Study Notes

Ruth 2:1-23


As we began the book of Ruth last week, we were introduced to a family from the tribe of Judah living in Bethlehem. When famine hit, they sold their land and hit the road to Moab, a country of immoral idolaters.

During their ten years in Moab, the husband died, the two sons married, and then they died. All that were left was the mother Naomi, and two daughters-in-law. When Naomi heard that the famine was finally over, she decided to return home. She told her daughters-in-law to return to their homes, but one of them, Ruth, pledged her devotion to Naomi, her people, and her God.

When the women of Bethlehem recognized Naomi, they said, "Is this Naomi?" But Naomi said, "Don't call me Naomi, or Sweetness, any longer. Call me Mara, Bitterness, because of what God has done to me." As we discussed last week, God was working these things out for good, but Naomi couldn't see that in her flesh.

Chapter one ended with the verse,

Ruth 1:22 So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

Now as we pick up the narrative, we read...

2:1 Boaz

Naomi's late husband, El-ee-MEH-lek, had relatives in Bethlehem. One of these was Boaz, a very wealthy man.

He is the only man in the Bible to carry this name. But something else will carry the name Boaz: His great-great-grandson, King Solomon, will name one of the temple's porch pillars after him.

1Kgs. 7:21 Thus he set up the pillars at the porch of the nave; and he set up the right pillar and named it Jachin, and he set up the left pillar and named it Boaz.

The right pillar was called, "Yaw-KEEN," which means "He will establish." The left pillar was "BO-az," meaning "In Him is strength." This forms a statement on the porch of the temple: Reading right to left, as Hebrew does, forms the phrase, "He will establish - in Him is strength."

This is a fantastic reminder to us - something that should be brought to mind every time we enter the house of God - it is not what we can do, it is what He is doing. It is not what we can plan - it is following His plan.

Zech. 4:6 ..."Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," says the LORD of hosts.

We only have true strength in Him. Peter told us,

1Pet. 5:10 ...The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen {and} establish you.

We are strengthened in Him, He will establish us.

2:2 Gleaning

Naomi and Ruth had entered Bethlehem with nothing. Two widows with no property and no employment. What would they do? How could they even eat?

God, in His infinite love and wisdom, had made provision for the poor in His law. A welfare program, as it were. In Leviticus 19, the Lord commanded,

Lev. 19:9-10 "Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God."

In case we might miss this law, it was repeated two more times:

Lev. 23:22 'When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God.'"

Deut. 24:19-22 "When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.

This was the welfare plan: farmers weren't allowed to pick their fields bare during the harvest. They had to leave the corners of the property, and couldn't harvest with more than one pass through the field. This would leave enough "leftovers" for any poor people that needed food.

It is in man's nature to do evil to the helpless. That's why God had to command through Zechariah,

Zech. 7:9-10 ..."Dispense true justice, and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another."

The Lord's desire is that we not curse, but bless them. Deuteronomy 15 says,

Deut. 15:11 "For the poor will never cease {to be} in the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.'"

But at the same time, the Lord doesn't want able-bodied people to be beggars that expect a free handout. The New Testament declares,

2Ths. 3:10 ...If anyone will not work, neither let him eat.

So this was God's welfare system. One that provided for the poor, but involved more than sitting in front of the TV waiting for a check to come in the mail. The people earned their food by gathering it themselves. This law is a perfect balance between God's love for the poor and His desire that we work and be productive.

Ruth volunteered to go and gather grain to provided for herself and Naomi.

2:3 She "Happened" To...

The verse says that Ruth "happened" to end up in Boaz' field. I think that's a funny choice of words. Because although we tend to see things as coincidences, or the luck of the draw, you will never find the words "luck" or "coincidence" in your Bible.

Instead, the Bible tells us,

Prov. 16:9 The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.

Prov. 20:24 Man's steps are ordained by the LORD, how then can man understand his way?

Prov. 21:1 The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.

I don't exactly know how He works these things out, but I trust that He does. I don't understand how we have a free will to go where we want, but somehow He guides us to the right field.

There was a lot riding on Ruth's choice of gleaning location. If she hadn't chosen Boaz' field, they never would have met. King David and King Solomon never would have been born. Jesus wouldn't have been born in Bethlehem! All of this riding on which field Ruth decided to glean in! Chance? Luck? Coincidence? I don't believe that for a second.

2:4 Employer And Employee Relations

Notice the relationship that the landowner Boaz has with the reapers: He speaks blessing to them, saying, "May the Lord be with you." And see what their response is: "May the Lord bless you."

I believe that when the Lord is with employees, their employers are blessed by the Lord. Remember Joseph in Potiphar's house.

Gen. 39:2-5 And the LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and {how} the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge. And it came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house, and over all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD'S blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field.

God blessed Potiphar's house - not for who he was, but for who Joseph was. There is much good instruction for both employers and employees in the Word of God. Ephesians 6 comes to mind:

Eph. 6:5-9 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. And, masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

Work for your boss as if he were Christ Himself. If you are the boss, instead of threatening and yelling, try Boaz' approach. Say, "May the Lord be with you!"

2:5-7 A Hard Worker

When Boaz noticed Ruth and asked about her, the servant in charge of the reapers told him not only who she was, but how she worked.

We are called to good works and a good work ethic - that alone is a tremendous witness. Peter wrote,

1Pet. 2:12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe {them,} glorify God in the day of visitation.

If you're always on a break, if you're always yakking at the water cooler, you're not being a good witness. But if you're a hard worker, your light will shine brightly.

2:8-13 Boaz' Blessing

Boaz blesses Ruth by treating her kindly. He promises protection and provision. Why? His answer to that question is in verse 11:

Ruth 2:11 ..."All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know."

It is a blessing based on her blessing Naomi. It is a blessing based on the fact that she left her idolatrous, immoral country, and taken refuge in the Lord.

Boaz' words are reminiscent of the psalms.

Ps. 36:7 How precious is Thy lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Thy wings.

Ps. 57:1 Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in Thee; And in the shadow of Thy wings I will take refuge, until destruction passes by.

Ps. 61:4 Let me dwell in Thy tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings. Selah.

Ps. 91:4 He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

The imagery is that of a bird protecting her young. Jesus said,

Matt. 23:37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

As a hen protects her chicks from the heat, the rain, and predators, so the Lord desires to protect us. We can choose to run away unprotected, or take refuge in the shadow of His wings. That is what Ruth had done by choosing the land of Israel with Naomi rather than going back home in Moab.

2:14-16 Leave Some Extra

After being invited to eat with the reapers, she received another blessing - Boaz told them to purposely leave for her much more than she would normally find, and to allow her into the part of the field that would normally be off-limits.

2:17 About An Ephah

An ephah is roughly equivalent to filling about six gallon jugs of barley grain. This was more than enough provision for her and her mother-in-law.

2:18-19 Where Did You Glean Today?

Naomi knew something was up as soon as she saw how much grain Ruth had gleaned. She asked, "Where did you glean today?"

2:20-23 One Of Our Closest Relatives

The cogs were turning in Naomi's mind. Obviously, Boaz was showing great kindness to both Naomi and her dead husband El-ee-MEH-lek. He had also apparently taken a liking to her daughter-in-law Ruth. She began to think about the fact that he was a close relative, a near kinsman. This could actually solve all of their problems! How? We'll find out next week!

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