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OLD TESTAMENT INTERPRETIVE COMMENTARY OF RUTH


Introduction

The condensed book of Ruth impressively encapsulates the expansive notion of God-ordained redemption, a second fate that is eternal risen from the temporal ashes of the past (1:1-5; 4:14-22; Gen 26:12; Is 61:7; Mark 10:30). In its pages, an entirely new life proves far better than the old life, illustrating that God’s providence was always unfolding and His plans will always be fulfilled against astronomical odds (2:1-2; 4:22). The chaotic condition of Judges has canonically narrowed down to three deaths (1:5) and will emerge through the cooperative renewal of three faithful, remnant people (Ruth; Boaz; Naomi) who live in obedience to God and line up their speech and actions accordingly. Through these three, symbolic numerically and relationally of the Trinity, God will bring earthly justice to His people in the form of King David and, eventually, Jesus Christ, and the inclusive work of the Holy Spirit (4:22; Acts 2, 10). The purpose of this paper is to provide an exegetical and interpretive commentary on the book of Ruth, as well as to extract the timeless principles of faith, love, and redemption for modern application in God-ordained marriage with a ministerial result.

Historical Setting

The book of Ruth was “written initially in Hebrew.”[1] “Josephus’ reference to twenty-two books of the Old Testament canon seems to indicate that Ruth was originally considered an appendix to the book of Judges,”[2] serving as a refreshing exit from that chaotic period. Though the author is anonymous, traditionally the book is attributed to Samuel (1056-1004 B.C.), and likely written “after David’s [4:17-22] accession to the throne in c. 1010 B.C.”[3] Though the story is written in prose, some suggest an “underlying poetic original” similar to that of Song of Solomon.[4] However, to assert that the book is fictitious limits the practical (family; ethics) and theological (providence; redemption) purposes of the book and refutes the specific historical details of location (Moab; Bethlehem); the state of Israel’s judgment and division (Judges); the mention of Rachel, Leah, Tamar, and Perez (4:11-12); and a concrete genealogy confirmed in the New Testament (4:17-22). Daniel Block states there are “no literary or linguistic features that push it in the direction of fiction. [Matthew’s genealogy] whose aim was to affirm Jesus’ right to the Messianic title…deliberately includes Ruth’s name” (Matt 1:1-17).[5] Ruth is the “only book in the Old Testament canon named after a non-Israelite”[6] and “given [its] interest in all Israel (4:7, 11), it may have been written in hopes that the twelve tribes, which divided into two nations c. 930 B.C., would reunite.”[7] Ruth is a name without specific origin, which symbolically represents welcoming inclusion into the purposes of the story for any faithful and determined woman seeking rest and a second home (1:9; 3:3). Though “friendship” is implied in definition of Ruth, it is “wishful thinking” and the “etymology…remains a mystery,”[8] yet the character of Ruth parallels, and likely matures into a type of, the Proverbs 31 woman. Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda consider this Godly woman:

The poem describes a wealthy, aristocratic woman with a large household to direct [Ruth 4:13-22]. She was hardworking, enterprising, capable, strong, wise, skilled, generous, thoughtful of others, dignified, God-fearing, serene—a tremendous credit to her husband. She arose while it was still dark to feed her family [Ruth 2:7, 17]. She looked at a field, considered its merits, and purchased it [Ruth 2:2; 4:9, purchased by Boaz on Ruth’s behalf]. She wove cloth and made linen garments [Ruth 3:3], which she then sold. "Her children arise and call her blessed [Ruth 4:14-15]; her husband also, and he praises her [Ruth 2:12; 3:10]: 'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all’” (Prov 31:28-29).[9]

One may classify the book of Ruth as a story with “a typical plot leading from problem/crisis (1:1-5) to resolution (4:13-17) and a short genealogy (4:18-22).”[10] Block describes the rural, or pastoral, romantic narrative:

From a literary perspective we recognize in the book a beautiful development of the theme of “from emptiness to fullness.” At the outset Naomi is emptied of all of her resources. But in the end she experiences complete filling/fulfillment through a daughter-in-law declared by the women of the town to be more valuable than seven sons.[11]

Boaz plays the pastoral role, blessing Ruth (2:12; 3:10), protecting her (2:15; 3:9-18), and taking her as his wife (4:13) upon her proven faithfulness and integrity. Boaz answers each of Ruth’s requests similar to God granting prayers to the obedient who are bold enough to ask (2:7-8, 13-14; 3:9). Like Songs, the story metaphorically replicates God’s relationship with His chosen people through the realization of a literal marriage relationship on earth. The story takes place in four general acts or scenes which follow the chapter divisions: leaving Moab; the fields of Bethlehem; the threshing floor; and the city of Bethlehem.[12]

Interpretive Commentary

Leaving Moab (Chapter One)

Famine

Ruth 1:1 emerges from famine [ra-ab; hunger] during a period “when the judges ruled” [shaphat; Qal], an event indicative of “deciding controversy [or] executing judgment [through] discriminating, vindicating, condemning/punishing, or at a theophanic advent for final judgment.”[13] The theophanic advent presented in Ruth 1 is a life or death crisis involving what appears to two women, Naomi and Ruth, to require an act of God intervening on the earth to determine their outcome—recovery or death.[14] The Christian “advent,” read back through this genealogical case, forms a typology of the second coming of Christ as Savior, pre-exemplified by Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer, by blood (3:2, 4:17-22) and by loving-kindness (2:20, 3:9-12), as Boaz takes his place as Ruth’s second husband—a natural restorer, a man who protects and recovers (2:8-9, 3:9) one already faithful to God (Your God [shall be] my God; 1:16). Naomi’s wish for the two widowed daughters-in-law is, “The Lord grant that you may find a home and rest, each in the house of her husband” (1:9; AMPC). This comes to pass for the daughter who is faithful to God (4:13).

Judgment and Loyalty

Shaphat (1:1) entails: “judgments of adulteresses; to be an umpire between; to punish the guilty; to defend the poor and oppressed and deliver them from the power of enemies;” litigation comes with it the “notion of punishing,” evident in Naomi’s lament (1:3-21).[15] In this case, the adultery may have been committed against God Himself as implied in the following of ill-authority for over ten years (enemies within a family, 1:4; or society, Judges), or explicitly stated in the temptation of returning to old associates and gods during famine and trial (1:12-15). Either way, the litigation at the city gate (4:1) begins in Ruth 1 with a separation of three women from three men through suffering and death (1:5). Elimelech means “my God is King,” however, “the story seems to view him as a believer who disobeys God, forsaking his inheritance…and thus accounting for the tragic consequences which followed.”[16] The triad loss of Naomi’s sons, Mahlon (puny/invalid) and Chilion (pining), total the deaths to three (1:5) and the meaning of the son’s names are reflected in Naomi’s defeated attitude (the woman was bereft (1:5); they wept aloud (1:9); I am too old (1:12); it is far more bitter for me than for you (1:13); call me Mara [bitter] for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me (1:20); the Almighty has afflicted me (1:21); AMPC).[17] The fact that a seasoned believer in God would advise Ruth to follow her sister-in-law’s return to pagan gods and former associates is much more a credit to Ruth’s faithfulness to God as, in refusing to turn back (your God [shall be] my God), Ruth proves she is following God rather than Naomi (1:15,16). At the end of the book, God rewards Ruth’s faithfulness and so relationally restores Naomi’s name and attitude from bitter back to pleasant (1:20; 4:14).[18] Orpah (Ruth’s sister-in-law; “stiff-necked”) is incidentally never heard from in the Bible again (1:4, 14).[19]

Widowhood into Harvest

Shaphat is further defined, “to set up, to erect”[20] as Naomi “arose” [qum; Qal; to endure] in bitterness (1:6); Ruth “rose” [to persist; to be valid] to glean (2:15); and Boaz “arose” [to come on the scene; to be established] in plenty (4:5, 7, 10)—all three signifying a willingness to rise up after years of tribulation (three resurrected in spirit as opposed to the three former deaths). In this redemptive move, the three cause the dead man’s name (Elimelech) “to stand upon” his inheritance in spite of his presumed natural or spiritual error (1:1-5).[21] Ruth pledges faithfulness to God, primarily, (1:16) and loyalty to Naomi (1:16-19). They both leave the emotional and physical barrenness of widowhood and hunger of famine to enter a new land, Bethlehem (house of bread), at the start of the barley harvest in spring—a time for new beginnings (April).[22]

Ruth 1 is often associated with 1 Timothy 5:3-16, in the correlation of widowhood. “Rearing children” in 1 Timothy 5:10 is teknotropheo,[23] from a composition of teknon[24] and trepho,[25] which includes, figuratively, “feeding or nourishing spiritual children (children of God).” There is a correlation between “widowhood” and “servanthood” in the kingdom of God, a ministerial component where the “desolate woman” will have many spiritual children (Is. 49:21; 1 Tim 2:15 [teknogonia; teknogoneo; root, teknon]). This is proven within the book of Ruth when observing the pitiable state of Ruth and Naomi in Ruth 1 compared with the communal blessing and genealogy of the Davidic line as a result (4:13-22). In addition, the notion of “feeding and nourishing” [trepho] God’s family [teknon; children] lends itself to a ministerial interpretation of Ruth’s “gleaning” in the fields after the reapers and during the harvest (1:22; 2:21, 23; Matt 9:37). In consideration of Matthew 9:38, Ruth was certainly “forced out and thrust” by personal famine (1:1) “into His harvest” (4:22).

The Fields of Bethlehem (Chapter Two)

Go

Ruth 2 opens with God’s favor meeting the faithful sojourners in that Boaz (quickness; pillar before the temple) is a kinsman; a man of wealth; he owns the harvest fields; he is single; and, he is a man of God (2:1-5).[26] Block states:

In 2:3 wayyiqer miqreha (Her encounter encountered…) is an odd but deliberately constructed clause that in context must mean ‘her chance chanced upon…’ The statement is ironic. …How was it that Ruth “happened” to land in the field of a man who was not only gracious but also a potential goel? Ruth’s arrival at Boaz’s field was one more evidence of the providential hand of God.[27]

In 2:2, Ruth requests “let me go to the field and glean,” (reminiscent of Exod 8:1) to which Naomi consents, “Go, my daughter.” Edward Jones cites an additional parallel in Genesis 12:1:

Yhwh’s initial command to Abram to go out from his land and from his relatives forms a foundation for all of the promises that are to follow… Ruth’s migration to the Promised Land is the foundation for Boaz’s blessing in the immediate context and for her later participation in the Davidic line.[28]

In Genesis 12:1, Abraham must, in some form of God-ordained exile, “Go [get out; halak][29] (in Ruth’s case, more by force of exile than by willingness) from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house. [Go] to the land that I will show you.” Ruth’s “participation in the Davidic line;”[30] her blessings to Naomi; her relationship with Boaz; her marital wealth and security (appreciated as the miraculous after famine); and the birth of her son exemplify the hundred-fold return promised by Christ to “anyone and everyone who has left” houses, families, and lands “for My name’s sake” (Matt 19:28-30; Mark 10:30; AMPC). Though difficult, Ruth perceptually and actively embraced her promised land, making “a new life for herself in Bethlehem.”[31] Ruth was willing to “go,” and she was willing to work (glean “early in the morning, with a little rest;” 2:7) in an occupation dominated by potentially aggressive men (2:9). In the Old Testament parallel, Ruth has made it to the other side of Abraham’s departure, where Boaz states, “You left your father and mother and the land of your relatives. You came [halak] to a people you did not know” (2:11). In 2:14, he invites her, “Come here,” to eat at his table. He notices her in outward appearance in 2:5, but he makes note of her inward character in 2:11 to which he speaks the Lord’s blessings and reward upon her (2:12) as a precursor to his direct participation in the fulfilment of those very blessings (3:9), thus becoming an earthly example of the heavenly Lord to her in his later days (3:10, 11).

Glean

The term “glean” [laqat] is used ten times in the second chapter (2:2, 3, 7, 8, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 23; NASB). Rather than being attributed to source texts or the gleaning law in Deuteronomy 24:19, Jeremy Schipper attributes the repetition to “narrative style.”[32] If so, the narrator is likely implying a fuller range of meaning for laqat than literally “to gather grain.” The term used elsewhere in the Old Testament implies, to pick up stones, lilies, manna; or, to gather up fallen grapes or food from the ground—definitions which weave Ruth’s spiritual work into the biblical tapestry (Is 62:10; Song 6:2, 7:2; Exod 16:15; Levi 19:10).[33] Laqat is a “simile of devastation of land (Is 17:5)” and “of Israel under figure of grains or berries, after the threshing process of [God’s] judgment (Is 27:12).”[34] An additional interpretation of laqat (glean) is to “collect money,” or prosperity from former ruin.[35] Ruth gleans in new fields after her personal “judgment,” or “when judges ruled” (1:1). She gleans after the reapers (2:7), but sits beside them at Boaz’s presumed table noting a status of equality to the men (2:14) based upon his blessings to her (2:12) which yield him a double blessing from Naomi (2:19-20). Boaz ensures her safety with words of attentive protection, ordering the men to “not reproach her,” to let her glean alongside them “even among the sheaves” (2:15). She listened and heeded the instructions of Boaz (2:21-23) and Naomi agreed, lest in any other field Ruth would be “fell upon” [paga]. Paga is “to strike upon whether of set purpose or accidentally, violently or lightly, especially in order to kill.”[36] This term warrants consideration of Ruth’s spiritual value and personal bravery in light of continual and non-descript threat, and that coming from reapers professing to know the Lord (2:4b). Ruth determinedly gleaned morning (2:7) to evening (2:17), from beginning of harvest (1:22) to the end (2:23). She was not overcome with fear but was grateful for the opportunity to gather food to provide for herself and Naomi (2:10, 18).

Dip

Intermixed amidst the humbling work of gleaning, Ruth enters into a holy communication of shared blessings, receiving that which she asks (2:2, 7, 13, 14, 15; Js 4:2; Matt 7:7-8) and more (2:12). In 2:14, Boaz invites Ruth to eat at his table (2:14; Luke 22:30), but only after Ruth is tenacious enough to ask him for his favor (2:13). Ruth increases in boldness as she continues throughout the harvest under Boaz’s watchful protection, transitioning from insecurity in 2:10, “Why have I found favor in your eyes that you should notice me…” to assurance of relationship in 2:13, “Let me find favor in your sight, my lord. For you have comforted me and have spoken to [my] heart…” Boaz tells her, “Come here and eat of the bread and dip [tabal] your morsel in the sour wine.” Tabal is indicative of baptism “in water, for purification;” in difficulty (Job 9:31); “in connection with sacrifices” (Levi 4:6, 9:9, 14:6); and “in the Jordan” (2 Kings 5:10, 12, 14).[37] Baptism [bapto; Greek] is defined “to dip; immerse; or to be overwhelmed with calamity” similar to Ruth’s famine and widowhood (1:1-5).[38] In the resurrection from tabal, endless blessings rise from former curses; the Spirit of the Lord orchestrates a marriage; and ministerial expansion is evident through cross-cultural inclusion (1:22; 2:4; Acts 2, 10). The Davidic line (4:22) begins with famine, shaphat and exile (1:1) but results in favor and a home for the incarnate Christ due to the love of one man (a Bethlehemite) and one woman (a Moabite/Gentile) who cross a restrictive line (Deut 23:3). In Boaz and Ruth’s relationship, the church of Christ finds a foreshadowing of its established multicultural pattern of acceptance (Jew/Gentile; older Boaz, younger Ruth; male/female; Gal 3:28; Acts 2, 10). Genesis 2:24 exemplifies marriage in that a “man will leave his father and mother and will cling to his wife,” yet in the book of Ruth, the male/female roles are reversed. Not only does Ruth leave her family, houses and lands, and clings unto Boaz as a husband, she also, as a Gentile, has “married herself to Israel.”[39]

The Threshing Floor (Chapter Three)

Results of Harvest

There is a threshing floor where Ruth’s mourning is exchanged for blessing and joy (3:2, 6), where she becomes both Hephzibah and Beulah—no longer abandoned and childless, but married, and restored to the Lord as His delight (Is. 62:4, CEV). Yet, she must be humble and bold enough to ask for the actual manifestation of her desire to have a home and prosperity (3:1, 10, 11) in a land that has taught her it can be overwhelmingly unkind (1:1; 2:8,9). The New Testament usages of “threshing floor” again point to Ruth’s gleaning as more than literal grain picking. Matthew 3:12 (NASB) states upon Holy Spirit baptism, “His winnowing fork in His hand…He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Revisiting 1 Timothy 5 on widowhood and childrearing, 1 Timothy 5:18 states, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” In verse 17, the preaching/teaching “elders” of the church, typically translated as male, is in the feminine usage [presbyteras] in 1 Timothy 5:2 regarding “elder women as mothers” [meteras], defined “tropically, of that which is like a mother,” indicative of a ministerial element or the overseeing of spiritual children (Ps 113:9; Is 54:1-5, AMPC).[40] If Ruth was not an unassuming “messenger of God” in a ministerial capacity, exhibiting and communicating godliness to others, her turn of fate on the threshing floor certainly separated her from her old life and destined her as a main contributor in bringing Christ, and His message, to the earth (3:11; 4:22).

Sifting like Grain

The male reapers [qatsar; Qal] gleaning in the fields alongside Ruth were the largest threat to her personal safety, as Boaz and Naomi both instructed her to stay near his maids (2:8, 23). Reapers may be defined literally, “to reap, harvest,” but Boaz’s warnings to them not to touch Ruth (2:9), in spite of their invocation of the Lord’s blessing (2:4; Matt 23:25), reflect the full semantic range of the word: to be impatient, ineffective, powerless; of utter discouragement; worn out by importunity; to reach the limit of patience or endurance; to cut down; to grieve; lothe; mourn; straiten; trouble; or vex.[41] “Reapers” is used six times in chapter two (2:3-7, 14). Upon the close of harvest, Ruth no longer had to glean, therefore the threat of the reapers evaporates as the title is no longer mentioned after 2:23. In seeking a home (3:1), Ruth separates herself from her adversaries and her past labors by washing (3:3). She anoints herself and puts on her mantle [simlah] (3:3) before walking to the threshing floor amidst evidence of the grain she has collected (3:7) in the hopes of being judged worthy of Boaz’s acceptance as his wife (3:1). The event replicates a believer about the labor of God upon the earth, coming to the Day of Judgment to account for all that was done in her lifetime (2 Cor 5:10; Rom 14:10). The many blessings exchanged between Ruth, Boaz and Naomi (1:8; 2:12, 19, 20; 3:10) stabilizes the climax of the story with a firm foundation of goodwill, so that when Ruth is sifted like grain on the threshing floor, the matter has already been decided through prayer (Luke 22:31-32).

Proposal

Ruth begins her proposal in humility and obedience to Naomi’s instructions (3:5). When she “uncovered his feet” this is a:

…morally acceptable, though primitive, custom in which the girl would slightly pull back the edge of the man’s robe and then request him to spread the robe (wing) over her. The implication [is] proposing marriage…and, thus [to] come under his protection.[42]

Before she asks Boaz to spread his wing of protection, acceptance and love over her, Boaz asks her, “Whose are you?” similar to Saul’s dual question regarding David (1 Sam 16:14-23; 17:55), as Boaz clearly knew Ruth and had inquired about her identity previously (2:5). The readjustment evident in Boaz’s perception of Ruth may have been due to her wardrobe change from that of a common laborer to a beautiful woman (3:3), or it may have been due to a spiritual transformation which typically warrants a name change (Saul/Paul; Simon/Peter; Abram/Abraham). Boaz’s unwed condition (natural/spiritual) may also have undergone a transformation at that moment when he realized Ruth was his beloved, rather than someone else’s maiden (2:5). The results of her labor, patience, obedience and boldness proved she was a daughter of God, worthy of a home. She comes under the protection of Boaz’s wing (3:9) and, like the heavenly Father answers supplication for protection amidst rampant devastation (Ps 91), Boaz grants Ruth’s request (3:9-11) and her troubles abate. Prior to Boaz’s final decision regarding marriage, both Naomi and Ruth have to wait to “learn how the matter turns out” due to a nameless kinsman-redeemer nearer regarding law and custom (3:13; 18).

City of Bethlehem (Chapter Four)

Redeeming the Field

Ruth 1:1 opens with a famine in the land [erets], which may be translated as “countries, territory of nations, or the whole earth.”[43] “Field” [sadeh] is used eight times (2:2, 3, 8, 9, 17, 22; 4:5), “land” [sadeh] is used twelve times (1:1, 2, 6, 7, 22; 2:6, 11; 4:3, 7, NASB), with the scope reducing from earth, to Moab (1:1), to Boaz’s cultivated ground upon which Ruth gleans. The transaction discussed in chapter four brings to mind the “country of Moab” with the vision of land increased again to a “plain, opposite [a] mountain” or “land, opposed to sea” (4:3) which Elimelech left behind.[44] Further definitions of sadeh range from “home of wild beasts” and “battlefield” to “a king’s territory.”[45] It could be considered that Ruth spiritually fought her way through the difficult lands of famine, Moab, Boaz’s fields, and a legal transaction wherein she was covered by Boaz’s wing during his intelligent argument before ten elders. The “king’s territory” that was won paved the way for Jesus Christ to claim all of earth [erets]. Without marriage to Ruth herself coming into the discussion,[46] the nameless kinsman “counted the cost” (Luke 14:28) and deferred upon consideration of the sadeh alone, in that the “children of Ruth would be entitled to the land.”[47] It would appear the nameless kinsman did not want to invest, or could not invest, all that was required.

Redemption of Ruth

In 4:10, Boaz states, “I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance…you are witnesses.” In some references,[48] “to raise up” [qum] is placed next to “as [my] wife I have acquired,” rather than near “dead man’s name,” as though Boaz’s successful redemption [qum and qanah; ransom, purchase][49] of Ruth from her former plight is what rectifies the dead man’s name, so he will not be “cut off…from his position at the [heavenly] gate” (4:10). This possibility is reinforced by Boaz’s public transparency regarding Ruth’s country of origin (and gentile status) and the weakness of her former husband’s name (puny/invalid) which are spoken out as if in a declaration of victory, a triumph of good over evil, more so than a legal transaction of land. The land of the “children of Ruth” becomes Christ’s land, secured as “the very Davidic line of Christ was threatened during the chaotic period of the judges; and God Himself had overruled to preserve ‘the seed of the woman’ which would ultimately bring forth Him who was to crush the head of the serpent.”[50] The mention of Tamar (4:12), also a “gentile in the line of Christ’s ancestors,”[51] evokes the notion of inclusion (mentioned with Leah and Rachel) and provides a foreshadowing of sin redeemed through the blood of Christ.[52]

Kindness and Blessing

Boaz emerges as a “perfect type or illustration of Christ, Who would also come forth from Bethlehem and go out into the fields of harvest and call unto Himself a gentile bride.”[53] Boaz is a kindhearted man. Schipper states, “Although the word hesed occurs only three times in Ruth (1:8; 2:20; 3:10), readers have noted the central role that it plays in the story since very early in the history of the book’s interpretation. Hesed has a broad semantic range.” [54] Block adds:

[Hesed] 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.”[55]

Hesed is further defined as “lovingkindness in redemption from enemies, troubles and sin; preservation of life from death; and the quickening of spiritual life.”[56] In understanding the “Divine acts of hesed” one looks to Boaz’s heart of kindness and the circumstances of the story to see the providential workings of God behind it.[57] The book of Ruth communicates to the reader that the providences of God are entirely kind and promotional for the faithful, the humble and those bold enough (with the faith enough) to ask.

Ruth closes, fittingly, with a communal blessing given by women: Naomi speaks a blessing over Ruth (1:8) and Boaz (2:19, 20); Boaz speaks a blessing over Ruth (2:12; 3:10); and the women speak a blessing to the Lord (4:14). The blessing directly blends into the genealogy of David, the ancestor of Jesus Christ (4:22, AMPC). The term for blessing [barak] entails kneeling to the ground in elevated prayer. Blessings in the book of Ruth tie in with the land, with “breaking down and asking God for a blessing,”[58] symbolic of the Messiah coming to the fallen earth to purchase and redeem His bride, the church. In a moment of transformation and the emergence of new identity (3:9), Boaz states that Ruth has “made this last lovingkindness greater than the former” (3:10). This statement may entail Boaz’s age (…for you have not gone after young men…). In addition, it may be an inference to second chances (marriage, family; prosperity after famine; life after death) and a foreshadowing of the coming of Christ [acharon; coming after or behind] as an event better than “the beginning” (Gen 1:1).

Application

This paper has set forth the concept of redemption, exemplified through a God-ordained remarriage which typifies Christ’s restorative love to His bride. Familial redemption in the book of Ruth produced multiplicative results in that even a dead man’s loss was used for good and applied to his eternal credit (4:10; Rom 8:28). The story of Ruth and Boaz communicates to the believer that there is no reason not to have rock-solid faith in God regardless of overwhelming crises. The message is one of hope and goodness within a resilient second family after difficult times which “makes the book relevant to modern readers who likewise seek to understand and conduct their lives in the light of the purposes and providences of God.”[59] In addition, those coming from broken homes or marriages can find a source of ethical wisdom in Ruth to emulate, never losing sight of God’s proven faithfulness to those who remain faithful to Him. There can be much hope for a second family ordained providentially by God. The book teaches that God always has a larger view of life in mind after a famine and a form of death (4:15-22) and the resurrection of a loyal few can influence multitudes (Is 60:22). The primary application from the book of Ruth, then, is faith regardless of circumstances, applicable across all time and scale (individual/national), with particular emphasis on a Godly marriage that reflects His generous character and redemptive will, or plan, on the earth (Heb 11:6).

The book of Ruth illustrates change (3:3) similar to the promises of Isaiah 61:2-4, where the “year of the Lord’s favor” transpires under the symbolism of a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise in place of a spirit of despair—all things through which Ruth transitions. She washes and anoints herself and puts on her best garment, or queenly raiment, similar to the Bride’s change of clothing to “fine linen, bright and clean” (3:3; Rev 19:7, KJV).[60] She meets Boaz on the threshing floor for him to judge her integrity—a move that would finally decide her fate after she had proven herself diligent, obedient, patient and grateful—all qualities in stark contrast to the reapers (impatient, ineffective, powerless; worn out by importunity; 3:6).[61] Clearly, Ruth was “sent” in order to eventually usher in Christ (4:22). Romans 10:15 states, “How can they be expected to preach unless they are sent?” Kerusso, “preaching by a herald sent from God,”[62] and apostello, “being sent on a mission,”[63] are not gender specific in this New Testament phraseology, however “they” is plural which may lend to “ministry via marriage” indicative in the book of Ruth, where she gleaned and Boaz owned the fields; in 1 Timothy 2:15, where they will be saved if they continue in faith, love, holiness, and self-control; or in God’s creation (male/female) with the resultant multiplicative “fruit”[64] (Gen 1:27-28, 3:15; Gal 5:22-23; 1 Tim 2:6-15).

Throughout the book, Ruth is never found complaining, whether being exiled, thrust into the harvest, or suffering persecution or threat. The honor of establishment comes to her, through the favor of both God and Boaz, when she uncovers his feet and lays down, thus finding a home (protection) and rest (3:1; Rom 10:15; Song 7:1; Is 52:7). Moving back the hem of Boaz’s garment (mantle, prayer covering), Ruth is asking to come under Boaz’s wing (the garment of protection; 3:9; Ps 91:4), similar to Christ’s healing and resurrection of the woman/girl (spiritual mother/daughter) intertwined in Luke 8:42-56, when the older woman “came up” to Jesus and “touched the fringe of His garment” to be healed and a younger girl was then raised from death. Covering Ruth, by the uncovering of Boaz’s feet, represents mission for Christ (good news) in that beautiful are the feet of those sent, who preach, and who, in the Song of Solomon, include the “queenly maiden” through love, acceptance and recovery from crises [krisos, judgment of God]. The second application of the book of Ruth, then, is familial or marital love which, in the vein of Christ, overcomes judgment on earth and in heaven, and it involves both generations and lands in God-ordained providence and ministry. In 1 Corinthians 13, love alone is stressed as the most important quality in personal relationships and ministry conjoined. Ruth and Boaz are exemplars of the love of 1 Corinthians 13, which echoes Christ’s love for His bride, the church. It is to be noted that ministerial expansion comes through redemptive, restorative love—the love offered of second chance.

The final application drawn from the book of Ruth is the exhibition and conscious effort of inclusion after believer’s judgment or times of affliction. Judgment may look like exile, divorce, widowhood, illness, lack of family, displacement, joblessness, homelessness, isolation, injustice, defenselessness—all in the contemporary world. It is difficult to view suffering straightforwardly enough to evaluate the maturing process of it, nevertheless, those faithful to God will often emerge (2:3) and require human help (2:8-9) in God’s will being done on the earth (Lord’s Prayer; Matt 6:10). Jones parallels points in the book of Ruth with modern treatment of exiles due to globalization and socio-economic affairs:

The author of Ruth undercuts traditional ideas about who may or may not be considered acceptable [and] points up the blessing that integration has been in Israel’s history. Israel would have been a vastly different nation if Boaz has not disregarded social mores and worked to integrate a Moabite, a foreigner, into the community of Israel.[65]

A large part of God’s will on the earth is restoration after devastation. Inclusion, for those of the inclusive faith of Christ (Acts 2, 10), should be extended to modern exiles or the marginalized according to Christ’s priestly prayer for unity (John 17).

Conclusion

It is common for interpreters to view the unfortunate of Matthew 25:35-46 as various unbelievers, yet Jesus clearly names Himself as the singular commonality within the list (Matt 25:42-43). As Ruth exemplifies, the “unfortunate” in Matthew 25 may be a single believer afflicted with much (hungry, thirsty, sick, imprisoned), similar of fate to that often attested to by Paul (Phil 1:12-18), and responsible for much (Luke 12:48; Jas 3:1). The truly unfortunate are those who profess to believe, but do not help this weary one sent out, evidenced in Ruth (a worthy believer, the ancestor of Christ) being persecuted further by those professing to share the faith (2:4, 9). Christians are to be “mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith, those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers” (Gal 6:10, AMPC). Boaz takes the ultimate step and marries Ruth, the faithful, taking into account her character over her past. He becomes her protector on the earth because he honors God and she belongs to God (3:9; 4:13). He takes the responsibility of literal obedience to heart in order to replicate the true intention of a spiritual family—God’s will being done on the earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10). Boaz represents a man made in the image of God, honoring a woman redeemed of the Lord by redeeming her on earth, as Christ redeems His bride, thus fulfilling creation as intended (Gen 1:27). The outcome of this incarnational union is that countless souls have been saved and eternally redeemed (4:22).

Bibliography

Block, Daniel I. “Judges, Ruth.” In The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, 487-519. Edited by E. Ray Clendenen. Nashville: B&H, 1999.

Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. “2617. Checed.” Biblesoft.com. Accessed October 7, 2018. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/2617.htm.

Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. “1980. Halak.” Biblesoft.com. Accessed October 7, 2018. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1980.htm.

Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. “3950. Laqat.” Biblesoft.com. Accessed October 7, 2018. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3950.htm.

Brown, Driver, Briggs. “7704. Sadeh.” Biblehub.com. Accessed October 10, 2018. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/7704.htm.

Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. “2881. Tabal.” Biblesoft.com. Accessed October 7, 2018. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/2881.htm.

Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. “7114. Qatsar.” Biblesoft.com. Accessed October 7, 2018. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/7114.htm.

ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008.

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon. “Barak.” Blueletterbible.org. Accessed October 10, 2018. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H1288&t=NASB.

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon. “Paga.” Blueletterbible.org. Accessed October 10, 2018. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6293&t=NASB.

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon. “Shaphat.” Blueletterbible.org. Accessed October 8, 2018. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H8199&t=NASB.

Hawk, L. Daniel. “Ruth.” In Apollos Old Testament Commentary, 17-142. Edited by David W. Baker and Gordon J. Wenham. Nottingham, England: InterVarsity, 2015.

Helps Word Studies. “2784. Kerusso.” Biblehub.com. Accessed October 11, 2018. https://biblehub.com/greek/2784.htm.

Helps Word Studies. “Romans 10:15; Nestle 1904.” Biblehub.com. Accessed October 11, 2018. https://biblehub.com/interlinear/romans/10-15.htm.

Jones, Edward Allen. Reading Ruth in the Restoration Period: A Call for Inclusion. London: Bloomsbury, 2016.

King James Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999.

McKeown, James. “Ruth.” In The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary, 18-62. Edited by J. Gordon McConville and Craig Bartholomew. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015.

NAS Exhaustive Concordance. “776. Erets.” Biblehub.com. Accessed October 10, 2018. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/776.htm.

NAS Exhaustive Concordance. “5043. Teknon.” Biblehub.com. Accessed October 8, 2018. https://biblehub.com/greek/5043.htm.

NAS Exhaustive Concordance. “5044. Teknotropheo.” Biblehub.com. Accessed October 8, 2018. https://biblehub.com/greek/5044.htm.

NAS Exhaustive Concordance. “5142. Trepho.” Biblehub.com. Accessed October 8, 2018. https://biblehub.com/greek/5142.htm.

NAS Exhaustive Concordance. “7069. Qanah.” Biblehub.com. Accessed October 10, 2018. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/7069.htm.

Roop, Eugene F. Believer’s Church Bible Commentary: Ruth, Jonah, Esther. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 2002.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. “Ruth.” In Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, 1-89. Edited by James Luther Mays. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1999.

Schipper, Jeremy. Ruth: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New Haven, CT: Yale University, 2016.

Slater, Rosalie J. “Crisis.” Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. Chesapeake, VA: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1995.

Spangler, Ann and Jean Syswerda. Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007.

Strong’s Concordance. “649. Apostello.” Biblehub.com. Accessed October 11, 2018. https://biblehub.com/greek/649.htm.

Strong’s Concordance. “1162. Boaz.” Biblehub.com. Accessed October 10, 2018. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1162.htm.

Strong’s Definitions. “Qatsar.” Blueletterbible.org. Accessed October 10, 2018. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H7114&t=NASB.

Strong’s H8199. “Shaphat.” Blueletterbible.org. Accessed October 8, 2018. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H8199&t=NASB.

Strong’s H6965. “Quwm.” Blueletterbible.org. Accessed October 8, 2018. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6965&t=NASB.

Tanner, Paul J. “The ‘Marriage Supper of the Lamb’ in Rev 19:6-10: Implications for the Judgment Seat of Christ.” Trinity Journal 26, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 47-68. Accessed June 18, 2018. http://www.liberty.edu.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. “907. Baptizo.” Biblehub.com. Accessed October 7, 2018. https://biblehub.com/greek/907.htm.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. “3384. Meter.” Biblehub.com. Accessed October 10, 2018. https://biblehub.com/greek/3384.htm.

Watson, Robert A. “Expositor’s Bible: Judges and Ruth.” Ccel.org. Accessed September 5, 2018. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/watson_ra/expositor7.

Westminster Leningrad Codex. “Ruth 4:10.” Tanach.us. Accessed October 10, 2018. https://biblehub.com/interlinear/ruth/4-10.htm.

________________________

[1] James McKeown, “Ruth,” in The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary, ed. J. Gordon McConville and Craig Bartholomew (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015), 10.

[2] King James Bible Commentary, Ruth (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), 281.

[3] ESV Study Bible, Ruth (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 475.

[4] King James Bible Commentary, Ruth, 282.

[5] Daniel I. Block, “Judges, Ruth,” in The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: B&H, 1999), 489-499.

[6] Ibid., 488.

[7] ESV Study Bible, Ruth, 476.

[8] Block, “Judges, Ruth,” 488.

[9] Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda, Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 259. (Author’s note: references to Ruth are this author’s insertions.)

[10] Block, “Judges, Ruth,” 498.

[11] Ibid., 499.

[12] King James Bible Commentary, Ruth, 282.

[13] Strong’s H8199, “Shaphat,” Blueletterbible.org, accessed October 8, 2018, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H8199&t=NASB.

[14] Rosalie J. Slater, “Crisis,” Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language (Chesapeake, VA: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1995), 53. (Author’s Note: Grk. krisos; judgment of God.)

[15] Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, “Shaphat,” Blueletterbible.org, accessed October 8, 2018, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H8199&t=NASB.

[16] King James Bible Commentary, Ruth, 283.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid., 284.

[20] Strong’s H8199, “Shaphat,” Blueletterbible.org.

[21] Strong’s H6965, “Quwm,” Blueletterbible.org, accessed October 8, 2018, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6965&t=NASB.

[22] King James Bible Commentary, Ruth, 283-285.

[23] NAS Exhaustive Concordance, “5044. Teknotropheo,” Biblehub.com, accessed October 8, 2018, https://biblehub.com/greek/5044.htm.

[24] NAS Exhaustive Concordance, “5043. Teknon,” Biblehub.com, accessed October 8, 2018, https://biblehub.com/greek/5043.htm.

[25] NAS Exhaustive Concordance, “5142. Trepho,” Biblehub.com, accessed October 8, 2018, https://biblehub.com/greek/5142.htm.

[26] Strong’s Concordance, “1162. Boaz,” Biblehub.com, accessed October 10, 2018, https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1162.htm.

[27] Block, “Judges, Ruth,” 505.

[28] Edward Allen Jones, Reading Ruth in the Restoration Period: A Call for Inclusion (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 67.

[29] Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, “1980. Halak,” Biblesoft.com, accessed October 7, 2018, https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1980.htm.

[30] Jones, Reading Ruth in the Restoration Period: A Call for Inclusion, 67.

[31] Ibid., 174.

[32] Jeremy Schipper, Ruth: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 2016), 15.

[33] Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, “3950. Laqat,” Biblesoft.com, accessed October 7, 2018. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3950.htm.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, “Paga,” Blueletterbible.org, accessed October 10, 2018, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6293&t=NASB.

[37] Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, “2881. Tabal,” Biblesoft.com, accessed October 7, 2018. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/2881.htm.

[38] Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, “907. Baptizo,” Biblehub.com, accessed October 7, 2018. https://biblehub.com/greek/907.htm.

[39] Jones, Reading Ruth in the Restoration Period: A Call for Inclusion, 104-105.

[40] Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, “3384. Meter,” Biblehub.com, accessed October 10, 2018, https://biblehub.com/greek/3384.htm.

[41] Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, “7114. Qatsar,” Biblesoft.com, accessed October 7, 2018, https://biblehub.com/hebrew/7114.htm. (Also, Strong’s Definitions, “Qatsar,” Blueletterbible.org, accessed October 10, 2018, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H7114&t=NASB.)

[42] King James Bible Commentary, Ruth, 288.

[43] NAS Exhaustive Concordance, “776. Erets,” Biblehub.com, accessed October 10, 2018, https://biblehub.com/hebrew/776.htm.

[44] Brown, Driver, Briggs, “7704. Sadeh,” Biblehub.com, accessed October 10, 2018, https://biblehub.com/hebrew/7704.htm.

[45] Ibid.

[46] King James Bible Commentary, Ruth, 288.

[47] Robert A. Watson, “Expositor’s Bible: Judges and Ruth,” Ccel.org, accessed September 5, 2018, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/watson_ra/expositor7.

[48] Westminster Leningrad Codex, “Ruth 4:10,” Tanach.us, accessed October 10, 2018, https://biblehub.com/interlinear/ruth/4-10.htm.

[49] NAS Exhaustive Concordance, “7069. Qanah,” Biblehub.com, accessed October 10, 2018, https://biblehub.com/hebrew/7069.htm.

[50] King James Bible Commentary, Ruth, 290.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Daniel L. Hawk, “Ruth,” in Apollos Old Testament Commentary, ed. David W. Baker and Gordon J. Wenham (Nottingham, England: InterVarsity, 2015), 121.

[53] King James Bible Commentary, Ruth, 291.

[54] Schipper, Ruth: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, 32.

[55] Block, “Judges, Ruth,” 501.

[56] Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, “2617. Checed,” Biblesoft.com, accessed October 7, 2018, https://biblehub.com/hebrew/2617.htm.

[57] Ibid, 30.

[58] Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, “Barak,” Blueletterbible.org, accessed October 10, 2018, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H1288&t=NASB.

[59] McKeown, “Ruth,” 11.

[60] J. Paul Tanner, “The ‘Marriage Supper of the Lamb’ in Revelation 19:6-10: Implications for the Judgment Seat of Christ,” Trinity Journal 26, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 47-68.

[61] Strong’s Definitions, “Qatsar,” Blueletterbible.org, accessed October 10, 2018, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H7114&t=NASB.)

[62] Helps Word Studies, “2784. Kerusso,” Biblehub.com, accessed October 11, 2018, https://biblehub.com/greek/2784.htm.

[63] Strong’s Concordance, “649. Apostello,” Biblehub.com, accessed October 11, 2018, https://biblehub.com/greek/649.htm.

[64] Helps Word Studies, “Romans 10:15; Nestle 1904,” Biblehub.com, accessed October 11, 2018, https://biblehub.com/interlinear/romans/10-15.htm.

[65] Jones, Reading Ruth in the Restoration Period: A Call for Inclusion, 175.


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