Ruth, Chapter 2

As chapter two opens, we are introduced to a relative of Naomi’s on her husband’s side. Boaz is called a man of standing. He would have been capable, strong, and wealthy. He may have been the hometown hero, a defender of Bethlehem. 

God’s Sovereignty (2:1-16)

Somehow, Ruth had heard of the Israelite law for the poor and destitute. Ruth and Naomi had no money with which to buy food. Something had to be done and Ruth was willing to do it. In fact, she initiated it by asking Naomi’s permission to glean in a harvest field. The law said, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field to gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and alien. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:9-10). This was God’s public assistance program. Unknown to Ruth, God was continuing to providentially guide her to join others who followed the harvesters in the field.

What is providence? The word is derived from two Latin words: Pro meaning “before” and video meaning “to see.” God plans and sees events before they actually happen. He works through seemingly unrelated events of our lives. God controls the events of history and both the good and flawed human decisions we make to carry our His purpose and plans. He is not passive, merely watching events of history unfold. He is actively working out His divine plan (Ephesians 1:11) according to His will (Romans 8:28). He was standing in the shadows, ruling and overruling in Naomi’s and Ruth’s life. He had timed even their return to Bethlehem so that it was time for the barley harvest.

Don’t you love verse three? As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz . . . Without ever having met or heard of Boaz (as far as we know), as the record states, Ruth found herself gleaning in a field belonging to him! Was this just a wonderful coincidence? Was Ruth just lucky that day that she chose this particular field? Hardly! Here is another illustration of the providence of God and His arranging the details of her life. She went out believing this was something she could do to provide food for her and Naomi, and God used it to direct her to a man who would change her life! This was no accident, this was a divine appointment! Proverbs 20:24 says, “A man’s (or woman’s) steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?”  God was directing Ruth’s steps. She was obedient to do what she could do. God did what only He can do! Behind the scenes of daily living, God is working. Often we don’t even notice. We’re too busy with life, no trumpet announcements, no drum roll, just God quietly working things out behind the scenes:  “In Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

And wouldn’t you know it, verse four states: “Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, The Lord be with you! The Lord bless you! they called back. By his choice of greeting, we are assured that Boaz speaks as though he was a man of godly character. And how else can we explain the “just then” except that God was going before Ruth, guiding even the timing of Boaz’s arrival back to this particular field?

Sure enough, Boaz noticed the new young woman and inquired of his foreman. The foreman reported that she was indeed Ruth, the Moabitess, the young woman who had returned with Naomi. He added that she had asked to glean and had been working steadily from morning until now except for a short rest in the shelter. Boaz knew full well the dangers for young women gleaning in the fields. 

He turned to Ruth and said, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go get a drink from the water jars the men have filled” (vv. 8-9) Boaz responded with amazing kindness and concern for her well-being. He not only was protecting her—He was also providing for her since working in the hot sun would create tremendous thirst. Normally the poor would have to draw and carry their own water, but Boaz extended to Ruth water rights, permission to drink with his own hired workers.

Note Ruth’s response: ”At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” (v 10). Ruth was overwhelmed at the kindness and generosity of this man. A man she thought didn’t even know her and a foreigner at that! Why would he be so kind to her?

Obviously, Boaz was impressed with Ruth, because he responded, I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly blessed by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge” (vv. 11-12). 

After Ruth responded, Boaz graciously invited her to join him and the other harvesters at mealtime. Offering her some roasted grain, God was continuing to go before her! Boaz was even providing lunch! As Ruth got up to return to her gleaning, Boaz again instructed his hired workers not to embarrass her, but to pull some stalks of grain from their bundles and purposely leave them for her to pick up! He also told them to not rebuke her when she did!

God’s Provision and Protection (vv. 17-23)

So Ruth continued her back-breaking work until evening. She then threshed the grain (separating the grain from the chaff) and brought her half-bushel (an ephah) home to Naomi. This would have been about 30 pounds, enough grain for two women to eat for about two weeks! Recognizing this was an uncommon amount of grain for a day’s work, Naomi asked Ruth where she had gleaned that day, and how she had done so well. Then Ruth told Naomi everything–how this man had treated her so well—offering her protection, water and a free lunch. Then she added, “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz” (v. 19).

The lights came on for Naomi. She recognized that name: “The Lord bless him! He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead. That man is a close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers” (v. 20).

What is a kinsman-redeemer? “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside of the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel” (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). This was God’s solution for those who died without a male heir. The kinsman-redeemer (the nearest male relative) could also purchase family property that had been sold in hard economic times, give assistance in legal matters, and marry the deceased man’s widow for the purpose of producing a son who would be the deceased man’s legal heir.

So Ruth continued to stay close to the servant girls of Boaz to glean until both the barley and the wheat harvests were finished. What marvelous provision and protection had been extended to Ruth! God was rewarding her for her obedience, faith, and willingness to leave all she knew behind to worship Naomi’s God. He was also rewarding her for the love and loyalty she had shown Naomi by returning to Israel with her. Did Ruth, Naomi, or Boaz know they were part of an eternal plan that would eventually bring the Son of God into the world? No, they were simply obedient. They didn’t know at this time that Ruth and Boaz would bring forth a son who turned out to be the grandfather of David from whose lineage Christ would be born!

Take Home Truth: Trust in God’s providence when you face difficulties and continue serving Him.