Book of Ruth, Chapter 4

The fourth chapter really isn’t about Ruth. It is about Boaz. It is about his immediate action to seek out this ‘closer relative.’ He doesn’t wait a day or two, he goes out immediately. He waits at the gate, knowing this relative will walk by there at some point. When Boaz finds this relative he tells him to come and sit. Then he immediately goes out to find ten elders of the city right away and had them come to sit. He didn’t discuss it first with his relative. He didn’t lay anything out…see if it was okay…and then get around to asking the elders. He did it all, immediately, one right after the other.

He didn’t rehearse what he was going to say. He went with what was in his heart. He didn’t second guess himself. He laid everything out before everyone, and before God. He didn’t question whether it would work or not, or if he was doing the right thing. He simply did what he had to do to get where he wanted to get. He knew that God might not want him to reach the same destination…but he didn’t hesitate or fear taking the steps to get going on that journey. And God did give Boaz what he wanted in the end, because Boaz sought it out in a manner that God would approve of.

I have no doubt that if Boaz wanted to, he could have easily taken and had sex with Ruth. Her willingness in the matter wouldn’t have had to have been a concern. The previous evening he could have taken her to bed on the threshing floor, but instead he went out and sought the best for Ruth by seeking out the closer relative. He redeemed Ruth. It probably wasn’t easy or cheap. It took time. He waited until they were married. He obeyed God’s laws of relationships and duty and love. And for that obedience, for his mastery and guidance over Ruth, and for Ruth’s obedience…they were given the gift of a son. A son who would beget other children who would lead to King David.

This chapter is about Boaz’s obedience. His place as a man. It speaks of confidence, and loyalty. His loyalty wasn’t just to God, but to his family as well. There was a closer relative. Boaz offered to give up everything he wanted, because it was the right thing to do, to offer it to this closer relative. He was willing to stand aside: self sacrifice. He was willing to be that guiding hand, that shielding wing, that Shepard to Ruth.

This book truly shows how man and woman need to relate to one another. It is a very short book. It is a very simple story. But there is a lot in this story. The focus is Ruth, but Boaz should be commended as well. His morals, his ethics, his religious beliefs, his trust and faith in God…is just as impressive and worthy of note.

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Book of Ruth, Chapter 3

Wow. To me this chapter is just chuck full of symbolism. The sort that most ‘normal’ people wouldn’t pick up on. It is a good thing I am a freak!!

It starts off with Naomi giving a command to Ruth.

1. Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?”
2. “Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.
3. “Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
4. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.”

Ruth, naturally, is obedient and agrees to do everything that Naomi has told her to do. This level of trust is huge because everything about this situation, if it were any other woman probably, would have been a very sexual advance on Boaz. If anyone saw her lying at the feet of Boaz, they would assume her a whore. But Ruth is obedient. She trusts Naomi, but she also shows a great deal of trust of Boaz, and an even greater trust in God that everything will be okay. That He will keep His servant safe while she obeyed her mother-in-law. Again, her obedience is absolute without any concern for herself.

Then there is the symbolism of lying at a man’s feet. There is nothing more submissive than curling up at a man’s feet. It places her beneath his feet. Symbolically it makes her a part of the ground he walks on. It is a very vulnerable place to be for he could crush her. He could stomp on her. God, again, shows the sort of relationship he approves of between man and woman. It isn’t that Ruth is less than Boaz in His eyes; it is that she is obedient, and submissive to Boaz. She was made from Boaz’s rib; Boaz was not made from Ruth’s rib. Woman was made for man to be his perfect companion, to comfort him so he is not lonely. We were made for man.

When Boaz wakes up he could have done a thousand things. He could have taken her actions as a sexual advance. He could have had her, slept with her, and put her out as a whore in the morning. Instead he is grateful, and stunned, that Ruth did not go to the feet of younger men. He shows his love for her and his want for her best interests by answering Ruth’s plea for marriage. Boaz doesn’t just jump at the chance, he tells her that she has a relative who is closer, who has more of a right to Ruth’s hand. If that man does not want it, however, Boaz will gladly take it. Boaz seeks out what is best for Ruth, telling her she has other options, younger ones.

Then the man doesn’t even sleep with her. He could have and he chooses not to. Instead he commands her to lie at his feet until morning. I wonder how he would have felt, or what he would have done, if Ruth had disobeyed him and left to sleep somewhere more comfortable than on a floor at the feet of a man. In doing that Boaz continues to establish his place over her as her lord and master. He continues to guide her and command her on what she needs to do. He doesn’t abuse her. And Ruth is obedient, of course.

She lay at his feet until morning, and got up before it was light out enough to recognize faces. Boaz gets up with her, and continues to look out for her. He gives her a reason for being at the threshing floor. He doesn’t send her out like a whore. He puts barley on her shawl so that as she walks home people will see that she came to the threshing floor for the barley before the heat of the day. Boaz is in complete control of her, but he is so acutely aware of her and what is best for her. His wants come second. It would have been much easier for him if he just had sex with her, and then put her out. He could have done that. He didn’t.

Ruth didn’t have a blanket that night. She didn’t have a pillow. She didn’t have pajamas. She lay on a hard floor in just what she was wearing, at the foot of a man. A man she made a plea to for marriage. Her level of obedience is amazing to me. It shows not only love for Naomi as Ruth obeys her. It shows her love for Boaz. She had to love Boaz to place herself at his feet. To agree to seek him out rather than someone younger. And then there is a chance that maybe she didn’t love Boaz, that she was merely a very obedient woman. But even so, I know she fell in love with him. I know it.

People have spoken about arranged marriages, and how they didn’t always involve love. I think they have a point for more recent years. I don’t think it fit back then. Back then people weren’t always concerned with if there was someone else out there, who might be better for them. Divorce wasn’t common, and life depended on them being together as one. I think people back then were more open to loving whomever they were supposed to marry. They didn’t have vast lists of requirements the other needed to meet. I think love was a much simpler thing back then. And they knew they were stuck together, and so instead of making that a burden…they embraced it. And they saw the best in one another, and they probably fell in love.

Book of Ruth, Chapter 2

Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest…

“So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, ‘Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I might find favor.’ And she said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’” (Ruth 2:2)

Ruth went out to beg, as a poor woman, to harvest barely from the plots of other men so that she might provide for Naomi and herself. This is a great sacrifice considering the abuse she could have gotten for being a foreign woman in a strange land. She went out anyway, again not thinking of herself. A man named Boaz—a man of great wealth and a relative of Naomi’s late husband—took notice of Ruth and had her join him at mealtime; which is a very uncommon occasion. Most beggers don’t eat at the table of a Lord. Then Ruth actually didn’t eat all of her food, but kept some back to give to Naomi. It tells of her constant concern for someone else.

It also speaks of the very obvious relationship between man and woman. Ruth was submissive to Boaz. Boaz, moved by her loyalty and her story, took her under his wing. He protected her. He made sure she had food and water. God made this happen, he brought them together. Ruth, again, was obedient. She did not go beyond Boaz’s fields to seek out more barely and wheat. She was not greedy. She did not try to catch the attention of other men to get more. Boaz showed her a kindness, and she was obedient because of that. She respected him. He gave her rules, and simple commands to follow after his reapers, to stay close to his young women. She did this.

It shows to trust in God. Boaz was an obvious Christian. This is made clear in how he speaks to his reapers, saying “The Lord be with you!” She trusted in God to follow Naomi. She trusted in God when she went out to the fields. And she trusted in God in obeying his servant, Boaz. Boaz could have taken advantage of her, raped her, and done any number of things. Ruth is a foreigner. But she trusted in God.

We don’t always know His purposes for things, but when He graces us with the gift of such pure emotions as love and loyalty He doesn’t wish us to betray them by turning our backs on them. When He gives us a gift of an emotion, we are to embrace it, honor it. He will bless us if we do, especially if we can hold to these gifts through hardships and great personal sacrifice.

Book of Ruth, Chapter 1

During this first chapter we are briefly introduced to Naomi’s family; she has a husband and two sons. We are informed they moved from Bethlehem, Judah to live in the country of Moab. Now Naomi’s husband dies, and she is left with her two sons. Her two sons took wives—Ruth andOrpah—for themselves from the country of Moab. This is somewhat a big deal because Deuteronomy states that a child born of Moabite background was not to be admitted to the congregation of Israel until the tenth generation. This still allows marriage, but it speaks of the position of any possible children they might have.

Now it comes to pass that after about ten years Naomi’s two sons die. Neither wife had any children with their husbands. So when Naomi decides to move back to Bethlehem she tells her two daughter-in-laws to return to their families. At first they both refuse to go, but Naomi says to them:

11. But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
12. “Turn back, my daughters, go–for I am too old to have a husband. If I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons,
13. “would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!”

Now Orpah left with Naomi’s blessing; Ruth had a different answer. It is an answer often quoted.

16. But Ruth said:
Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
17. Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.

Ruth was blessed because she stayed. To me this speaks of loyalty and commitment. Naomi pointed out every reason she should go, Naomi gave Ruth her blessing. The other woman went. Ruth stayed. She stayed because when she vowed before her husband’s God to be of one flesh with him, she dedicated herself to his family, leaving her own. Ruth honored that. Despite what it would mean for her–the pain, sacrifice, and treatment of strangers back in those days–she kept to her vow. She remains completely loyal to the commitment and vows she made before others and before God.

Ruth put herself second. Naomi became first, as if she were her own mother, because of the vow Ruth made to her husband. She didn’t let thoughts of herself get in the way. Sure she might never marry again, she may never have children, she will surely get ridiculed and probably worse for being a foreigner, and not to mention all the strangness that comes with submersing yourself into a culture that is nothing like your own. None of that mattered in the end. In the end her vows mattered. Her love for Namoi mattered. God blessed her for keeping that vow, for keeping that commitment, and for having that sort of love. There was no real hope or obvious path to self-gain, but she did it anyway. She put love, loyalty, and commitment first. It is hard to find people who will stand by their word in the face of personal sacrifices and loss.