In this post, we will work our way through Ruth 2:8-16. We will be utilizing the Complete Jewish Bible translation unless otherwise noted.

Ruth 2:8-16, “8 Bo’az said to Rut, “Did you hear that, my daughter? Don’t go to glean in another field, don’t leave this place, but stick here with my working girls. 9 Keep your eyes on whichever field the reapers are working in, and follow the girls. I’ve ordered the young men not to bother you. Whenever you get thirsty, go and drink from the water jars the young men have filled.” 10 She fell on her face, prostrating herself, and said to him, “Why are you showing me such favor? Why are you paying attention to me? After all, I’m only a foreigner.” 11 Bo’az answered her, “I’ve heard the whole story, everything you’ve done for your mother-in-law since your husband died, including how you left your father and mother and the land you were born in to come to a people about whom you knew nothing beforehand. 12 May ADONAI reward you for what you’ve done; may you be rewarded in full by ADONAI the God of Isra’el, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” 13 She said, “My lord, I hope I continue pleasing you. You have comforted and encouraged me, even though I’m not one of your servants.” 14 When meal-time came, Bo’az said to her, “Come here, have something to eat, and dip your piece of bread in the [olive oil and] vinegar.” She sat by the reapers, and they passed her some roasted grain. She ate till she was full, and she had some left over. 15 When she got up to glean, Bo’az ordered his young men, “Let her glean even among the sheaves themselves, without making her feel ashamed. 16 In fact, pull some ears of grain out from the sheaves on purpose. Leave them for her to glean, and don’t rebuke her.”

Commentary:

Ruth 2:8-9, “8 Bo’az said to Rut, “Did you hear that, my daughter? Don’t go to glean in another field, don’t leave this place, but stick here with my working girls. 9 Keep your eyes on whichever field the reapers are working in, and follow the girls. I’ve ordered the young men not to bother you. Whenever you get thirsty, go and drink from the water jars the young men have filled.”

The second section of Ruth 2 begins with a back and forth interaction between Ruth and Bo’az. The conversation begins with Bo’az addressing Ruth as “my daughter.” The word used in this passage for daughter is the Hebrew noun bath which in this context refers to the disparate age between Bo’az and Ruth. K. Lawson Younger notes that Bo’az, in demonstrating a level of care and concern for Ruth, outlined a “beneficent program for Ruth in his field despite the fact that she is a Moabitess:

Don’t go and glean in another field; 2. and don’t go away from here; 3. Stay here with (lit., stick close to, dbq) my servant girls; 4. Watch the field where the men (and girls) are harvesting; 5. and follow along after the girls; 6. I have told (ordered) the men not to touch you (or hoot at you); 7. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”[1]

Some discussion has occurred among scholars as to what it was the servants of Bo’az had been doing to Ruth that led him to issue the statement that he had ordered his male servants not to bother or touch her. Daniel Block submits “Normally the verb naga means “to touch,” but in this case it functions more generally for “to strike, harass, take advantage of, mistreat.”[2] Ruth was granted by Bo’az unimpeded access to glean in his field. Not only was she afforded protection from whatever it was the male servants were doing or what they might have done should they have been given the chance, Ruth was also given the privilege of gleaning alongside the servant girls of Bo’az.

Finally, yet another special privilege was granted by Bo’az to Ruth, namely the ability to drink from the water jars that his servants had filled for their use. F. B. Huey notes “This was a privilege not ordinarily permitted to gleaners. The liquid is not specified in the Hebrew; water was probably intended, as every other occurrence of the verb sa’ab (“to draw”) in the OT is used exclusively for drawing water.”[3]

This is a rather extraordinary turn of events. Not only was Ruth allowed to glean as commanded by God, Bo’az apparently is drawn to Ruth and institutes for her specifically additional allowances not normally granted to the poor who gleaned the edges of the fields for food. This is no chance meeting as we will soon see as the story continues to unfold.

Ruth 2:10, “She fell on her face, prostrating herself, and said to him, “Why are you showing me such favor? Why are you paying attention to me? After all, I’m only a foreigner.”

In response to the clearly gracious act bestowed upon her by Bo’az, Ruth responds by falling down before Bo’az, inquiring of him as to why he is showing her such favor, especially since she is from a foreign land. While falling down and prostrating yourself in response to such an act of
kindness may seem odd to modern minds, Huey comments “Ruth’s response is typical of ancient Near Eastern expressions of gratitude and humility.”[4]

Furthermore, an interesting wordplay exists in Ruth’s response to the kindness of Bo’az and it is only by examining the Hebrew that the interesting nature of her choice of words becomes evident. Block states:

“The addition of the circumstantial verbless clause (lit.), “Now I am a foreigner” (we’anoki nokriyya), creates an effective wordplay after lehakkireni. Both words, lehakkireni and nokriyya, derive from the root nkr, which must have meant “to be strange, unknown.” By a strange quirk of linguistic development, another form of the verb (the hiphil stem) means the virtual opposite, “to investigate (what is unknown), to recognize, to take note of.” Here the lastcited definition applies. Even though we do not know whether Boaz even knew Ruth’s name at this point, he acknowledged her. But there is more than one form of acknowledgement. The foreman had noticed her, and it was taken for granted that other men in the fields would take notice of her, as a potential victim of abuse – hence Boaz’s proscription on touching her. But Boaz had dignified this destitute widow from a foreign land and treated her as a significant person, on par socially with his hired and presumably Israelite field workers. Ruth, who is obviously extremely self-conscious about her alien status, cannot believe Boaz’s indifference to the fact that she is a Moabitess.”[5]

So we have in Ruth’s response a definite sense of amazement at the goodness of Boaz towards a foreign woman in contradistinction to the indifferent and apparently abusive responses given by the other individuals in the story who worked the fields of Boaz. This is a definite comparison purposefully made by the author to note the character of Boaz as opposed to his workers as well as how God is slowly moving this story to its overall climax. The redemption motif is beginning to unfold.

Ruth 2:11-12, “Bo’az answered her, “I’ve heard the whole story, everything you’ve done for your mother-in-law since your husband died, including how you left your father and mother and the land you were born in to come to a people about whom you knew nothing beforehand.
12 May ADONAI reward you for what you’ve done; may you be rewarded in full by ADONAI the God of Isra’el, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”

In response to the prostration and amazement of Ruth, Bo’az provides a response, one that begins to fill in some of the proverbial blanks, especially the question of how much Bo’az knows up to this point about Ruth and her background. Bo’az was fully aware of the entirety of Ruth’s story. It is interesting that he does not focus on her status as a foreigner, but rather on the acts of kindness bestowed by Ruth on Na’omi, specifically the fact that Ruth left everything she knew and followed Na’omi to a land and a people she knew nothing about.

Verse 12 fully engages the redemption motif of the Book of Ruth with Bo’az declaring that is was Adonai, the God of Israel who had made this take place, bringing Ruth under His protection as a place of safety and refuge. As we have noted thus far in our journey through Ruth, this book is replete with interesting word choices that continually drive home the book’s intended message. This passage is no different as the Hebrew word for wings, kanap, “connotes the image of a bird tenderly protecting its young. Like a defenseless starling, Ruth sits securely under Yahweh’s mighty wings.”[6] God, in His sovereignty, was watching over Ruth, something Bo’az clearly recognized.

Ruth 2:13, “She said, “My lord, I hope I continue pleasing you. You have comforted and encouraged me, even though I’m not one of your servants.”

Ruth responds to the words of Bo’az with another display of humility, thanksgiving, and likely a continued element of surprise at the mercy and grace being bestowed upon her by Bo’az. Ruth showed respect to Bo’az by addressing him as “lord”. Huey comments that the phrase “I hope I continue pleasing you”, is an “expression of confidence about the future. Ruth was not pleading with Boaz to be kind; she was grateful that he was kind.”[7]

She makes such a statement because the kindness of Bo’az has comforted and encouraged her. The word translated as comforted is the Hebrew verb nacham, a word that means in this context “to breathe deeply” noting that any tension Ruth had as to the situation had disappeared. His kindness had eased her mind. Block rightly states “Like a young chick frightened by the pouring rain, she has come out of her fears and found comfort and security under the wings of God. Those wings are embodied in the person of Boaz.”[8]

The kindness of Bo’az is once again noted by Ruth, this time demonstrated by the use of the word servant, noting Ruth’s recognition that Bo’az was not taken aback by her status as a handmaiden. In verse 10, Ruth expressed a great deal of amazement that Bo’az was not concerned with her status as a foreigner. In verse 13, we see that neither racial issues nor societal status were much of a concern for Bo’az when it came to Ruth. In the mind of Ruth, she was not worthy of such recognition and compassion.

Ruth 2:14, “When meal-time came, Bo’az said to her, “Come here, have something to eat, and dip your piece of bread in the [olive oil and] vinegar.” She sat by the reapers, and they passed her some roasted grain. She ate till she was full, and she had some left over.”

The text seems to indicate the passage of time between the conversation that takes place in verses 8-13 and the event outlined in verse 14. It is likely that Ruth continued her practice of gleaning for in the fields of Bo’az. Once again demonstrating his attention for Ruth and her well-being, Bo’az invites her to the noon meal. Now in the Ancient Near East, dinner was not just a means to fill a hungry belly. While sustenance was certainly a focus, the act of eating is not the only important element of this passage. The hesed of Bo’az is again on display. Block notes five interesting elements concerning what Bo’az did during this meal:

“First, he invites Ruth, an outsider and a Moabite, to join him and his coworkers. The choice of verb, nagas, “to come near, approach”, suggests that as a stranger Ruth had deliberately and appropriately (according to custom) kept her distance. Second, he encourages her to share the food prepared for his workers…Boaz invites her to (lit.) “eat from the bread.” The definite article on hallehem (“the bread”) suggest this food had been prepared and brought for his workers. Third, Boaz beckons Ruth to “dip it (your morsel) in the wine vinegar”…a sour sauce or condiment used to moisten and spice up dry bread. Boaz could not allow her to eat dry bread while he enjoyed more pleasant food. Fourth, when Ruth had taken her seat beside Boaz’s harvesters, he served her toasted grain himself…Fifth, Boaz gives her food enough to satisfy her and to have some left over. This last observation is added to emphasize Boaz’s generosity.”[9]

Ruth, the foreigner and at least in her mind someone at the bottom of the social ladder, was invited to dine with this wealthy leader in the community who served her himself and provided her enough food to be fully satisfied and to have leftovers. Yet again, we have the underlying theme of provision and bread noted in the text, this time with Bo’az extending his hand, quite literally, to Ruth with another demonstration of great kindness.

Ruth 2:15-16,  “When she got up to glean, Bo’az ordered his young men, “Let her glean even among the sheaves themselves, without making her feel ashamed. 16 In fact, pull some ears of grain out from the sheaves on purpose. Leave them for her to glean, and don’t rebuke her.”

This portion of Ruth 2 concludes with Ruth resuming her task of gleaning from the fields. Once she departed for the fields, Bo’az commands his workman to allow Ruth to glean among the sheaves, making sure to not make her feel embarrassed. Furthermore, he ordered that additional ears of grain be purposefully removed from the sheaves that were collected so that Ruth may pick them up, again without harassment.

Huey notes “Boaz’s instructions were generous beyond the requirements of the law that allowed the gleaners in the fiends only after the reapers had finished their work. His actions showed that he already had a special interest in Ruth.”[10] The strict command of Bo’az to his workman was for them to not ga`ar or “rebuke, chastise” her for gleaning so close to the workers or for collecting the purposefully place ears of grain taken from the bundles of sheaves. This overt act of kindness on the part of Bo’az certainly did not escape notice of his workers and it certainly did not escape the grasp of Ruth.

Conclusion:

Ruth 2:8-16 begins with kindness and ends with kindness. Ruth, the foreigner and social outcast has found favor in the eyes of Bo’az, wealthy landowner and one who is at the top of the social ladder. Ruth has found favor in the eyes of Bo’az to the extent that he established a set of commands for his workman to follow. His generosity was so great towards Ruth that he even invited her to dine with him and his workers at the noon mean, choosing to serve Ruth himself with enough food to satisfy her hunger and beyond. His watchful eye over Ruth is apparent in the latter stages of this section as he provides further guidance to his workman to allow Ruth to glean where the choice grain was at and to purposefully take from the collected grain a portion to be left for Ruth to gather.

The themes of provision, sovereignty, and hesed continue to be the focus of the story as the relationship of the main characters of the story at this point, namely Ruth and Bo’az, begins to be the focal point of the narrative.

In our next segment, we will look at Ruth 2:17-23, taking a look at the conversation that takes place between Ruth and Na’omi as Ruth relays to her mother-in-law what has transpired. We will also begin to examine the concept of the kinsman redeemer as that element begins to become the focus of the story line for the remainder of the Book of Ruth.

References:

[1] K. Lawson Younger, Jr. NIV Application Commentary: Judges-Ruth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 443.
[2] Daniel Block, The New American Commentary: Judges-Ruth (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1999), 660.
[3] 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, 530.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Block, 661.
[6] Younger, 445.
[7] Huey, 530-531.
[8] Block, 665.
[9] Ibid., 666-667.
[10] Huey, 531.