Ruth meets a rich bachelor
Ruth goes to work in the fields1 Naomi had a rich relative in town. His name was Boaz. He was related to her husband, Elimelech. 2 Ruth was from Moab. Yet she asked Naomi, “Would it be okay with you if I went out in the fields where people are harvesting and see if they’ll let me pick the leftover grain? Maybe someone will be kind enough to let me do this.” Naomi said, “Yes, daughter.”
3 So, Ruth left the city. She came to a field where some workers were cutting the barley grain stalks. She started following behind, collecting stalks that harvesters either missed or dropped. Ruth soon found herself in a field owned by Boaz, Naomi’s relative through her husband. 4 Boaz left Bethlehem and came into the field to inspect the work. He greeted the workers warmly, “May the LORD treat you kindly,” They answered, “You as well.”
Boaz notices Ruth5 Boaz asked the crew’s foreman, “Who’s that young woman with?”
6 The foreman said, “She’s with Naomi. She’s the Moabite lady who came here with Naomi from Moab. 7 Early this morning she came to me and politely asked if she could collect some of the grain that the harvesters missed. She has been at it all day, from early morning till now. She took only a short rest under the shelter, out of the sun.”
Boaz keeps Ruth close8 Boaz went over to Ruth and said, “Listen, dear young lady, I don’t want you to waste your time trying to find grain in anyone else’s field. Stay here. Follow closely behind the women cutting grain in my fields. 9 Watch where they go and follow them. I told the men in the fields not to bother you. When you get thirsty, go over to the water jars the men set out for my workers, and help yourself.”
10 Ruth bowed to Boaz and said, “I don’t understand. Why would you be so kind to me? I’m not one of your people. I’m an immigrant.”
11 Boaz said, “I know what you’ve done for Naomi, your mother-in-law. When your husband died, you didn’t go back to your father and mother and stay in your own country. Instead, you stayed with Naomi. You followed her here to a place you’ve never been, among a people you don’t know. 12 I hope the LORD, Israel’s God, will show you some of the same kindness that you’ve shown to Naomi. I hope you find in God the protection and security you want.”
13 Ruth said, “Thank you for your kindness and encouragement. You’re welcoming me like one of your own workers when I’m a stranger to you.”
Boaz invite Ruth to lunch14 When it came time for workers to break for lunch, Boaz invited Ruth to eat with them. He said, “Come on over. We’ve got some bread you can dip it in a wine vinegar sauce. So she did. She sat with the harvesting crew. Boaz served her a heaping helping of roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and still had leftovers for later. 15 When Ruth went back to work, Boaz told the men in the harvesting crew, “Let her cut grain for herself instead of scrounging for stalks you accidently miss or drop. Let her cut and keep any grain she wants. Don’t stop her from taking it.
Ruth gets special treatment16 In fact, I want you to give her some stalk bundles. This lets her skip the work of cutting it. She can go right to beating the grain out of the stalks. Don’t give her a hard time.”
17 Ruth gleaned grain from the stalks until evening. When she gathered up all the barley kernels she had knocked loose, it was enough to fill a 30-pound sack. 18 Ruth carried the grain back into town and showed Naomi how much she got. Ruth also gave her the leftover roasted grain from lunch.
19 Naomi said, “Oh my, where did you get all this? Whose field was it? Whoever it was, may God bless him for letting you take all this from his field.” Ruth said, “I worked in the field of a man called Boaz.”
Boaz, the family savior20 Naomi said, “Well it’s obvious this man is devoted to his family. He’s kind to the living and he honors the dead. May the LORD reward him for that.” Then Naomi added, “This man isn’t just our relative. He’s one of our closest living relatives. That makes him one of our family saviors.
21 Ruth said, “He also told me, ‘Stay with my harvest crew until they’re done.’” 23 Ruth did what Boaz said. She worked alongside the women on his harvest crew throughout the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. She lived with Ruth during that time.
Israelite law ordered farmers to harvest a field only once, “don’t make a second pass” (Deuteronomy 24:19). Also, they were to “skip over the crops on the outside edges of the property. Don’t harvest them…Leave some for people in need and for immigrants and hungry travelers passing through” (Leviticus 19:10; see also 23:22).
It’s unclear what the wine vinegar was. The Hebrew word is homes. This may have been sour vinegar with olive oil or a cheap vinegar wine with a bit of a kick. Whatever it was, Nazirites weren’t allowed to drink it (Numbers 6:3). They couldn’t eat or drink anything from a vineyard: grapes, grape juice, or wine.
Fourteen kilograms. In ancient Hebrew measurement, Ruth collected an ephah of barley. That’s equal to about 20 dry quarts, 22 liters, or two-thirds of a bushel. Barley weighs almost 50 pounds per bushel (23 kg).
“Family savior” is another way of talking about what some call a “kinsman redeemer.” That’s the relative or the friend who comes to the rescue of the person or the family. For example, this “savior” will avenge a brother’s murder by hunting down and killing the murderer. But, to the other extreme, this “savior” will step in and marry the childless widow of a relative. He’ll do this to provide a child for the legacy of the dead husband. “The surviving brother should marry her and help her get pregnant. The woman’s first son from this marriage will take the family name of the dead brother. That way, people in Israel won’t forget him” (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). The Hebrew terms for this kind of marriage are laqah, “marry,” and yavam, “perform the duty of the brother-in-law.” The Greek form of the word is levir, and that’s where scholars get the term “levirate marriage.”
Ruth may have worked with the harvest crew off and on for three or four months. She started with them at the beginning of the barley harvest (1:23), which begins around the first of April. Wheat harvest can run as late as July.
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