Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentRUTH 2
RUTH'S SUCCESS AS A GLEANER
GLEANING IN THE FIELD OF BOAZ
And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech, and his name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on the portion of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, Jehovah be with you. And they answered him, Jehovah bless thee. Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab: And she said, Let me glean, I pray you, and gather after the reapers among the sheaves. So she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, save that she tarried a little in the house.
A mighty man of wealth. Boaz
(Ruth 2:1). The Hebrew words from which this is translated are rendered a `mighty man of valour' Judg. 11:1F1 and may be considered as true both ways. The meaning assigned to the name Boaz is, `in him is strength,'F2 or `strength or fleetness.'F3 His name was assigned to the left pillar in the Temple of Solomon (1 Kings 7:21). The old tradition that he is the same character as Ibzan the Judge is not considered trustworthy, but it may very well have been true. Certainly, he was a man of strong and noble character, the many virtues of whom are exhibited in this chapter.
Of the family of Elimelech
(Ruth 2:1). Keil tells us that Jewish tradition gave Boaz' relation to Elimelech as that of a nephew.F4
Let me go. and glean
(Ruth 2:2). As the younger and stronger of the two women, Ruth decided to take advantage of the harvest season in order to glean some ears of barley to supply food for her and Naomi. The Law of Moses had laid down strict rules protecting the right of the poor to glean following the reapers. These are spelled out in Lev. 19:9; 23:22; and in Deut. 24:19). Landowners were forbidden to reap their fields out to the very borders, nor could they send the reapers a second time into the same field. If they overlooked a bundle of grain, they were forbidden to go back and get it. Similar rules also applied to the harvest of vineyards and orchards. The purpose of this was to allow the poor an opportunity to provide for themselves. This was the legal background of Ruth's gleaning.
Let me go …
(Ruth 2:2). Ruth not only requested permission of her mother-in-law, but also asked and received permission from the overseer of the harvest workers. She was keenly aware of her status as a foreigner, and, as such, she could have been forbidden to glean in Israel. However, her reputation was such that she was welcomed among the gleaners.
Her hap was to light on the portion of the field belonging unto Boaz…
(Ruth 2:3). As far as Ruth was concerned, this was by chance, but God overruled it, a fact not stated but everywhere implied.F5 This points to the fact that the hand of God continually moves in human history. It was the fact of Ruth's coming to that particular place to glean that led to her meeting Boaz, an event that led to many marvelous consequences of the utmost importance to the nation of Israel, to the birth of Messiah, and the salvation of all mankind. Thus what appeared to be an accident is seen in the light of the whole story to have been the providence of God.F6
Behold, Boaz came
(Ruth 2:4). The picture that emerges here is that of a very wealthy and powerful citizen, for whom many of the inhabitants of Bethlehem are working in the barley harvest, and his appearance here is that of the owner appearing to appraise the progress of the harvest. Of course, he notices a strange person among the workers, and he promptly asked his overseer, not, `Who is this'? but `Whose is she'?
Jehovah be with thee. Jehovah bless thee
(Ruth 2:4). It seems that these were customary salutations, acknowledging the blessing of the Lord in the abundance of the harvest.
Whose damsel is this?
(Ruth 2:5). The overseer was able to answer this question, and the answer that he gave indicated that Ruth had indeed made a very good impression on the overseer.
It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi
(Ruth 2:6). Note the frequency of this designation `Moabitess' or its equivalent in this narrative. It occurs no less than five times in these four chapters. The inherent hostility of Israel to all people of other races is indicated by this. It was indeed a miracle of God that happened to this particular `Moabitish' woman.
She said, Let me glean, I pray you…
(Ruth 2:7). The overseer was careful to point out that Ruth had received his permission, and his mention of her diligence in working all day surely indicated that he was pleased.
BOAZ WELCOMES RUTH AND INSTRUCTS HER
Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither pass from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens. Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn. Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found favor in thy sight, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a foreigner? And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been showed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thy husband; and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people that thou knewest not heretofore. Jehovah recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of Jehovah, the God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to take refuge. Then she said, Let me find favor in thy sight, my lord, for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken kindly unto thy handmaid, though I be not as one of thy handmaidens.
This beautiful narrative needs no comment whatever. Its powerful message is clearly and dramatically presented. No one who reads it can fail to feel the emotional impact in every line of it.
Boaz himself was a descendant of Rahab the Gentile of Jericho, and it might have been that he was more readily disposed to accept such a foreigner as Ruth than other Israelites might have been. At any rate, he was already informed in a very favorable sense, of the quality and character of Naomi's daughter-in-law. The revelation of this must have been indeed a surprise to Ruth.
Boaz immediately recognized the potential danger that threatened an isolated young woman without any protection in such an environment as the harvest fields provided, and he at once moved to provide that protection:
To all of this, one must add the things mentioned in the following paragraph.
- He instructed her to glean in his field and in no other field.
- He commanded the young men among his laborers not to touch her.
- He told her to remain near his own maidens and to do her gleaning, following them.
- He at once gave her the right to quench her thirst at the common drinking place.
- And he offered a special prayer for her that Jehovah would grant her a rich reward for what she had done to Naomi.
These actions by Boaz were loaded with the very greatest significance. One may only wonder, by what inspiration Boaz was prompted thus to champion the cause of Ruth the grieving daughter of a foreign people. Perhaps the chief motivation for Boaz was inherent in the fact of her conversion to Jehovah, mentioned in this first encounter, "Jehovah, the God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to take refuge" (Ruth 2:12). Boaz was also impressed with the fact of her having left the land of her nativity (Ruth 2:11). "Was he reminded of Abraham, the great ancestor of his race, who had left his native land and his kindred in obedience to a divine commandment?"F7 Whatever his motivation, Boaz' actions upon this very first encounter with Ruth were altogether sufficient and decisive. One cannot think of anything else that he might have done.
- He then invited her to eat with the other harvest workers.
- He took pains to give her a special portion of food, so large that she was able to take part of it to Naomi.
- Boaz then instructed the young men harvesting his barley to aid Ruth by purposely leaving handfuls of grain.
- And he instructed them not to hinder or embarrass her in any manner whatever.
- Finally, they were instructed neither to rebuke nor reproach her.
FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS BY BOAZ
And at meal-time Boaz said unto her, Come hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers, and they reached her parched grain, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left thereof. And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not. And also pull out some for her from the bundles, and leave it, and let her glean, and rebuke her not.
RUTH TELLS NAOMI OF THAT FIRST DAY'S GLEANING
So she gleaned in the field until even; and she beat out that which she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up, and went into the city; and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth and gave to her that which she had left after she was sufficed. And her mother-in-law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to-day? and where hast thou wrought? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she showed her mother-in-law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man's name with whom I wrought to-day is Boaz. And Naomi said unto her daughter-in-law, Blessed be he of Jehovah, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is nigh of kin unto us, one of our near kinsmen. And Ruth the Moabitess said, Yea, he said unto me, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest. And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter-in-law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, and that they meet thee not in any other field. So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz, to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.
About an ephah of barley
(Ruth 2:17). Scholars give various answers regarding the exact size of an ephah, but the measurements range between four gallons and seven gallons. This is due to the fact that the ephah itself was a handmade vessel of variable sizes. It seems that this first day's gleaning by Ruth netted something in the vicinity of two-thirds of a bushel, enough to support two people for about five days.
What a glorious day this had been for both Ruth and Naomi! The gleaning had not only been successful that first day, but the invitation had been extended for Ruth to continue the gleaning through both the barley and wheat harvests, which would have reached until about June 1st. Besides that, Boaz' interest in Ruth opened up some possibilities that Naomi was quick to recognize, and her fertile mind had already jumped to the eventual solution of all their problems in the marriage of Ruth to the "near kinsman," especially and hopefully to Boaz.
Thou shalt keep fast by my young men
(Ruth 2:21). Young men in this sentence is a general expression that includes both sexes, as is found often in Hebrew. This is indicated by Naomi's mention of the command in the very next verse, where it is evident that Boaz had commanded her to stay near his maidens.
It is good that. they meet thee not in any other field…
(Ruth 2:22). The word `meet' here is often, though not necessarily, used of hostile encounters, and perhaps here implies the dangers run by an unprotected foreigner.F8 That danger, of course, would be much more acute in the case of an unprotected foreign woman, especially a young and attractive one.
Footnotes for Ruth 2
1: The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 7, p. 269.
2: Arthur S. Peake Commentary, p. 271.
3: All the Men of the Bible, Lockyer, p. 79.
4: C. F. Keil-Delitzsch Commentaries, Old Testament, Vol. 2, p. 477.
5: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 373.
6: Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Old Testament, Ruth, p. 269.
7: The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, p. 276.
8: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 2, p. 844.