RUTH - CHAPTER 2
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
“And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the
family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.”
The relationship between
Boaz and Elimelech is stressed because Boaz is a type if Christ, and Elimelech is a
type of Adam, the federal head of the human race, and Christ is the last Adam, having
come to earth as man, His incarnation forming that indissoluble link with the human
race. Naomi represents true spiritual
life, and as Elimelech possessed Naomi, so was Adam the first man to possess the
spiritual life which she represents, he receiving it when by faith he offered a lamb
to make atonement for his sin, and provide him with a covering that fitted him to
stand in the presence of God, seeing in that lamb a figure of God’s Lamb Who would
bear away the sin of the world at Calvary.
“...a mighty man of
wealth,” is literally, “of valor or strength.”
Such is Christ.
“And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and
glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace.
And she said unto her, Go, my daughter.”
For the law concerning
gleaning, see Le 19:9-10; 23:22; Dt 24:19-22. Ruth
represents the Gentiles. The field in
Scripture represents the world, but in the present context it is the harvest field,
and therefore a picture of the written word. Gleaning
represents study of the Word, so that the picture is of a young believer studying the
Bible. Grain is a type of Christ as the
Bread of life. The new spiritual life
must be fed, and He Who is the living Word portrayed in the written Word is that
Grace is the giving of
undeserved blessing. It is grace that
enables us to see the spiritual significance of Scripture. As Boaz was the lord of
that harvest field so is the Lord Jesus Christ of the field of the Word.
“And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her
hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred
“She went, and
came....” Nothing turned her aside.
She went straight to the field. How
easily we are distracted from carrying out the resolve to study the Word!
“... after the
reapers.” The reapers represent those
who prepare food for God’s people. The
are the elders and teachers. Ruth’s
gleaning after the reapers teaches the lesson that it isn’t sufficient just to
listen to a teacher: some of what he says may be for another, but I am to look for
that which is for me, that which meets my special need.
“Hap” is associated
with the Holy Spirit’s leading. He
must be in control. There was grain in
the whole field, but the whole field wasn’t under Boaz’ control.
Where he had control there were love, safety, and abundance.
There was grain in other parts of the field, but there was also danger, and
there was no personal care. No handfuls
were let fall on purpose. Only where
Christ is in control is there safety, and it is emphasized again that Boaz was of the
kindred of Elimelech. Only Christ knows
our feeble frame. Only He can be touched
with the feeling of our infirmities. Only
He knows and cares about us. Only He
lets handfuls fall on purpose for us.
“And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord
be with you. And they answered him, The
Lord bless thee.”
As Boaz came from
Bethlehem house of bread, so did Christ.
The reciprocal greeting between master and servants declares the harmony that
exists between the Lord and those who love and obey Him, their obedience being the
measure of their love.
“Then said Boaz to his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel
The nameless servant is a
type of the Holy Spirit. As that servant
directed the work of the reapers so is it the prerogative of the Holy Spirit to
direct Gods workmen. God has not
assigned that task to any man, not even the elders.
No believer has the authority to direct the work of another.
Nothing escaped the
attention of Boaz. He took note of even this Moabitess, the least among those who
worked in the field. The Lord takes
similar note of even the least among those in His field.
“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”
“And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the
Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab:”
The servant knew all about
Ruth, as does the Holy Spirit about each believer.
“And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among
the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that
she tarried a little in the house.”
The fact that she sought
the overseer’s permission to glean tells us that the study of Scripture isn’t
something to be undertaken apart from the Holy Spirit, for apart from His
enlightenment we will glean little. A
distinction is to be noted between gleaning and gathering.
To glean means to pick up, but to gather stresses the idea of taking away for
my personal use what has been picked up. Gleaning
and gathering combine the thought of learning, and of obeying what has been learnt.
There may be an ulterior motive for study.
Such study will be of little worth. Knowledge
must be acted upon.
“After the reapers”
speaks of following godly elders and teachers. “Among
the sheaves.” Where there are true
“reapers” there will also be the equivalent of the “sheaves.”
There will be abundance for the Master to feed His household.
Such “reapers” are scarce today. Ruth’s
was no sporadic gleaning, “she came ... and continued.”
Many “come,” that is, begin, but they fail to continue.
“Even from morning till
now.” God delights in whole-hearted
workers, He Himself having written, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with
thy might” (Ec 9:10). “... till
now” implies that she had gleaned all through the morning right up to lunch time,
except for a brief visit to the tent or shelter set up in the field for the
convenience of the workers. Some
translations, however, indicate that she hadn’t stopped once since she had begun
gleaning that morning.
“Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in
another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens:”
Here is seen the
condescending grace of Boaz in that he the “mighty man of wealth” spoke
personally to a lowly Moabite girl, and in that grace God bids us see the still
greater grace of the Lord Jesus Christ Who came all the way from heaven to speak to
poor guilty sinners.
The need of remaining in
his field was emphasized, and in this God would teach us the need of remaining in
that part of the “field” where His Word is obeyed.
As noted already, only in his field were there abundance, safety, and his own
gracious care. Not only was she not to
glean in another field, she wasn’t to leave his field for any reason. It is to be remembered that those were lawless days, and there
were undoubtedly evil men who might have sought to entice her out of his field to her
harm. Satan is a wily foe who will
attempt by every means in his power to lead us out of the place where God has
directed His own to be. The success of
the tempter is attested by the numbers thronging unscriptural churches compared with
the few found in scripturally ordered assemblies.
“Abide here fast by my
maidens.” She wasn’t to allow anything to entice her away; and the
reference to “my maidens” has also its lesson, for those maidens represent those
who walk in submission to the Lord’s will. We are to seek the company of those who obey Christ.
They will be a help to us.
“Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them:
have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art
athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn.”
The need to keep her eye
on the field of Boaz is to teach us that as we keep our eyes on the Word of God we
will be less likely to be enticed into disobedience.
“... and go thou after
them” is to teach us the need of following those who abide in the field of the true
Boaz. We should follow the example of
godly men and women. In those days of
low moral standards a young woman could have come to grief very easily in any part of
the field owned by someone less honorable than Boaz. She was safe in his field: he had forbidden the young men to touch
her. We too are safe only in the field
of the true Boaz.
“And when thou art
athirst, go unto the vessels.” We
often need to have our souls refreshed. That
refreshment is to be found only in the Word of God and with His people.
While the main work was
the reaping of the harvest, water had to be drawn to refresh them while they worked.
There is need to remember to “draw water.” Teaching should include refreshment and encouragement for the
“... which the young men
have drawn.” Young men in Scripture represent spiritual strength.
Amongst the saints are those who are weak as well as those who are strong.
The strong are to help the weak.
“Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto
him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me,
seeing I am a stranger?”
His kind words had touched
her heart, and evoked the response, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes?”
What has been our response to the greater grace shown us by the Lord Jesus
Christ? Many accept His blessings as
though they deserved them. The truth is
that had we received our just deserts we should have been in hell.
“... seeing I am a
stranger.” As a Moabitess she had no
claim to anything from an Israelite. As
rebellious aliens and strangers we had no claim on God.
“And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed 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.”
Her kindness to Naomi was
fully known to Boaz. Our conduct is also
known to Christ. What kindness have we
shown someone who belongs to Him? If His
dealings with us were related to what we have done to other believers could we really
expect any commendation?
“... and how thou hast
left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity.”
Have we really left anything of our old lifestyles for Christ’s sake?
Have we really left the things of the world, or has conversion in fact brought
little or no change in our lives?
“... since the death of
thy husband.” Of believers it is written, “Ye also are become dead to the law
by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is
raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Ro 7:4).
The old I that controlled me once is dead, but do I make good in my daily
living what is mine by divine imputation, or do I still allow that old nature to
control my life?
“... and art come unto a
people which thou knewest not heretofore.” Are
our friends still the people of the world, or have we made friends of the people of
“The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord
God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.”
Recompense means to be
safe (in mind, body, or estate). Reward
means to be complete, to prosper. She
was assured that the Lord would recompense her work, and we have the same assurance;
but is our work of such a nature as to merit God’s reward?
Since Israel means he shall be prince of God the thought is that there
is reward only for those who are God’s princes, that is, sons, but sons must be
“... under whose wings
thou art come to trust.” The picture
is of baby chicks sheltering under the wings of the mother hen.
It speaks of nearness and intimacy with God.
Only the obedient enjoy that privilege.
“Then she said, Let me find favor in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast
comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken
friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens.”
“Let me find favor” is
literally “I find,” and favor means graciousness, kindness.
To comfort is to pity or console.
“Friendly,” that is,
he had spoken to her heart, the heart being viewed by the ancients as the seat of the
intellect and emotions.
“... not like unto one
of thine handmaidens” is literally, “I am not even one of your handmaids.”
This points again to God’s provision for the Gentiles.
“And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread,
and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And
she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was
sufficed, and left.”
At mealtime she was to
come where he was. We too are to come
where Christ is. But where is He? In the written Word. Mealtime
implies a set time, and as there is a set time to take regular food, so must there be
regular times to take spiritual food. As
one grows and keeps healthy physically by eating literal food, so do we grow and keep
healthy spiritually by eating spiritual food.
Bread speaks of the Word
to strengthen and build up, and wine speaks of it in its ability to cheer the heart. There is to be joy connected with the study of Scripture. It
isn’t meant to be a mere dull academic thing only for the mind: it is also for the
“She sat beside the
reapers.” Since reapers represent
elders and teachers, the lesson is that we are to “sit beside” such men by
attending the meetings when they teach, and by copying their lifestyles.
“... and he reached her
parched corn.” Boaz himself reached her the food. Christ delights to reach us food also. It was “parched” corn, that which had been subjected to the
action of the fire, but since fire is a symbol of the Holy Spirit the lesson is that
He too has an essential role to play in connection with the study of the Word. It is
His work to reveal the spiritual meaning of what we read.
“... she did eat.”
Some children simply play with their food, and so do some believers with their
spiritual food. The study of Scripture
isn’t a game, and we should be wary of those schemes which would invest Bible study
with the character of a game.
“... and was
sufficed.” She had more than enough
for herself, for the next clause “and left” doesn’t mean that she left the
eating place, but that she had more than she could eat: she had some left over.
The Lord always gives abundantly. Note
what was left over when He had fed the five thousand, and also the great draught of
fishes when He prepared breakfast for the disciples.
“And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying,
Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not:”
The eating with the
reapers speaks of the regularly scheduled meetings of the assembly for Bible study,
but as Ruth returned to her gleaning so are we to return to our own personal study of
God’s Word. “Boaz commanded his
young men.” The young men speak of
spiritual strength. Boaz, noting her
industry, saw to it that her industry was recompensed, and so is it with Christ.
Where there is a hunger for His Word He will satisfy that hunger, as it is
written, “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more
abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath”
“... even among the
sheaves.” This may have been an area
not usually permitted to gleaners; but again the lesson is that the Lord will ensure
that the seeking soul will be satisfied, while the careless saint will receive only
in proportion to his indifferent attitude.
“... and reproach her
not.” Nothing was to be said or done
to discourage her. We should be careful
to ensure that we too encourage those who sincerely seek to understand Scripture.
“And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them,
that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.”
This command continues to
remind us that the Lord is a bountiful giver. The
reason there is such lack of knowledge of the Word today is because we don’t seek
“And leave them that she
may glean them.” We should never
forget that all our knowledge of Scripture is given by the Lord.
Apart from the illumination of the Holy Spirit we would understand none of it.
“... and rebuke her
not.” Human nature being what it is
there were undoubtedly gleaners who would have stolen grain from the sheaves, and
Ruth’s bountiful gleaning might have made her appear to be such a person.
Because Boaz knew otherwise he took steps to ensure that she wasn’t offered
such an insult. We should be careful not
to attribute a wrong motive to those who give themselves to the study of God’s
“So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned:
and it was about an Ephah of barley.”
Her gleaning till even
declares that she is a type of the faithful saint who continues well right to the end
of his life. Many begin with great zeal,
but don’t finish well.
“... and beat out that
she had gleaned.” She wasn’t
finished when she had gleaned the ears of corn.
She beat them out of their husks, so that what she had left was pure grain.
The beating out speaks of diligent study that goes beyond reading only. It
involves the work of getting at the truth, sifting through what we read or hear, to
be sure that we understand its proper meaning. Few
today are willing to give themselves to this very necessary work.
An ephah is about 32 quarts dry measure.
“And she took it up, and went into the city: and her mother in law saw what
she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved after
she was sufficed.”
Since the city represents
the local church, Ruth’s taking the bushel of barley into the city portrays a
believer’s taking with him into the assembly what he has learnt from the Word.
This doesn’t imply a public ministry (Ruth shared the grain only with
Naomi), but rather the blessing brought to the assembly by one obedient believer.
The KJ rendering of the latter part of this verse is ambiguous for it might be
understood to mean that Ruth first ate, and then gave Naomi what was left over.
The meaning, however, is that she brought home to Naomi the surplus of the
food given her by Boaz at the noontime meal. A
diligent student of the Word will always have something to share with others.
“And her mother in law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned today? and
where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee.
And she shewed her mother in law with whom she had wrought, and said, the
man’s name with whom I wrought today is Boaz.”
Naomi seems to have been
aware that what Ruth had brought home was far more than a day’s gleaning would
ordinarily have produced, hence her statement, “Blessed by he that did take
knowledge of thee.” She knew that
someone had made this abundance available to Ruth.
Inasmuch as Naomi represents true spiritual life, her knowing the true state
of affairs simply reminds us that spiritual discernment is one of the marks of the
spiritual believer. Lack of that
discernment indicates immaturity, or carnality, or even lack of spiritual life
“And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the Lord, who
hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead.
And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next
Upon learning that their
benefactor was Boaz, she repeated her blessing, and desired not just a general
blessing for the man, but that the blessing come from God Himself.
Implicit in her statement relative to the man’s being a near kinsman is the
dawning of a hope that this same Boaz might play the part of kinsman redeemer (see Dt
25:5-10). If there is one lesson to be
learnt from this it is that the better we know the Scriptures the brighter becomes
our hope relative to God’s promises.
The reference to God’s
kindness to the living “and the dead” reminds us that death doesn’t end
everything for the believer. Death is
simply the doorway through which he passes into the enjoyment of eternal blessing.
“And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me also, Thou shalt keep fast by
my young men, until they have ended all my harvest.”
By referring to her as
Ruth the Moabitess, God would remind us that in her we are to see a picture of
ourselves. We too were once destitute strangers in desperate need of
“Thou shalt keep fast by
my young men” translates into His command to us to keep near to those who are
spiritually strong. Such believers will
be a help and encouragement to us. “...
until they have ended my harvest.” This
is meant to teach us the need of continuing that association right to the end of
“And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, It is good, my daughter, that
thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field.”
Naomi’s advice that Ruth
go out only with Boaz’ maidens is the spiritual announcement of the truth that we
are to keep company with those who walk in subjection to Christ, for that is what the
young maiden represents.
“... that they meet thee
not in another field.” The word
“meet” has an ominous significance here. It
is literally “impinge,” with the added thought of rushing on anyone with hostile
violence. As noted already, a young
woman such as Ruth could have been in danger of molestation in a field controlled by
a man of less moral integrity than Boaz. The
spiritual warning relates to the dangers of involvement in religious groups where the
lordship of Christ is ignored.
“So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley
harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law.”
Her obedience, and her
continued gleaning right through the harvest season sets her before us as the model
of what Christians, young and old, ought to be.
Since wheat is superior to barley, her going from the barley field to the
wheat field speaks symbolically of spiritual growth.
Her continuing to dwell with Naomi speaks of her continuing to walk according
to the Spirit rather than the flesh.