RUTH CHAPTER 2.
Ruth the Gleaner.
in the field of boaz. — V. 1. And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a relative by marriage, according to Jewish tradition a nephew of Elimelech, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. His ability and influence were freely recognized in the community, both in war and peace. V. 2. And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field and glean ears of corn, of grain, after him in whose sight I shall find grace. That was a privilege granted to the very poor, to widows and orphans by the precepts of Moses, Lev. 23, 22; Deut. 24, 19, but it must have been a rather bitter experience to one unaccustomed to charity, especially since the permission was not always given in good grace by the harvesters. But Ruth's love for Naomi was sincere and faithful; she was ready to brave the ordeal. And she, Naomi, said unto her, Go, my daughter, for she was now utterly dependent upon the efforts of her daughter-in-law. V. 3. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers, gathering up the ears that fell aside when the harvesters bound up the sheaves; and her hap was, it was a providential happening for her, to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech. Unacquainted with the neighborhood as she was, she simply turned her footsteps to the first field she struck, but God guided her in her selection. V. 4. And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, to oversee the harvesting, and said unto the reapers, in a greeting which might be copied oftener, The Lord be with you! And they, as the laudable custom of the country required, answered him, The Lord bless thee! If the excellent relationship between employers and employees which this exchange of greetings implied obtained everywhere, there would be no need of arbitration committees between capital and labor. V. 5. Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, the foreman of the harvesters, Whose damsel is this? Being familiar with all the families in the entire neighborhood, he wanted to know to which of these she belonged. V. 6. 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; v. 7. and she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves; so she came and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house, she had not even taken time to rest, so busy had she been. So the overseer praised both the humility and the diligence of Ruth, including the propriety and the reserve of her demeanor. It appears, then, that Boaz freely permitted the poor to glean on his fields, and that his overseer had taken his cue from his master, feeling very kindly disposed toward those in need, especially if they were, as in this case, humble and respectful. V. 8. Then said Boaz unto Ruth, on the strength of the fine testimonial given her by the overseer, Hearest thou not, my daughter? He wanted to be sure that she followed his kind directions without hesitation. Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, for she modestly stayed at a distance from the reapers and binders, but abide here fast by my maidens, the women-servants who bound up the cut grain in sheaves; v. 9. let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, right behind the binders, where the gleaning would be most productive, and go thou after them. Have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? For they may occasionally have indulged in some rudeness toward the poor gleaners. And when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, placed there for the use of the workmen, and drink of that which the young men have drawn. Although Boaz was undoubtedly aware of a certain relationship between himself and this poor woman, he practices no condescension, he assumes no patronizing air, but protects her interests in a manner which would not hurt. V. 10. Then she fell on her face, bowing down deeply, so as to touch the ground with her forehead, in recognition of his kindness, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, notice her at all, seeing I am a stranger? She felt unworthy of the kind interest which he was showing in her, especially since she was not even a member of the people of Israel. V. 11. And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath been fully showed me, he had been given full information, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thine husband; and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. She had had a home and parents living as well, all that she needed for earthly happiness; but all this she had left for an unknown country, with people that were strangers to her. It was not only devotion to her mother-in-law, as Boaz very well knew, but faith in the God of Israel which had determined Ruth's course. V. 12. The Lord, whom Ruth had chosen as her God, recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust, to take refuge. The words of Boaz reveal the truly pious mind of this chief among his brethren. He looks to Jehovah to reward Ruth as richly and abundantly as her love and its expression merited, so that she would miss nothing of that which she had left behind in the line of earthly blessings, but recover them all and more. "In his words there is undeniably the breathing of a pious, national consciousness, such as becomes an Israelitish family-head and hero in the presence of a recent proselyte to his faith and people." V. 13. Then she said, with the same modesty which characterized her behavior throughout, Let me find favor in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly, literally, "to the heart," unto thine handmaid, though, as she adds in restriction of her apparent boldness in daring to place herself on a level with his servants, I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens, not in that relationship of service to him that she might have earned his kind regard. V. 14. And Boaz, still more favorably disposed toward her on account of her humility, said unto her, At meal-time come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar, the food which was supplied to the laborers, bread and roasted grain or parched corn, the former being dipped into a refreshing drink, consisting of vinegar and water, perhaps with a little olive oil. And she sat beside the reapers; and he, partaking himself of the simple meal, reached her parched corn, grain roasted in the ear, and she did eat, and was sufficed, she had her fill, and left, the uneaten quantity being carefully saved for her mother-in-law. V. 15. And when she was risen up to glean, even before the others returned to work, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, not only at a distance in the rear, and reproach her not, not in any way interfere with her or heap shame upon her; v. 16. and let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, purposely pulling out some stalks from the bound sheaves, and leave them that she may glean them, and rebuke her not, by speaking harshly to her. V. 17. So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned, separating the kernels from the husks; and it was about an ephah of barley, over three pecks, a considerable amount for a mere gleaner. God rewards faithfulness in the performance of the duties of life in rich measure, even here in time.
the pleasure of naomi. — V. 18. And she took it up and went into the city; and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. And she brought forth, from a pocket or from a special package, and gave to her that she had reserved after she was sufficed, the amount of roasted grain which she had saved from her plentiful meal in the field. V. 19. And her mother-in-law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned today, and where wroughtest thou? This was a question of astonishment at the large quantity brought home by Ruth, for gleaners usually got very little. Blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee, showed her a friendly interest. Whosoever treated Ruth thus kindly and loaded her with presents must have intended to show his appreciation of her position and of her virtues. And she showed her mother-in-law with whom she had wrought, in whose field she had been busy all day, and said, The man's name with whom I wrought today is Boaz. V. 20. And Naomi said unto her daughter-in-law, Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off His kindness to the living and to the dead. Through the kindness of Boaz, God was showing mercy not only to the living, Naomi and Ruth, but also to the dead, namely, by providing so richly for the two widows. Naomi recognized God's hand to an extent which made her feel that this would not be the end of the interest which Boaz had taken in Ruth. Cp. Gen. 24, 27. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen, one of those who had the right to redeem the land belonging to Elimelech by marrying the widow of his son. Cp. Lev. 25, 25. V. 21. And Ruth the Moabitess, without paying any attention to the hint in Naomi's words, which she probably did not understand at the time, said, He said unto me also, Thou shall keep fast by my young men until they have ended all my harvest. This permission to keep with the laborers of Boaz till the end of harvest safeguarded Ruth against rude treatment. V. 22. And Naomi said unto Ruth, her daughter-in-law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, where safety was now assured, that they meet thee not in any other field, namely, that she might not be fallen upon and abused in other fields, where she was not protected in this manner. V. 23. So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley-harvest and of wheat-harvest, well through the first part of summer; and dwelt with her mother-in-law, always returning there when she came from gleaning in the evening. Her diligence did not relax, nor did she change her behavior on account of the favors shown her; she was as modest and unassuming as ever, her gentle and virtuous conduct being obvious to all. All such virtues, both those shown by Boaz and those found in Ruth, are fruits of true faith.