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An Unlikely Story in the Book of Ruth

Updated on November 29, 2016
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Gary a Professor of Graduate Biblical Studies/Ministry, Bible University of Canada. Gary has Masters Degree and Ph.D. in Biblical Studies

God makes such beautiful sunsets.
God makes such beautiful sunsets. | Source

One can find Jesus Christ in any book of the Bible.

What you have here is a timeless story with many forth pointing analogies. For those who did not know, we celebrate Christmas at the wrong time of the year and for many it is done for the wrong reasons. You can thank Dr. Luke for being so meticulous. He said:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock "by night." - Luke 2:8

This little detail, “by night”, leads me to believe that Christ birth could not have been in winter because there are no shepherds in the field at night for the mere fact it is too cold for animals and humans in the November to March period in the mountainous section of Israel. The same goes for the large contingent of soldiers, support personnel, wives, and supplies of the wise men of Babylon. They would have never considered traveling in the winter.

However, today let us find another story, perhaps one you have not heard.

In Israel, it is tradition to read the little Book of Ruth in the season of harvest during the Festival of Weeks, or Shavuot. If you are a student of the Bible, you know that the Book of Ruth is just four short chapters. As is true with many Scriptures pointing to other Scriptures, you will have a tough time understanding Revelation Chapter 5 without understanding Ruth.

Why study the Book of Ruth? The book even has implications for the Christmas season each year. Are you ready to learn?

The Elimelech, Naomi's husband, had already passed and the family was in the midst of a local famine. Naomi, on her own after her husband passed on to God, did not what to do about food. So they go from Bethlehem to Moab. The two sons marry local girls straight away, and the boys sadly too soon pass away. What this does is leave Naomi and the two daughters-in-laws rather destitute.

Naomi hears from the locals that things are now better back in Bethlehem. So she decides to go back alone to her native Bethlehem. After all, the daughters-in-laws are local to Moab. Knowing the trip would be hard, she urges the girls to stay in their homeland. However, Ruth refuses and stubbornly insists on going with Naomi. (Ruth 1.16-17)

First, this brings up the “Law of Gleaning.”

I am a former student of Koinonia Institute and Dr. Chuck Missler. I thank him for reviving in me my passion for the wondrous Word of God. The Book of Ruth has several principles that highlight the laws of ancient Israel. One of them was the “Law of Gleaming.”

As a landowner, you were allowed to reap the field in only one pass. What the owner missed, or left behind, helped the destitute including widows to glean the remainder. (Leviticus 19.9-10; 23.22) Just imagine if farmers today following this law. The widows and destitute would certainly have food for their families.

So with Naomi in a desperate situation, Ruth volunteers to glean a field after the reapers, where she winds up in the field of Boaz, a wealthy landowner and subsequently the hero of our study.

Boaz sees Ruth and knows she is beautiful. He tells his workers to drop generous handfuls for her to gather. Hearing of this, Naomi is delighted because Boaz is a kinsman of the family, which leads to an opportunity that is at the epicenter of our lesson.

To fully apprehend what is to come in our study, one has to be familiar with several other laws in operation in the Torah.

Next, the “Law of Redemption.”

When you and I sell a home in our culture, the title passes in perpetuity to the one who buys the home. However in Israel land became granted to the tribes to be retained within families of the larger tribe. Now it is easier to understand why genealogies are so important in the Word of God.

If anyone sold their property, to pay off debt or for whatever situation, that transaction was viewed as a lease. In the days of Joshua, provisions were in place for the land to go back to the family at a later date. (Leviticus 25.23-34) A title deed contained the language in the terms to return the property to the family. (Jeremiah 32.6-27; CF Revelation 5)

We have another important law of Israel.

The “Law of Levirate Marriage.”

Israel had a beautiful but unusual method to declare the extension of the family bloodline in the event of the death of a husband without dispute. When a widow had no son, she had the ability to ask her next of kin to take the girl and have children that continued the bloodline of the family. (Deuteronomy 25.5-10)

You will understand this when you study Ruth 3 to know why Naomi took the opportunity placed before her. Naomi knew Boaz was a kinsman; therefore, there existed the chance to regain the family properties lost when Elimelech passed ten years earlier.

Naomi also knew this was also an opportunity for Ruth to have a great new life. So Naomi sits down with Ruth and gives her the instructions on how to proceed.

Then there is the principle of the “Threshing Floor.”

Back in the day of Joshua, the harvest encompassed winnowing gathered wheat on a threshing floor, a section where there was a prevailing wind that went through the structure or a field. The procedure was to toss the grain up in the air and as it fell the chaff, being lighter, would be carried downwind.

If one practiced this, there would be two piles. The furthest one, the chaff, would be burned as trash. The closer one bagged and sold in the marketplace.

Next, in the harvest, there was a celebration that carried over to the evening where festivities celebrated God giving them enough money to carry them over to the next season. Following the festivities, the owner would sleep near the grain harvest to prevent theft.

Naomi coaches Ruth to approach Boaz privately at the threshing floor. I have got to tell you what happens next is highly misunderstood by the less discerning reader.

Ruth's Request

So Ruth goes to Boaz while he is sleeping. She asks Boaz to spread his blanket over her because he is the kinsman. Here is not the proposition many assume it to be. Boaz’s shul, or skirt, was an indication of rank, very much like stripes on a military uniform.

You will recall that God instructed David to cut the hem of Saul's garment. (1 Samuel 24.1-22) Also, remember the woman with the issue of blood touching the hem of our Lord Jesus Christ. (re. Matthew 9.20-21; 14.36; Mark 5.31; 6.56; Luke 8.44)

What Ruth did was ask Boaz to put the authority of his house over her. She is invoking the laws of Israel for Boaz to take her as his wife. Now honestly, Boaz was more than willing to accommodate Ruth, but there was one more obstacle for them to face.

The Nearer Kinsman

There was a nearer kinsman who gives his consent to step aside for Boaz to assume his role. So Boaz being proactive confronts the nearer kinsman in front of what today is the city council, in effect forcing the issue.

For a widow, when she requests the next of kin to perform the role of kinsman-redeemer, he must not be compelled. There were three conditions that he had to meet.

1. He must be qualified to be a kinsman,

2. He then had to be able to perform as kinsman,

3. Then he must be willing.

So you can see there were, at least, two issues at stake. First, there was the land Naomi wanted as well as the taking of Ruth as his wife. It seems the man is willing to give Naomi back the land but, for whatever reason, is not able to take on Ruth.

This, of course, clears the way for Boaz to perform the role as the goel. There is a strange passage of a shoe that needs explanation. If the nearer kinsman declined to assume the responsibility of taking on a wife, he would then have to give up his shoes and be humiliated by being spit upon.

So in declining, he did what they had been told to do by tradition in yielding his shoe to Boaz. So this footwear became a symbol of disgrace to the one, but to Boaz a marriage license.

In review, Boaz, an extremely wealthy Jew, takes a Gentile wife. You many recall his mother was Rehab, the harlot of Jericho. (Joshua 6.25; Matthew 1.5) From Matthew, we see that both Rehab and Ruth are in Christs’ genealogy. (Matthew 1.5) Is not the Word of God interesting?

Let us take a more Definitive Inspection

Do you realize that this model love story of Boaz and Ruth is classic in ancient literature, and contains precious insights into the life of ancient Israel? With that in mind, let us inspect this more carefully. The Word of God uses many symbols, models, and types. (re. Hosea 12.10)

When we inspect the role of Boaz as the kinsman-redeemer, we can also see how he is a type of our Kinsman-Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Through an act of redemption, the Book of Ruth has Boaz whose actions returned the destitute Naomi (Israel) to her land.

Boaz then takes Ruth, a Gentile, as his bride. I believe this suggests that this is a parallel with the Church as the Gentile bride of Jesus Christ. I have to tell you Boaz, Naomi, and Ruth with Jesus Christ, Israel, and the Church are easy to envision. However, it is also remarkable the additional details in the story consistent with this type.

Let Us Look At the Unnamed Servant

A careful examination reveals an unnamed servant who introduces Ruth to Boaz. (Ruth 2.5) Highly suggestive of the Holy Spirit, who in Scripture always is seen as “the unnamed servant.” For example, He is the unnamed servant in Genesis 24. Abraham sent his eldest unnamed servant to gather a bride for Isaac. Again, Genesis 15.2 where the Hebrew for Eliezer is “Lord.” It can also mean comforter indicative of the Holy Spirit.

Why does the Holy Spirit always appear unnamed? The Apostle John seems to have recorded the explanation. John 16.13 is where Jesus said, “But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future].” The Holy Spirit will never testify of Himself.

It was evident from the text that Boaz found Ruth attractive and wanted her. He thought she was beautiful in the flesh. However, as a gentleman, he did nothing until Ruth presented herself. That is so much like Jesus Christ. He love us and wants to save us. However, He waits until we submit our entire life to him as Lord, Savior and Master.

Jesus Christ is our Kinsman-Redeemer if one has turned their life over to Him. How about the nearer kinsman? An interesting analogy that most scholars view as the Law of the Bible. What the law could not do the Lord Jesus Christ did for us. What is provocative is the possibility exists that the actual field owned by Ruth and Boaz long before is the very field is where the shepherds tended their flocks.

This love story ends with Boaz purchasing his Gentile bride. (Ruth 4.10) If one studies the Word of God, it is known that Jesus Christ bought us long ago. That through his blood spilled on a wooden cross He made birred in the ground He created, about two thousand years ago.

It is His birth we celebrate each year. I thank you for reading the short articles. Please feel free to give me your feedback in the Comments section below. God's blessings to you. In Jesus name. Professor Gary Hill

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A Comparison of Type from the Book of Ruth

Similarities Boaz/Christ
Boaz - Purchased Gentile Bride
Naomi - Her land restored.
Ruth - The Gentile bride
Jesus Christ - Purchased us with his blood
Israel - Restored 14 May 1948
The Gentile Church - Called out to be His


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    • gehill profile image

      Dr Gary E Hill 20 months ago from Shelby, NC 28152

      Thank you much for your encouragement and Christmas greetings. We are still free in America to greet one another in Jesus name. Prof. Gary

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 20 months ago from United States

      A merry Christmas to you and yours my friend. Well written and gladly received. whonu