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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Ruth 2

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. II.

Ruth goes to glean in the fields of Boaz: Boaz takes notice of her, and shews kindness towards her: Naomi rejoices in the event.

Before Christ 1376.


Verse 4

Ruth 2:4. Boaz came—and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you We are authorised by the events of this history to conclude, that none of them happened by chance, but by the immediate interposition of God. Happy they who in all their ways acknowledge him, and in every state, however low, repose themselves on his all-sufficient care. The present scene affords us a pleasing instance of the simplicity and religion of ancient times, when the masters were wont to pray God to prosper the honest labours of those whom they employed, and when the labourers, in return, offered up their prayers for their masters. Heathens themselves practised this duty: they would not put the sickle to their corn till they had invoked their goddess Ceres. See Virgil, Georg. lib. 1: ver. 2:347. How strongly does such a practice reprove the profane impiety of too many masters and labourers in the field!

REFLECTIONS.—We have here an account,

1. Of Boaz, whose name is famous in the following history. He was a near kinsman of Naomi, an inhabitant of Beth-lehem, a man of great wealth and generosity. He had heard of her return, though Naomi, out of modesty, and unwillingness to trouble her rich relations, seems not to have made him acquainted with the distress of her circumstances. Note; (1.) The worthless are importunate and clamorous, while the deserving are modest and silent. (2.) Many have rich relations, for whom they are little the better. (3.) It is a sure mark of a proud unthankful heart to overlook or disregard poor relations.

2. Of Ruth the Moabitess, whose character shines with distinguished lustre under the severest pressures of poverty; for such has God chosen, poor in this world, but rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom: and now that faith is tried, whether she can prefer the land of Israel, with all the inconveniences that she suffers, to the plenty she might have enjoyed in Moab. We hear no mention of the least desire in her to return: though unused, probably, to such a method of procuring her living, her mind is conformed to her circumstances. She is willing, not only to work for her own bread, but also to maintain her aged mother. In order to this, she asks leave to go and glean in any field, where she might, through the master's kindness, be admitted. Her mother, pleased with such an instance of filial piety, affectionately permits her to go. Note; (1.) None know to what straits they may be reduced. It is not good to be brought up too delicately. (2.) To be content under the pressures of poverty is a blessed evidence of a faithful heart. (3.) They who know the value of their souls will prefer Christ and a crust to all the affluence and glory of the world without him. (4.)

They who are poor have need to be thankful for the least favour shewn them. (5.) Industry in young people is highly commendable; and never came there any good from an idle hand.

3. She happened to light on Boaz's field, God directing her thither for purposes of his own glory. Note; Circumstances, which to us appear utterly fortuitous, proceed under the peculiar Providence of God: and from the most unexpected incidents, he can bring about the greatest events.


Verse 7

Ruth 2:7. That she tarried a little in the house Or rather, and hath not been but a moment in the house; 1:e. in the tent, which was pitched in the field for the refreshment of the reapers, and of such as were labouring in the field. This is Aben-Ezra's exposition of the word house, and it appears extremely natural.


Verse 10

Ruth 2:10. That thou shouldest take knowledge of me To take knowledge, in Scripture, frequently signifies to shew kindness, and is the effect of finding grace, 1:e. favour with any one. The reason of this favour from Boaz to Ruth is mentioned in the next verses, which give us a favourable idea of Boaz. The phrase in the 12th verse, under the wings of the Lord, which is very usual with the Psalmist, is a metaphor taken from the Cherubim, whose wings spread over and covered the mercy-seat.


Verse 13

Ruth 2:13. Though I be not like unto one of thy handmaidens Nothing can be more amiable than this humility of Ruth. Extolling the favour of Boaz to her to the utmost, she, as it were, annihilates herself; professing, that, stranger as she was, and of an idolatrous country, she considered herself as far inferior in condition to one of his meanest maid-servants. Blessed are they who humble themselves, for they shall be exalted! Houbigant renders this passage, would I might be one of thy handmaids!


Verse 14

Ruth 2:14. Eat of the bread and dip thy morsel in the vinegar Under the name bread, as we have before remarked, is comprehended all kinds of provision. By חמצ chometz, rendered vinegar, is signified a kind of acid or strongly fermented wine, which was very cooling and refreshing in hot seasons, such as the time of harvest. So Pliny observes, lib. 23: chap. 1. "Vinegar, or sharp wine, is of a most refreshing nature." The Roman soldiers drank of this small wine; and some have thought that it was this which they presented to our Saviour on the cross. Nothing is more common with the poets, than to mention this vinegar, or acid wine, in their description of common repasts. For proofs, see Calmet and Grotius on the place. Dr. Shaw, speaking of the Arabs' manner of eating, observes, that,

"when their food is of a more liquid nature, such as oil and vinegar, robb, hatted milk, honey, &c. then, after they have broken their bread or cakes into little bits ( ψωμια, or sops) they fall on, dipping their hands and their morsels together therein. (Matthew 26:23. Ruth 2:14. John 13:26.) At all these meals they feed themselves with their right hand." Travels, p. 232. The application which the rabbis make of this passage to the Messiah, is very singular. They say, that the words of Boaz to Ruth, come thou hither, are equivalent to come to thy kingdom; and that what is added, dip thy morsel in the vinegar, denotes the reproaches and torments of the Messiah; a commentary which, however absurd, abundantly proves to us the idea which the ancient Jews had of the Messiah. One would believe that the 21st verse of the 69th Psalm gave rise to this exposition. See Huet, Demonstr. Evang. pars 2: p. 925.

REFLECTIONS.—Boaz was a great man, but not too great to superintend his own business. The master's eye makes quick work. We have him here visiting his reapers. Observe,

1. The mutual salutations which passed between them; a proof that Boaz was as pious as prosperous, and that his servants under his care had partaken of their master's blessing. Note; (1.) Though a formal "God bless you" is often a profanation of the name of God, and a compliment of course; a thoughtful and serious benediction is the mark of truest regard. (2.) It is likely to go well with that family, where the master's kindness meets with an equal return in the servants' hearty regard for him and his concerns.

2. The inquiry that Boaz makes concerning a stranger whom he observed, probably, sitting in the booth erected in the field, and the answer given him by the overseer of the reapers. She was that Moabitish damsel, whose love for her mother, and regard for God, had brought her to Beth-lehem: she had modestly asked leave to glean, and, during the whole morning, had been industriously employed, till just now, that in the heat she had rested for a moment in the house, and was again returned to her labour. Note; They who are entrusted by their masters, as overseers, must look carefully to their masters' interests, and make a faithful report.

3. Boaz accosts the poor stranger with great kindness, calls her daughter, bids her continue in his field during the harvest, follow his maidens, and keep them company. He gives orders also to the young men to shew her no rudeness, nor give her any molestation; invites her to eat and drink with his reapers, and go as one of them to the booth whenever she was thirsty, and at meal-time share their entertainment. He adds the excellent character he had heard of her, as deserving every token of his regard; prays God to recompence her work of filial piety, and her adherence to the worship of Jehovah, under whose wing the had taken shelter: and then, turning to the reapers, bids them purposely drop a handful here and there behind them, and let her glean among the sheaves, and not reproach her for it, as if she took what was not allowed her. Note; (1.) There is a manner of doing a kindness that makes it doubly acceptable. (2.) They deserve commendation and regard, who, for the sake of God, leave all behind them. (3.) In the end they will be no losers. (4.) A generous heart is happy in an occasion to relieve the wants of the deserving.

4. Ruth, overcome with such kindness, is at a loss to express her gratitude, bows to the earth before him, in token of deepest respect, professes her unworthiness of the favour shewn her, admires his condescension, begs the continuance of his regard, and receives his speech as the most friendly and reviving cordial. Accordingly, at mealtime she accepts his invitation, and, to make it more welcome, he reaches her the parched corn, and by his own behaviour engages his servants to shew her every kind of civility. Note; (1.) A grateful heart often wants expressions to speak its sensibility. (2.) A kind look, or a good word from a superior, is often very useful: so cheap a charity then who need to grudge? (3.) They who are most deserving will have the lowest opinion of their own deserts.


Verse 17

Ruth 2:17. So she gleaned in the field—and beat out that she had gleaned Ruth availed herself of the goodness of Boaz. She gleaned all the day; and then, according to the custom of those times, she beat out, with a rod, the corn, which produced her an ephah. See Exodus 16:36.


Verse 20

Ruth 2:20. Naomi said—The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen In the Hebrew, one of our redeemers; concerning whom, see Leviticus 25:25. Deuteronomy 25:5 together with what follows in the 4th chapter of this book. Naomi does not say that Boaz was the גאל goel, or redeemer; but one of the redeemers of her family; the reason is, that the right was not immediately in him, but only in default of some other refusing to fulfil it. See chap. Ruth 3:12.


Verse 21

Ruth 2:21. Thou shalt keep fast by my young men The word which we render young men, signifies all young people in general. We see by the following verse in what manner Naomi understood it. The LXX and Chaldee render it maidens, and so, doubtless, it should be read in our version.

REFLECTIONS.—Ruth, having refreshed herself at dinner, returns again with diligence to her work, and at even,

1. She beats out and winnows the corn that she had gathered, which was between six and seven gallons of barley, and, taking it up, carries it home to her mother. Note; Industry and plenty are twin-sisters; even the poor, if industrious, never need want.

2. On her arrival, she shews her mother what she had gleaned, gives her of the provision which she had left at dinner, and, in answer to Naomi's question, who was pleasingly surprised at the quantity she had brought home, relates the adventures of the day, and the kind providence which had directed her to the field of Boaz. Note; (1.) A good child will always divide his morsel with his aged parent. (2.) In all our ways we must acknowledge God. (3.) When we go out in the way of duty, we may hope to return and bring a blessing along with us.

3. Naomi hereupon blesses God for the mercy, and prays for his prosperity who had so kindly treated her daughter. The name of Boaz awakens her remembrance of former kindness to her family, and she now mentions what either she had forgotten, or had not told her daughter before, that he was a very near kinsman to them. This reflection, perhaps, now first struck her mind, and therefore, in hope of farther kindness, she bids her daughter accept the kind invitation she had received, and, during the harvest, follow his reapers, and go nowhere else. These directions Ruth carefully followed, and, when the harvest was ended, dwelt at home with her mother on the provision which her industry had collected. Note; (1.) The best returns for kindness are the prayers of the poor. (2.) Whatever mercies we receive from men, God must have the praise. (3.) Humility will make us silent with respect to our connections, rather than boast, as many do who are poor, the greatness of their relations. (4.) A casual word or hint, dropped undesignedly, is sometimes pregnant with strange consequences. (5.) They who have the blessed Jesus for their redeemer cannot keep too close to him and his reapers: his past favours are the earnest of greater still in store for them.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ruth 2:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/ruth-2.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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