Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.(1) Boaz.—It has been already said that if there are any gaps in the genealogy, these are most probably to be referred to its earlier portion. According to the line, however, given in Ruth 4:18 seq., Boaz is grandson of the Nahshon who was prince of the tribe of Judah during the wanderings in the desert and son of Salmon and Rahab of Jericho. It may be noted that the difficulty of date may be lessened by supposing that in the last two generations we have children of their fathers’ old age.
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.(2) Let me now go.—The character of Ruth comes out strongly here. She does not hesitate to face the hard work necessary on her mother-in-law’s account; nor is she too proud to condescend to a work which might perhaps seem humiliating. Nor does one hanker after her old home in the land of Moab and the plenty there. Energy, honesty of purpose, and loyalty are alike evinced here.
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.(3) Her hap was to light on.—Literally, her hap happened. A chance in outward seeming, yet a clear shaping of her course by unseen hands. Her steps were divinely guided to a certain field, that God’s good purposes should be worked out.
And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee.(4) The Lord be with you.—There is a trace here of the good feeling prevailing between Boaz and his servants. Though he has come to his field to supervise the work, it is not in a fault-finding spirit, but with true courtesy and friendliness; nor is it a frivolous jesting manner that he displays, but with gravity and soberness he presents a true gentleman in his intercourse with his inferiors.
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:(6, 7) The steward gives a detailed account of Ruth. She is “the (rather “a”) Moabitish damsel,” she is a foreigner [as such she had a special claim to the gleaning, Leviticus 19:9-10]. She is the daughter-in-law of Naomi; and he adds that her behaviour has been praiseworthy, for she asked leave before beginning to glean, and she has worked hard all day, save for a short interval of rest. It would seem that Boaz’s visit to the field fell at the time when Ruth was thus resting: “This is her tarrying for a little in the house”; apparently, that is, some rude shelter from the heat set up in the field, like the lodge of Isaiah 1:8.
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:(8) My daughter.—This address suggests that Boaz was no longer a young man; clearly the account he had heard of Ruth, both from his servant and from general report, as well as her appearance and behaviour and doubtless a feeling of pity at her condition, had prepossessed him in her favour.
Abide her fast by my maidens.—Literally, cleave to (Genesis 2:24). The true courtesy of Boaz’s character shows itself in the mention of the maidens. He will not have the stranger even run the chance of rudeness, by being away from the company of her own sex. As the next verse shows, he had already given orders to his men on the subject.
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.(9) Have drawn.—Literally, shall (from time to time) draw. Possibly from that self-same well at Bethlehem from which David desired to drink (2Samuel 23:15).
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?(10) A stranger.—A foreigner. Note, however, that the Moabite language, though having its own peculiarities, really differed but little from Hebrew, as may be seen, for instance, from the famous inscription of King Mesha discovered in the land of Moab in 1868.
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.(11) Heretofore.—The curious Hebrew phrase thus rendered is literally, yesterday and the day before.
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.(12) Boaz prays that God will recompense Ruth’s dutifulness to her mother-in-law, and the more seeing that she herself has put herself under His protection. Faith in Divine help and grace will win an undoubted recompense.
Then she said, Let me find favour 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.(13) Friendly.—Literally, unto the heart. The same phrase is rendered comfortably (Isaiah 40:2).
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.(14) At meal-time.—This should apparently be joined to what precedes: Boaz now shows a fresh act of kindness.
Vinegar.—By this term is to be understood wine which had become sour (Proverbs 10:26). As such, Nazarites were forbidden to use it (Numbers 6:3). Similar to this was the vinegar of the Gospel narrative, a sour wine generally mixed with water, which was offered to our Saviour (Matthew 27:48, &c.).
Left.—Had to spare. In Ruth 2:18, we find that this superfluity was put by for her mother-in-law.
So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley.(17) Beat out.—That is, she threshed it herself, so as to save the labour of carrying away the straw. She then found she had an ephah, that is, rather more than four pecks.
And her mother in law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to day? 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 to day is Boaz.(19) Blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee.—Naomi easily perceives that the quantity of corn brought home is unusually large, and that therefore some special kindness must have been shown Her own, therefore, as well as her daughter’s thanks are due to this benefactor.
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.(20) Who hath not . . .—It is not clear whether the grammatical antecedent is God or Boaz. Either way a good sense is obtained. As our lost dear ones had kindness shown them of old, so we too now. If Boaz is the antecedent, it may seem curious that Naomi (knowing that she was dwelling near to a kinsman of her husband’s, and, further, one who had shown kindness before they departed to Moab) should not have made herself known to him. It is, at any rate, a proof of the independence of her character. However, the name once named evidently suggests the train of thought which at length leads Naomi to appeal to him for a kinsman’s special aid, the aid of the Goel or redeemer.
One of our next kinsmen.—One of those who must redeem.
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.(21) My young men . . . my harvest.—Emphatic in the Hebrew. As long as my reaping lasts, cleave steadily to us.
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.(22) That they meet thee not.—It is good . . . and that people meet thee not. This would not only be throwing away genuine kindness, but would be contemptuously proclaiming the fact.
Maidens.—Naomi speaks of the young women, whereas Ruth had spoken of the young men. We need not suppose that any distinction is intended: Ruth names the young men as the chief workers; Naomi, the young women as those with whom Ruth would be specially thrown.
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.(23) And dwelt.—Unspoiled by mixing with her new society, she stops on quietly at the end of her task, and tends her mother-in-law at home with the same fidelity with which she had worked for her abroad.