Boaz the Nobleman
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Ruth 2:1 Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side named Boaz.
He was a prominent man of noble character from Elimelech’s family.
This verse introduced Boaz, one of Scripture’s noblest men. He made his wealth from farming, the job in which we had God for our teacher (GN 2:15). Even some heathen legends said the gods taught people how to farm.
Ruth 2:2 Ruth the Moabitess asked Naomi, “Will you let me go into the
fields and gather fallen grain behind someone who allows me to?”
Naomi answered her, “Go ahead, my daughter.”
Ruth faced her poverty straightforwardly. Rather than complain, she set out to make the best of a difficult situation. She had plenty of pluck.
Ruth did not fear hard work. Gleaning was tedious and exhausting. It entailed following hired reapers and garners, gathering whatever they left behind. God ordained gleaning as a provision of mercy to help orphans and widows (Deut. 24:19-22) and poor immigrants (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22).
Ruth 2:3 So Ruth left and entered the field to gather grain behind the
harvesters. She happened to be in the portion of land belonging to
Boaz, who was from Elimelech’s family.
Harvest fields were large open areas, with the portions of various owners designated only by landmarks. Ruth would have had no way to know which portion belonged to whom. She entered the field of an unknown, and thereby became an ancestress of the Messiah. The Lord, to achieve ends He has designed for us, often leads us down pathways we do not understand.
It is amazing how seemingly little things often alter the course of history. The world would be much different if Helen of Troy or Cleopatra had been a little uglier. Israel survived Egyptian bondage because Pharaoh’s daughter went to bathe in the Nile at exactly the right moment to find Moses.
Ruth 2:4 Later, when Boaz arrived from Bethlehem, he said to the harvesters, “The Lord be with you.” “The Lord bless you,” they replied.
Boaz, coming to inspect the reaping, greeted his workers with a pious blessing. He reminds us rich men can be devout. “Though indeed they are rare birds, yet riches and religion are not inconsistent things (W.M. Taylor).
Boaz, decent toward all, was not above speaking courteously to his hired help. He was not aloof, and treated them as equals worthy of respect. The workers responded to this cordiality and spoke kindly to their employer.
There were no labor problems in this field. This event is a contrast to a world where employers and employees see each other as natural enemies.
Ruth 2:5 Boaz asked his servant who was in charge of the harvesters,
“Whose young woman is this?”
If there ever were such a thing as “love at first sight,” it occurred in this field near Bethlehem. In fact, it occurred here with a “double wallop.” Boaz and Ruth were both smitten. This man and woman never were strangers. From the first moment, a special bond existed between them.
Ruth 2:6-7 The servant answered, “She is the young Moabite woman
who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. She asked,
‘Will you let me gather fallen grain among the bundles behind the
harvesters?’ She came and has remained from early morning
until now, except that she rested a little in the shelter.”
The servant felt Ruth did not need much of an introduction. The Moabitess had already begun winning the hearts of her neighbors. The people of Bethlehem had been talking about her.
Ruth was resting at that moment in the shade of a nearby shelter, a field tent erected to give occasional rest for the laborers. The servant was careful to explain that Ruth, though resting now, had worked hard through the morning. She had followed the workers who gathered grain into bundles.
Ruth 2:8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Don’t go and
gather grain in another field, and don’t leave this one, but stay
here close to my female servants.
Immediately on their introduction, Boaz began showing extraordinary kindness to Ruth. He urgently told her she should heed as well as hear him. Young men cut the grain with sickles. Girls followed and did the binding. Boaz wanted Ruth in his fields each day. This would let Boaz see her often.
Ruth 2:9-10 See which field they are harvesting, and follow them. Haven’t I ordered the young men not to touch you? When you are thirsty, go and drink from the jars the young men have filled.” She bowed with her face to the ground and said to him, “Why are you so kind to notice me, although I am a foreigner?”
Boaz made the offer irresistible. The reapers were forbidden to hassle her, and she was given access to water brought to the fields for paid laborers.
Knowing she was receiving extraordinary kindness, Ruth immediately “bowed with her face to the ground.” Her humble, grateful demeanor surely had much to do with the fact she soon became co-owner of this ground.
Ruth 2:11-12 Boaz answered her, “Everything you have done for your
mother-in-law since your husband’s death has been fully reported
to me: how you left your father and mother and the land of your
birth, and how you came to a people you didn’t previously know.
May the Lord reward you for what you have done, and may you
receive a full reward from the Lord God of Israel, under whose
wings you have come for refuge.”
Boaz was complimentary of Ruth. He wanted it known he believed his kindness was merely a reflection of her own.
His emotions intensifying, Boaz offered a prayer in Ruth’s behalf. The barley field suddenly became an unroofed cathedral.
Ruth had trusted herself to the gentle wings of YHWH. The figure is an eagle tenderly caring for the young. God Himself would provide refuge for this homeless stranger from a heathen country. There is room enough for all who seek shelter beneath the outstretched wings of God. Do not miss the veiled reference to God’s gentleness; nothing is softer than a feather.
Interestingly, this prayer was answered through the one who offered it. God often “covers” the needy by finding certain of his own to “cover” them.
Ruth 2:13 “My lord,” she said, “you have been so kind to me, for you
have comforted and encouraged your slave, although I am not like
one of your female servants.”
Ruth felt she did not deserve such favored treatment. She knew her benefactor had gone far beyond bounds of common courtesy. Boaz was not finished yet. He had more kindnesses to bestow on his newfound friend.
Ruth 2:14 At mealtime Boaz told her, “Come over here and have some
bread and dip it in the vinegar sauce.” So she sat beside the
harvesters, and he offered her roasted grain. She ate and was
satisfied and had some left over.
Boaz invited Ruth to eat lunch with him. A midday meal was often provided for the paid laborers. It usually consisted of roasted grains of wheat, bread, and vinegar (a sauce in which Israelites dipped their bread).
Ruth came to the meal, but was evidently uneasy about eating at the table of Boaz. To keep her from feeling presumptuous, Boaz himself reached out and handed her food. She was obviously given plenty to eat. She ate till full, and still had food left over, which she took home to Naomi (verse 18).
Ruth 2:15 When she got up to gather grain, Boaz ordered his young
men, “Let her even gather grain among the bundles, and
don’t humiliate her.
After lunch, their first date, Boaz instructed his workers to provide lavishly for Ruth. He wanted her to be treated delicately. She will no longer follow the maidens. Instead, Ruth will precede the maidens and be allowed to glean among the unbound sheaves lying on the ground awaiting bundling.
Ruth 2:16-17 Pull out some stalks from the bundles for her and leave
them for her to gather. Don’t rebuke her.” So Ruth gathered grain in the field until evening. She beat out what she had gathered, and it was about 26 quarts of barley.
If a reaper is bundling a handful of grain, and sees Ruth nearby, the portion is to be left behind intentionally for her to gather. Boaz did not want Ruth to become discouraged. He wanted her to return to his field every day.
A precious aspect of Boaz’s kindness was the discreet way in which he handled himself. He gave in such a way that Ruth was able to maintain her self-respect. Boaz secretly made the job much easier for Ruth. He allowed her to think she was earning what she received.
By day’s end, Ruth had gathered some twenty pounds of barley. From beginning to end, this scenario had carried a hint of romance. Boaz met Ruth in the morning, ate lunch with her that same day, gave liberally to her in the afternoon, and assured himself of having her nearby throughout the harvest.