Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Ruth Gleans in the Field of Boaz - Ruth 2
Ruth went to the field to glean ears of corn, for the purpose of procuring support for herself and her mother-in-law, and came by chance to the field of Boaz, a relative of Naomi, who, when he heard that she had come with Naomi from Moabitis, spoke kindly to her, and gave her permission not only to glean ears in his field and even among the sheaves, but to appease her hunger and thirst with the food and drink of his reapers (vv. 1-16), so that in the evening she returned to her mother-in-law with a plentiful gleaning, and told her of the gracious reception she had met with from this man, and then learned from her that Boaz was a relation of her own (Ruth 2:17-23).
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 account of this occurrence commences with a statement which was necessary in order to make it perfectly intelligible, namely that Boaz, to whose field Ruth went to glean, was a relative of Naomi through her deceased husband Elimelech. The Kethibh מידע is to be read מידּע, an acquaintance (cf. Psalm 31:12; Psalm 55:14). The Keri מודע is the construct state of מודע, lit. acquaintanceship, then an acquaintance or friend (Proverbs 7:4), for which מודעת occurs afterwards in Ruth 3:2 with the same meaning. That the acquaintance or friend of Naomi through her husband was also a relation, is evident from the fact that he was "of the family of Elimelech. " According to the rabbinical tradition, which is not well established however, Boaz was a nephew of Elimelech. The ל before אישׁהּ is used instead of the simple construct state, because the reference is not to the relation, but to a relation of her husband; at the same time, the word מודע has taken the form of the construct state notwithstanding this ל (compare Ewald, 292, a., with 289, b.). חיל גּבּור generally means the brave man of war (Judges 6:12; Judges 11:1, etc.); but here it signifies a man of property. The name Boaz is not formed from עז בּו, in whom is strength, but from a root, בּעז, which does not occur in Hebrew, and signifies alacrity.
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.Ruth wished to go to the field and glean at (among) the ears, i.e., whatever ears were left lying upon the harvest field (cf. Ruth 2:7), אשׁר אחר, behind him in whose eyes she should find favour. The Mosaic law (Leviticus 19:9; Leviticus 23:22, compared with Deuteronomy 24:19) did indeed expressly secure to the poor the right to glean in the harvest fields, and prohibited the owners from gleaning themselves; but hard-hearted farmers and reapers threw obstacles in the way of the poor, and even forbade their gleaning altogether. Hence Ruth proposed to glean after him who should generously allow it. She carried out this intention with the consent of Naomi, and chance led her to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, a relation of Elimelech, without her knowing the owner of the field, or being at all aware of his connection with Elimelech. מקרה ויּקר, lit., "her chance chanced to hit upon the field."
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.
And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee.When Boaz came from the town to the field, and had greeted his reapers with the blessing of a genuine Israelites, "Jehovah be with you," and had received from them a corresponding greeting in return, he said to the overseer of the reapers, "Whose damsel is this?" to which he replied, "It is the Moabitish damsel who came back with Naomi from the fields of Moab, and she has said (asked), Pray, I will glean (i.e., pray allow me to glean) and gather among the sheaves after the reapers, and has come and stays (here) from morning till now; her sitting in the house that is little." מאז, lit. a conjunction, here used as a preposition, is stronger than מן, "from then," from the time of the morning onwards (see Ewald, 222, c.). It is evident from this answer of the servant who was placed over the reapers, (1) that Boaz did not prohibit any poor person from gleaning in his field; (2) that Ruth asked permission of the overseer of the reapers, and availed herself of this permission with untiring zeal from the first thing in the morning, that she might get the necessary support for her mother-in-law and herself; and (3) that her history was well known to the overseer, and also to Boaz, although Boaz saw her now for the first time.
Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this?
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:
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.
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:The good report which the overlooker gave of the modesty and diligence of Ruth could only strengthen Boaz in his purpose, which he had probably already formed from his affection as a relation towards Naomi, to make the acquaintance of her daughter-in-law, and speak kindly to her. With fatherly kindness, therefore, he said to her (Ruth 2:8, Ruth 2:9), "Dost thou hear, my daughter? (i.e., 'thou hearest, dost thou not?' interrogatio blande affirmat;) go not to reap in another field, and go not away from here, and keep so to my maidens (i.e., remaining near them in the field). Thine eyes (directed) upon the field which they reap, go behind them (i.e., behind the maidens, who probably tired up the sheaves, whilst the men-servants cut the corn). I have commanded the young men not to touch thee (to do thee no harm); and if thou art thirsty (צמת, from צמה equals צמא: see Ewald, 195, b.), go to the vessels, and drink of what the servants draw."
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.
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?Deeply affected by this generosity, Ruth fell upon her face, bowing down to the ground (as in 1 Samuel 25:23; 2 Samuel 1:2; cf. Genesis 23:7), to thank him reverentially, and said to Boaz, "Why have I found favour in thine eyes, that thou regardest me, who am only a stranger?" הכּיר, to look at with sympathy or care, to receive a person kindly (cf. Ruth 2:19).
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.Boaz replied, "Everything has been told me that thou hast done to (את, prep. as in Zechariah 7:9; 2 Samuel 16:17) thy mother-in-law since the death of thy husband, that thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and thy kindred, and hast come to a people that thou knewest not heretofore" (hast therefore done what God commanded Abraham to do, Genesis 12:1). "The Lord recompense thy work, and let thy reward be perfect (recalling Genesis 15:1) from the Lord the God of Israel, to whom thou hast come to seek refuge under His wings!" For this figurative expression, which is derived from Deuteronomy 32:11, compare Psalm 91:4; Psalm 36:8; Psalm 57:2. In these words of Boaz we see the genuine piety of a true Israelite.
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.
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.Ruth replied with true humility, "May I find favour in thine eyes; for thou hast comforted me, and spoken to the heart of thy maiden (see Judges 19:3), though I am not like one of thy maidens," i.e., though I stand in no such near relation to thee, as to have been able to earn thy favour. In this last clause she restricts the expression "thy maiden." Carpzov has rightly pointed this out: "But what am I saying when I call myself thy maiden? since I am not worthy to be compared to the least of thy maidens." The word אמצא is to be taken in an optative sense, as expressive of the wish that Boaz might continue towards her the kindness he had already expressed. To take it as a present, "I find favour" (Clericus and Bertheau), does not tally with the modesty and humility shown by Ruth in the following words.
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.This unassuming humility on the part of Ruth made Boaz all the more favourably disposed towards her, so that at meal-time he called her to eat along with his people (לה without Mappik, as in Numbers 32:42; Zechariah 5:11; cf. Ewald, 94, b. 3). "Dip thy morsel in the vinegar." Chomez, a sour beverage composed of vinegar (wine vinegar or sour wine) mixed with oil; a very refreshing drink, which is still a favourite beverage in the East (see Rosenmller, A. and N. Morgenland, iv. p. 68, and my Bibl. Archologie, ii. p. 16). "And he reached her parched corn." The subject is Boaz, who, judging from the expression "come hither," either joined in the meal, or at any rate was present at it. קלי are roasted grains of wheat (see at Leviticus 2:14, and my Bibl. Arch. ii. p. 14), which are still eaten by the reapers upon the harvest field, and also handed to strangers.
(Note: Thus Robinson (Pal. ii. p. 394) gives the following description of a harvest scene in the neighbourhood of Kubeibeh: "In one field nearly two hundred reapers and gleaners were at work, the latter being nearly as numerous as the former. A few were taking their refreshment, and offered us some of their 'parched corn.' In the season of harvest, the grains of wheat not yet fully dry and hard, are roasted in a pan or on an iron plate, and constitute a very palatable article of food; this is eaten along with bread, or instead of it.")
Boaz gave her an abundant supply of it, so that she was not only satisfied, but left some, and was able to take it home to her mother (Ruth 2:18.)
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:When she rose up to glean again after eating, Boaz commanded his people, saying, "She may also glean between the shaves (which was not generally allowed), and ye shall not shame her (do her any injury, Judges 18:7); and ye shall also draw out of the bundles for her, and let them lie (the ears drawn out), that she may glean them, and shall not scold her," sc., for picking up the ears that have been drawn out. These directions of Boaz went far beyond the bounds of generosity and compassion for the poor; and show that he felt a peculiar interest in Ruth, with whose circumstances he was well acquainted, and who had won his heart by her humility, her faithful attachment to her mother-in-law, and her love to the God of Israel, - a face important to notice in connection with the further course of the history.
And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.
So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley.Thus Ruth gleaned till the evening in the field; and when she knocked out the ears, she had about an ephah (about 20-25 lbs.) of barley.
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.This she brought to her mother-in-law in the city, and "drew out (sc., from her pocket, as the Chaldee has correctly supplied) what she had left from her sufficiency," i.e., of the parched corn which Boaz had reached her (Ruth 2:14).
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.The mother inquired, "where hast thou gleaned to-day, and where wroughtest thou?" and praised the benefactor, who, as she conjecture from the quantity of barley collected and the food brought home, had taken notice of Ruth: "blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee!" When she heard the name of the man, Boaz, she saw that this relative of her husband had been chosen by God to be a benefactor of herself and Ruth, and exclaimed, "Blessed be he of the Lord, that he has not left off (withdrawn) his favour towards the living and the dead!" On חסדּו עזב see Genesis 24:27. This verb is construed with a double accusative here; for את cannot be a preposition, as in that case מאת would be used like מעם in Gen. l.c. "The living," etc., forms a second object: as regards (with regard to) the living and the dead, in which Naomi thought of herself and Ruth, and of her husband and sons, to whom God still showed himself gracious, even after their death, through His care for their widows. In order to enlighten Ruth still further upon the matter, she added, "The man (Boaz) is our relative, and one of our redeemers." He "stands near to us," sc., by relationship. גּאלנוּ, a defective form for גּאלינוּ, which is found in several MSS and editions. On the significance of the gol, or redeemer, see at Leviticus 25:26, Leviticus 25:48-49, and the introduction to Ruth 3.
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.
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.Ruth proceeded to inform her of his kindness: כּי גּם, "also (know) that he said to me, Keep with my people, till the harvest is all ended." The masculine הנּערים, for which we should rather expect the feminine נערות in accordance with Ruth 2:8, Ruth 2:22, Ruth 2:23, is quite in place as the more comprehensive gender, as a designation of the reapers generally, both male and female; and the expression לי אשׁר in this connection in the sense of my is more exact than the possessive pronoun: the people who belong to my house, as distinguished from the people of other masters.
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 declared herself fully satisfied with this, because Ruth would be thereby secured from insults, which she might receive when gleaning in strange fields. "That they meet thee not," lit. "that they do not fall upon thee." בּ פּגע signifies to fall upon a person, to smite and ill-treat him.
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.After this Ruth kept with the maidens of Boaz during the whole of the barley and wheat harvests gleaning ears of corn, and lived with her mother-in-law, sc., when she returned in the evening from the field. In this last remark there is a tacit allusion to the fact that a change took place for Ruth when the harvest was over.