For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

2:1.  “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.

2:2.  “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 spiritual food.

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.

2:3.  “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 of Elimelech.”

“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.

2:4.  “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.

2:5.  “Then said Boaz to his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this?”

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.”

2:6.  “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.

2:7.  “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.

2:8.  “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.

2:9.  “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 saints.

“... 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.

2:10.  “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.

2:11.  “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 God?

2:12.  “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 obedient.

“... 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.

2:13.  “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.   

2:14.  “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 heart.

“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.

2:15.  “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” (Mt 13:12).

“... 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.

2:16.  “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 that knowledge.

“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 Word.

2:17.  “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.

2:18.  “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.

2:19.  “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 itself.

2:20.  “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 kinsmen.”

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.

2:21.  “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 redemption.

“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 life’s journey.

2:22.  “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.

2:23.  “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.

[Ruth 3]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough