Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 10: Tuesday
Tuesday’s Bible reading is the book of Ruth. In contrast to other events during the times of the Judges of Israel, these four brief chapters are not about wars or nations, but about family and the lives of ordinary people.
The regard and kindness shown throughout the book paint a tender picture of what a family can and should be to one another in adversity: Ruth’s work as she cares for Naomi and Naomi’s wisdom as she works to provide for Ruth show us their tender and mutual love; Boaz is that rare combination of a man who has not only wealth, but integrity and generosity—he doesn’t dismiss Ruth as someone who is negligent because she is poor; he recognizes her true worth, and watches out for her and Naomi even before their marriage.
J. G. Baldwin writes,
“If his purpose is to tell a good story, the author certainly achieved his aim, but he also had a keen interest in David, of whom no childhood story is given in the history, and, having access to this material, wanted to tell something of his ancestry…The whole episode impressed the writer as an unforgettable example of God’s providential care for those who put their trust in Him, irrespective of their race, and therefore he delighted to record the story with all the artistry of which he was capable.”1
Leon Morris comments that the book of Ruth,
“shows something of the relationship between God and man. There is a good deal to be said for the view that the key verse is 2:12, ‘The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou are come to trust’ (AV). That is what the book is about. It is not without interest that the initiative is with Ruth in chapter 2, with Naomi in chapter 3 and with Boaz in chapter 4. None of them can be said to be the person about whom the book is written. But the implication throughout is that God is watching over His people, and the He brings to pass what is good. The book is about God. He rules over all and brings blessing to those who trust Him.”2
Years before the events of the story of Ruth begin, in chapter one we learn Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, left Bethlehem for Moab to escape a famine. For Naomi, Moab became not a place of refuge, but a place of deep grief, because not only did she lose her husband there, but after her sons had married, she also lost her two sons. Hearing the famine in Bethlehem has ended, she begins her journey back. Both of her daughters-in-law start off with her, but she tries to send them back to their families.
It says a great deal about who Naomi was that both younger women want to go with her. Orphah does heed her words and returns to her family, but Ruth clings to her with beautiful words of love and loyalty that are familiar to many.
But Ruth said:
Or to turn back
from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever 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.
Yahweh do so to me,
and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”
Morris writes in Ruth 1:17, “she invokes Yahweh, which indicates that already she has come to trust in Him (cf. 2:12).”3 Baldwin comments:
“It now became clear that Ruth no longer desired to serve Chemosh [the god of Moab], but was determined to give her allegiance to the God of Israel, whom she had come to know through the life and witness of her husband and Naomi. The words recorded in vv. 16, 17 are the epitome of utter loyalty and selfless devotion.”4
They returned to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley season.
Did the irony hit Naomi that she had left during a famine with husband and sons, and now she returned during a harvest without husband and sons?
In chapter 2, Boaz comes on the scene. Because of their poverty, Ruth goes into the field to glean. Baldwin states,
“Ruth, who knew nothing about Boaz, proposed to take advantage of the ancient law permitting the needy to glean in the fields at harvest time (cf. Lv. 19:9; 23:22; Dt. 24:19), so sparing Naomi the toil and humiliation such work involved.”5
Boaz sees her, learns her name, and recognizes who she is. He surely would have known that Naomi was a relative in his extended family. He greets her and makes provision for her ease in making sure she won’t be harassed and that she will have water as she works. He already knows of her sterling character.
She may have begun the day in some trepidation about what would happen and how she would be treated. Morris writes,
“Boaz’ words and his whole attitude must have been indeed a comfort to her. Then she says thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid (AV). This reflects a Hebrew idiom which literally means ‘spoken to the heart of…’. It is a graphic way of saying that the words were kind.”6
In Ruth 2, we learn of Boaz’ sterling character. Not only does he ensure that she could work in safety, but he also provides food for her and tells his workers to pull grain from the bundles to leave for her to glean. When Ruth returns home, Naomi knows who Boaz is, and recognizes God’s provision not only in Boaz’ generosity, but also that Ruth went to his field.
Naomi knows exactly who Boaz is, and she knows the significance of Boaz being a kinsman redeemer. She tells Ruth to stay with his workers, and Ruth is there through the end of the barley and wheat harvest. “The barley harvest of April and May preceded the wheat by several weeks or even a month.”7 During these months, Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi would have had time to get to know one another not only by reputation, but also through interaction.
The end of harvest comes in Ruth 3, and Naomi makes provision for Ruth. She tells Ruth exactly what to do: to wash and dress in her best clothes and go to the threshing floor where Boaz is. Then after he is asleep, she is to uncover his feet and lie down. Morris writes:
“The narrator uses the utmost delicacy, but it is clear that Naomi’s plan was not without its dangers. The fact that she was prepared to urge this course on Ruth is the measure of her trust in both the participants. All the more is the case since in the Ancient Near East immoral practices at harvest-times were by no means uncommon, and indeed, appear to have been encouraged by the fertility rites practised in some religions.”8
Ruth obeys Naomi, and goes to the threshing floor.
In chapter 4, as Boaz acts as kinsman-redeemer of Ruth, the book of Ruth also teaches us about the kinsman-redeemer who acts of behalf of his family. Baldwin explains:
“The twenty occurrences of the verb ‘to redeem’ (Heb. gā’al) in so short a book is a reminder that the word was in common use in Israel. It belonged to the realm of family law: each member of the family had obligations to protect the other, and none should be lonely or destitute. The near relative who bought back family property (Lv. 25:25), or secured the freedom of an enslaved brother (Lv. 25:47–55), or avenged a murder (Nu. 35; Dt. 19:6) was known as the gō’ēl. The book of Ruth extends his duties to providing an heir for a relative who has died childless. The law of levirate marriage, outlined in Dt. 25:5–10, envisaged several brothers and their families sharing one home. If one brother died without having a son, the next brother was to take the widow and provide an heir for his brother. In the case of Ruth, who had no brothers-in-law, a more distant relative was expected to marry her…The special contribution of this book to the subject is to make clear that the gō’ēl alone possessed the right to redeem, and yet was under no obligation to do so. The willing, generous response of Boaz was, in a very small way, a foreshadowing of the great Gō’ēl, who was to descend from him.”9
Ruth and Boaz marry, and the book closes with the birth of their son, Obed, and a brief genealogy of David, who was their great-grandson.10
Now these are the generations of Perez:
Perez became the father of Hezron,
and Hezron became the father of Ram,
and Ram became the father of Amminadab,
and Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
and Nahshon became the father of Salmah,
and Salmon became the father of Boaz,
and Boaz became the father of Obed,
and Obed became the father of Jesse,
and Jesse became the father of David.
Perez was the son of Judah and Tamar. His birth was recorded in yesterday’s reading in Genesis 38. (I continue to be fascinated at the way these daily readings dovetail and provide background and commentary to each other!). This genealogy tells us that David was born into the tribe of Judah. We also know that Obed was born to godly parents. Did Obed in turn train and teach his son, Jesse, about God? What did David learn about God from his father, Jesse? We don’t know any details, but I wonder how the influence of Ruth and Boaz impacted David? Did the godly heritage they left become a part David becoming a man after God’s own heart?
“Why does the book end with a genealogy?…The author does not tell us why he has done this, and we are left to guess. But at any rate we can make this comment. Throughout the book in all its artless simplicity there runs the note that God is supreme. He watches over people like Naomi and Ruth and Boaz and directs their paths. God never forgets His saving purposes. The issue of the marriage of Boaz and Ruth was to lead in due course to the great King David, the man after God’s own heart, the man in whom God’s purpose was so signally worked out. These events in Moab and Bethlehem played their part in leading up to the birth of David. The Christian will also think of the genealogy at the beginning of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. He will reflect God’s hand is over all history. God works out his purpose, generation after generation. Limited as we are to one lifetime, each of us sees so little of what happens. A genealogy is a striking way of bringing before us the continuity of God’s purpose through the ages. The process of history is not haphazard. There is a purpose in it all. And the purpose is the purpose of God.”11
Ruth was from Moab, a nation begun by a man born of the incestuous sin of Lot and his oldest daughter, but God, in His mercy and love, brought her into Israel to become one of His people. Ruth and Boaz become the parents of Obed, who was the grandfather of King David, from whose line Jesus was born to be our Kinsman-Redeemer:
Ruth’s story is beautiful at so many levels: the love shown between Ruth, Naomi and Boaz; the hope found in the providential care of God as He delivers Ruth and Naomi from their poverty and heals Naomi’s heart; and finally, the inclusion of Ruth in the line of David.
Ruth is one of four women mentioned by name in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, two Gentiles and two Jews, who each, in some way, had a life marked by sexual sin; Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba and Ruth teach us about our Kinsman-Redeemer, Jesus Christ. In a sermon on Matthew 1:1–17, John MacArthur commented on this lineage:
“You’ve got two harlots, one [from Moab, a nation] born out of incest, and an adulteress, and they’re the only four ladies mentioned in the entire genealogy of Jesus Christ. Now what do you think the message is? God is a God of what? Grace…
“Coming through a nation whose history was a degenerative history, coming from two sinful men and born to one sinful lady was the King of all kings. Let it be known to Israel and anybody who listens Jesus Christ is the friend of sinners. Did you get that? He’s the friend of sinners. And he himself said it. “I have not come to call the righteous, but – ” what? “ – sinners to repentance.””12
Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Ruth and Naomi, St. Augustine’s Church, Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland: Andreas F. Borchert. (CC BY-SA 4.0). (CC BY-SA 3.0). (CC BY-SA 2.5). (CC BY-SA 2.0). (CC BY-SA 1.0). Cropped.
Study for Ruth Gathering Wheat: Edwin Long. Public Domain.
Sistine Chapel lunetta, Salmon – Boaz – Obed, Michaelangelo: Public Domain. Cropped.
Ruth, Vitrail de la collégiale Notre-Dame de Dinant: Vassil. (CC0 1.0)
1,4,5,9J. G. Baldwin, Ruth,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 277, 280, , 280, 278.
2,3,6.8,11Leon Morris, Ruth: An Introduction and Commentary (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1968) 242, 260, 277, 287, 317–318
(This commentary is published in the same volume as Judges: An Introduction and Commentary by Arthur E, Cundall).
NKJV: New King James Version. I’ve used this to retain the beauty of the familiar words known by many, with the exception of Ruth 1:17. The NKJV translates Yahweh as the LORD. I used Yahweh to point out that here Ruth used God’s covenant name.
7J. L. Kelso, “Agriculture,” The New Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas, organizing ed., F. F. Bruce, J. I. Packer, R. V. G. Tasker, D. J. Wiseman, consulting eds., (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: 1962) 19.
10“The fact that David was descended from a Moabitess would furnish a ready explanation for his seeking refuge with the king of Moab during the time he was being pursued by Saul.” Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Moody Press, Chicago IL: 1966, 1974) 281.
12John MacArthur, Copyright 1978, Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission. This Grace to You sermon, “The Gracious King,” originally appeared here.
I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.
Copyright ©2021–2023 Iwana Carpenter