In this post, we will work our way through Ruth 2:1-7. We will be utilizing the Complete Jewish Bible translation unless otherwise noted.

Ruth 2:1-7, “1 Na’omi had a relative on her husband’s side, a prominent and wealthy member of Elimelekh’s clan, whose name was Bo’az.
2 Rut the woman from Mo’av said to Na’omi, “Let me go into the field and glean ears of grain behind anyone who will allow me to.” She answered her, “Go, my daughter.”
3 So she set out, arrived at the field and gleaned behind the reapers. She happened to be in the part of the field that belonged to Bo’az from Elimelekh’s clan,
4 when Bo’az arrived from Beit-Lechem. He said to the reapers, “ADONAI be with you”; and they answered him, “ADONAI bless you.”
5 Then Bo’az asked his servant supervising the reapers, “Whose girl is this?”
6 The servant supervising the reapers answered, “She’s a girl from Mo’av who returned with Na’omi from the plain of Mo’av.
7 She said, ‘Please, let me glean and gather what falls from the sheaves behind the reapers.’ So she went and has kept at it from morning until now, except for a little rest in the shelter.”

Commentary:

Ruth 2:1, “Na’omi had a relative on her husband’s side, a prominent and wealthy member of Elimelekh’s clan, whose name was Bo’az.”

In chapter 2 of Ruth, we are introduced to the character of Bo’az, described as a relative of Na’omi’s deceased husband Elimelehk. Bo’az is noted as being a prominent member of the community and a man of wealth. As we did with the other characters that have appeared thus far in the historical account of Ruth, we will first note the name of Bo’az means “fleetness.” F. B. Huey notes that the name Bo’az “has been taken from bo’az (in him is strength, from ben ‘az (son of strength), or from an Arabic word for lively, vigorous.”[1]

One other item of note in this verse is the word often translated as relative or in some translations, that of kinsman. While in this particular verse the word kinsman simply refers to the fact that Bo’az is a relative of Elimelekh, a greater concept will begin to play out as we move further along in the story concerning the exact nature of how Bo’az will perform this function as the kinsman of Ruth and Na’omi. Daniel Block comments “The NIV rightly recognizes that the narrator’s point is not that he is an acquaintance of Naomi but a relative of her husband. This small detail raises the interest and hopes of the readers, especially those who are familiar with Israelite law and custom.”[2]

Ruth 2:2, “But the woman from Mo’av said to Na’omi, “Let me go into the field and glean ears of grain behind anyone who will allow me to.” She answered her, “Go, my daughter.”

In order to understand why Ruth asked permission from Na’omi to go into the field and glean, we must take a quick look back at Leviticus 19:9-10 which states:

“When you harvest the ripe crops produced in your land, don’t harvest all the way to corners of your field, and don’t gather the ears of grain left by the harvesters. Likewise, don’t gather the grapes left on the vine or fallen on the ground after harvest; leave them for the poor and the foreigner; I am ADONAI your God.”

While Na’omi and Ruth had returned to a land that was no longer experiencing the impact of famine, these two women still had no one to provide for them. The text does not indicate where they were living at this time in most ANE (ancient near eastern) societies, women without a husband were subject to fending for themselves. Thus, commands such as the one given by God in Leviticus 19 were intended to serve as a means for the poor such as Na’omi and Ruth to obtain food.

Despite God commanding landowners and those who reaped the grain to not gather the crops all the way to the edges of their fields, “owners of the fields were not always cooperative.”[3] It is arguably due to knowing this reality that Ruth states her hope of finding favor with someone who will allow her to gather grain on their property. This phrase “in whose eyes I will find favor” or “who will allow me to” is noted by Edward Campbell as a “frequently used idiom, almost always in the elevated prose of dramatic narratives…It seems always to be used by a person of inferior status to a superior.”[4]

Na’omi, in response to Ruth’s request, simply states “Go, my daughter”, leaving the reader once again on the proverbial edge of their seat wondering if Ruth will find favor and more importantly, food.

Ruth 2:3, “So she set out, arrived at the field and gleaned behind the reapers. She happened to be in the part of the field that belonged to Bo’az from Elimelekh’s clan,”

Verse 3 describes Ruth leaving the presence of Na’omi, arriving at a field and gleaning behind the reapers. The phrase that occurs next in the text at first glance might imply that Ruth gleaning at the field of Bo’az was by sheer happenstance or stroke of luck. Closer inspection of the words used in this passage reveals this was not by chance at all; rather, the arrival of Ruth at the field of Bo’az was nothing short of divine intervention. K. Lawson Younger aptly comments what we really have here in this passage is a phrase that means “and her chance (miqreh) chanced (wayriqer). Both noun and the verb derive from the root qrb, which means “to meet, encounter.” The phrase is used in this sentence as a rhetorical device, hyperbolic irony. By excessively attributing Ruth’s good fortune to chance, the phrase points ironically to the opposite, namely, to the sovereignty of God.”[5] So once again, the story returns the reader to the fact that God is allowing nothing to chance in the story of Ruth. Instead, His guiding hand is found on every page and every element of action.

This verse concludes with yet another reference to Bo’az being from the family/clan of Na’omi’s husband Elimelekh, something which again will become more important to the overall story as it moves along. For now, we are being introduced to the “savior” of this story, how part in the overall drama of Ruth will soon be made known to the reader.

Ruth 2:4, “when Bo’az arrived from Beit-Lechem. He said to the reapers, “ADONAI be with you”; and they answered him, “ADONAI bless you.”

The plot now reveals Bo’az returning from Beth-Lechem to his fields where he greets the gatherers of his crops with the simple phrase, “Adonai be with you” (yhwh ‘immakem). The gatherers respond with “Adonai bless you” (yebarekeka yhwh). The reader is immediately impressed with the fact that Bo’az must be a God fearing man given his salutation to his workers and their subsequent response. Noting this fact, J. Vernon McGee avers “God was reverently recognized in the harvest field by both the owner and the laborers. This all transpired in the days of the judges when there was decline, decay and disintegration. The remainder of Israel might forget God and turn to idols, but there was one man who did not forget Him, but remembered Him even in the extension of a morning greeting.”[6]

Bo’az, the man of stature and wealth, the kin of Na’omi, is also found to be a man of God in a time when many of God’s people had forgotten the One who had delivered them from bondage in Egypt.

Ruth 2:5-7, “Then Bo’az asked his servant supervising the reapers, “Whose girl is this?”
6 The servant supervising the reapers answered, “She’s a girl from Mo’av who returned with Na’omi from the plain of Mo’av. 7 She said, ‘Please, let me glean and gather what falls from the sheaves behind the reapers.’ So she went and has kept at it from morning until now, except for a little rest in the shelter.”

The plot begins to thicken as we find Bo’az taking immediate note of Ruth gleaning in his fields. While it is tempting to speculate that immediately following Bo’az’s greeting to his workers he took notice of Ruth, the construction of the text, notably no markers that provide any sense of interruption in the flow of events should not be construed as meaning the salutation to the workers and the noticing of Ruth immediately followed one another. Conversely, “The question suggests that he was seeking information about her ancestry or clan. It has also been understood as the storyteller’s device to move the story forward and, if so, could be paraphrased, “Where does this young woman fit in.”[7]

The foreman of the servants responded to Bo’az with the fact that Ruth was a Moabite woman who had accompanied Na’omi back from Mo’av. Given the level of excitement that Na’omi’s return from Mo’av had created in Beit-Lechem, it is likely Bo’az had heard of not just Na’omi’s return, but also the fact a young Moabite woman had accompanied her. Given that Bo’az inquired as to who Ruth was, perhaps he had not yet met Ruth in person.

Furthermore, in response to the inquiry by Bo’az as to who Ruth was, his foreman also made it clear that Ruth had asked them for permission to glean from the field and to gather the leftover pieces that fell from the sheaves of the gatherers. Finally, the foreman noted that Ruth had been busy gathering food from morning until that time, only stopping to take a short rest. Earlier we noted the command by God in Leviticus 19 for landowners to not gather the harvest all the way to the edges of the fields and to allow what fell from the sheaves to be picked up by the poor. Huey notes that Ruth asked permission “even though the law allowed her the right to glean.”[8]

There has been extensive debate among scholars in regards to the proper interpretation of “except for a little rest in the shelter”, with little consensus. Exactly what the “shelter” was that is referred to is arguably somewhat of a mystery. If anything, this is merely a side issue whose lack of accepted interpretation does not impact the overall understanding of Ruth or its message. If anything, it is an example of how difficult it is sometimes to translate concepts and ideas from one language to another.

Conclusion

Ruth 2:1-7 sets the stage for the entrance of Bo’az onto the scene with Ruth, by the divine plan and sovereignty of God, gleaning food in the fields of Na’omi’s kinsman. We find Bo’az to be a God fearing man, one remained committed to God in the midst of an Israelite society that had such a tendency during this period of its history to turn from God. This upstanding man meets Ruth which will now set the stage for some even more edge of your seat activity.

In our next segment, we will look at Ruth 2:8-16 as we see Bo’az begin to not just notice Ruth, but more importantly, look out for her welfare and protection.

References:

[1] F. B. Huey, Jr. “Commentary on Ruth” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol.3: Deuteronomy through 1&2 Samuel. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 527.
[2] Daniel Block, The New American Commentary: Judges-Ruth (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1999), 651.
[3] Huey, 527.
[4] Edward Campbell, Jr. Anchor Bible Commentary: Ruth (New York: Doubleday, 1975), 92.
[5] K. Lawson Younger, Jr. NIV Application Commentary: Judges-Ruth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 441.
[6] J. Vernon McGee, Ruth: The Romance of Redemption (Wheaton: Van Kampen Press, 1954), 57.
[7] Huey, 528.
[8] Ibid., 529.