RUTH - CHAPTER 3
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
Before beginning our study
of this chapter it is necessary to note that Ruth’s conversion is portrayed in her
decision to leave Moab, and return with Naomi to Bethlehem, the emphasis being on the
exercise of the sinner’s free will in choosing to accept God’s gift of eternal
life. Here in chapter three, however,
God bids us view salvation from another perspective: what it cost the Lord Jesus
Christ to make redemption available to us. The
winnowing of the grain speaks of the Lord’s differentiation between the genuine
faith of the small believing remnant of Israel, and the empty profession of the
apostate mass of the nation, an apostasy that caused them to reject Him, and Him then
to reject them. This chapter sets before
us Christ’s eating the last passover, and establishing the ordinance of the
Lord’s supper; and no spiritual mind will have difficulty seeing in the nameless
fear that seized Boaz that night on the threshing floor, a foreshadowing of the
terrible dread of Calvary that caused the Lord’s sweat to become as great drops of
blood falling down to the ground in Gethsemane’s garden.
“Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek
rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?”
Since Naomi represents
true spiritual life, her seeking rest for Ruth translates into the spiritual truth
that the new nature within us desires only the best for us.
What folly then to ever permit the old nature any activity in our lives!
It is as evil in the believer as in the unbeliever, and never seeks anything
except our harm. The fact that Naomi obviously had a part to play in Ruth’s
redemption and advancement, teaches the truth that just as Ruth obeyed Naomi so must
we obey the impulses of the new nature.
“And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold,
he winnoweth barley tonight in the threshingfloor.”
As Naomi directed Ruth’s
attention to Boaz so does the new nature direct our attention to the Lord Jesus
Christ; and as she reminded Ruth that Boaz was one of their kinsmen, so does the new
nature remind us that the true Boaz is also our Kinsman, He having established that
relationship with the human race by becoming Himself Son of man.
The grace that led Him to form that link with Adam’s fallen sons cannot be
measured, for no human mind can comprehend what it meant for God the Son to stoop
from the throne of glory to become the child born to Mary, and cradled in the manger
... with whose maidens
thou wast.” As already noted the maiden is the symbol of willing submission to
the will of God, so that Ruth’s having kept with them marks her as the
representative of all who walk in willing subjection to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those who would live so as to please Him should be careful to keep company
with those who are possessed of a similar spirit.
As our continued study of
this section will make clear, what transpired that night at the threshing floor
foreshadows the Lord’s experience in Gethsemane during His last night on earth,
while the activity in the gate the next day, recorded in chapter 4, foreshadows His
experience at Calvary. The three and a
half years of the Lord’s public ministry had been as it were a time of
“winnowing.” It had served to
separate spiritual chaff from spiritual wheat, revealing who were His, and who were
His enemies. Winnowing was the process
by which the grain was separated from the chaff, the grain symbolizing believers; and
the chaff, unbelievers. The Lord’s
redemptive work is that which separates grain from chaff, belief from unbelief, life
from death, and it is instructive to consider the process by which the winnowing was
accomplished in those days. After the
threshing, which separated the ear of barley or wheat from the stalk, the separated
grain was tossed into the air and the wind blew away the chaff (the light dried
husks), while the heavier grain fell back on to the threshing floor, and was then
gathered up to be stored in the barn. The
wind is a Biblical symbol of the Holy Spirit, see for example Jn 3:8.
It is He Who separates believer from unbeliever, for He indwells only those
who have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, sealing every believer as a child
of God, see for example, Ro 8:9 “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he
is none of his,” 2 Cor 1:22 “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of
the Spirit in our hearts,” Eph 1:13 “... in whom also after that ye believed, ye
were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,” Eph 4:30 “And grieve not the holy
Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”
It is instructive to note
that what happened to the grain in winnowing has a parallel in what happened to the
fresh water drawn up into the atmosphere by evaporation in Ge 1:6-7.
That water drawn up out of the ocean into the atmosphere represents believers
drawn up out of the great sea of unconverted humanity into the realm of the Spirit;
but as that fresh water was sent back to earth in the form of lifegiving rain so are
believers sent back into the world to spread the Gospel.
Likewise the grain was first thrown up into the air (the realm of the Spirit),
but then fell back to earth to be the food which sustains man’s life.
“Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and
get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall
have done eating and drinking.”
Remembering that Boaz is a
type of the Lord Jesus Christ, the need for Ruth to be washed, anointed, and clothed
in her best raiment before going to seek marriage with Boaz, is the symbolic
declaration of the truth that those who would be part of that mystical body which is
Christ’s bride, the Church, must have the spiritual equivalent of the washing,
anointing, and clothing.
The washing very obviously
points to the need of being cleansed from sin, while the anointing speaks of being
indwelt by the Holy Spirit; and the raiment, of the truth that a righteous life is
the outward evidence of a genuine conversion. Since
that threshing floor is one of the types of Calvary, the need for Ruth to go to the
threshing floor declares the need for the sinner to go to Calvary, that is, confess
himself a sinner, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior, in order to
become a member of that body which is the bride of Christ.
Eating speaks of
satisfaction; and drinking (wine), of pleasure, so that the need for Ruth not to
reveal herself to Boaz until he had eaten and drunk is the symbolic announcement of
the truth that there could be no salvation for sinners until the Lord had finished
His work at Calvary, for only then would He “see of the travail of his soul, and be
satisfied” (Isa 53:11). Only then
would He be able to rejoice in the knowledge that He had completed the work the
Father had given Him to do.
Another thought connected
with the need for Ruth not to approach Boaz until he had finished eating and
drinking, is that it wasn’t until after Calvary that it was possible for Gentiles
to enter into a relationship with Christ which transcended that formerly available
only to Israel. Israel’s crucifixion
of Christ was the demonstration of their rejection of Him, and it was because of that
rejection that even richer blessings were offered the Gentiles, and as has been noted
already, Ruth represents the Gentiles and the Church, the Church being comprised
mainly of Gentiles.
“And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where
he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he
will tell thee what thou shalt do.”
Boaz’ lying down after
the winnowing was finished, continues to speak of the rest and satisfaction enjoyed
by Christ after Calvary’s work was done; and the need for Ruth to go to the place
where the winnowing had been done, and where Boaz then rested, speaks clearly of the
need for the sinner to go in spirit to Calvary, that is, to realize that Calvary is
the place where man’s redemption has been procured at incalculable cost, and to
realize that man has no hope of entering heaven apart from Christ’s work completed
on the cross.
The custom of uncovering
the feet was the symbolic way of acknowledging the need of redemption, and of
signifying willingness to be redeemed and joined in marriage to the kinsman redeemer.
The spiritual lesson is that those who would be redeemed spiritually must be
willing to acknowledge their need of redemption, and their willingness to take the
place which is portrayed by that of a wife, that is, of loving submission to the
lordship of Christ. The fact that she
had nothing to do except lie down and symbolically acknowledge her need declares the
simplicity of God’s way of salvation. All
the work has been done by Christ. The
sinner has nothing to do except acknowledge his need, and by faith accept the Lord
Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
“and he will tell thee
what thou shalt do.” As Ruth was to
obey the words of Boaz so are we to obey the words of Christ.
“And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do.”
Since Naomi represents
true spiritual life, Ruth’s willingness to obey her is the symbolic announcement of
the truth that we are to obey the impulses of the Spirit rather than the promptings
of the old nature; nor should we fail to note that her obedience wasn’t partial:
she would do all that Naomi suggested. We
should note further that Naomi couldn’t compel Ruth to obey.
The obedience must be voluntary; and so is it with the Holy Spirit Who resides
in every believer. He will not compel
our obedience. It must be yielded
freely, hence Paul’s warning not to grieve or quench Him, see Eph 4:30 and 1 Th
“And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother
in law bade her.”
If we would be blessed we
must yield similar complete obedience to all that the Holy Spirit says to us through
the written Word.
“And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie
down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and
laid her down.”
For the spiritual
significance of Boaz’ having eaten and drunk, see comments on verse three.
His lying down at the end of the heap of corn points symbolically to what is
still future, for it is the typological picture of the satisfaction, pleasure, and
rest which the Lord will enjoy eternally when earth’s history is finished, and all
His redeemed are with Him when the present earth and heavens will have been replaced
with new ones.
As frequently in Jewish
writing, the author, having described something in general, then goes back to add
more details. Ruth’s coming softly,
uncovering Boaz’ feet, and lying down, is an example of such writing, but as always
in Scripture, the spiritual transcends the literal, for in the details which follow,
God would have us see a picture of the Lord’s agony in Gethsemane.
“And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned
himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet.”
That midnight scene points
us to the Lord’s last night on earth, when having eaten and drunk the Passover, He
crossed the Kidron and entered the garden of Gethsemane, where in such agony of soul
that His sweat “became as it were great drops of blood falling down to the
ground,” He prayed that if it were possible the terrible “cup” might be taken
away. Few will have difficulty seeing in Boaz’ fear, the foreshadowing
of that which filled the heart of Christ as He anticipated Calvary; nor is it
difficult to see in Ruth lying at Boaz’ feet a figure of those who comprise the
Church, whose need of redemption is foreshadowed in hers.
Its being said that Boaz
“turned himself” may be the typological decelaration of the truth that Christ
would turn from disobedient Israel to bring redemption to the Gentiles, of whom Ruth
is clearly the representative.
“And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid:
spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.”
His question embodies the
truth that redemption is available only to those willing to confess their need of it,
for the revelation of her identity was also the revelation of her destitute state.
He who will not confess himself a sinner without one shred of righteousness,
will never be saved. Her faith to believe that Boaz could redeem her, translates into
the truth that the sinner who would be saved must have the same kind of faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ. Boaz’ ability to
redeem her was inseparably linked with the fact that he was her kinsman, and so is it
with Christ: He can redeem sinners because in amazing grace He became Man, becoming
thus Kinsman to the whole human race, but the Redeemer only of those who trust Him as
“And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter: for thou hast shewed
more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst
not young men, whether poor or rich.”
Clearly Boaz was
considerably older than Ruth, and it might have been expected that she would have
preferred a husband nearer her own age, but it seems that his kindness had won her
heart in spite of the age difference. He,
on the other hand, viewed as a kindness equal to that shown her mother in law, her
willingness to become his wife. In this
we see declared the truth that the Lord values very highly that love which is willing
to receive Him as Savior, and obey Him as Lord. The implication that Boaz’ age made him less desirable as a
husband may foreshadow the truth that the natural man despises Christ and sees
nothing desirable in Him. We should
note, incidentally, that Ruth could have married a younger man who was not a near
kinsman, but in doing so she would have failed to secure redemption of the
inheritance, and perpetuation of the line of Elimelech and Mahlon.
“And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest:
for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.”
Linked with his
willingness to redeem her was the fact that she was a virtuous woman.
How different it is with Christ and us! We
were spiritual harlots who mocked and hated Him.
She was washed and anointed with fragrant oil, and dressed in her best robe.
We were filthy lepers, as described by the prophet, “From the sole of the
foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and
putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with
ointment” (Isa 1:6). As for our
covering, it was as described in Isa 64:6 “... all our righteousnesses are as
filthy rags....” It is difficult to
believe that Boaz would have been willing to redeem Ruth had she been what we were
before conversion. Nor would he have
redeemed her had she stood at the gate mocking and taunting him while he paid the
price of her redemption, yet the Lord redeemed us with His precious blood when we
were represented by those who stood around the cross mocking His dying agony.
No finite mind can measure the love and grace that led the Lord Jesus Christ
to redeem our souls. It was the
contemplation of that love and grace that prompted John Newton, the former slave
trader, to write the hymn Amazing Grace.
“And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman
nearer than I.”
That nearer kinsman
represents the law given to Israel before Christ came, and which remains the standard
that measures the holiness God requires of all men - a standard that no man except
Christ ever has or ever will reach.
“Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform
unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman’s part: but if he
will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to
thee, as the Lord liveth: lie down until the morning.”
As noted already, literal
night in Scripture represents spiritual darkness, while morning almost invariably
stands associated with the judgment of God that will reveal all things in their true
light. In the spiritual darkness which
shrouds this world there are many who hold the belief that they can be saved by
lawkeeping. Only when they stand in the
blazing light of that soon coming morning which will reveal all things as they really
are, will they discover, too late, the deadly error of that belief.
Whatever question Ruth may have had as to who would redeem her, the certainty
of her redemption was never in question. It
was guaranteed by Boaz, as every believer’s is by the true Boaz, Christ.
Her being commanded to
“lie down until the morning” continues to emphasize that the sinner has nothing
to do in connection with his salvation, except to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as
his personal Savior, for He has completed that great work at Calvary.
“And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could
know another. And he said, Let it not be
known that a woman came into the floor.”
Her lying at Boaz’ feet
until the morning is a beautiful typological picture of what our attitude should be
while we await the coming of “morning.” We
may rest in safety and certainty at the feet of our great kinsman Redeemer, the Lord
Since Ruth represents the
Church, her rising up before daylight, and his instruction that she not mention
having been in the threshing floor that night, may have an oblique reference to the
fact that the Church was a mystery not to be revealed until this present age, as it
is written in Eph 3:3-5, “... he made known unto me the mystery ... which in other
ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy
apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of
the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel....” and Col
1:26-27, “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but
now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches
of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of
“Also he said, Bring the vail that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And
when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her: and she
went into the city.”
This reference to the vail
would seem to further confirm what we have looked at in connection with the previous
verse, for the vail is that which covers. As Ruth was hidden behind that vail, so was
the Church veiled during the OT ages.
The six (number of
incompleteness and imperfection) measures of barley (about sixty pounds), speak
clearly of the Lord’s provision for the Church until that day when she will be
caught up to the enjoyment of an eternal union with Him in heaven.
Since the city represents
the local church, her going into the city with the six measures of barley, is meant
to teach us the necessity of building up the local assembly through what the Lord
gives us individually.
“And when she came to her mother in law, she said, Who art thou, my
daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her.”
Naomi’s question is
usually taken to relate, not to Ruth’s identity, but to whether Boaz would marry
her, for that marriage would change her state from being the widow of Mahlon to being
the wife of Boaz, so that the question might be paraphrased, “Are you to be Boaz’
Since Naomi represents
genuine spiritual life, Ruth’s telling her all that Boaz had done to her, is the
symbolic announcement of the fact that with the obedient believer nothing is
permitted to come between him and his new spiritual life; and since only the flesh
can cause such an intrusion the lesson is that the flesh is to be permitted no
activity in our lives. It is to be kept
in the place of death where by God’s imputation it actually is.
In other words we are to make good in practice what is ours by divine
“And she said, These six measures of
barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother in law.”
The instruction to take
something back to Naomi translates into the truth that submission to the Lord Jesus
Christ will always result in our having something to enrich the new nature we
received at conversion. Obedience should
produce in our lives a greater measure of conformity to the image of Christ.
“Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will
fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.”
“Sit still” continues
to emphasize the truth that the believer has nothing to do except rest in the
finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the fact that Boaz would not rest until
Ruth was redeemed reminds us that our redemption was the Lord’s paramount concern.