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Bible: What Does the Book of Ruth Teach Us About Loyalty and the "Kinsman Redeemer"?
Ruth, Naomi, and Orpah
Naomi's Other Name
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Ruth and Naomi
Famine during the period of the Judges drives a certain Bethlehemite family comprised of Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons (Mahlon and Chilion) into Moab for a ten-year sojourn (vv. 1-2, 4).
Soon Elimelech dies, and after the sons take Moabite wives—Orpah and Ruth—these men pass away as well.
Naomi becomes a widow and childless (vv. 3-5).
Hearing about a good harvest in Judah ("the LORD had visited His people"), Naomi decides to return home (vv. 6-7).
She reasons with her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab and find husbands (vv. 8-9), because she has no more sons to give to them (vv. 10-11).
[According to Naomi, her daughters-in-law would be more comfortable marrying their "own kind."]
Even if Naomi could remarry and have more children, Orpah and Ruth would need grown sons to marry immediately, and they surely would not wait for twenty years or so (vv. 12-13).
Recognizing good common sense when she hears it, a weeping Orpah departs (vv. 14-15a), but Ruth tenaciously clings to Naomi and chooses to remain with her until death (vv. 15-17).
[Cast in Hebrew verse, Ruth's speech is memorable for its expression of steadfast loyalty.
It amounts to a profession of faith in and dedication to Yahweh].
Naomi does not try to dissuade her for very long (v. 18).
When they return to Bethlehem, the women there recognize Naomi (though she calls herself Mara, "bitter," still bemoaning her fate at God's hands), and rejoice greatly over her (vv. 19-22).
The author points out that she and Ruth come back at the “beginning of barley harvest”: a very significant transition to the rest of his account.
Boaz and Ruth With Reapers
Hoping to attract a husband, Ruth receives permission from Naomi to glean after the reapers in the field of Boaz, Elimelech's kinsman (vv. 1-3).
[Perhaps Naomi secretly prayed that Boaz might take a liking to Ruth, or that some other landowner would look favorably upon her].
Boaz arrives from Bethlehem and shows godly respect for his employees (v. 4).
Seeing Ruth gleaning, he inquires of her identity from his foreman (v. 5).
The latter relates Ruth's national origin, her relationship to Naomi, her politeness, and her industry (vv. 6-7).
Boaz's compassionate heart responds to Ruth by offering her protection in three ways:
(1) He instructs her to glean after the women in his field (vv. 8-9a);
(2) He commands his young men not to accost her (v. 9b); and
(3) He allows her, a gleaner, to drink freely from the jugs of his reapers (v. 9c).
Country of Origin
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Acknowledging his favor toward her, Ruth nevertheless asks, "Why me, a foreigner?" (v. 10).
The kinsman stresses Ruth's character—her goodness toward Naomi, and her courage to leave Moab and relocate in Israel (v. 11).
He prays Yahweh's richest blessings upon her because of her good work (v. 12), and Ruth humbly thanks him for his kindness (v. 13).
Boaz continues to show special favor to her, allowing her to eat with the reapers (v. 14).
He instructs his men to leave grain behind purposely for her and even to invite her to glean among the sheaves (vv. 15-16).
Ruth garners an ephah of barley from her work (which apparently is a considerable amount) [v. 17], and takes it home to Naomi, along with a little something extra just for her mother-in-law's enjoyment (v. 18; cf. v. 14).
After seeing Ruth's bountiful blessing, Naomi inquires who her benefactor is (v. 19a).
When she learns that it is Boaz, she praises God and informs Ruth of Boaz's close relation to them (v. 20).
Naomi encourages Ruth to accompany Boaz's young women in the fields and stay close to his young men, so that she may continue to glean the best produce (vv. 21-22).
Ruth obeys her mother-in-law's advice, working throughout the barley and wheat harvests, and continues to live with her (v. 23).
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Knowing now that Boaz, her kinsman, has shown great interest in Ruth, Naomi instructs the young woman to visit him at the threshing floor, in hope that he would take her "under his wing" and "redeem" her (vv. 1-2, 9; 4:10).
[An explanation of the concept "kinsman redeemer" will appear in chapter four].
She gives Ruth a step-by-step approach to a proper visit:
(1) enhance your outward appearance—bathe, anoint yourself, put on your nicest dress (v. 3a); (2) manifest your inward graces— be patient and considerate (v. 3b), and submissive (v. 4).
["Uncovering his feet" may mean nothing more than what it says literally; however, it may have a figurative (more intimate) connotation].
Characteristically, Ruth expresses verbal obedience to her mother-in-law's wisdom (v. 5).
Putting feet to her words, Ruth does exactly what Naomi told her to do (vv. 6-7).
At midnight, a startled Boaz awakens with cold feet; in the darkness, he asks the identity of the shadowy figure lying nearby (vv. 8-9a).
Immediately, Ruth identifies herself and, just as quickly, states the bold purpose of her visit (v. 9b).
Boaz is exceedingly pleased with her "kindness," and expresses his willingness to "perform the duty" of a redeemer for her if the other, nearer kinsman does not (vv. 10-13).
She stays near him the rest of the night; afterwards, she leaves with a generous gift of barley very early the next morning (vv. 14-15).
When Ruth returns home and relates both Boaz's kindness and his intentions to Naomi, the latter instructs her to remain patient until he concludes the matter (vv. 16-18).
Obed with Ruth and Naomi
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David and Jesus
Later that day Boaz, purposefully waiting at the city gate for the other kinsman, encounters this man, and draws him aside with ten elders to express his concerns (vv. 1-2).
He first mentions to them a previously unrevealed fact: Naomi is selling Elimelech's property (v. 3).
With the elders present as witnesses, Boaz gives the other kinsman an opportunity, as nearest relative, to redeem it.
The man jumps at the chance without waiting to hear the second half of Boaz's message (v. 4).
When he shares the "rider" with the nearest kinsman—that is, that he had to redeem the land from Ruth, too—the fellow backs down because he cannot afford it (vv. 5-6).
The two kinsmen then transact the business of redemption: an old custom in which one man attests to the exchange by removing his sandal and giving it to the other (vv. 7-8).
Once these men complete the transaction, Boaz announces to the elders/witnesses that he now owns the land and has acquired Ruth as his wife (vv. 9-10).
[As kinsman redeemer, Boaz now has the duty to "raise up the name of the dead on his inheritance," that is, father children upon Ruth, so that Mahlon's name may not be cut off (v. 10)].
The elders, in turn, sanction the redemption and then pronounce prayers of blessing upon Boaz and Ruth.
By their words, they seem to expect great things from this marriage (vv. 11-12).
Soon Ruth conceives and bears a son, making the women friends of Naomi exceedingly glad for her sake (vv. 13-14a).
They also express a prayerful desire that Boaz might become famous (v. 14b), and that Ruth's son might give Naomi joy in her old age (v. 15).
Grandmother Naomi becomes little Obed's nurse (vv. 16-17).
[It seems a bit incongruous that her women friends should give the son his name].
The final five verses record Obed's famous genealogy; he is the grandfather of David and the ancestor of Jesus (vv. 18-22; Matt. 1: 5).
1. How was Ruth being "kind" to Boaz (3:10)?
2. Why did the near kinsman have to buy the field from Ruth also (4:5)?
3. Why do you think God includes the story of Ruth in the canon?
4. What might be the significance of removing one's sandal?
5. Who became Boaz’s great-grandson?
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