1 / 22100%
LIBERTY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF DIVINITY
Ruth: An Exegesis
Submitted to:
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of
OBST 515 – B02 LUO
Old Testament Orientation I
by
March 2020
1
Contents
Introduction....................................................................................................................................1
Historical Background.................................................................................................................1
Prevailing Conditions...................................................................................................................1
Main Characters...........................................................................................................................2
Major Argument...........................................................................................................................3
Purpose.........................................................................................................................................3
Key Themes.................................................................................................................................3
Exegetical Outline and Commentary...........................................................................................4
Chapter 1 – The Journey..............................................................................................................4
Time in Moab (1-5).................................................................................................................4
Return to Judah (6-18)...........................................................................................................5
Arriving in Bethlehem (19-22)...............................................................................................5
Chapter 2 – Finding Favor...........................................................................................................6
Ruth Meets Boaz (1-7)............................................................................................................6
Boaz Offers Grace (8-13).......................................................................................................7
Break for Lunch (14-17)........................................................................................................8
Naomi’s Response (18-23)......................................................................................................9
Chapter 3 – Naomi Plans a Wedding.........................................................................................10
Naomi’s Plan (1-5)................................................................................................................10
Ruth Executes the Plan (6-13).............................................................................................12
Ruth Returns Home (14-18)................................................................................................13
Chapter 4 – The Plan Comes Together......................................................................................14
Preparing the Stage (1-2).....................................................................................................14
Terms and Conditions (3-6).................................................................................................15
Ratifying the Contract (7-12)..............................................................................................16
Family Ties (13-22)...............................................................................................................17
Conclusion....................................................................................................................................18
Bibliography.................................................................................................................................20
2
Introduction
Historical Background
The story of Ruth takes place during the time of the Judges. While the Talmud suggests
the book of Ruth’s author to be Samuel, some scholars have suggested that the author could have
been a woman. Tamara Eskenazi and Tikva Frymer-Kensky state, “They note the unusual extent
to which the book is attentive to women’s lives and perspectives (comparable only to Song of
Songs in this respect) as suggestive of such authorship.”1 However, scholars point out that the
technical data surrounding authorship and date must come from the internal evidence, which
Daniel Block proclaims, “is frustratingly inconsistent.”2 With the mention of David (vv. 4:21-
22), many scholars date the book around 950 to approximately 700 B.C.E.3
Prevailing Conditions
After identifying the time in which the story takes place, the author informs the reader of
famine that was “in the land” (v.1:1).”4 Elimelech takes his family, wife Naomi and their two
sons, and travels from Bethlehem and heads to Moab. The sons both marry Moabite women, one
whose name was Orpah and the other, Ruth. After being in the land for more than 10 years
Elimelech, along with both of his sons Mahlon and Chilion died, thus leaving Naomi with no
means of support. With no other choice, Naomi directs her daughters-in-law to return to their
mothers. Though Oprah is convinced to return to her family, Ruth proclaims, “For where you go
I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge” (1:16b).
1 Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Tikva Frymer-Kensky, The JPS Bible Commentary: Ruth, First edition., JPS
Tanakh Commentary (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2011), xvi.
2 Daniel Isaac Block, Judges, Ruth, vol. 6, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman &
Holman Publishers, 1999), 590.
3 Eskenazi, The JPS, xvi.
4 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is from the English Standard Version.
3
Main Characters
After the scene is set and many of the initial characters have died or returned to their
families, the book is left with three main characters, Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. Although the book
does not bear the name of Naomi, she is the one from whose eyes the story is told. The book
records the events through Naomi’s perspective as she journeys from Bethlehem to Moab and
back. Her name means “kindness.” More specifically, “Kindness of Y(HWH)” which Jeremy
Shipper points out, “The name is ironic since Naomi feels that YHWH has not treated her with
kindness.”5 Ironic in that when she returns to Bethlehem she tells them, “Do not call me Naomi;
call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (1:20). However, the story ends
with God’s blessings returning to her as well.
Ruth, for which the book is named, is the Moabite woman who was married to one of
Naomi’s sons before his passing. While both sons died leaving Moabite widows, Ruth is the only
one that revealed her loyalty to Naomi and vowed to follow her anywhere. Therefore, Ruth is
shown to continually submit to Naomi and she allows her to draw up the plans to capture the
heart of Boaz. Through her loyalty, Ruth, though a pagan, is for the most part accepted into the
Israelite community and places her within the genealogy of Jesus as God provides her a son with
Boaz.
Boaz is first introduced in chapter two as “a relative of her [Naomi] husband’s, a worthy
man of the clan of Elimelech” (2:1). He was a great landowner and would come to be the hero of
the story. Boaz takes notice of Ruth; her loyalty to her mother-in-law and showed her favor.
Being a man of noble character, he filled the role of the kinsman redeemer and took Ruth as his
wife. The two would become the grandparents of Jesse, the father of David.
5 Jeremy Schipper, Ruth: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, ed. John J. Collins, vol.
7D, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2016), 81.
4
Major Argument
One of the major arguments of the book of Ruth is that God rewards obedience. There is
a contrast with the reward of disobedience shown in Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chilion with that of
Ruth and Boaz. God’s covenant promise (Duet. 28:1-14) is on display for not only the Israelites
who obey, but those that bless Israel as well. Through her loyalty and obedience, Ruth is blessed
with a son and a prominent place in the Messianic family tree.
Purpose
The purpose of the book of Ruth is to remind Israel that even in the dark times, God’s
promise provides the foundation for humanities hope in Him. The hope that was once just
Israel’s has been conveyed to the Gentiles through the grafting of Ruth into the family.
Key Themes
One of the key themes found in the book of Ruth are the characteristics of God on
display. In verse 1:8, Naomi petitions, “May the Lord deal kindly with you.” The Hebrew word
translated kindly is ד ֶ
סֶ
ח (ḥě·sěḏ). However, the translation does not do it justice in this instance.
Block states:
Ḥesed is one of those Hebrew words whose meaning cannot be captured in one
English word. This is a strong relational term that wraps up in itself an entire
cluster of concepts, all the positive attributes of God—love, mercy, grace,
kindness, goodness, benevolence, loyalty, covenant faithfulness; in short, that
quality that moves a person to act for the benefit of another without respect to the
advantage it might bring to the one who expresses it.6
All of these attributes are shown to each of the major characters as the story unfolds to
the eventual coming of the one whom God would make the everlasting covenant.
Another key theme is faith. While God’s attributes are manifested in and through
the main characters, Ruth displays a magnificent faith. Her faith, Block states, “is truly
6 Block, Judges, Ruth, 605.
5
remarkable.”7 Ruth declares her faith in God and is faithful in her commitment to Naomi.
God in return shows His faithfulness to the covenant and blesses both Boaz and Ruth.
Exegetical Outline and Commentary
Chapter 1 – The Journey
Time in Moab (1-5)
The book of Ruth is a narrative of the family of Elimelech and his wife Naomi. During
the time of the judges, there was a famine in the land and the couple, along with their two sons,
Mahlon and Chilion, traveled to Moab from Judah. How long the family would stay in Moab is
not clear, however, it does not intend to have been indefinite. Arthur Cundall and Leon Morris
note, “The use of the verb gûr, ‘to sojourn’, shows that the man planned to return in due course
(Berkeley renders, to live for a while).”8 However, the use of the phrase “about ten years” causes
some argument as to what this time entailed. Edward Campbell opines, “Given the direction in
which the story will move, I am inclined to disagree with most commentators and to take this
phrase as indicating the time span after the marriages of the two sons, rather than the entire
length of the family’s sojourn in Moab.”9
After arriving in Moab, Elimelech dies leaving Naomi with only her two sons. The sons
would eventually continue in their disobedience to God’s covenantal commands and marry
Moabite women, one named Oprah and the other Ruth. However, both sons would die during
7 Block, Judges, Ruth, 606.
8 Arthur E. Cundall and Leon Morris, Judges and Ruth: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 7 of The
Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1968), 237.
9 Jr. Campbell Edward F., Ruth: A New Translation with Introduction, Notes, and Commentary, vol. 7,
Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 58.
6
their stay in Moab leaving Naomi now widowed and without her sons. However, she is not the
only widow in the story.
Return to Judah (6-18)
Finding herself now a widow, Naomi must make a decision to stay in Moab or return
home to Judah. The three women set out together as Naomi had heard while working in the fields
that “the Lord had visited his people and given them food” (v.6), meaning the famine had come
to an end. But Naomi would have a change of heart and direct her daughters-in-law to return to
their mother’s house. At first, both women vow to remain with Naomi saying, “No, we will
return with you to your people” (v. 10). However, in the end, it is Ruth who pledge’s loyalty. She
states in those iconic words of Scripture, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from
following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge” (v. 16). Block
agrees, “The first words we hear from Ruth’s lips alone are among the most memorable in all of
Scripture.”10 With her attempts to discourage Ruth being fruitless, Naomi “said no more.”
Arriving in Bethlehem (19-22)
While the details of the trip back to Judah are not given, the arrival of the two widows to
Bethlehem is. The whole town was stirred, or as Cundall and Morris state, “was a buzz of
excitement.”11 The women ask if this is the Naomi that they knew from before. After all, it had
been at least 10 years since Naomi was in Bethlehem; not to mention leaving with her husband
and two sons. However, now she returns with only her daughter-in-law. The years that Naomi
had been gone had not been good to either, therefore, her appearance must have shown the
effects of the trials. Naomi exclaims, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has
dealt very bitterly with me” (v. 20). The once “pleasant” Naomi was indeed Mara, which means
10 Block, Judges, Ruth, 640.
11 Cundall, Judges and Ruth, 253.
7
bitter.12 Evident that she no longer has a male provider in the family, Naomi then proclaims her
predicament having returned “empty.” Schipper agrees, “In a sense, she is declaring her need for
a kindred redeemer by emphasizing her emptiness upon her arrival in Bethlehem.” 13
Chapter 2 – Finding Favor
Ruth Meets Boaz (1-7)
Naomi’s potential redeemer is revealed in the very first sentence, the presence of a
wealthy relative to her husband whose name is Boaz. In verse two, Ruth devises a plan to get to
provide for them and asking to “glean among the ears of grain” in the field in which she is sure
to gain favor of the landowner. The gleaning is normally a provision set forth by the Torah for
the aliens and poor of the country. Eskenazi and Frymer-Kensky add, “Rabbinic literature
develops biblical laws of gleaning extensively to assure equitable access and minimize abuse.”14
However, Schipper points out, “she never self-identifies as an alien (cf. Ruth 2:10), and her
request to glean is not necessarily made on the basis of such legislation.”15 Naomi gives
permission and it is in the field that Ruth, the Moabite, will eventually meet Boaz, who was from
the clan of Elimelech. The author appears to be going to great trouble to keep the identity of
Ruth and Boaz at the center of the reader’s attention. Cundall and Morris conclude, “The hand of
God is over Ruth’s action, and he does not want us to miss this.”16
Boaz, arriving at the field inquires from the reapers “Whose young woman is this?” (v.
5). By asking this question Boaz may be attempting to find out whose daughter or wife she is or
12 Cundall, Judges and Ruth, 253.
13 Schipper, Ruth, 110.
14 Eskenazi, The JPS Bible, 29.
15 Schipper, Ruth, 115.
16 Cundall, Judges and Ruth, 262.
8
whose family she belongs. Regardless of motive, Block shows, “The question refocuses the
attention on Ruth and indirectly draws attention to the line of Elimelech, which gives her identity
in this context.” 17 The focus is on Ruth, the supervisor of the reapers shares with Boaz that she
has asked permission to glean from the sheaves. Because Boaz had not yet arrived on the scene,
scholars believe Ruth had been waiting for the permission, which she is about to receive, to work
the field.
Boaz Offers Grace (8-13)
It is now time for Boaz to speak. Strangely, Boaz addresses Ruth as “my daughter” in this
exchange. However, scholars believe Boaz’s address is not without intention. Eskenazi and
Frymer-Kensky state, “This language indicates an age difference, as well as his superior status,
but also conveys solicitude.”18 Boaz instructs glean only from his fields and shows additional
favor by instructing her to stay close to “my young women” (v.8). Cundall and Morris speculate,
“This apparently indicates some form of status in Boaz’ household.”19
In verse 10, Ruth responds by falling to her knees before Boaz and questions the favor for
which he has shown her. In doing so, she recognizes the grace that has been shown to her and her
understanding that it is by Boaz’s authority that she is able to glean the fields. Cundall and
Morris add, “She recognized that Boaz was doing more than was in strictness required and she
was grateful accordingly.” 20 However, Eskenaz1 and Frymer-Kensky notice, “By asking a
question, Ruth elicits more from Boaz and keeps him engaged.”21 In response to her “Why?”,
17 Block, Judges, Ruth, 655.
18 Eskenazi, The JPS Bible, 34.
19 Cundall, Judges and Ruth, 265.
20 Cundall, Judges and Ruth, 266.
21 Eskenazi, The JPS Bible, 36.
9
Boaz share that he had heard all that she had done for Naomi and how she had left her father and
mother to come to a live among strangers. Boaz adds a prayer for the Lord’s blessing to be with
her. Campbell proclaims, “It is imperative to realize that there is no mechanical doctrine of
reward and punishment here; what is here is a confident affirmation that God’s blessing follows
upon righteous living.”22 However, many believe that Boaz is transferring the task to God for
rewarding Ruth. Eskenazi and Frymer-Kensky share an interpretation that, for what Ruth has
done, no human could give a sufficient reward and add, “This interpretation elevates Ruth’s
devotion even higher.”23 The words must have been music to Ruth’s ears. She expresses her
gratitude for Boaz’s kindness, but it seems much more than that. Cundall and Morris agree,
“They represent the first cheerful thing recorded as happening to her since the death of her
husband in Moab.”24
Break for Lunch (14-17)
In verse 14 Boaz extends and invitation to join he and his people for a meal. Could this
be a preview of the invitation to all Gentiles to partake in a meal with the Lord? The invitation to
“Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine” is an Old Testament
representation of the modern Eucharist. Through the meal, Boaz continues showing favor upon
Ruth by ensuring that she not only had plenty to eat, but “had some left over” (v. 14). After the
meal, Ruth returns to work, however, not before Boaz provides special instructions to the
reapers, ensuring Ruth a successful gleaning.
22 Campbell, Ruth, 113.
23 Eskenazi, The JPS Bible, 38.
24 Cundall, Judges and Ruth, 268.
10
Naomi’s Response (18-23)
Ruth returns home with the rewards of, not only her work, but Boaz’s grace. Scripture
says she returned with a ephah of barley.25 To thresh that amount in one day is a amazing and,
not to mention transporting it home. Block states, “An ephah of barley could have weighed from
thirty to fifty pounds.”26 And he adds, “The harvesters obviously followed Boaz’s instructions
and allowed Ruth to scavenge liberally.”27
Naomi greets Ruth, amazed at her harvest was inquisitive as to where she had spent her
day. By asking both “Where did you glean?” and “Where did you work?” Block conveys, “the
order and the redundancy combine to reflect her utter amazement at Ruth’s productivity.”28
Naomi blesses the man before Ruth has a chance to answer. Therefore, when Ruth comes forth
with the man’s name, Naomi praises and asks blessings from the Lord for Boaz, “whose
kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” (v. 20). The reference to the living many
believe is to Naomi and Ruth, while the dead are the relatives that passed. Naomi and Ruth had
arrived back in Bethlehem without the support of a male family member. Naomi understands the
loyalty shown in Boaz’s actions.
Once she calmed her excitement, Naomi explains to Ruth the reason for her elation
explaining Boaz is not only a relative, but “one of our redeemers.” The significance of family is
evident through out the story, especially in this exchange as the terms “mother-in-law” and
“daughter-in-law” are repeated in descriptions of the women. The identification of Ruth the
Moabite plays into the fact that she is still a foreigner in the land. This provides context to
25 Note in the ESV states an ephah is approximately 3/5 bushel or two weeks supply for the two women.
26 Block, Judges, 670.
27 Ibid.
28 Ibid., 671.
11
Naomi’s exhortation to “go out with his young women, lest in the field you be assaulted” (v. 22).
Therefore, Ruth continued to work the field of Boaz until the end of the harvest, all the while
living with her mother-in-law.
Chapter 3 – Naomi Plans a Wedding
Naomi’s Plan (1-5)
After Naomi realized that Boaz could answer the call as kindred redeemer, she begins to
search for ways that this union could come to pass. Questions swirl through Naomi’s head as to
whether to find rest, or home (NIV), for her daughter-in-law. A question as to whether she
should help find Ruth a husband. Block explains, “The word mānôaḥ, “place of rest,” derives
from the same root as mĕnûḥâ in 1:9 and speaks of the security and tranquility that a woman in
Israel longed for and expected to find in the home of a loving husband.”29 Naomi then lays out
the scene as she explains to Ruth that Boaz, their kinsman, will be winnowing barley on the
threshing floor. Revealing her plan, Naomi instructs Ruth to wash and anoint herself then put on
her cloak. Many scholars have considered the significance of this preparation. Katharine
Sakenfeld explains, “Some have suggested a parallel in Ezekiel 16:9–12, where Israel is pictured
as a bride being prepared for her wedding by washing, anointing with oil, and dressing in special
clothing.”30 While Ruth’s dressing is not of something special, and rarity of bathing, the
instructions, Sakenfeld adds, “give Ruth a clue that Naomi has something unusual in mind.”31
Naomi continues her instruction explaining to Ruth to not make herself known once she
has arrived at the threshing floor and she is to wait until after Boaz has finished eating and
drinking. It is assumed that Naomi wants Boaz to be in good spirits when Ruth reveals herself. In
29 Block, Judges, 681.
30 Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, Ruth, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching
(Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1999), 53.
31 Ibid., 54.
12
light of the harvest, Eskenazi and Frymer-Kensky explain, “‘eating and drinking’ implies
festivities, with ‘drinking’ as reference to some intoxicating beverage.”32 However, Block warns,
“our passage makes no mention whatsoever of him getting drunk or of engaging in actions that
he would not have done sober.”33 Therefore, we can only make assumptions to the level of
drinking Boaz attained.
Once there, Ruth is to observe the place where he lies. This would be a reference to when
Boaz goes to bed. Therefore, Ruth was not to wait to reveal herself just until Boaz finished his
meal, but rather up until the time he goes to sleep. Once in bed, Ruth was to approach Boaz and
“uncover his feet and lie down” then wait for his instructions. Some scholars speculate that this
is an attempt for Ruth to have sex with Boaz. However, that is not clearly evident from the text.
Sakenfeld states, “the storyteller is able to use the nighttime encounter to maintain tension
between the possibility of a sexual encounter and the possibility of reasoned planning for the
future.”34 Whatever the plan, Ruth confesses her obedience to it (v.5).
Ruth Executes the Plan (6-13)
Arriving at the threshing floor, the scene plays out for Ruth just as Naomi had described.
Ruth follows her instructions and waits for Boaz to finish eating and drinking and then watches
as he goes to lie down. Sakenfeld makes note, “The narrator observes that Boaz “was in a
contented mood,” offering one clue concerning Naomi’s suggested timing for Ruth’s action.”35
However, the extent of mood is not clear and, Schipper observes, “This lack of clarity regarding
32 Eskenazi, The JPS Bible, 52.
33 Block, Judges, 684.
34 Sakenfeld, Ruth, 55.
35 Ibid., 56.
13
Boaz’s state fits with the ambiguity surrounding much of what happens that night on the
threshing floor.”36
From this point, Ruth continues with the plan to the extent in which Naomi had laid it
out. Approaching Boaz, she uncovered his feet and laid down. How much time transpires
between the next event is unknown, however, at midnight Boaz awakes and is startled to find a
woman laying at his feet. Some translations state he trembled with the assumption that maybe the
chill of the night woke him and, in reaching to cover his feet, he was startled. Given his
upstanding character in the city, it is not a stretch to understand his shock at the presence of an
unexpected woman at his feet.
Boaz quickly asks, “Who are you?” At this point, Ruth is beyond the script and has to
adlib from this point. She answers, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your
servant, for you are a redeemer” (v. 9). By using the term “wings,” Ruth is transferring the
responsibility back to Boaz that Boaz had transferred to God. Sakenfeld agrees, “Now Ruth in
effect invites Boaz to make good on the prayer he made earlier on her behalf, by providing some
measure of the “full reward” of refuge under God’s wings through his own action, by marrying
her.”37 While Boaz is flattered that she would seek him out over the younger men, he sees an
issue in the request. Boaz pledges to do all that she asks, for “all my fellow townsmen know that
you are a worthy woman” (v. 11), however, he confesses that he is not the next of kinsman. Still,
Boaz makes a request of her to stay the night. His noble character is on display when he insists
on giving the rightful man the opportunity to redeem, however, is most willing to do so should
36 Schipper, Ruth, 153.
37 Sakenfeld, Ruth, 58–59.
14
that man pass. Block notes, “His eagerness is expressed by his determination to settle the matter
in the morning.”38
Ruth Returns Home (14-18)
Showing her obedience to both Naomi and Boaz, Ruth remains at the threshing floor until
morning. However, the departure mostly likely takes place before sunrise. Sakenfeld agrees,
“Although the term “morning” most often is associated with the arrival of daylight, Ruth’s
departure takes place before dawn, just as the deepest night begins to lift, at a time when a
human figure can be discerned but not individually identified.”39 However, before she leaves
Boaz blesses her once more. Boaz sends her away with six-measures of barley, which Sakenfeld
believes, “it is most likely a substantial amount.”40 Sakenfeld continues, “The purpose of the gift
is revealed only in the next scene, when Ruth rejoins Naomi.”41
Once home, Naomi interrogates Ruth as to her evening saying, “How did you fare, my
daughter?” (v. 17). Ruth complies with the question and shares, “All the man had done for her”
(v. 16). However, she explained the gift of barley was so that she did not return to her mother-in-
law “empty handed” (v. 17). Some scholars question why Boaz would be concerned with Naomi
at this point. Suggestions include his responsibility to Naomi as kinsman, a token of appreciation
for sending Ruth to the threshing floor, and a good faith offering for his promise to redeem
Ruth.42 With the information in hand, Naomi devises a new plan. Unlike her early plan to wash,
anoint, dress, and go, this time Naomi instructs her to wait. In other words, be patient. The plan
38 Block, Judges, 695–696.
39 Sakenfeld, Ruth, 64.
40 Ibid., 65.
41 Ibid.
42 Block, Judges, 700.
15
is not complete. There are still some unanswered questions, but Ruth’s job is done. Cundall and
Morris agree, “There is no need for Ruth to do anything further and she is told to sit still till she
knows how the affair will turn out.”43 Now it is up to Boaz.
Chapter 4 – The Plan Comes Together
Preparing the Stage (1-2)
The story in chapter four transitions from the privacy of Boaz’s field to the public arena
of the town. The “gate” was the center of town where people gathered to conduct legal business.
Schipper agrees, “The “gate” functions as a metonym for the political body responsible for the
legal or political affairs of the town.” 44 It is here that the redeemer Boaz had informed Ruth
about enters the scene. Boaz makes contact and suggest he “turn aside” and sit down (v. 1b). The
redeemer obliges Boaz’s request and sits. Once seated, Boaz gathers ten elders from the town
and had them sit with them. Some scholars are not exactly clear on the role of these ten elders.
On the one hand, Sakenfeld states, “It does seem clear that the function of these ten is to be
official witnesses, rather than to take any part in the action itself.”45 While on the other hand
Block proclaims, “Obviously the men were all full citizens of Bethlehem; being identified as
elders they were responsible for the administration of the town.”46 Regardless, having obtained
an audience, Boaz begins to lay out the circumstances at hand.
Terms and Conditions (3-6)
Boaz explains to the redeemer and witnesses that Naomi has returned and is in need to
sell property the belongs to their relative Elimelech. Continuing with the information about the
land, Boaz explains that it if he wants to redeem, or buy, the land to make it known now in front
43 Cundall, Judges, 287.
44 Schipper, Ruth, 172.
45 Sakenfeld, Ruth, 69.
46 Block, Judges, 707.
16
of the gathered witnesses, if not, make it known because, “there is no one besides you to redeem
it, and I come after you” (v. 4.). In this instance, Boaz is reminding the nearer kinsman of the
legality of the proceedings taking place in the presence of the “elders.” However, it appears that
Boaz was looking for an immediate answer by his declaration that “If you won’t, I will”
statement. This tactic appears to be working by the response of the kinsman, “I will redeem it.”
As Boaz’s plan continues to unfold, he reminds the kinsman that, along with the land,
“you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of
the dead in his inheritance” (v.5). However, there is some ambiguity around the requirements of
the kinsman in this situation. Schipper states, “The current situation requires not only land
redemption, but also a restoration of a household, since Naomi’s sons, including Ruth’s husband,
died without children in Moab.”47 However, Eskenazi and Frymer-Kensky point out two
contentions with the situation, “The first problem is textual, determining who is to “acquire”
Ruth—Boaz or the other redeemer? The second problem concerns the basis for the
“acquisition.”48 Whether the terms Boaz was laying out was factual or not, the nearer kinsman
realizes the implications and passes his first right to redeem on to Boaz in fear of impairing his
own inheritance (v. 6). Therefore, without hesitation, the kinsman removes his sandal and hands
it to Boaz saying, “Buy it for yourself” (v. 8).
Ratifying the Contract (7-12)
The author explains the customs of the time pertaining to the completion of a legal
transaction. Eskenazi and Frymer-Kensky explain, “Oral cultures rely on witnesses and symbolic
47 Schipper, Ruth, 173.
48 Eskenazi, The JPS Bible Commentary, 76.
17
gestures to ratify legal agreements.”49 They add, “A sandal in particular lends itself easily to be
used as such a symbol. Ibn Ezra observes more than a millennium later that a sandal is a
common personal item that can be removed without leaving a person naked.”50 Therefore, the
nearer told Boaz to “Buy it for yourself” and drew off his sandal (v. 8).
Boaz takes advantage of the assembly of elders and makes known his intentions. He
declared that he not only bought from Naomi “all that belonged to Elimelech and the sons,
Chilion and Mahlon, but also Ruth the Moabite. With the clarification that Ruth was included,
Cundall and Morris point out, “Boaz comes to the heart of the matter. In buying the field he has
also obtained Ruth to be his wife.”51 In addition, Boaz is motivated to ensure the deceased is not
“cut off from among his brothers” and “cut off from the gate of his native place” (v.10). The
latter, Block states, “is intended to guarantee Elimelech/Mahlon the right to representation in the
gathering of the town council.”52 With his intentions declared, Boaz exclaims to the crowd, “You
are witnesses this day.”
It seems that the proceedings between Boaz and the nearer kinsman drew quite a crowd.
The author shares that Boaz receives confirmation to his declaration by, not only the elders of the
quorum, but from “all the people who were at the gate” (v. 11). The witnesses pray blessings
upon Ruth as that of Rachel and Leah, “who together built the house of Israel.” The blessing
upon Ruth the Moabite comes with prophetic implications. Block agrees, “The witnesses’
49 Ibid., 79.
50 Ibid.
51 Cundall, Judges, 299.
52 Block, Judges, 721.
18
request concerning Ruth is extraordinary inasmuch as they pray that Yahweh would grant this
foreign woman a place among the matriarchs of Israel along with Rachel and Leah.”53
The three-part blessing upon Boaz appears prophetic in nature as well. In the first two
elements, the witnesses ask that he prosper in Ephrathah and to make a name in Bethlehem. The
third entails Boaz’s house become like Perez, “because of the offspring that the Lord will give
you by this young woman” (v.12). Sakenfeld states, “This part of the prayer points specifically to
the concluding genealogy (4:18–22), where we learn that Perez is the ancestor of Boaz and
David.”54
Family Ties (13-22)
The book of Ruth concludes with the announcement of the marriage between Boaz and
Ruth, along with the conception and birth of a son (v. 13). Scholars point out the correlation
between the phrase “He entered her” and the earlier description of “the woman who is entering
your household.” Schipper explains, “The people and elders anticipate Ruth’s entry into Boaz’s
house as a way to build it through procreation, and indeed, Boaz’s entry into Ruth leads to
procreation.”55
While the scene begins with the marriage of Boaz and Ruth, along with the birth of a son,
it is Naomi that is brought back for the closing scene. The women prophesy over Naomi and give
blessing to the Lord, “who has not left you [Naomi] this day without a redeemer” (v. 14). Naomi
had returned to Bethlehem feeling “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (1:20), yet she
is being restored through Obed. This is possibly due to the inferred old age of Boaz when he
marries Ruth. Because the women do not declare Boaz or the nearer kinsman as redeemer,
53 Ibid., 721–722.
54 Sakenfeld, Ruth, 78.
55 Schipper, Ruth, 182.
19
Schipper concludes, “Obed will be the one who returns life for Naomi and supports her in her old
age (v. 15).”56 The designation of Obed as the restorer of life has present and future aspect to it.
In the present, the author tells of how Obed will be the one supporting Naomi in her old age.
However, Obed’s genealogy includes not only descendants from Perez, being the father of Jesse,
and the father of David, through the line to Jesus, the ultimate restorer of life.
Conclusion
The book of Ruth has many theological truths that can apply to the modern Christian life.
The first truth that is gleaned from the narrative of the life of Naomi is that God has a plan for all
people, even those deemed by human standards as unworthy. Throughout the narrative, Ruth is
identified as the Moabite woman. This identification of Ruth is to show that, while she is a
foreigner in the land of Judah, her loyalty to Naomi and, ultimately, her trust in God, brought her
favor. Ruth’s acceptance into the Israelite clan shows all are accepted into the family of God.
Through Christ all who believe earn the right to be a child of God.
Second, God give us hope in our darkest of days. Both Naomi and Ruth found themselves
in dire situations. Naomi, having left her native homeland due to famine, loses her husband and
both sons. Widowed in a foreign land she returns to her native homeland without any support.
Ruth, her daughter-in-law, finds herself a widow as well and, in loyalty to her mother-in-law,
leaves her native homeland to live amongst people she did not know. However, God’s grace
leads her to the field of Boaz who would eventually redeem the land and take Ruth as his wife.
Though the times seemed desperate on their arrival to Bethlehem, God’s grace gives hope for a
future. When faith in God remains, even in the darkest of times, we always have hope for a better
day.
56 Ibid.
20
Lastly, God rewards obedience. After Naomi’s loss of her sons, she heads back to the
land from which she traveled and instructed her daughters-in-law to return their mothers.
However, Ruth showed her loyalty to Naomi and followed her back to a foreign land. Once in
Bethlehem, Ruth request to go and glean from the fields in an attempt to gather grain to survive.
Her loyalty is rewarded when God orchestrated the chance meeting with Naomi’s relative Boaz.
Once Naomi learned of the meeting, she instructed Ruth what to do to attempt to entice Boaz’s
affections. Ruth declared, “All that you say I will do” (3:4). Her obedience is rewarded, and
Boaz eventually takes her hand in marriage and provides her with a son. Therefore, obedience to
God’s will for our lives will lead to a rewarding life.
Bibliography
Block, Daniel Isaac. Judges, Ruth. Vol. 6 in The New American Commentary. Nashville:
Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.
Campbell, Jr., Edward F. Ruth: A New Translation with Introduction, Notes, and Commentary.
Vol. 7 in The Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008.
Cundall, Arthur E. and Leon Morris, Judges and Ruth: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 7
of The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press,
1968.
21
Eskenazi, Tamara Cohn and Tikva Frymer-Kensky. The JPS Bible Commentary: Ruth. JPS
Tanakh Commentary. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2011.
Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. Ruth, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and
Preaching. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1999.
Schipper, Jeremy. Ruth: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. ed. John J.
Collins. Vol. 7D in The Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven; London: Yale University Press,
2016.
22
Students also viewed