Ruth 2:1-4:22; John 4:43-54; Psalm 105:16-36; Proverbs 14:26-27
I love today’s Old Testament reading – it’s a beautiful story of trust, loyalty, risk and, ultimately, love. The characters are all noble and appealing, and it’s got all the makings for a great movie. And it’s the reason we named our first child, Ruth. Let’s take a look at this amazing story!
We first see that Naomi has a relative, later named as Boaz, who is described as a “worthy man” – enter the hero! Ruth, ever the faithful and loyal daughter-in-law (aka, the heroine), realizes that she and Naomi need food and so, being the hardworking and resourceful gal that she is, suggests that she glean in the nearby fields. “Gleaning” means to pick up what the field workers have left behind. So Ruth is going to try out various fields, see if she can “find favor” with someone enough so that they’ll let her come behind their workers and pick up what they miss.
Ruth ends up in a field belonging to Boaz, who notices her immediately and goes out of his way to keep her safe and protected and provided for. Perhaps he already has that twinkle in his eye? Boaz has heard about Ruth and her loyalty to her mother-in-law (Ruth 2:11), and he’s impressed with her character. He continues to give her food and favors and make sure she is cared for.
When Naomi realizes in whose field Ruth has been gleaning, she comes up with a plan that will provide a long term solution for Ruth – Boaz is a redeemer. This is probably a foreign concept to most of us, but in the ancient Near East, they had systems in place for when a death left a property and family unclaimed. Because of his connection to the family, Boaz could act as a redeemer for the property and persons. “He could act as a levir, a Latin term for brother-in-law. Boaz could redeem by fulfilling the levirate law, which required a brother of a deceased man to marry his widow” (Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg. 423-424).
Then we read the particularly odd bit about Ruth laying down on the threshing floor, uncovering Boaz’s feet and asking him to spread his garment over her - what’s going on there? Traditionally, during harvest season, the owners and workers would sleep right on the threshing floor. They would sleep in their clothes and just cover their feet with a mantle. Ruth removes Boaz’s mantle, to wake him up, and then presents herself to him at his feet. It would have been immodest and improper for her to lay down beside him; by placing herself at his feet, she shows her humility and her willingness to accept whatever answer he gives to her suggestion that they get married (asking him to spread his garment over her is a euphemism for a proposal, per New International Bible Commentary, pg. 345). Boaz accepts her proposal and once the business of the closer redeemer is resolved, it’s nothing but happily ever after for this couple. They not only find love in each other and a redemption for Naomi’s lost husband and sons, but also become part of the very line of David when they have a son together (Ruth 4:17).
This is a story of Boaz’s redemption for Ruth, Naomi, and their future, but it’s also a reminder of God’s own redemption in our lives. The name Ruth means compassion, which is why we chose it for our daughter; God had compassion on us by giving us this child we had longed for. God has a redemption plan, a plan of compassion for your life as well. Thank you, Lord!
- Esther McCurry
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