priests of Ahab,—i. e. everybody that adhered to him, whether from family connection or interest. The Latin notus may occasionally approximate to the idea of the Hebrew term even more closely than the Greek γνώριμος; not so much, however, in Catull79:4 (si tria notorum basia repererit), as in Liv3:44, where, with reference to the violence done to Virginia, is said: notos gratia (patris et sponsi) turbam indignitas rei virgini conciliat.

The fact is emphasized that Boaz was only a מִיֻדָּע This not only explains a certain remoteness of Naomi from him, but it makes the piety, which notwithstanding the distance (manifest also from Ruth 3:12) of the relationship, performs what the narrative goes on to relate, more conspicuously great than it would appear if, according to an unfounded conjecture of Jewish expositors, he were held to be the son of Elimelech’s brother.

A valiant hero. These words are applied to Boaz in no other sense than to Gideon ( Judges 6:12), Jephthah (11:1), and others, and have no reference to his wealth and property. He was a strong and able man in Israel, in war and in peace. Probably he had distinguished himself in conflicts of Israel against enemies, perhaps against Moab. The ancestor of David Isaiah, as the Midrash (Ruth 31, d) remarks, rightly thus described. His name, Boaz (בֹּעַז), is to be explained by reference to the name of one of the pillars erected by Song of Solomon, and called Boaz, while the other was named Jachin (cf. my Gold. Thron Salomo’s, p45). It is not a compound of בּוֹ עָז, but a contraction of בֶּן־עַז, “son of strength, of enduring vigor.” The signification alacritas (Ges, Keil, etc.), would hardly be applicable to the pillar.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The same characteristic is ascribed to Boaz as to Gideon, and to David. But concerning his warlike deeds nothing is related. In Israel, however, there was no valor, properly so called, except such as sprang from the acknowledgment of the living God. The word is not applied to wild battle-rage, but to moral strength, which valiantly repels distress and dishonor, as Abraham drew the sword for his country against foreign oppressors. Boaz was a hero in war through his virtue in peace. And this virtue comes so clearly to view in the Book of Ruth, that the narrator could justly add: he was a brave man. For morally brave he shows himself in every relation: 1. as landlord; 2. as confessor of God; 3. as man of action; and hence he receives the reward both of him who dispenses blessings and of him who receives them.

[Fuller: “This first verse presents us with two remarkable things: 1. Poor Naomi was allied to powerful Boaz2. Boaz was both a powerful man and a godly man.”—Tr.]


Verses 2-17

Ruth 2:2-17.

The Reward of Faithfulness begins.

2And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn[FN1] after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter 3 And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a [the] part of the field[FN2] belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred [family] of Elimelech 4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord [Jehovah] be with you: and they answered him, The Lord [Jehovah] bless thee 5 Then said Boaz [And Boaz said] unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? 6And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the[FN3] Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country [territories] of Moab: 7And she said, I pray you [thee], let me glean and [I will] gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that[FN4] she tarried a little in the house 8 Then said Boaz [And Boaz said] unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from 9 hence, but abide here fast by my maidens: Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou [fearlessly] after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch [molest] thee? and when thou art athirst,[FN5] go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn 10 Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge [friendly notice] of me, seeing I am a stranger? 11And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come 12 unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore 12 The Lord [Jehovah] recompense thy work, and a full [complete] reward be given thee of the Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust [seek refuge]. 13Then she said, Let me find favour[FN6] in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto [to the heart of] thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thy handmaidens 14 And Boaz said unto her, At meal-time[FN7] come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed [satisfied], and left [over]. 15And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among [between] the sheaves, and reproach her not: 16And let fall [pull out][FN8] also some of [from] the handfulls [bundles] of purpose for her, and leave them [it], that she may glean them [it], and rebuke her not 17 So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Ruth 2:2.—וַאֲלַקְּטָה בַשִּׁבֳּלִים: lit. “and glean, among the ears.” The construction is exactly parallel to that in Ruth 2:7; i. e. אֲלַקְּטָה is used absolutely, without an accus, as frequently in our Book and elsewhere. The idea Isaiah, Let me gather (sc. some ears) among those that are left lying in the field by the harvesters.—Tr.]

2 Ruth 2:3.—חֶלְקַת הַשָּׂדֶה: “the field-portion,” i. e. that part of the grain-fields about Bethlehem that belonged to Boaz. “Though gardens and vineyards 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 inclosure 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” (Hackett, Illust. of Scripture, p167). In וַיִּקֶר מִקְרֶהָ, lit. “her hap happened,” מִקְרֶהָ is the subject of וַיִּקֶר, cf. Ecclesiastes 2:14. חֶלְקַת הַשָּׂדֶה is the accus. of place, cf. Ges118, 1. —Tr.]

3 Ruth 2:6.—Or: “She is a Moabitish maiden, who came back with Naomi from,” etc. This supposes that הַשָּׂבָה, Isaiah, as the accentuation makes it, and against which nothing is to be said here, the third fem. perfect, cf. the note on Ruth 1:22. Thus taken, the answer does not assume that Boaz is acquainted with the return of Naomi. The E. V. may however, be justified by taking הַשָּׁבָה as a participle, cf. Ges111, 2, a.—Tr.]

4 Ruth 2:7.—זֶה is joined by Dr. Cassel to יְעַד־אַתָּה, as adv. of time (so also Gesenius and Fürst, cf. Lexica s. v.): “and until now her resting (cf. below) in the house was little.” But this unnecessarily disturbs the accentuation. Better translate: “this her sitting in the house (הַבַּיִה, accus. of place) is but for a little” (מְעָט, adv. or accus. of time). שִׁבְתָּה זֶה is an Aramæizing of the more regular Hebrew שִׁבְתָּה הַזֶּה, cf. Ew293, b, and the Lexica, s. v. זֶה.—On וְאָסַפְתִּי, in the preceding clause, see Ges126, 6. Ruth says: Pray, permit me to glean, and and (in consequence of this permission) I will gather, etc.—Tr.]

5 Ruth 2:9.—צָמִת, from צָמֵא, but inflected as if from a form צָמָה, cf. Ges75, Rem21, c. On the use of the word as perfect, cf. on Ruth 1:12. On the perfects וְהָלַכְתְּ and וְשָׁתִית, Ges126, Rem1; and on the imperf. יִשׁאֲכיּן, Ges127, 4, b. מֵאֲשֶׁר is rendered “out of which” by Bertheau and Keil (because water-drawing was ordinarily done by women?); but in that case the more natural position of וְשָׁתִית would be after הַנְּעָרִים, thus: and out of what the young men draw (drink), drink thou (too).—Tr.]

6 Ruth 2:13.—אֶמְצָא: optative. “To take it as present indicat.: I find favor, as is done by Le Clerc and Bertheau, is not in accordance with the modesty of humility which Ruth manifests in the following words” (Keil). Nor is the word expressive of a permanent state or condition, which would justify the imperfect indicative, as is the case with the אֶהְיֶה of the next clause, cf. Ges127, 2.—Tr.]

7 Ruth 2:14.—According to the accentuation of the Masorites, these words belong to the preceding clause: “And Boaz said to her at the time of eating, Come hither,” etc. גּשִׁי, from נָגַשׁ, an anomalous form for גְּשִׁי, as גּשׁוּ for גִּשוּ, Joshua 3:9; 1 Samuel 14:38. The second accent, merca, is here, as in other instances ( Genesis 28:2; Numbers 18:23, etc.) used instead of metheg.—לָה without mappik as in Numbers 32:42; Zechariah 5:11.—Tr.]

8 Ruth 2:16.—שֹׁליתָּשֹׁלּוּ. The use of שָׂלַל in the sense “to draw out” is only a return to the original meaning of the word. It is the same word as συλάω, which also originally meant to draw out, for it was from the drawing off or stripping of their armor from the slain that it obtained the signification “to make booty, to plunder.” [On the use of the infin. const. for the absol. see Ges131, 4, Rem2.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Ruth 2:2. And Ruth, the Moabitess, said to Naomi. Naomi was manifestly in need. No one seemed to help her, nor had she the heart to ask. It is but too clear now that her lot would have been a dismal one, if at her return Ruth had not faithfully clung to her. But this young woman’s fidelity shows itself now also. As the barley-harvest is in progress, she offers to go to the field and ask for permission to glean. It was no easy offer. Ruth was probably ignorant of those provisions of the Israelitish law according to which the gleanings of the harvest-field and even a forgotten sheaf were to be left to the poor and the stranger, the widow and the orphan (cf. Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19). At least, she did not seem to expect the observance of such a custom; for she hoped to obtain permission to glean from the possible kindness of some proprietor. But at best, what a miserable task for the once happy and prosperous widow! Possibly to see herself treated as a beggar, harshly addressed or even personally maltreated by rude reapers! to pass the day in heat and distress, in order at evening, hungry and weary, to bring home a little barley! For this then she had left paternal house and land, in order in deepest misery to be perchance yet also abused as a foreigner! But the love she cherishes, makes everything easy to her. It not only gives utterance to good words, but it carries them into practice. She forgets everything, in order now to remember her filial duty to Naomi. And Naomi accepts her offer.

Go, my daughter. Until now, she has only silently endured every expression of Ruth’s self-sacrifice. She had indeed ceased to dissuade her from going with her, but she had also refrained from encouraging her. Ruth might even now, after having reached Bethlehem, experienced the poverty of her mother-in-law, and tasted the sense of strangeness in Israel, have returned to Moab. But the meekness with which, instead of this, she asks permission to encounter toil and misery for her, overcomes in Naomi too every ulterior consideration. Such a request could no longer be silently accepted; nor could it be refused. Naomi permits her to glean in the harvest-field. Nor was it an easy thing for the mother to give this consent. The remarkable characters of both women come here also nobly to view. Ruth, who has given up everything, is humble as a dutiful child, and asks for permission to give up more. Naomi, who in her highest need would accept nothing from Ruth, in order not to involve her in the same distress,—who retains her maternal authority in circumstances of want in which people generally would deem this impossible,—has no other reward for Ruth’s self-sacrificing disposition than that she is ready to accept its efforts for herself.

Ruth 2:3. And she lighted providentially on the field of Boaz. More literally: “And her lot met her on the field of Boaz.” (וַיִּקֶר, fut. apoc. from קָרָא,קָרַה, occurrere.) Ruth, as a stranger in Bethlehem, knew neither persons nor properties. She might have chanced on fields of strange and unfriendly owners. Providence so ordered it, that without knowing it, she entered the field of one who was of the family of Elimelech, and therefore also a distant relative of her deceased husband.

Ruth 2:4 ff. And behold Boaz came from Bethlehem. A finer picture of rural harvest-scenes is nowhere extant. We hear, as it were, the rustling of the reapers’ sickles.[FN9] Behind them are the women, binding the cut grain ( Ruth 2:8). The overseer’s presence promotes industry and order ( Ruth 2:5). In case of thirst, there stand the water-vessels at no great distance. The fields surround the country-house with its various outbuildings, where the weary may find a moment’s rest and refreshment. At meal-time, the laborers are supplied (as at the present day, cf. Rob. ii50), with roasted grain[FN10] and bread.[FN11] The latter they dip in a refreshing drink, consisting of vinegar and water, with perhaps some oil mixed in it.[FN12]

But rural life has not in itself that paradisaic happiness which Virgil contrasts so enthusiastically with the luxuriant and slavish life of Rome. It may perhaps be true that a country population is more patient of labor and more readily contented with small means (“patiens operum exiguoque adsueta juventus,”—Georg. ii472); but it is only when a pious and godfearing spirit rules in the hearts of proprietor and dependents that it is good to live amid the quiet scenes and rewardful toil of the country. Only then, too, is the poet’s word applicable: “the chaste dwelling preserves virtue” (casta pudicitiam servat domus).

An example of such a country life meets us here in the good times of Israel. Boaz himself, when the day has considerably advanced, comes to look after his people in the field. His greeting Isaiah, “Jehovah be with you!” Their answer, “Jehovah bless thee!” Nor is this, in his mouth, merely a customary form: the reality of his piety is manifest from his life and works. Hence, also, as the master, so the servant. The overseer knows the benignity of his master, and imitates it. This appears as soon as Boaz comes and notices the strange maiden. That he does this at once, is only a new feature in the rural picture. On the fields of Boaz, the poor were not hindered in their legal privilege of gleaning. But the proprietor knows not only his work-people, but the needy also. Ruth he had never yet seen. It may be supposed also 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. Such a one as she was must have sufficiently manifested her superiority over the female servants by the natural charm and grace of her presence, even though she dressed in the same style and engaged in similar toil. She could not fail to surprise Boaz, as he surveyed his people and their labor. He turns to his overseer with the natural inquiry, “Whose is this damsel?” It was in accordance with national custom to ask, not, “Who is this damsel”—for that was of comparatively little importance,—but, Whence is she? how comes she here? to what estate does she belong? With the overseer’s answer begins the beautiful delineation of the two principal persons of the narrative in their first meeting. The overseer knew Ruth; and it was not necessary to tell Boaz much about her, since the return of Naomi had been much talked of. But it is honorable to him that he at once recommends her by praising her diligence. Since morning she had not ceased to glean,—had scarcely rested a little in the house.[FN13] This praise of her diligence included praise of the propriety and reserve of her demeanor. She was very unlike other gleaners. Those were apt to chatter and do many other things beside that for which they came.

Ruth 2:8. And Boaz said to Ruth, Go not to glean in another field. The interest of Boaz, who had already heard of the Moabitess, especially as Naomi was at least something more to him than an entire stranger,—a fact either unknown to the overseer, or which, like a good and sagacious servant, he discreetly passed over,—could not but increase by reason of the praise bestowed on Ruth. He therefore went to her, to speak with her personally. In the case of another maiden of whom he had heard similar good reports, he would have given a few favorable directions concerning her to his overseer. But here he was met by various peculiar considerations. Was it Naomi, the widow of a relative of his, who was forced to lay claim to the widow’s rights in the harvest-fields of Israel, or was it the Moabitess, who, for having attached herself with all her heart to Israel, now com manded the favor of the Israelite? Both these thoughts are at work in the noble mind of Boaz. He recognizes the existence of a certain relationship, the benefit of which is due to Ruth. It is not a common maid-servant who stands before him. Had he been actuated by the spirit of modern sentimentality, he would probably have been ashamed of her. He would have offered her a piece of money, and sent her away, that it might not become known that this Moabitish beggar is his relative! He would at all events not have allowed her to go on gleaning! But according to the ancient delicate and religious view, he cannot act thus. Nothing has been asked of him; consequently, he has no right to wound the self-respect of others. The privilege of gleaning belongs of right to the widow and the stranger. It is not well that she needs it; but needing it, he cannot hinder her from using it. Even while he admits her relationship, he can only support her in this right, and enlarge its advantages. And this is what he does. Ruth had modestly gleaned at a distance from the reapers and binders.[FN14] He calls her nearer, and says: “Go not to glean in another field.” In these words he acknowledges the first degree of the interest to which his relationship binds him. Both for her sake—for would she everywhere have such favorable opportunities to glean as he gave her?—and also for his own! That which is a benefit to her, is also seemly with respect to himself as related to her, in order that Elimelech’s daughter-in-law may not wander from field to field like one utterly helpless.

Nor go from hence, but keep here, with my maidens. He has called her to him where he stands, near the reapers. Only on this supposition are these words intelligible. Immediately behind the reapers, came the maidens who bound the grain. The gleaner who was allowed to approach nearest the latter, had the best opportunity. Ruth had hitherto kept back, which perhaps allowed others to anticipate her and take away the best. Boaz bids her come close up to the binders, and to stay there.[FN15] He allows her to glean indeed, but he makes her gleaning more productive.

Ruth 2:9. Keep thine eyes on the field that they reap, and go after them, etc. He takes care not only to provide her an abundant gleaning, but also to ensure the safety of her person. He is not dealing with a gleaner of the common class. Close by the reapers is no doubt a good place for finding ears, but it involves also the possibility of rude treatment. Her appearance may have been such as would not unlikely provoke the coarse jests with which such peasant laborers were perhaps in the habit of assailing women. She would prefer, therefore, as he foresees, to keep herself back, rather than work in their immediate neighborhood. Be not concerned, he says: I have already given charge that no one touch thee.[FN16] Act without fear; and when thou thirstest, go boldly and drink.

Ruth 2:10. Then she fell on her face, etc. It may be clearly seen here, that only such as can exercise love, understand how to receive it. No one is humbler than he who truly gives from love—of that Ruth is a proof; and for that reason, humility never shows itself more beautiful, than when love receives. Ruth had made the greatest sacrifices, although no one had a right to expect them from her, and is withal so unassuming, as not to look for anything from others. Most people in her place would have made the first favor shown them, the occasion for saying that in truth they were not at all used to such work. Their thanks would have been combined with complaints and accusing insinuations about the distress in which they found themselves, although they had exchanged the people and God of Moab for those of Israel. Ruth’s love did not spring from selfishness, and hence did not give birth to any proud self-consciousness. Instead of a sigh that she who had said, “thy people is my people, thy God my God,” could scarcely by weary toil procure sustenance in Israel, she utters her humble thanks to Boaz: How is it that I, a stranger, obtain such favor! Instead of taking it as a matter of course tha Boaz should especially regard (הַכִּיר)[FN17] her, being a stranger, she is so unassuming as to deem this very fact an enhancement of his kindness.

Ruth 2:11. And Boaz said, It hath been told me, etc. The answer which Boaz gives, is not simply that of the landed proprietor, but of the Israelite. He speaks out of the abundance of the faith of Israel. We feel that he acts as he does from a sense of his duty as an Israelite. The Jewish expositors have identified Boaz with Ibzan the judge ( Judges 12:8), because the latter also was of Bethlehem—manifestly the northern Bethlehem, however, and not that of Judah (cf. the Comment. on Judges). But in enunciating such opinions, they have their eyes more on the spirit than on the historical facts. They only felt themselves bound to point out that, since Boaz, like other Judges, is said to have been a “valiant hero,” and is evidently rich and highly esteemed, he must also have exercised the functions of the judge. Literally, this cannot be maintained; for, had it been the case, our Book would not have been silent on the subject. But during the Song of Solomon -called period of the Judges, there were certainly other able men in Israel than the heroes mentioned in the Book of Judges, who filled the office of judge in their cities (cf Com. on Judges 2:16); and Boaz would certainly furnish us with a beautiful likeness of one of these. In his words, at least, there is undeniably the breathing of a pious, national consciousness, such as becomes an Israelitish family-head and hero in the presence of a recent proselyte to his faith and people.

All that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law, etc. The words of Boaz here clearly state what, in accordance with the delicacy of ancient narration, was not expressly said above. Ruth has nowhere hinted that she was showing kindness to her mother-in-law in going with her to Israel. All she said, was, “I will not leave thee.” When Naomi arrives at Bethlehem, and everybody is eager with curiosity, the lamentations in which she breaks out are indeed recorded, but not the words in which she praised her daughter-in-law. Nevertheless, she fully appreciated what Ruth did for her. This was the very reason why she at first refused to accept her sacrifice. Afterwards, however, she gratefully recounted her obligations to her daughter-in-law, but, as discreet minds are wont to do, behind her back. Boaz could have derived his knowledge only from narrations proceeding from Naomi herself.

The merit which Boaz imputes to Ruth is of a twofold nature. Induced by affection, she has left the highest possessions of life. She was no orphan, she was not homeless; she had what she needed, but left all, and that for something unknown, the value of which she was not able to estimate. “Thou earnest,” he says, “to a people which yesterday[FN18] and the day before yesterday (i. e.formerly) thou didst not know.” How? had she not known her family, Naomi, and her own husband, who were of Israel? But this family lived in Moab, where Israel’s law was not in force. The national usages and institutions which had been impressed upon Israel by Israel’s God, she did not know. And notwithstanding this, she had said, “Thy people is my people, thy God my God.”

Ruth 2:12. Jehovah recompense thy work. As Boaz praises a double merit in Ruth, so he gives a double form to his wish for her. First he says, generally, “Jehovah recompense thy work.” Independently of Naomi’s connection with Israel, Ruth’s love for her mother-in-law, for whose sake she has left parents and native land, deserves the reward of God. But she came to Israel with Naomi, and for her sake has trustfully connected herself with a people whose laws she did not know, and whose character she has only seen mirrored forth in her husband and his mother. For this love and trust may Jehovah, the God of Israel, as he expressly adds, reward thee! Jehovah is known in Israel. Whoever accepts him, may build on Him. He covers with his wings, him who confides in Him and sets his hopes on Him ( Psalm 91:1 ff.), Ruth has come trustfully expecting to be able to live in Israel with Naomi. She has brought nothing with her; has left everything. They have come, both poor; and have scarcely what is necessary to sustain life. Nevertheless, for her love’s sake, she dared to make the God of Israel her God. Like Abraham, leaving all, she went abroad. And as to Abraham God said, “I am thy great reward” ( Genesis 15:1), so Boaz wishes that God may be to her a full reward. A “full reward,” abundant as her love, so that she shall miss nothing, but recover all; and so that in her it may be seen, how those are entertained who shelter themselves beneath His wings. Boaz does not discourse as one would speak to a Moabitish beggar. Having heard who she Isaiah, he looks upon her with eyes full of joy over her pious actions. He speaks to her as a priest and prophet. And since he spoke from the enthusiasm of piety, and she was deserving, his words found fulfillment. She received a reward which was not only full, but which completed and wholly filled her, all of which is implied in the words יְשַלֵּם and שְׁלֵמָה.

Ruth 2:13 ff. May I find favor in thy sight; for thou hast comforted me. The impression of the words of Boaz must have been very grateful to the humble mind of Ruth. It was the first sunbeam that broke through the grief and tears of many weeks. Hitherto, she had tasted only parting sorrow. She had suffered at the grave of her husband, suffered on the way from the land which held the dwelling of her parents, and her sufferings were not yet at an end when she reached Israel. There she had hitherto suffered from the sense of loneliness. Everybody talked of her as the “Moabitess.” She was poor to beggary. Now, for the first time, she is addressed about the God of Israel and his grace, and hears the voice of blessing from one of that people with members of which she has endured so much. The full import of his words her humble heart does not presume to appropriate. But the kindliness and benevolence of the speaker’s voice, is for her like the sound of a bubbling spring in the desert to the thirsty. I have long been sad, she intends to say; thou hast comforted me. I look for no reward; but thou hast spoken to the heart of thy servant, that was full of grief and anguish. Her phraseology also indicates her sincere humility. “May I find favor in thy sight,” she says, by way of humble introduction to her grateful acknowledgment of the comfort he has imparted to her. It is a formula expressive of the reverence she feels for Boaz. She invokes his favor, that she may tell him how his words have refreshed her. Whoever has, like her, left everything, in order to live in Israel, will feel that the highest and best utterance she could make, when for the first time she tasted the kindness of Israel, was gratitude for the comfort experienced. A word of love comes on a loving heart like hers, long afflicted by sorrow, like morning dews on a thirsty field.

And yet I am not as one of thy handmaidens.[FN19] No one can speak so well and beautifully as an unassuming person. Ruth manifests no consciousness of having done anything special. Boaz she thinks is doubtless equally kind and good to all his people. So much the more is it her part to be grateful that he has also been kind to her, who does not, as they, belong to his household, nor even to his people. It might be thought strange that Boaz. says nothing to her of his relationship to her husband. But if he thought of it, he purposely kept silent about it. He showed her kindness, not because she was distantly related to him, but solely because of her excellence. In the case of one like Ruth, he needed not the remembrance of kinship to stir him up to take interest in her. It was not as the widow of his kinsman that he distinguished her with special favor, but as one who had taken refuge under the wings of Israel’s God. Ruth likewise did not know what Boaz was to her husband’s family; nor had she wasted a word to make him aware that she had ever been more than a maid-servant, which, had she done, might have brought their relationship to speech.

The answer of Ruth raised her still higher in the esteem of Boaz. He is not satisfied with the provisions already made in her behalf. He bids her join in the common meal, and helps her to a portion of everything on hand. Nor is he satisfied to let her have merely a common gleaning. He orders that now and then some ears be intentionally drawn out of the “bundles” and left for her to gather up. This last injunction he gives to the workmen themselves, not merely to the overseer.

It is interesting also to notice the different expressions in which he forbids any rude treatment of Ruth by the workpeople. Above, in Ruth 2:9, he told them not to “touch” her. In Ruth 2:15, where she receives permission also to glean between the sheaves, he tells them not to “shame” her, in other words, to say things to her that would make her blush, whether they referred to her nationality or to the special favor by which she was directed to glean close behind the reapers. In Ruth 2:16, finally, having ordered the people even to pull ears out of the bundles for her, he charges them not to “speak harshly” to her (גָּעַר), or to scold her, on account of the extra trouble which this order might occasion them. It is necessary to distinguish carefully between עֹמֶר and צֶבֶת. The former is the sheaf, already bound by the maid-servants, and lying on the ground; the latter,[FN20] is the bundle as “taken up” and still held in the arm, manipulus.

Amid all the unusual favors bestowed on her, Ruth does not cease for a moment to be herself. Boaz reached or caused to be reached to her an abundance of roasted ears. She eats and is satisfied—this is stated in order to indicate the abundant supply; the remainder she carefully takes up to carry home. She never thinks only of herself. After the meal,—at which it is appropriate[FN21] to suppose Boaz to be present,—gleaning is an easier task than before his coming; she finds ears in plenty, but not on that account does she cease the sooner. She gleans till evening, takes the pains, too, to beat out what she has gathered, and carries home a plentiful harvest, almost an ephah. It is impossible to ascertain the quantity, still less its weight, exactly, but it was considerable, say fifty-five pounds.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Let me go to the field and glean ears of corn.” Ruth manifested her confession of the God of Israel not merely by words: she testifies her love also by deeds. She is inclined to work for Naomi as well as to live with her. She not only learned to pray to God with her, but she will also beg for her among men. Accordingly, Naomi, in her poverty, is not maintained by the friends of her family, but by the love of her proselyte daughter-in-law. What Ruth had never done in Moab,—the hard service of begging at the hands of men, and of gleaning in the hot days of harvest-time in the midst of vulgar surroundings,—that she freely offers to do in Israel. As proselyte she felt herself compelled to what as heathen she had never had need of. Had a sister Moabitess met her in this employment, and inquired what it was that could urge her to it, she would have answered her as Elger von Hohenstein did his brother, who finding him, away from his castle and its life of ease, engaged in taking care of the poor, exclaimed, “Alas, my brother, what are you doing? what distress compels you to this?” “Sir brother mine,” was the answer, “distress compels me not; but the love of Christ my Lord constrains me.”

Here also Ruth is the great type of all true conversion in the history of the Christian Church. While Pharisees and priests were too dull to recognize the light of Christ, the apostles whom he had won to himself, constrained by love, labored for their nation, and were willing to be banished and to suffer, if only they might win some. While in Southern Europe, in the old cities of the Roman Empire, the love of Christians had become cold, the new-won proselytes from Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and German heathendom went forth, and in the heat of conflict and suffering, gleaned rich harvests for their Lord in the North and East.

Enough has never been done in the way of seeking to win and train converts by the force of example and doctrine. Of example, indeed, they have often seen too much. Everything that has ever been done for them, and which is sometimes made matter of disguised boasting, is not equal to what a single proselyte, burning with love for the kingdom of his Lord, has suffered and accomplished.

Starke: “To begin a good work is glorious; but to continue in it, notwithstanding all inducements to apostasy, is godly.”

True love can never fail in its purpose, although success may tarry long. Ruth had been married ten years in Moab, before she could say, “Thy God is my God.” But now only a few harvest-days elapsed, and the favor of God, exerting itself through a genuine Israelite, overspread her. Failure always has its ground in the spirit of the purpose. If that spirit be love rooted in God, as in Ruth, it will not be disappointed. Hence, the surest sign of love is gentle and thankful patience.

Chrysostom: “Observe that what happened to Ruth is analogous with what happened to us. For she was a stranger, and had fallen into the extremest distress; but Boaz, when he saw her, neither despised her poverty, nor contemned the lowliness of her family. So Christ took up the Church, and chose the stranger, who lacked the most necessary possessions, for his bride. But as Ruth would never have attained to such a union, had she not previously left her parents and given up people, home, and kindred, so the Church also does not become dear and deserving in the eyes of her Bridegroom, until she has left her ancestral (heathen) morals and customs.”

Boaz came from Bethlehem and said unto the reapers,” etc. A true believer is also the best employer. He greets them, “Jehovah be with you!” They answer, “Jehovah bless thee!” Living faith in God is the best bond between master and workman, preventing a wrongful use of power on the one side, and presumptuous insubordination on the other. Not as if the servants of Boaz were free from the rude manners so generally characteristic of their class; but the just demeanor of their master, refined by humility, controlled them. Where a pious and brave spirit like that of Boaz pervades the community, social questions and crises do not arise. For external laws can never restrain the inward cravings of the natural man. But where the landed proprietor, in his relations to his people, is governed by other principles than those of self-interest, and cares also for their moral and religious development; where, further, the laborer understands that an increase in wages is not necessarily an increase of peace and happiness; where, in a word, the consciousness of an omnipresent God regulates the uprightness and care of the one, and the honesty and devotion of the other, there no artificial solutions of conflicts between capital and labor will be required. Boaz lives in God, and therefore knows what duties of faith and love are obligatory upon him.

Starke: “If God be with work-people, and if they are reverently mindful of his omnipresence, they will be preserved from idleness and unfaithfulness, and restrained from all sorts of frivolous and offensive babble; and such labor draws after it God’s especial blessing.”

Jehovah, the God of Israel, give thee a complete reward.” Boaz finds that Ruth has come to glean on his field. He had not yet seen, but had heard of her. But now, seeing her diligence, but also her neediness, he yet does not speak to her as a rich man to one on whom he bestows an alms, nor as one relative to another, but, before all else, as an Israelite to one who has come to shelter herself under the wings of Israel’s God. The Israelitish proprietor speaks like a priest of Jehovah. Before all his people, he blesses her in her confession of his God. He announces to her prophetically the reward of her love. And his word was fulfilled, for, as a church-father expresses it, “every believer, in spirit and in truth, is a prophet.” Boaz presents a beautiful contrast with Ruth; with him, love comes of faith. The chief and special reason why he does good to her, Isaiah, that she is a guest in Israel, a dove under Jehovah’s protection,—that love has made her a believer. His religion has the uppermost place in his soul. It gives birth to his works—it makes him conscious of his duty as an Israelite. It gives him also that delicacy of perception which enables him to sympathize with the anxiety, lonesomeness, and isolation, which attend an entrance into a new land, among a new people. Only a genuine believer is truly discreet. Refinement of the heart springs only of faith. There may be a lack of courtly manners; but the most elevated style of intercourse with men, and the truest politeness, are the natural outgrowth of a disposition permeated with the humility of the gospel of truth.

Starke: “This also is given to pious souls by God, that being devoted to him, he often secretly, and even without their becoming aware of it, impels them to this or that good action.” The same: “A meritorious person may well enough be informed that his merits, or whatever there be worthy of praise and love about him, are recognized and properly estimated.”

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Ruth 2:2.—וַאֲלַקְּטָה בַשִּׁבֳּלִים: lit. “and glean, among the ears.” The construction is exactly parallel to that in Ruth 2:7; i. e. אֲלַקְּטָה is used absolutely, without an accus, as frequently in our Book and elsewhere. The idea Isaiah, Let me gather (sc. some ears) among those that are left lying in the field by the harvesters.—Tr.]

FN#2 - Ruth 2:3.—חֶלְקַת הַשָּׂדֶה: “the field-portion,” i. e. that part of the grain-fields about Bethlehem that belonged to Boaz. “Though gardens and vineyards 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 inclosure 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” (Hackett, Illust. of Scripture, p167). In וַיִּקֶר מִקְרֶהָ, lit. “her hap happened,” מִקְרֶהָ is the subject of וַיִּקֶר, cf. Ecclesiastes 2:14. חֶלְקַת הַשָּׂדֶה is the accus. of place, cf. Ges118, 1. —Tr.]

FN#3 - Ruth 2:6.—Or: “She is a Moabitish maiden, who came back with Naomi from,” etc. This supposes that הַשָּׂבָה, Isaiah, as the accentuation makes it, and against which nothing is to be said here, the third fem. perfect, cf. the note on Ruth 1:22. Thus taken, the answer does not assume that Boaz is acquainted with the return of Naomi. The E. V. may however, be justified by taking הַשָּׁבָה as a participle, cf. Ges111, 2, a.—Tr.]

FN#4 - Ruth 2:7.—זֶה is joined by Dr. Cassel to יְעַד־אַתָּה, as adv. of time (so also Gesenius and Fürst, cf. Lexica s. v.): “and until now her resting (cf. below) in the house was little.” But this unnecessarily disturbs the accentuation. Better translate: “this her sitting in the house (הַבַּיִה, accus. of place) is but for a little” (מְעָט, adv. or accus. of time). שִׁבְתָּה זֶה is an Aramæizing of the more regular Hebrew שִׁבְתָּה הַזֶּה, cf. Ew293, b, and the Lexica, s. v. זֶה.—On וְאָסַפְתִּי, in the preceding clause, see Ges126, 6. Ruth says: Pray, permit me to glean, and and (in consequence of this permission) I will gather, etc.—Tr.]

FN#5 - Ruth 2:9.—צָמִת, from צָמֵא, but inflected as if from a form צָמָה, cf. Ges75, Rem21, c. On the use of the word as perfect, cf. on Ruth 1:12. On the perfects וְהָלַכְתְּ and וְשָׁתִית, Ges126, Rem1; and on the imperf. יִשׁאֲכיּן, Ges127, 4, b. מֵאֲשֶׁר is rendered “out of which” by Bertheau and Keil (because water-drawing was ordinarily done by women?); but in that case the more natural position of וְשָׁתִית would be after הַנְּעָרִים, thus: and out of what the young men draw (drink), drink thou (too).—Tr.]

FN#6 - Ruth 2:13.—אֶמְצָא: optative. “To take it as present indicat.: I find favor, as is done by Le Clerc and Bertheau, is not in accordance with the modesty of humility which Ruth manifests in the following words” (Keil). Nor is the word expressive of a permanent state or condition, which would justify the imperfect indicative, as is the case with the אֶהְיֶה of the next clause, cf. Ges127, 2.—Tr.]

FN#7 - Ruth 2:14.—According to the accentuation of the Masorites, these words belong to the preceding clause: “And Boaz said to her at the time of eating, Come hither,” etc. גּשִׁי, from נָגַשׁ, an anomalous form for גְּשִׁי, as גּשׁוּ for גִּשוּ, Joshua 3:9; 1 Samuel 14:38. The second accent, merca, is here, as in other instances ( Genesis 28:2; Numbers 18:23, etc.) used instead of metheg.—לָה without mappik as in Numbers 32:42; Zechariah 5:11.—Tr.]

FN#8 - Ruth 2:16.—שֹׁליתָּשֹׁלּוּ. The use of שָׂלַל in the sense “to draw out” is only a return to the original meaning of the word. It is the same word as συλάω, which also originally meant to draw out, for it was from the drawing off or stripping of their armor from the slain that it obtained the signification “to make booty, to plunder.” [On the use of the infin. const. for the absol. see Ges131, 4, Rem2.—Tr.]

FN#9 - Cf. Homer, Il. xviii550, in the description of the shield of Achilles: “On it he also graved a field thick with grain, and there with sharp sickles reapers plied their task.”

FN#10 - The following remarks on parched corn are from Dr. Thomson’s The land and the Book (ii510): “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 burnel off. The grain is thus sufficiently roasted to be eaten, and it is a favorite article all over the country. When travelling in harvest-time, my muleteers have very often thus prepared parched corn in the evenings after the tent has been pitched. Nor is the gathering of these green ears for parching ever regarded as stealing. After it has been roasted, it is rubbed out in the hand and eaten as there is occasion.”—Tr.]

FN#11 - Which they probably consumed under the shade of beautiful trees, as in Goethe’s picture (Herm. u. Doroth.): “It (a tree of which he is speaking) was visible far and wide: under it the reapers were accustomed to enjoy their noonday meal.”

FN#12 - In describing his servitude in Egypt, M. Heberer says (Rosenmüller, Morgenland, iii68): “It is truly incredible how the biscuit, eaten with vinegar and oil, strengthens the weary and exhausted system and restores its powers.” The drink of the Roman soldiers, called posca, consisted of water and vinegar. Hadrian, to encourage his troops, used it himself (Spartian. Vit. Hadr. ch. x). Of a different nature is the food which in Virgil (Ecl. ii10) is prepared for the reapers (rapido ferris messoribus œstu) and others, with garlic and thyme. Some other learned observations see in Serarius, Quœst. xxiv. p738.

FN#13 - שִׁבְתָּהּ הַבַּיִת. The allusion can only be to a field-building, since otherwise her sitting in it could not be known to the laborers. And as the “sitting” forms a contrast with her laboring, it must be taken in the sense of “resting.” In the Sept. rendering ἐν ἀγρῷ, ἀγρός, stands for a building in the field, villa, castra in agro.

FN#14 - There is a difference when, according to Ruth 2:7, she gleans near the sheaves, after the reapers, אַהֲרֵי הַקּוֹצְרִים בָּצֳמָרּים, and when, in Ruth 2:15, she is allowed to glean “between the sheaves,” בִּין הָעָמָרִים, among the reapers.

FN#15 - The words לֹא־תַצֲבוּרִי מִזֶּה [on the form תַּצֲבוּרִי, cf. Ges47, Rem1] would be a useless repetition, if they did not express the idea that she is not to leave the place where she now stands before him (and whither he probably caused her to be called), as being favorable to her success.

FN#16 - Dr. Thomson, The Land and the Book, ii510, explains the charge of Boaz to the reapers in almost the same language as our author, and adds: “Such precautions 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.”—Tr.]

FN#17 - It is remarkable that this belongs to the same root with כָכְרִי, “stranger,” which also occurs in the address of Ruth. In the Hiph. הַכִּיר, and the adject, form כָכְרי, the two offshoots of the radical signification appear in juxtaposition to each other, as in the German unterscheiden (to distinguish) and ausscheiden (to separate).

FN#18 - תִּמוֹל is an abbreviation of אֶתְמוֹל. The explanation becomes clearer by comparison with other languages. The Greek χθές (ἐχθές), the Latin heri (hesternus), and the German gestern (Goth. gistra), may all be recognized in the Sanskrit hjas (Benf. ii208). Jas (in hjas) Isaiah, “the day,” and the h is the demonstrative article pointing backward, cf. Lat. ille; so that hjas, and the other cognate forms, signify, “that day,” i. e. “the former day.” The formation of אֶתְמוֹל is analogous. מוּל (מוֹל) is equivalent to “former,” while אֶת, as pronoun, “that,” indicates the defined former day, yesterday.

FN#19 - Keil: “With this clause she restricts the expression ‘thy handmaid,’ which she has just used: ‘thou hast spoken to the heart of thy handmaid.’ ”—Tr.]

FN#20 - But neither are צָבַה (צֶבֶה) and צָבַט ( Ruth 2:14), both, of which words occur only here in Hebrew, to be referred to the same radical signification, as has been done, [e. g. by Fürst (in Lex.), who renders Ruth 2:14 : “and they bound together for her parched ears of corn (in bundles):” and declares the meaning “to reach out,” after the Targ. אוֹשִׁיט, to be merely conjectural.—Tr.] The one comes from a root which means “to give,” the other from one which means “to take.” The first is cognate with the Arabic dhabatha, to take, to lay hold of with the hand hence a “handfull,” manipulus (cf. Il. 11:69). The other is to be compared with the Greek δαπ-άνη, expense, “out-give,” cf. δίδωμι, Sanskrit dadami, dare.

FN#21 - And necessary, too, if we follow the Masoretic accentuation, according to which Boaz himself calls Ruth at meal-time: “Come hit her.” Cf. note under the text.—Tr.]


Verses 18-23

Ruth 2:18-23

The Beginning of the Blessing

18And she took it up, and went [came] into the city: and her mother-in-law saw[FN22] what she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved19[left over] after she was sufficed [satisfied]. 19And her mother-in-law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to-day? and where wroughtest[FN23] thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge [friendly notice] of thee. And she shewed her mother-in-law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man’s name with whom I wrought to-day is Boaz 20 And Naomi said unto her daughter-in-law, Blessed be he of the Lord [Jehovah], who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead.[FN24] And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin [related, lit. near, i.e. near, not in comparison with other relatives, but with men in general] unto us, one of our next kinsmen [one of our redeemers]. 21And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me also,[FN25] Thou shalt keep fast by my young men [by my people], until they have ended all my harvest 22 And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter-in-law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out [only] with his maidens, that they meet [maltreat] thee not in any other field 23 So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley-harvest and of wheat-harvest; and dwelt [and then she abode, remained] with her mother-in-law.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Ruth 2:18.—וַתֵּרֶא תֲמוֹתָהּ: Wright points the first word as Hiph, וַתַּרְא, “and she showed.” “So we prefer to read, following the Vulg, Syr, and Arab. It is rather harsh with the ordinary punctuation to make תֲמֹתָהּ the nom. to וַתֵּרֶא (so pointed by the majority of MSS.), when Ruth is the subject of all the verbs that precede and of those that follow immediately after. Two of Kennicott and De Rossi’s MSS. read אֶת־חֲמֹתָהּ, which would seem to Imply a reading וַתַּרְא; but while two of my own MSS. have the reading אֶת־חֲמֹתָהּ, either by first or second hand, the verb is pointed as ordinarily, וַתֵּרֶא.” The absence of אֵת does not prove that תֲמוֹתָהּ is not an accus, cf. Ges117, 2.—Tr.]

2 Ruth 2:19.—עָשִׂית: used absolutely for “to labor,” as in Proverbs 30:13; Job 23:9. Dr. Cassel translates: “und woher hast du (dies) geschafft,” i.e. “and where (woher, whence, freely for wo, where) didst thou procure (עָשִׂית, acquire, make, cf. Genesis 31:1; 2 Samuel 15:1), this?” But, 1, in this sense the verb could hardly be left without an abject; and, 2, the word must have the same sense here in the question which it has in the answer in the next clause. Wright prefers to render “where hast thou stayed,” i.e. spent the time, עֵת being understood (cf. Ecclesiastes 6:12 and the phrase ποιεῖν χρόνον, Acts 15:33). But when the talk is of gleaning, it is certainly more natural for Ruth to say, “the man with whom (on whose fields) I worked to-day is Boaz,” than “the man with whom I spent my time to-day,” etc. Wright says that “Gesenius in the Lex. Man. prefers this rendering.” It is not impossible that Ges. may have varied in different editions; but he has no such preference in the sixth edit. of his German Handwörterbuch, nor in Robinson’s transl. of his Lat. Lex. Man.—In אָנָה, the force of ה local is lost, as in לַיִל=לַיְלָה,אֶרֶץ=אֵרְצָה.—Tr.]

3 Ruth 2:20.—וְאֶה־הַחַיִּים וְאֶת־הַמֵּיהּים. “with reference to the living and the dead.” Accusatives of the objects to which the kindness is done, cf. Ges139, 2. “The verb עַזַב is here construed with a double accusative; for if אֵת were used as a preposition, it would have to be מֵאֵת as we find מעם in Genesis 24:27” (Keil).—מִנֹּאֲלֵכוּ according to Ges. (Lex. s. v. גָּאַל and מִן) is a sg. noun, מִגֹּאֵל, with the plur. suff. of first person = “our second goel.” But as no such word is found elsewhere, and as there is no real difficulty in the way, the form in the text is to be taken as script. defect. for מִגֹּאֲלֵיכוּ, and rendered “one of (on מן in this sense, cf. Ges154, 3, c) our redeemers.”—Tr.]

4 Ruth 2:21.—גַּם: not “even Song of Solomon, i.e. may he be blessed, as you hare said” (Wright), which with the following “for (כִּי) he said to me,” etc, would make but a mercenary amen to Naomi’s prayer, to say nothing of the fact that by the intervention of another clause the prayer is too far away; but, “also!” as we say, “more! I have not told you all; for he said,” etc, cf. Ges155, 2, a.—On the periphrastic genitives of the verse, cf. Ges115, 1.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Ruth 2:18 f. And her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. Naomi looked with astonishment at the large quantity brought home by Ruth; and her amazement increased when Ruth in addition produced and gave her the remains of her dinner. To this astonishment she gives utterance by asking, “Where hast thou been? in whose fields canst thou have been at work?” Piety, however, does more than indulge in curiosity simply. The natural heart would have rejoiced, received, enjoyed, and inquired just as Naomi did, but withal with no thought except of self. She, on the contrary, before her inquiries are answered, induced simply by the abundance of the gifts and the manifest happiness of Ruth, blesses the giver. For this she needs not to know who he is. Whoever treated Ruth kindly and loaded her with presents, must have designed to indicate his appreciation of her lot and her virtues. He must know what Ruth has done, seeing he manifested so much solicitude for her, a Moabitess. “Blessed be he who has taken special notice[FN26] of thee!” It had been a hard thing for her to send Ruth out for such work. The man who has treated her dear child so kindly that she comes home, not only enriched with presents, but also cheerful and happy, deserves a blessing, and that before she knows anything more. This done, Ruth has opportunity to relate the particulars of her good fortune, and finally gives the name of the man who has befriended her, namely, Boaz. She could not know what a consolation and joy the utterance of this name conveyed to Naomi.

Ruth 2:20. Blessed be he of Jehovah, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. This peculiar exclamation of Naomi on hearing the name of Boaz is undoubtedly worthy of more careful attention than it has hitherto received. Light is thrown upon it by a passage in the history of Abraham. Eliezer has come to Aram, to procure a wife for Isaac from among Abraham’s kindred. He is aware of the great importance which his master attaches to his mission. Arrived at the well outside of the city of his destination, he prays that Jehovah would so “order” it (הַקְרֵה־נָא, Genesis 24:12), that he may there meet with the one appointed to answer the wishes of his master. And, in fact, it turns out that the affable maiden who draws water for himself and his camels, is Rebecca, the daughter of Bethuel, Abraham’s nephew. The desired “ordering” has been vouchsafed, and the astonished Eliezer exclaims, “Blessed be Jehovah.… who hath not left off his kindness,” etc. (לֹא עָזַב חַסְדּוֹ, precisely the same expression as in our passage).

A similar providence has happened to Ruth (ויִּקֶר מִקרֶהָ, Ruth 2:3). Without knowing what field to select, she lights on that of Boaz. Without knowing who he Isaiah, she is favored by him. Naomi recognizes God’s hand in this, even more profoundly than Eliezer did. It is to be remembered that above ( Ruth 1:13; Ruth 1:20, etc.) she has repeatedly lamented that God’s hand is against her, that God has inflicted sorrow upon her. She has indicated that in her view this fate comes upon her because she—or properly her husband and sons, although she does not say this—went to Moab. In the wonderful providence which made Ruth find a friend in Boaz, the rich relative of her husband, she feels herself justified to find an indication that God is once more gracious to her, and has not left off his kindness. If now it was through the fault of her dear departed ones that she had hitherto experienced distress, then it also follows that, since God’s goodness again manifests itself so conspicuously, his anger against those must likewise be come to an end. For that reason, she speaks of his kindness not only to the living but also to the dead. For these had died through the same sin which had brought suffering on herself. Hence, God’s help to her in her suffering, is a manifestation of his unwearied grace toward both the living and the dead.

But it is certainly proper to find a yet farther meaning in these words. Independently of the special history of the family of Elimelech, this utterance of Naomi concerning God’s kindness to the living and the dead, must have its absolute and general application. Indeed, it must be assumed that in using it, Naomi only applied a generally employed formula to her special case. When one says of God that “He does not leave off his kindness,” he thereby praises him as the God of pardoning love; as the God who, though He tarry long, hears at last, and does not leave the penitent forsaken. In this shorter form, the expression was appropriate in the above-mentioned passage from Abraham’s history. For Eliezer is in perplexity, and knows not well how to perform his task. But it was especially appropriate in the mouth of Naomi, who had thought herself wholly forsaken of God. And hence, it would seem natural to think that if the saying had not already been current in a fixed form, Naomi would have contented herself with saying, “Jehovah who hath not left off his kindness toward us,” or “toward the widowed and the poor,” etc. The kindness of God “toward the living and the dead,” is the most general form of which the saying is susceptible. Now, that God does not leave off his kindness toward the living, is evident to believers from the history of every individual human being, of Israel, and of the world in general ( Psalm 53:4). The very existence of the world testifies of mercy that never ceases, of love that is never embittered. But wherein is his “kindness toward the dead” manifested? If these words do not presuppose the immortality of the soul, as an article of Israelitish faith, what meaning can they have? Although Naomi, reassured by the benevolent actions of Boaz, may regain confidence in God’s mercy toward herself, she surely cannot speak of them as kindness to the dead, if the dead have no longer any being. In that case, the actions of Boaz, however viewed, are and continue to be kindness to the living only. God could indeed release the living from the consequences of the guilt of the dead; but when in one and the same mercy He is said to show kindness to the latter as well as to the former, this can have its ground only in the presupposition that the grave ends but this earthly state of existence. Bertheau and Keil both explain, in the same words, that God, “by his care for the widows, showed himself merciful to the husband and sons even after their death.” But how can mercy be shown to such as exist no longer? It would never occur to any one to speak or think of that as a mercy to the dead, which, in whatever light it be put, is just mercy to the living, and nothing more. No; we have in this exclamation of Naomi a significant indication of the consciousness of the immortality of the soul which existed in Israel. It had its natural basis in that very mercy of God which does not cease. In this mercy the history of Israel in the world and in the domain of the spirit originated and lives. The Sadducaic doctrine was raised on no other foundation than an Epicurean negation of history. On the enduring mercy of God toward the living and the dead, rests our Saviour’s great answer ( Matthew 22:32): “God is not a God of the dead, but of the living.”

Ruth 2:21 f. The man is related to us. Naomi, observing the astonishment of Ruth at her exclamation, explains the reason of it. (The “redeemer,” גּוֹאֵל will be treated of farther on.) That Ruth had been directed to the field of a blood-relative, seemed to her a sufficiently great mercy. For from all that Ruth had told her, it was evident that she was there well and securely situated. The fear lest Ruth might meet with rude treatment in the harvest-fields, must have been one of Naomi’s chief anxieties. Ruth, having learned who Boaz Isaiah, now adds, as if she now understood the reason of it, what is not expressly brought out in the foregoing conversation, namely, that Boaz had given her permission to keep with his people (נְעָרִים) during the whole harvest-season. And it testifies again of the loving solicitude with which Naomi, like a tender mother, thinks for Ruth, that, as soon as she hears the latter repeat the words of Boaz about keeping with his נְעָרִים (people, masc.[FN27]), she at once rejoins: “Good, my daughter, go with his maidens (נַעַרוֹתָיו), that they injure thee not in any other field.” She has in all this as yet no other thoughts than those of joy and gratitude toward God, that He has so ordered it as to direct Ruth to a relative on whose estate she can glean safely and profitably through the entire harvest, and thus provide the sustenance of both for a whole year. The great question, how to live, was by this providential intervention answered. The fear of want was dissipated and that without insult or shame. While all other means of help failed Naomi, she was first comforted by the love of her daughter-in-law, then upheld by her self-sacrifice, and finally saved from want by the fame of her virtues. Amid the sorrows that befell her in Moab, Naomi, as she herself acknowledged, was not altogether free from blame, for she too had gone thither; only Ruth of all the family had nothing to repent of; and it was through her that God now showed that He had not left off his kindness to the living and the dead.

Ruth 2:23. So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz unto the end of the harvest. It is manifestly not without design that it is added concerning Ruth, that she continued with the maidens throughout the harvest-season. Her diligence did not relax from what it was the first day, although she now knew more than then. Her demeanor was modest and unassuming as ever, so that she returned to the field not otherwise than as she had left it. Her eyes were on the field; and to provide for her mother-in-law continued to be her only solicitude. Boaz had opportunity enough to observe this. He daily saw her gentle and virtuous conduct. Externally and internally, she was no longer a stranger to him. He doubtless found opportunities to show her favors. After an acquaintance so long and hearty, the narrative of chap 3 is happily introduced.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

[“Blessed be he that took kindly notice of thee.” Fuller: “Learn we from hence, upon the sight of a good deed, to bless the doer thereof, though by name unknown unto us. And let us take heed that we do not recant and recall our prayers, after that we come to the knowledge of his name; as some do, who, when they see a laudable work, willingly commend the doer of it; but after they come to know the author’s name (especially if they be prepossessed with a private spleen against him), they fall then to derogate and detract from the action, quarrelling with it as done out of ostentation, or some other sinister end.”

Bp. Hall: “If the rich can exchange their alms with the poor for blessings, they have no cause to complain of an ill bargain.”

Kindness to the dead.” The following remarks, though based on an interpretation which Dr. Cassel decidedly, and in so far as it assumes to be exhaustive, probably justly rejects, may nevertheless suggest a very true and useful line of thought. Its entire exclusion by our author is certainly an error. Nothing is more natural or universal than the feeling that kindness done to those left behind by the dead is kindness done to the dead themselves; but it may well be asked whether this feeling is rooted in anything else than the conviction, natural and instinctive, or otherwise, of the continued existence of the soul after death. Fuller: “To the dead. Art thou, then, a widower, who desirest to do mercy to thy dead wife; or a widow, to thy dead husband; or a child, to thy deceased parent? I will tell thee how thou mayest express thyself courteous. Hath thy wife, thy husband, or thy parent, any brother, or kinsman, or friends surviving? Be courteous to them; and, in so doing, thy favors shall redound to the dead. Though old Barzillai be uncapable of thy favors, let young Chimham taste of thy kindness. Though the dead cannot, need not have thy mercy, yet may they receive thy kindness by a proxy,—by their friends that still are living.”—Tr.]

Footnotes:

FN#22 - Ruth 2:18.—וַתֵּרֶא תֲמוֹתָהּ: Wright points the first word as Hiph, וַתַּרְא, “and she showed.” “So we prefer to read, following the Vulg, Syr, and Arab. It is rather harsh with the ordinary punctuation to make תֲמֹתָהּ the nom. to וַתֵּרֶא (so pointed by the majority of MSS.), when Ruth is the subject of all the verbs that precede and of those that follow immediately after. Two of Kennicott and De Rossi’s MSS. read אֶת־חֲמֹתָהּ, which would seem to Imply a reading וַתַּרְא; but while two of my own MSS. have the reading אֶת־חֲמֹתָהּ, either by first or second hand, the verb is pointed as ordinarily, וַתֵּרֶא.” The absence of אֵת does not prove that תֲמוֹתָהּ is not an accus, cf. Ges117, 2.—Tr.]

FN#23 - Ruth 2:19.—עָשִׂית: used absolutely for “to labor,” as in Proverbs 30:13; Job 23:9. Dr. Cassel translates: “und woher hast du (dies) geschafft,” i.e. “and where (woher, whence, freely for wo, where) didst thou procure (עָשִׂית, acquire, make, cf. Genesis 31:1; 2 Samuel 15:1), this?” But, 1, in this sense the verb could hardly be left without an abject; and, 2, the word must have the same sense here in the question which it has in the answer in the next clause. Wright prefers to render “where hast thou stayed,” i.e. spent the time, עֵת being understood (cf. Ecclesiastes 6:12 and the phrase ποιεῖν χρόνον, Acts 15:33). But when the talk is of gleaning, it is certainly more natural for Ruth to say, “the man with whom (on whose fields) I worked to-day is Boaz,” than “the man with whom I spent my time to-day,” etc. Wright says that “Gesenius in the Lex. Man. prefers this rendering.” It is not impossible that Ges. may have varied in different editions; but he has no such preference in the sixth edit. of his German Handwörterbuch, nor in Robinson’s transl. of his Lat. Lex. Man.—In אָנָה, the force of ה local is lost, as in לַיִל=לַיְלָה,אֶרֶץ=אֵרְצָה.—Tr.]

FN#24 - Ruth 2:20.—וְאֶה־הַחַיִּים וְאֶת־הַמֵּיהּים. “with reference to the living and the dead.” Accusatives of the objects to which the kindness is done, cf. Ges139, 2. “The verb עַזַב is here construed with a double accusative; for if אֵת were used as a preposition, it would have to be מֵאֵת as we find מעם in Genesis 24:27” (Keil).—מִנֹּאֲלֵכוּ according to Ges. (Lex. s. v. גָּאַל and מִן) is a sg. noun, מִגֹּאֵל, with the plur. suff. of first person = “our second goel.” But as no such word is found elsewhere, and as there is no real difficulty in the way, the form in the text is to be taken as script. defect. for מִגֹּאֲלֵיכוּ, and rendered “one of (on מן in this sense, cf. Ges154, 3, c) our redeemers.”—Tr.]

FN#25 - Ruth 2:21.—גַּם: not “even Song of Solomon, i.e. may he be blessed, as you hare said” (Wright), which with the following “for (כִּי) he said to me,” etc, would make but a mercenary amen to Naomi’s prayer, to say nothing of the fact that by the intervention of another clause the prayer is too far away; but, “also!” as we say, “more! I have not told you all; for he said,” etc, cf. Ges155, 2, a.—On the periphrastic genitives of the verse, cf. Ges115, 1.—Tr.]

FN#26 - מַכִּירֵךְ: the same word used by Ruth in expressing her gratitude to Boas ( Ruth 2:10): לְהַכִּירַנִּי.

FN#27 - In the Pentateuch נַעַר is used, in every instance except one ( Deuteronomy 22:19), where the later language would write נַעֲרָה, cf. הוּא for הִיא. Gesenius and Fürst take the plural here in the same way, as used for the feminine; but both Boaz ( Ruth 2:3) and Naomi ( Ruth 2:22) use the fem. form, which seems to show that at that time the distinction of gender was no longer neglected. נְעָרִים it here, as in Job 1:19, to be taken as including both sexes there in the sense of “young people,” here in that of “servants.”—Tr.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ruth 2:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/ruth-2.html. 1857-84.

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