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Ruth is the 8th book of the Holy Bible. I plan on giving a brief overview followed by a personal commentary. Ruth is sectioned off into four chapters, all of fairly equal length. This is a quick, cannon-ball, shot through The Book of Ruth:
1. A woman named Naomi marries a man named Elimelech, has two kids (Mahlon and Chilion), the two boys marry Orpah and Ruth. All three men, Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion die. Orpah leaves and Ruth stays with Naomi.
2. Naomi and Ruth go to a relative of Naomi (Boaz) in order to glean ears of corn. While Ruth is gleaning corn she is met by Boaz and given special privileges because she stayed to mourn and be with Naomi.
3. Naomi tells Ruth to try to be with Boaz. Gives her advice. Ruth follows advice.
4. Boaz offers to sell parcel of Elimelech's land to a kinsman but Boaz gets Ruth to marry and land. Boaz and Ruth marry: beget Obed, who begets Jesse, who begets David.
There is little theological intrigue involved in the book of Ruth but there is indeed a lot of humanity. I find that the best way to start this commentary is by stating that it would not have been a bad idea to call the Book of Ruth, the Book of Naomi and Ruth. Throughout this book Naomi is to be seen as not a secondary person but a primary. For one, Naomi was honorable enough to free her daughters-in-law from the bondage of widowhood, for another she gave continual leadership to Ruth (Ruth 1:8-9, 1:22, 2:2, 2:22, 3:1-4). Along with this Ruth acted to be weaker than Naomi (1:14). Becasue of these things Naomi acted much like a main character, a sage, to Ruth. With this said I will now start my tedious commentary on the Book of Ruth.
The first thing to note about these people within the Book of Ruth is that they were alive during the rules of the Judges of Israel (1:1). What this meant is that there was not a long-term leader or prophetic guide. The judges of Israel were not like Abraham or Moses or Joshua. These three men were like stone within their connection to God and with their leadership of the chilfren of Jacob (Israel). The Judges of Israel were not such Titans. Ehud and Othniel and Shamgar and Deborah and Gideon (people from the Book of Judges) all were great helpers of Israel but they did not last. Their reigns over Israel were good, but short. And each time after the Israelites were freed by a Judge they went back to their immorality. And this was the climate that Naomi and Ruth and Elimelech and Orpah lived in. They were not around while God was a Pillar of Fire and Cloud (Exodus 13:21) and they were not around while Moses was everyone's father. These people told of in the Book of Ruth were around during the ambiguous leadership of Israel. And so this effects the way Ruth is read because it does not pertain to all of Israel but to only a part, a family, a small pack of people.
Another thing to note about the Book of Ruth is that marriage is not about love, for these people. And this should not be seen as bad. When Naomi's husband and two sons died it was not just a loss of life, but also a loss of heritage and continued life and prosperity. She must have felt much like Job (1:13-19) losing both love and land. It was never as though Naomi or any person in the history of the Bible was more forlorn about losing land in comparison to losing family; but those people were more than screwed when family was gone. If my family dies then I can get a job somewhere. But back then most assets and plots of land were given only to family. Eveything was a family business and if there is no family, there is no business. So even once Naomi got over her sadness of loss, she was still poor. And so when Naomi blesses Orpah and Ruth (1:8-9) and tells them to go find other husbands she is not necessarily sending them off to find love, she is more-so sending them off to the possibility of a normal life, a life of average to above-average wealth and land owning and happiness. In the current scheme of life marriage is done because of emotion and happiness (which is good). Back then, marriage was like a secure job or a contract between buisnesses.
Something else to notice about the Book of Ruth is the idea of grace. It is not the paramount spiritual grace of Galatians but, rather, it is the grace of humanity and Christ. It is found in Ruth 2:11-12 and it, in my opinion, is the pinnacle text of the Book of Ruth. I will note it here and refer to it:
11 And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shown me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. 12 The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.
This (this part of chapter two) changes the mood of the Book of Ruth in two ways. For one, Ruth is now seen as someone strong who holds up Naomi and not as a weak one held up by Naomi. And for another she is seen as one who trusts in the Lord. This first part, her holding up Naomi, came to me as a beautiful change of gears. It is not said how long these four chapters took place, this record of Naomi and Ruth. I could not properly say if it was a week or a month or ten years but I can say that there must have been some time for Ruth to change from a sad widower (Ruth 1:14) to a supportive stronghold for Naomi (2:11). And this is good for the heart. The second thing to be seen, her personal trust in God, was especially good for me because at first I had no notion of her faith, her actual faith. The first thing I knew of her was that she would follow Naomi's God (1:16). Though this sounds cute, it does not sound personal. I do not know for sure, perhaps she meant that she was going to follow him because of the courage he (God) gave Naomi but one cannot know exactly. So that statement, that she would follow Naomi's God, frustrated me, perplexed me. And that is why I am so reassured to see that Ruth was said to be under the wings of whom she trusted (Ruth 2:12).
After chapter two concludes, chapter three concerns itself with Ruth and Boaz at the threshing floor. At first I was fairly confused as to what was going on. But after re-reading it I understand it better. Naomi, noting the goodness of Ruth, told her to go to Boaz and to show him that she wanted him to marry her. In turn Boaz responds and tells her that he wants to marry her but must offer her to the nearest kin first. What I find most compeling about this chapter is Boaz's character. He is giddy to know that she chose him over younger, richer men (Ruth 3:10), he calls her a woman of good/noble/virtuous character (3:12) and he sounds tickled to marry her (3:13). Another thing to clue into the possibility of Boaz's eagerness is what Naomi says in the last sentence of the chapter. She tells Ruth that, have no fear, Boaz will make sure to ask the nearest kinsman before the day be done (3:18). I can only see Boaz as a man of respect (2:8, 2:11, 2:14, 3:12 etc). He also seems to be a man of virtue considering that he demanded no man to take advantage of Ruth while she was gleaning the fields (2:9).
Chapter four includes these things: Boaz speaks joyfully with the nearest kin to Ruth, gets the land and the honor of marrying Ruth, takes off his shoe and then there is a most holy geneology at the end. The things I wish to speak on are: the joy of Boaz, the shoe and the geneology. First, Boaz was seemingly happy to talk with the nearest of kin. It says that Boaz sat at the town gate waiting for the man to arrive, perhaps he sat on some pins and on some needles as well (4:1). Once the man arrived at the gate Boaz was so joyous that in the King James translation there is an exclamation point when Boaz meets him! As it says "Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here." (Ruth 4:1). After this comes the shoe. It did not makes sense to me at first until I read Ruth 4:7 which states that in Jewish Tradition the redemption or transfer of goods can only become final when one party took off his shoe and gave it to the other. And I am sure Boaz did this happily (I mean come on; Ruth chose him over the other, cooler fellas). And lastly there is the geneology. O, sweet geneology.
17 And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and the called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, The father of David. 18 Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron, And Hezron begat Ram, And Ram begat Amminadab, And Amminadab begat Nahshon, And Nahshon begat Salmon, And Salmon begat Boaz, And Boaz begat Obed, And Obed begat Jesse, And Jesse begat David.
In case you should wonder why this geneology is so sweet (like romance and rain), please read Matthew 1.