Ruth 4 begins with Boaz going to the gate at the city entrance and waiting for the relative who was ahead of him in line to redeem Elimelech’s heritage. According to the custom of the day, the nearest relative has first right to purchase the land and also fulfill the care of the widow and her family. The previous chapter left us at a dramatic point. Ruth and Boaz were obviously in love and wanted to get married, with Boaz exercising the right of the goel – the kinsman-redeemer. Yet, there was a kinsman closer to Ruth and he had priority. So Boaz calls ten elders to sit with himself and the other kinsman as they work through the options.
Boaz raises the question and the first response was that the closer kinsman wanted to redeem it. “Then Boaz said, The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance”. Ah, but there was more to it than just buying the field from the hand of Naomi. A woman came along as part of the deal. The duty of the goel – the kinsman-redeemer – was more than the duty to preserve the family name of his brother in Israel. It was also to keep land allotted to members of the clan within the clan. But he had to agree to both.
Upon second thought, the kinsman changes his mind. He didn’t want to “impair my own inheritance”. Because Naomi was older and unable to bear children, the kinsman was not expected to marry Naomi and raise up children to the family name of her deceased husband Elimelech. But Ruth was another matter – she was able to marry and bear children. So if he purchased the land, he would be expected to marry Ruth and carry on the family lineage. That changed the game and he declined as to no change the inheritance for his current children.
So the deal is done. Boaz becomes the redeemer and buys the land and takes Ruth to be his wife. And God blessed them with a child. Naomi was proud grandma and cares for him. The child was named Obed. And this man becomes a pretty important part of scripture and God’s plan. “Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David”. He is David’s grandfather. The family line is not only carried on, but done in a rather amazing way as this child, born to the kinsman redeemer, becomes the grandpa to one of God’s dearest leaders of all time. God has a plan, always. I’m sure Ruth wondered what it was on the journey she took, but her faithfulness led her to a redemption that gave her the opportunity to be great grandmother to a king!
Ruth 3 has Naomi coaching her daughter in law about taking action to be redeemed. She was trying to provide security for Ruth through a kinsman. Over the period of the harvests, Ruth and Boaz got to know each other pretty well – by seeing what kind of person the other was. Boaz was a strong leader and respected man in his tribe. Ruth was a very hard working young woman who served her mother in law well. Boaz is working late on the threshing floor, and Naomi advises Ruth to go and see what Boaz tells her to do.
The plan was simple. Ruth was to wait until Boaz had finished his work, ate his supper and had a drink and gone to bed on the threshing floor. She was to “uncover his feet and lie down”. This was not a plot to try and trick Boaz into taking Ruth as a wife. But it was a fulfillment of his position in the family based on the Hebrew word goel, the kinsman-redeemer, was responsible to safeguard the persons, the property, and the posterity of the family. Boaz was the man who carried that duty towards Elimelech (though he was now deceased).
It was necessary to protect the family and name of Elimelech, otherwise it would perish. Perpetuating the family name of Elimelech (and every man in Israel) was thought to be an important duty. This protections showed how important it was to God to preserve the family – and that it is also important to Him today. Boaz awakes to find Ruth at his feet and says “And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I”.
Boaz rightly calls out the fact that there is another relative closer than he in the lineage, so that has to be addressed before he can fulfill the role of goel for Ruth. Boaz and Ruth were not trying to hide anything; it was just that Boaz didn’t want this nearer relative to learn that Ruth was now demanding her right to marriage to a goel before Boaz could tell him personally. So he gives her some grain and sends her back to Naomi while he sorts out the situation, which he promises to resolve quickly. “Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you”. Boaz is obviously a faithful man, and is going to take action to make sure Ruth is cared for.
Ruth 2 has Naomi back among the clan of her husband, and there was a member of that clan named Boaz who had a great harvest. Ruth went out into the field to glean what was left after the grain was harvested. “So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech”. When the reapers gathered the grain and put them into shocks for harvest, some grain or stems would be missed or dropped and that is what Ruth was in the field gathering.
Boaz notices her and asks who the young woman is. And they told him “she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest”. Boaz comes to talk with Ruth and instructs her to stay with his young women and to reap alongside them and be part of his crew, eating and drinking as part of the team. He had heard about her faithfulness to Naomi. “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before”.
Boaz makes her feel like part of the family. “At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine”. All this happens because of the character of Boaz. Naomi didn’t even know it was happening. But Ruth ate until she was satisfied and took food home for Naomi too. And then she was back at work gleaning in the field. Boaz made it easier for her instructing his reapers to “glean even among the sheaves” rather than wait until all the bundles were loaded.
But he goes further telling the reapers to “pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her”. Boaz was going to make sure she and Naomi were taken care of. Ruth goes home after a long day of gleaning and took her work to town and had about an epah of barley to sell. Not a bad days work, with a lot of help from Boaz. And he also gives her direction for her safety – to keep “close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law”. Ruth shows us her faithfulness in many ways.
Ruth 1 turns the focus to Elimelech and his sons – Mahlon and Chilion – who were living in the land of Judah and were in the midst of a famine. So they loaded up their families and headed “into the country of Moab” where they hoped to find food. After arriving, Elimelech died, so his wife Naomi and her two sons were in Moab and they take two Moabite wives – Orpah and Ruth. They lived in Moab about 10 years and both of her sons died as well, leaving only Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws.
Naomi decides to “return to the land of Judah” and tells her daughter-in-laws to “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me”. Naomi knows she cannot provide husbands to these ladies as her sons are all dead and she is “too old to have a husband”. So she encourages the women tot return to their homeland and go back to their people. But both of them say no initially. They want to stay with her. After some strong coaching, Orpah decides to go home, but Ruth clung to her.
Then we hear some of the most famous words in scripture as Ruth responds to Naomi’s requests to leave. “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you”. There is no stronger picture of commitment in all of scripture than that of Ruth to Naomi here. She is not going anywhere.
So Naomi agrees after seeing that Ruth is determined to go with her, and they head off toward Bethlehem, the town they had left some ten years earlier. She stirs up the town as she returns home and changes her name from Naomi to Mara because “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me”. Naomi had left years earlier full and the Lord brought her back empty as her husband and both sons had died in Moab. But she has Ruth with her, and they come back at the beginning of barley harvest.
Ruth 4 is a beautiful story of God’s hand at work. Boaz heads into town to make something happen in regards to Naomi and Ruth and their situation. As was the custom of the day, the next of kin had the responsibility if they accepted it, of taking on the wife of the deceased. Elimelech has died and now “the redeemer” – who is not named here – is in the spotlight. Boaz asks if he is going to step up and exercise his right/responsibility to take Naomi into his family.
Boaz asks ten elders to be present for the discussion – he wants witnesses to the decision that will be made. And he lays out the situation clearly for all: “Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you”. He says ‘it is your right to buy Naomi’s land and take her on as part of your family’. But wait, there’s a catch. Boaz goes on to explain the rest of the story. If you take on Naomi, you also have to take on Ruth. So it was a double commitment – the redeemer would have to support two women if he wants to exercise his right as next of kin.
The intial response was yes, but when the commitment was doubled it was too much. “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it”. The one who was first in line was not willing to put his current situation at risk and take on too much responsibility. So Boaz immediately steps up and takes on the responsibility. He agrees to care for the two women, and says “I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance”. He is going to become the father of Ruth’s child to keep the family name alive.
And what comes of this union? “Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife”. It changed Naomi’s world instantly as she went from a widow without any way to support herself to one cared for. Plus she now has a daughter-in-law who has a husband and can carry on the family name. Her friends said “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel”! Talk about a change of situation. But it gets better. Ruth gives birth and makes Naomi a grandma. “Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse”. She now is caring for a very special child. “They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David”. Did you catch that? This union produced the grandfather of one of the greatest men in scripture – David. Out of what appeared to be a total disaster God raises up a man after his own heart. God is able, more than able, to do great and awesome things
Ruth 3 has Naomi asking Ruth to go to Boaz and push a bit on him about the future. Boaz has been harvesting – he was a successful farmer and business man. As was the requirement of that day – when a man died next of kin were required to take care of the widow. Naomi knows that Boaz is fairly close as a relative, but is not sure if he is really the guy she can ask to take care of her as next of kin.
So she sends Ruth to move this process along and secure their future. Her instruction is for Ruth to tidy up – after all Ruth has been out in the fields gleaning what grain she could and has been working hard. She doesn’t tell her to paint herself and try to get to him physically. The instruction was to go and lay at his feet. That was a sign of respect and basically a request for a decision. Ruth again shows her loyalty to Naomi and says “All that you say I will do”.
Boaz wakes up and finds Ruth at his feet. That was a bit of a shock. She says “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer”. The redeemer that Ruth refers to here is the man who is responsible to take care of Naomi and her as widows. She is asking if Boaz is that man. We find out that there is another ahead of Boaz in the chain of relatives – someone closer than he – so he can’t give an answer other than that he will find out the next day and get this resolved. He basically says a husband is on the way.
Boaz lets her sleep there and then sends her back to Naomi with food. “He measured out six measures of barley” and put it on her coat to carry back to her mother in law. Naomi is pleased and knows that they will have an answer soon. “For the man will not rest but will settle the matter today”. She knows there will now be a decision on her fate and future. This is a great picture of the redemption that God has planned for us. We can come to His feet and lay there knowing that our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will settle the matter today if we will only ask Him to come into our heart and set us free from sin. Have you been redeemed?
Ruth 2 has Naomi and Ruth back home. There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Boaz, who had fields that were in harvest. Ruth takes the initiative to try and become a bread winner and says “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor”. Remember she is a young woman in a foreign land not knowing a person other than her mother in law. She wants to take care of Naomi and find a way to eat – so she heads out to pick up the grain that has been left in the field.
She isn’t the only one doing that – Boaz has many slaves and workers that serve him. He notices Ruth out there working hard and asks about her of his servants. And he is impressed. In fact he says “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before”. Often we think no one notices what we are doing. I find that is seldom the case – someone is always watching and sees how we live and what we do. Life matters. How we live makes a difference. People are aware.
That was certainly the case with Boaz. He blesses her by allowing her to sit and eat with his servants. And then he instructs his people to make is easier for her to succeed. “Let her glean even among the sheaves….also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her”. Boaz tells his folks to allow her to pick up right in the area they are working – before anyone else would have a chance. And not only that, they are instructed to leave some of the grain intentionally for her to gather. He wants to make it easy for her to get enough. That is truly sharing graciously and generously on his part.
Ruth goes home that evening with a good day under her belt. She had a good harvest, and brought home a nice amount of grain. Naomi asked about the day and discovers the goodness of Boaz. She says “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead”. Boaz didn’t owe her any favors. But he gave freely to some people in need from his abundance. They had made a good choice to come back to Naomi’s homeland. They had people there who were willing to care for them in spite of their situation. God is good, all the time!