Ruth 1:1 - 1:9
Last year’s ballet was “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Although told as a fairy tale, it symbolized the book of Joshua and the beginning of Judges. The aged Moses had died, and the new leader, Joshua, assisted by Caleb, led against strong attacks and deception.
The pattern for the book of Judges is set. One generation compromises. The next generation turns completely from God. As judgement comes upon them, they turn back to God. This is the repeating cycle in the 400 year history of the Judges.
The story of Ruth takes place during the dark time of the Judges. It is a beautiful and shining love story. Dark storm clouds have filled the sky for as far as the eye can see. Then, through a small opening in the clouds, the brilliant warm beam of sunlight breaks through and strikes the earth. We see the storm, but yes, the sun is still up there as bright as ever.
Everybody loves a love story. It has been reported that the 18th century literary giant, Dr. Samuel Johnson, read the book of Ruth to a literary club meeting in London. The intellectual audience claimed to be agnostic. When they heard the story, many thought that Dr. Johnson wrote it. The club was quick and loud with applause and praise. Then Samuel Johnson told them that it came from a book they had all rejected. What power is the love of God!
The book of Ruth is a real story of real people. The word “love” is only used once in the book when it says that Ruth loved her mother-in-law. Even though the word “love” is seldom used, the story is full of love and romance. On an earthly level, Ruth is the “Cinderella” of the Bible. On the heavenly plain, the story shows us a picture of God’s love for all of us.
The story of Ruth is so rich and important. Often, Old Testament people are used as types or pictures of Christ, showing us an aspect of God so that we better understand. There is Abraham, Moses, Samuel, King David, etc. However, Boaz shows a picture of the kinsman redeemer acting, not out of duty or pity, but responding out of boundless, heartfelt love. God is love. He has loved us with an everlasting love.
The story of Ruth plays an important role. It connects King David with the tribe of Judah. If Ruth had not gone into the fields of Boaz, then the wise men could have stayed home because Jesus would not have been born in Bethlehem. It is also the only living example of the Mosaic economy that included gleaning and kinsman redeemers.
Names often carry significant meanings in the Bible. Bethlehem means “ house of bread,” and Judah means “praise.” Elimelech means “my God is King.” Naomi means “pleasant.” So, if God is your King, and you live in the house of bread in the land of praise with your pleasant and happy wife, why would you leave? There was a famine in the land. Elimelech takes his family to Moab. Psalms 108:9 says that Judah is my scepter, and Moab is my wash basin. Modern day translation: Moab is my garbage can.
Like the prodigal son, they have gone into the far country. Prodigals are always punished in the far country and never when they return home. Remember, the prodigal son was always a son. He never was a pig. Naomi leaves home with her husband and two sons. Her sons each marry a girl from Moab. After ten long years, Naomi is a widow and her two sons have also died. She decides to return to her home country. She tells her two widowed daughter-in-laws to return to their own people. Although Naomi feels empty and sure she has lost everything, she remains a beloved child of God, and the love of God is about to be shown in a truly amazing way. We see Ruth choose to live for God despite her circumstances. So begins, Ruth + Boaz, a Love Story.
There are only four chapters in Ruth. Reading just 12 verses per day, you can complete the book in one week. The story begins in Bethlehem, then to the country of Moab, then to the fields of Boaz, then finally into the heart and home of the redeemer. The ballet story takes place completely outside with God’s creation as the backdrop. Let this ballet season include mastering the Book of Ruth and seeing the Love of God.
Ruth 1:10 - 2:2
This is the 2nd of seven Bible study lessons from the book of Ruth. The story of Ruth demonstrates the love side of redemption and salvation. “We love Him because He first loved us” (I John 4:19). The family begins in Bethlehem and moves to the far country of Moab. In Moab, Naomi’s husband and two sons die. Naomi’s sons had each married a girl from Moab. The Mosaic Law did not allow this. When moving away from God’s will in life, one step leads to the next. After some time, it will seem unbelievable how far one has gone. Naomi turns her heart towards home. She now stands on the side of the road with her two daughters-in-law, preparing to return home to Bethlehem. Naomi tells Orpah and Ruth to return to the Moabite people and their gods, for she will return to her home alone. Three widows are crying beside the road. This is a sad picture.
Both girls cry and say that they will return with Naomi. Here we see an aspect of the Old Testament law that will seem strange to us today. If a husband dies and there are no children, then the wife can claim any of her husband’s brothers or near kin to marry. The children born from this marriage will remain in the inheritance lineage of the original husband. This would certainly impact dating decisions! However, Naomi has no more sons, so she tells Orpah and Ruth that there is no hope for them from her. She also lectures them that no one from her home country will marry them because they are from Moab. Returning with her would mean a lifetime of poverty and widowhood. She says that God has turned against her. Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to stay among their people. Orpah kisses her mother-in-law and returns to the people of Moab while Ruth clings to Naomi.
We looked at the names of Elimelech’s family in lesson one. Now let’s see the meanings of the names of the Moabite girls. Orpah means “a fawn or deer” and expresses athleticism and competitiveness. Ruth means “great beauty and deep friendship.” Orpah was the sports girl that wins at everything. She would be the captain of the World Cup soccer team or the gold medalist figure skater of today. Ruth was the “it” girl. Today she would be on the red carpet at movie premieres. Her picture on the magazine cover would cause a sell out. When she walks into a room, the center of gravity shifts. No one can take their eyes off of Ruth. She is glamorous, but she does not know it.
And this brings up the question: Why did the sports star and the glamour girl decide to marry these two boys from Judah? The people of Moab were in great darkness due to their idolatry. When the family from Bethlehem came to town, there was a light and life in them that was so attractive. These girls enjoyed being in that type of environment. Naomi was a great encouragement to Orpah and Ruth who learned to love Naomi and her God. Over time, they longed to be a part of that type of family and married Naomi’s sons. Let the light of God’s presence shine forth in your life.
Orpah walks away from Naomi and walks off the pages of the Bible, never to be heard from again. The Bible does not say what ever happened to Orpah. However, there are Rabbinical writings that say that Orpah was the daughter of the king of Moab and that she was married to a prince who practiced the religion of the giants. Among her descendants is listed the five princes of Gath. This is beyond the scope our study, but it makes for interesting reading and surprising possibilities. According to this story, the great grandson of Ruth and the great grandson of Orpah meet one day on a battlefield in the well known story of David and Goliath.
Though Orpah leaves, Ruth declares that she will not go back to the people of Moab. She will stay with Naomi. Nothing Naomi says can change her mind. Ruth makes seven precious promises to Naomi: (1) Where you go, I will go. (2) Where you stay, I will stay. (3) Your people will be my people. (4) Your God will be my God. (5) Where you die, I will die. (6) Where you are buried, I will be buried. (7) May God judge me if anything but death separates me from you. Ruth turns to God in faith and turns from idols in repentance. Ruth commits to become part of the people of God even if they reject her. She believes in the future resurrection and will die and be buried in the land of Israel. Naomi’s God is now Ruth’s God. By this point, Naomi understands how determined Ruth is. She speaks no more to Ruth of returning to Moab.
Naomi walks into Bethlehem with the foreign girl, Ruth. All the town says, “Is this Naomi?” or “Is this pleasant and happy?” Naomi answers, “Do not call me Naomi anymore. Call me, Mara, meaning bitterness, because the Lord’s hand is against me. I left full, and now I return empty.” Naomi was wrong. God’s hand was not against her. She was not empty. God has given to her Ruth as a daughter-in-law. God will not allow Naomi to change her name, for Naomi and Ruth have returned to the house of bread in the land of praise at the time of barley harvest. We must never doubt the goodness of God.
Ruth 2:3 - 13
Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” In this third Bible study lesson from the book of Ruth, we will see the first meeting of Ruth and Boaz. Do you believe in love at first sight? (Boaz is about to give a demonstration.)
Ruth asks Naomi to let her go and glean among the grain. The law demands that the harvesters leave the corners of the field and any stalks that they drop for the poor and strangers in the land. And so, following behind those working for the owner would be a large group of gleaners picking up grain for themselves. All of the fields were being worked at this time of barley harvest, and the Bible says that Ruth “happened” to come to the field belonging to Boaz. How did Ruth know which field to glean in? (Study and discuss this on your own. Does God direct our steps? How does He do it?) For me, I believe Ruth had prayed that she would go into a field in which she would find favor. I suspect that she was fully experiencing the effects of being a widow from Moab living in the land of Judah. Ruth saw a field filled with harvesters and gleaners and had a strong feeling that the owner of this field must be a kind and generous person. I believe that God led Ruth to that field through everyday circumstances. (God directs people in the Bible through various ways. How is God directing you today? Are you following God’s direction?)
In Ruth 2:4 Boaz appears. He says to all the reapers, “The Lord be with you.” All of the workers reply, “The Lord bless you.” Wow! It looks like labor and management are getting along just fine on this project. Boaz is called a mighty man of valor. This word carries the meaning of a mighty man of war, a mighty man of the law, and a mighty man of wealth. Boaz was likely away fighting to defend the land in one of the numerous wars that occurred during the time of Judges when Naomi returned to Bethlehem. We will see that Boaz knew the law and lived for God, and we also see that he is a man of wealth. In today’s language, I believe Boaz is the most eligible bachelor in town.
Boaz looks across all of the gleaners in his field and takes notice of one. He immediately asks the overseer of the workers, “Whose young woman is this?” Now, that is what Boaz said. But I will predict what he likely thought: “Wow! She is amazingly beautiful. Is she single? What is it that makes her so different? Would she like me? What kind of person is she? Would she grow to like me? Wow! She IS amazingly beautiful . . .” These and a dozen other thoughts completely took over Boaz’s mind as he listened to his overseer say, “She is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi. She asked permission early this morning to glean in the field and, except for a short rest, has been working the whole time.” Boaz realizes that this is the girl he has heard so many wonderful things about. Boaz may have had many matters on his mind when he went to work that day, but now all of his thoughts are for the young woman from Moab, Ruth.
Boaz goes to Ruth to say “Hello” and says, “My daughter, glean only in my field and do not leave it. Stay close to my workers. I have commanded them to protect you. If you are thirsty, go and drink from the water drawn by my men.” I imagine that Ruth saw Boaz enter the field. She noticed how all of the workers and overseer treated him. Then she saw him approach the gleaners. He seems to be walking straight towards her. Is he going to tell her to leave his field? Is she about to be rejected again because she is from Moab?
I believe that Ruth had absorbed so much rejection since returning with Naomi. Her mother-inlaw was in a state of depression. Ruth had no friends. No one took any notice of her. And now, Boaz says “my daughter.” This is the most endearing term a man of Israel could say. It means, you are of my people! Ruth is overcome by emotion and falls to the ground before Boaz and says, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” Boaz says that he has heard of all the things that she has done for her mother-inlaw and how she left everything and turned to the God of Israel. I am reminded of the story of the prodigal son’s return. The father called him “my son,” but the son said, “I am not worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” Even though Boaz calls her “daughter,” Ruth calls herself his servant and then corrects herself saying that she is not even worthy to be a servant. Ruth says, “You have comforted me and spoken kindly to me.”
And so, Boaz and Ruth meet for the first time. I cannot know all that Ruth was thinking at this point, but the situation with Boaz is very clear. That Boy Is in LOVE!!!!
Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” How refreshing the words of Boaz must have been to Ruth at that point. She had given up everything. She had lost everything. From Ruth’s perspective, the decision to go out to glean and happening to go to the field of Boaz may have seemed by chance.
We live our life one day at a time. The Bible says that the steps of a righteous person are ordered from the Lord. The path of life is described as straight. For the believer who stands on the solid foundation of God’s word, there are far fewer crossroad decisions in life as compared to those who build their life on the sinking sand of this world’s values. However, experience teaches that crossroad decisions do come. Which path do I take? What if I choose a path and after walking for some time realize that I have made a mistake? This is the wrong path. Then I should stop going in the wrong direction. Turn around, and return to the crossroad. Now I know which way to go. I believe this is Naomi’s experience. She returned from the far country and now trusts God to provide in the “house of bread” in the “land of praise.”
The harvesters and gleaners have been working all morning. At lunch time, Boaz says to Ruth, come have lunch with us. (Yes, this is their first date.) Ruth joins them but sits among the reapers. Boaz gives to her roasted grain. She eats until satisfied and has some left over. Ruth wraps it up and leaves to go back to work. All of the workers see what is happening. Boaz has paid so much attention to Ruth. The workers probably look knowingly at one another. Then Boaz speaks: “Let her glean even among the sheaves and do not reproach her. Also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.” The law said that gleaners followed behind the harvesters, but Boaz says to let Ruth glean beside the harvesters. The law said that if you drop a sheaf, do not pick it up but leave it for the poor to glean. Boaz says to pull out some sheaves and “accidently” drop them. Ruth was not only in the field of Boaz, she was in the heart of Boaz. I imagine two of the harvesters talking while returning to work. One laughs, “Is he going to give this girl his whole harvest?” The other replies, “He is sure going to try.”
Ruth worked the rest of the day, and she gleaned a whole ephah of barley grain. This would be about 50 pounds. Ruth carries it back into the city. Naomi sees all that she has gleaned, and then Ruth brings out the roasted grain that was left over from lunch. Ruth was new to gleaning and does not realize how unusual it is for a gleaner to produce so much, but Naomi realizes at once that this amount was far more than was possible for a gleaner. She asks her where she worked and who took notice of her? Ruth says that the man’s name was Boaz. She tells her mother-in-law that Boaz told her always come to his field and to work close by his workers. To Ruth, Boaz was just the name of the field owner who showed her great kindness. Naomi says to Ruth, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”
The Old Testament law made provision to redeem land and people. God told Israel that all of the land was His, and He gave it to Israel by tribe and by family. We will look at all of this in the next lesson. For now, Naomi says to Ruth that it is good that she should only go to the field of Boaz.
So, Ruth went each day during barley and wheat harvest to glean in the fields of Boaz. Each harvest was about three weeks. For six weeks, each evening, all of the workers would walk back into the city and go to their homes. I imagine that Boaz walked Ruth home each evening. He would carry the sack of grain for her. They would talk all the way back to Naomi’s house. He would set the grain by the door and say good night. Ruth would thank him and go inside. I imagine that Naomi and her friends looked out their window each evening and saw this scene over and over. The law was that the widow must be the one to ask the kinsman to redeem her. He cannot offer. The decision is hers, as we will see in the next lesson.
So, this is where we have to leave Boaz for now. He is so in love with Ruth. He wants more than anything to be her kinsman redeemer, but harvest has now ended. She would no longer go each day to glean. This was the last evening Boaz can walk Ruth to her home.
Let’s pause in advancing the story and look at a background foundation operating during the book of Ruth, the Law of the Kinsman Redeemer. It shows us a picture of God’s love in operation. Also, it demonstrates that God can make a way when there seems to be no way. In the book of Genesis, God leads Abraham to the promised land. God says that the land is His, but He is giving it to Abraham and his descendants forever. Centuries later, when Moses leads the tribes of Israel out of Egypt and back to the promised land, the law of redemption is given in Leviticus and repeated in Deuteronomy. Let’s take a quick look at the four aspects of this law remembering that the basis was that God gave the land to His people and that neither the land nor the people were ever to be permanently sold.
The first aspect of this law in redeeming land and people is the year of Jubilee. Every fifty years on the appointed day, the trumpet blows, and all debts forgiven. All slaves and debtors are set free. All land is returned to the original owner’s estate. The economy operates with this in mind. If you buy land or give a loan, the price reflects the amount of time until the next Jubilee. I wonder where in this cycle that Naomi and her family left Bethlehem for Moab. My personal belief is that there were many years, likely 30 to 40, left before the next Jubilee. I believe that this is part of the reason Naomi let her sons marry girls from Moab. She did not expect to return to the land of Israel herself and knew that her sons would be old by the time their land was returned to the house of Elimelech.
The second and third aspect of this law involves an individual known as the kinsman redeemer. The person is the nearest living blood relative. The redeemer’s role, if he is willing and has the ability, is to redeem land that has been lost in debt and also to redeem the person who, because of debt, is in slavery. As the redeemer, he pays the price to set them free. The law describes the transaction: the one with a debt he cannot pay goes to his kinsman redeemer, removes his sandal as a sign of the covenant, and asks the redeemer to pay the price and set him free. One of the descriptions or names of Jesus is redeemer. When Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem, he became our kinsman. Each of us has a sin-debt we cannot pay. Each of us can come to Jesus and ask Him to pay our debt and set us free. Matthew 20 states that Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many. With this in mind, look now at the scene with John the Baptist preaching and baptizing in the wilderness. With priests and Levites from Jerusalem standing by and demanding answers from him, John sees Jesus walking toward him. John says, ”Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie,” (John 1:29).
The final aspect of the law of the kinsman redeemer seems very strange to us today. It involves the redeeming of a woman whose husband has died and has no children. The law says that she can go to any of her husband’s close relatives and claim him as her kinsman redeemer. In this situation, he would marry her, and their first son would be counted as a descendent in the dead husband’s inheritance line. This keeps the land from being lost by tribe and by family. We see this law described in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Also, if the kinsman refuses, look at what the law says: “And if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.’” So now we have a better picture of the laws and customs of the kinsman redeemer that were operating at the time of the story of Ruth in the land of Israel.
Boaz knows that according to the law, only the widow can ask to be redeemed. Only she can make the move. If Ruth does not ask Boaz to redeem her, there is nothing he can do or say. Now the time of harvest is past, and the work moves from the fields to the threshing floor. I believe that Naomi is watching Boaz and Ruth on that last evening of harvest. She sees Ruth turn and go into the house and Boaz turn and begin slowly walking home. The mother-in-law has seen enough. Naomi is about to have a talk with Ruth. We will see what happens in the next study lesson.
Ruth Chapter 3
Ruth 3 What a beautiful story is the romance of Ruth and Boaz. Also, what a beautiful picture of Christ as our kinsman redeemer. In the Gospel of Matthew, in the first chapter, the genealogy of Jesus Christ is given from Abraham all the way to Joseph and Mary “of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ,” (Matthew 1:16). In the middle of the genealogy list, we find Ruth and Boaz. Having established that Jesus is our kinsman, Matthew 21:1 says, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Boaz with all his heart wants to redeem Ruth, but there is one requirement for her to do. She has to ask. According to the law, the person who is to be redeemed has to ask the redeemer. And so now the story moves to a place called the threshing floor.
The threshing floor is a very public place where the harvest is processed. The requirements for a threshing floor is that it be flat and can be swept very clean. Also, these floors are located on top of a hill outside the city where the wind can blow across the top. There are two major steps to the process. First, threshing, where the stalks are laid down on the ground and a heavy weight is be dragged across these stalks to separate the grain from the stalk. In the second step, called winnowing, the grain is tossed into the air, and the wind carries away the chaff to let the grain fall to the ground beside the worker. The wind in this region begins to blow in the late afternoon and usually stops sometime after sun down. Afterwards, all the families feast and celebrate. The men remain with the grain overnight to protect the harvest while all of the families return to the city for the night. One can imagine the workers lying down to sleep and looking up into the star-filled sky. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork,” (Ps 19:1).
Naomi watches all that has happened during the harvest season. She says to Ruth, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?” (Ruth 3:1). By “rest,” Naomi means a marriage. Ruth had been told by Naomi that no one in Israel would take notice of her because she was from Moab. Now, Naomi has hope that there could be a kinsman redeemer for Ruth. In the four actions that Naomi tells Ruth to do, we also see a picture of Christ as redeemer. She is told to wash. “Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow,” (Ps 51:7). She is told to anoint herself. Anointing with oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit’s presence. All this time Ruth has worn the mourning clothes of a widow, and now Naomi tells her to put on new clothes. “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing. You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,” (Ps 30:11). Finally, Naomi tells her to go to the threshing floor and let Boaz know that Ruth wants him to redeem her. Naomi is telling her to simply ask to be redeemed.
This is another custom that would have been strange to Ruth. Perhaps she was reluctant and wondered if Boaz would refuse to redeem her. However, Ruth does everything that Naomi tells her to do. At the threshing floor, Ruth sees where Boaz is sleeping. Ruth walks over to him softly, uncovers his feet, and lies down, pulling his cloak over her. At midnight, Boaz is startled awake and sees that a woman lies at his feet. “Who are you?” he asks. She answers, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” Boaz is overjoyed! He praises the Lord, and he praises her for the wonderful character she has displayed before all the people in Bethlehem. He says that all of the townspeople know that she is a worthy woman. He says he will do all that she has asked. However, there is kinsman of closer relations than Boaz. The Bible does not give his name, but in the ballet he is the character Al Ha-panim. The name is a current Hebrew slang expression for “really bad.” Boaz says that he will go and completely resolve the issue with the other who is in the position of redeemer. He tells her to let no one know that she has come to the threshing floor. Boaz gives Ruth more grain and says that she must not go back to Naomi empty handed. Boaz spends the rest of the night hatching a plan to ensure that Al Ha-panim will give up his position as redeemer to him.
While it is still dark, and no one can recognize another, Ruth returns to Naomi. Naomi says, “Who art thou, my daughter?” (Ruth 3:16), meaning, are you a poor widow from Moab or are you redeemed with a future in Israel? Ruth tells Naomi all that Boaz has said to her. Then Naomi tells Ruth to stay home and wait, for Boaz will not rest until he has settled the matter today. Ruth has done all that she can. She asked to be redeemed, and now all of the work will be accomplished by the redeemer. As Ruth’s great grandson would one day write, “Be still and know that I am God,” (Ps 46:10).
Ruth Chapter 4
The final chapter of Ruth begins with Ruth at rest in the home of Naomi, and Boaz sitting by the gate of the city of Bethlehem at sunrise. Ruth has asked Boaz to redeem her, but there is another redeemer that is closer of kin to Naomi than Boaz. I believe that this other person in the closer position to redeem is Elimelech’s brother, the uncle to Mahlon and Chilion. Boaz, I believe, is the nephew to Elimelech, the cousin of Naomi’s two sons. In any case, Boaz sees the other redeemer passing by and says, “Turn aside, and sit down here.” The man turns aside and sits down. Next Boaz calls to ten elders of the city and also says, “Sit down here,” and they also sit down. The gate of the city at that time was like the courthouse in the town square in early American towns. This was where official business was conducted. It looks like court is in session, and Boaz states his case.
He says before all, “Naomi has come back from Moab and has decided to sell the land belonging to our relative Elimelech. So, I thought to tell you and say in the presence of these elders sitting here, that if you will redeem it, then redeem it. But if you will not, then tell me, for I will redeem it and there are no other redeemers beside you and me,” (Ruth 4:4). The other redeemer says, “I will redeem it.” Now, I imagine, Boaz takes a deep breath because everything would be decided by the answer to the second question. “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance,” (Ruth 4:5). Then the other redeemer says, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” As is the custom in Israel when confirming a transaction of redeeming, the other redeemer takes off his sandal and hands it to Boaz. Boaz is the happiest guy in the world as he holds the sandal high in the air and says that they are all witnesses that he has bought from the hand of Naomi all that was Elimelech’s, Chilion’s, and Mahlon’s. Also, he is redeeming Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, “to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day,” (Ruth 4:10).
I notice that no elder or even the other redeemer brings up the technical point that Ruth is not from Israel and cannot claim a redeemer. Her reputation is so good that no one rejects Ruth’s position as part of God’s people. In fact, listen to the blessing that all the people who are at the gate give to Boaz: “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman,” (Ruth 4:11).
Boaz marries Ruth. The story started in Bethlehem, then to the far country of Moab, then back to Bethlehem, then to the fields of Boaz, then to the threshing floor, then to the gate of Bethlehem, and finally into the heart and home of Boaz. What a journey! Also, listen to the blessing the women of Bethlehem give to Naomi. “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you that seven sons, has given birth to him,” (Ruth 4:14-17). The “him” refers to Obed, the first born son of Ruth and Boaz. Obed will one day have a son named Jesse. Jesse will one day have a son named David. David will one day become the king in Israel and be described as a man after God’s own heart, the writer of the Psalms. The book of Second Samuel ends saying that King David sought the Lord during a very trying time during his reign and that the Lord answered him. When King David sought a place to build the temple of Israel, he purchased the very place where God answered his prayer — a threshing floor.
Many Bible scholars say the unnamed redeemer represents the law. The Law is in the close position to redeem us, but at last, it is not able to redeem, and so the right of redemption is passed to the One who loves us and is willing and able to redeem. As I write the final study in Ruth in preparation for Central Ballet Theatre’s performance of Ruth + Boaz: A Love Story, Christmas is six weeks away. Just after Thanksgiving we will see Isaiah’s prophecy describing the Christ as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is 9:6) on Christmas cards. Christmas music will reference Isaiah 7:4 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name “Immanuel” meaning “God with us.” To these descriptions of Christ in the New Testament are added, “Bread of Life”, Son of God”, “Lamb of God”, “Good Shepherd”, “The Way”, “Great High Priest”, “Alpha and Omega”, “Lion of the Tribe of Judah”, and “Son of Man.” Each of these gives us an expanded understanding of our “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” As we see the love Boaz has for Ruth as he very willingly becomes her kinsman redeemer, we also see a picture of Christ as our kinsman Redeemer. I will close this study with the words Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in John chapter 3:12-16:
“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Now that’s a love story . . .
-Study written by Brian Sparks
We are located at:
120 West Summer Street
Greeneville, TN 37745,
Phone: (423) 620-2036