The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.Ruth 2
1. And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth [" yet religious; a rare bird "], of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz [fleetness—alacrity, or strength: a contrast to the name of her former husband].
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 [not afraid of hard work]. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter.
3. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap [literally, her hap happened] was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.
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 [a beautiful picture of relations between the master and his servants].
5. Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this?
6. And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the [a] Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab [as a stranger Ruth had a special claim to the gleaning: see Leviticus 19:9-10]:
7. And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves ["handfuls"]: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house,
8. Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? [hinting at the seniority of Boaz] Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast ["cleave to"] by my maidens:
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 [shall draw from time to time].
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? [The Moabite language differed little from the Hebrew].
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 [literally, yesterday and the day before].
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.
13. 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 [comfortably] unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens.
14. And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar [wine which had become sour]. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left.
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:
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.
17. So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah [four pecks] of barley.
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.
19. 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.
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 [one of those who must redeem].
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.
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.
23. And 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.
Boaz a Type of Christ
BOAZ was not only a forerunner but a type of Christ. As compared with some of the greater luminaries of the Bible, Boaz was but a secondary star; yet, in two aspects, he is amongst the brightest lights in the Biblical constellation. Even socially, Boaz is a man worth knowing—quite a healthy soul, the winds of heaven getting well around him, and the sunshine falling amply into every fold and crevice of his gracious life. Boaz had fields, and lived much in the open air. A man of cheerful voice and well-controlled hilarity; a model agriculturist, quite a man to be copied and lived over again, age after age: so hospitable, so blithe, so strong, so bright-eyed altogether. When he came into the harvest fields he said to his reapers, "The Lord be with you;" and the reapers answered, "The Lord bless thee." That was farm-life in the olden times. There is nothing humiliating in that scene, nothing merely sentimental; there is the pledge of happy fellowship, sacred and prosperous cooperation. Who will not say, when looking upon scenes of this kind, that the former times were better than these? Have we improved so very much? Is our boasted advancement a reality in very deed? Without pronouncing any opinion upon this, let us consider the inquiry and lay it solemnly to heart. Say, is there a sweeter picture in all domestic history than this? Look at it: a barley field, the blue heaven like a song in colour, the blithe birds, the sharp whisk of the keen sickles amid the falling barley, the reapers turning labour into music, the master saying, "The Lord be with you," the reapers answering, "The Lord bless thee" (Ruth 2:4).
What a welcome Boaz gave to Ruth: "Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens" (Ruth 2:8). Ruth was astounded. How did Boaz know anything about her? "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?" (Ruth 2:10). Some people never can be strangers. We may never have seen them before, but to see them once is to own a kinship; we know their touch, we know their voice, we have seen them before in some dream of love or some vision of sacred fancy; they are strangers only in a very limited sense,—profoundly and truly they are of our own kith and kin, of the same quality of soul and heirs of the same expectation. "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. 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" (Ruth 2:11-12). That is the way to welcome a heathen traveller. Make the pagan feel at once that all the past is forgotten, forgiven, and a new glad morning has dawned upon the enfranchised soul. Said Ruth, Why this welcome? Boaz answered, I know all about thee; I have heard the little dramatic tale; it is full of sweetness and music—God bless thee, my daughter. Yes, our deeds live after us, and go before us, and make a way for us, and come up again and again in many a fashion, and touch society with the spirit of judgment or with the spirit of friendliness. We do not shake off our yesterdays, and sustain no further relation to them; they follow us, they constitute our life, and they give accent and force and meaning to our present deeds.
But Boaz was more than all this. He was a gentleman in every feature, and he was also an unconscious prophet. Who knows all the meaning of his own word? Who can explain all the issue and ultimate relationship of the simplest things which he does, in the Church, or in the harvest-field, or in any sphere of life? We know not what part we are taking in the building-up of God's fabric. Sometimes when we little suppose we are doing anything at all towards building the temple of God, we are working most industriously and definitely in that direction. Boaz was but a farmer, a valiant man and wealthy, beloved by his servants, prosperous in his day; but beyond all that he was permitted, by the grace of God, to forecast the future. He was more than himself, or his whole self he had failed to recognise. This is the view we must take of life if we would live largely and usefully in the broadest sense of that term. Sometimes the work appears to come back to us without profit or gracious answer; but we know that it shall not always be so: the preaching of the word is seed cast into the ground, and the seed does not grow in one night. Sometimes life's monotony wearies us; we say, As it was yesterday, so it is today, and to-morrow will see no change; and we are overborne by this sad dreariness. Let us look back into history in order that our cheerfulness may be revived. Men do not know what they are doing, even in prosecuting their ordinary avocations. The barley harvest may be as a sacrament, the open field an unroofed church, the gracious words spoken to strangers may come back again in prophecy and its sublimest fulfilment.
Boaz was a type of Christ. Boaz was the Goel of his family. Boaz was the next-of-kin—in other words, he was the Goel. What part did the Goel play in the Hebrew family? The Goel was the redeemer in the first place, and the Goel was the avenger in the second place. In both these respects Boaz was a type of Christ. Let us understand something in detail which ought to be interesting to the youngest readers respecting the functions of the Goel. If a Hebrew was so poor, reduced to such extremity of distress, that he had to mortgage—to use a modern expression—his land, to encumber it, to bring it under obligation to a stranger, it was the business of the Goel of that particular family to redeem that land, and restore it to its rightful owner. When the silver trumpets of Jubilee sounded, all the land was free; but even in the years between one Jubilee and another, if the Hebrew tiller was so reduced as to be obliged to borrow upon his land, the Goel was bound to redeem it. The land itself never could be ceded. The Hebrew had no land to sell; he had only current rights, temporary interests, immediate advantages to dispose of: the land itself belonged to Israel, and in the year of Jubilee that doctrine was broadly asserted and minutely realised: but, as we have said, in the meantime men might be reduced to poverty, or be glad to avail themselves of the kindness of those who were round about them, or even to ask the stranger and alien to lend them something upon their lease. Then came up the next-of-kin—literally, the Goel—and redeemed the land, and restored the citizen to his place in the commonwealth of Israel. Is not Jesus Christ our Goel in this respect? Are we not all poor, dispossessed of everything, mean, self-helpless? That was our condition before God; that was the condition upon which Christ looked when he took up his position as our Goel, or Redeemer. But we have said the Goel was next-of-kin—was Christ akin to man? That was his peculiar glory in his official or redeeming capacity: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same... he took not on him the nature of angels"—then he would not have been akin to us—"but he took on him the seed of Abraham," and thus became our Kinsman; thus he was not ashamed to call us brethren. As our elder Brother, he is our Goel. He has come to redeem humanity, to enrich it with infinite and eternal wealth.
Take another view of the Goel's function in Hebrew history. If a Hebrew sold himself into the service of another Hebrew he lost none of his rights; his citizenship was still recognised, and his prospects were honoured and fulfilled; but if the Hebrew sold himself into servitude to an alien or heathen, it was the place of his Goel or next-of-kin to come forth and emancipate him; there could be no slaves of that kind in Israel: the next-of-kin was bound to espouse the cause of the bondman, to redeem him, to break his chain, to buy him off, and to invest him with liberty. Here, again, at the time when the trumpets of Jubilee sounded, liberty was proclaimed to all; but in the meantime the Goel took up his function and discharged his gracious responsibility: he redeemed the slave. Herein it is easy to see how Boaz was a type of Christ We were all bondmen, sold under sin, heavy laden with the chains of bondage; and when there was no eye to pity, no arm to save, our Goel pitied, and his right arm wrought deliverance. He is our Emancipator, our Redeemer. Job said, "I know that my Goel liveth." That noble verse loses nothing of its best meaning by the use of the Hebrew word. In the English Bible the reading is, "I know that my Redeemer liveth;" but the verse is still invested with ineffable meaning and suggestiveness when it is read: I know that my Goel—my next-of-kin—liveth, and that he will appear to redeem and bless.
There was another function—namely, the function of the Avenger. If an Israelite had been wronged, injured, or slain, who was to see to the rectification of the case? who was to demand and execute justice? The Goel. This he was bound to do. It was not left to his choice whether he would do so or not; it was the prerogative and place of the Goel to avenge wrong, injustice, murder. And is there not an avenging element in the priesthood and sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ in his Church? Do we take a complete view of the Saviour when we think of him only as meek, lowly, gentle, loving, forbearing—a Man all tears? He can be described by such compassionate and gracious terms; not a word can be too endearing to apply to the Son of God in his office in relation to sin-destroyed humanity; but we read also of "the wrath of the Lamb;" he rules sometimes "with a rod of iron:" in some cases he "dashes" the enemy "in pieces like a potter's vessel;" and men are exhorted to "kiss the Son lest he be angry," to make peace with him "whilst his wrath is kindled but a little;" into that mystery of wrath we may not enter; who would force his way into that thundercloud? Enough it is to recognise its blackness and its terribleness, and to remember that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Whatever hell may be, it is something indescribably awful. There all thinkers may agree. Whilst controversy may rage about definitions and the right application of terms, about etymologies and figures of speech, there remains the tremendous and unchangeable reality, that whatever the fate of the impenitent sinner may be, it is inconceivably and indescribably appalling. (My soul, come not thou into that secret!)
Boaz, as we have said, was described as the next-of-kin—literally, the Goel—and to their own Goel all the distressed families of Israel had a right to look. Blessed be God, we have been invested in that right by Jesus Christ. He desires to be looked to; he invites our appeal; he says in effect: Tell me how your land is situated, what burdens rest upon it; tell me what are your domestic conditions: is the father dead? Is the house full of widowhood and orphanhood, and all forms of distress? Relate all the circumstances to me; I am your next-of-kin, and I will deliver and redeem, avenge and bless. Into his ever-listening ear pour all the tale of human want and woe, as speaking to One who is akin—next-of-kin—the Goel of humanity. We need the assurance that there is some such Goel. At times all things seem to be against us, and no voice is lifted up in our defence and for our comfort: all men seem to forsake us and flee. In that hour we need some such inspiration as comes from the assurance that our next-of-kin—our Goel—will never leave us nor forsake us. When we need him most he is nearest to us.
Not only was Boaz a Goel, he was a Menuchah, or rest, in whose protection Ruth found security. Menuchah means an asylum of rest, a protection of honour, a security that cannot be violated; and then in its last signification it means the very omnipotence and pavilion of God. In this respect Boaz was the type of Christ. In chapter Ruth 3:1, we read, "Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee—shall I not seek a Menuchah for thee—that it may be well with thee?" The house of her husband was called the Menuchah of the wife—that is to say, the asylum of rest and protection. The orphanage is the Menuchah of the orphan. All homes, Christian institutions, asylums founded in the spirit of Christ and for the use of Christ, might be appropriately termed Menuchahs—places of rest, asylums of security, pavilions defended by the almightiness of God. There was a certain land promised to Israel. In the hope of attaining that land Israel lived and toiled for many a year. What would Israel call that promised land? The Menuchah. To reach that Menuchah was the hope of Israel; to stand upon the soil of that promised Canaan was to be sure of the nearness and protection of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. Then, in its highest religious meaning, the Menuchah signifies the peace, favour, rest and protection of God. Jesus Christ said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will be your Menuchah—I will give you rest"—sabbatic rest, complete peace, infinite reconciliation, the harmony in which there is no discord, the rest unbroken by a dream, undisturbed by any fear in the night-watches. All this is made the more vividly clear if we look at the case of Boaz and Ruth. Boaz was a near kinsman. There was one nearer still, but he declined to take up the functions of the family Goel; then what we might call the Goelship fell to the lot of Boaz, and he assumed the responsibility and prosecuted the task. Then Boaz was, moreover, a rest—the man who afforded a sense of security to the poor wandering Moabitess. He was the Menuchah, the grand living asylum, in whose love Ruth found peace and security.
Transfer all these images to the Lord Jesus Christ, and see how beautifully they apply in every instance to the Messiah. He is our Goel; he will mightily redeem us: he will take back from the hands of the enemy all the prey which the enemy has seized; the foe will have to deliver up whatever he has possessed himself of that belongs to God and humanity. The Goel will see us put into a secure position; a position of righteousness, of solid defence, of truth and probity. Then is he not the soul's Menuchah—the soul's resting-place, the soul's eternal asylum? Have we not sought peace everywhere and failed in the pursuit? Have we not hewn out to ourselves cisterns, and found them to be broken cisterns that could hold no water? Have we not made a bed for ourselves in the wilderness, and found that we were pillowing our heads upon the sharp thorns? Amid all life's tumult and the maddening pain of the soul, there has come this sweet voice: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will be your Goel, your Menuchah; I will mightily deliver you and lead you into the rest of God. This is what we teach about Jesus Christ. These are the sublime truths we associate with his name. In all history men have needed a Goel or a deliverer, a Menuchah or a rest; and all the anxiety, strife, pain of the world's history, seemed to point in the direction of One who himself would combine the strength of the Goel and the grace of the Menuchah.
Thus a great historical gate is opened. Boaz was the father of Obed, Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of David—the darling of Israel and the man after God's own heart. How little we know what we are doing! Who can tell what the next link in the chain will be? Let us persevere in our work as God may give us opportunity and grace. Sometimes it is very heavy; sometimes quite dreary; sometimes the sun is practically blotted out, and all the sky is in mourning. But if we rest on eternal principles, if we believe in the omnipotence of God, we shall live to see the return of the sun, and in the brightness of morning we shall forget the blackness and the sadness of night.
Looking at the Book of Ruth as a whole, we are struck with the marvellous working of providence. The book had a sad opening. It opened like a cloudy day. It began with famine and misery, and went onward into widowhood twice told; and the first chapter is like a rain of tears. We could not understand why it should be so—why there should be a famine in Israel. The famine might have been otherwhere: why not afflict the heathen with famine, and let Israel, and Christian peoples, as we now term them, enjoy bountiful harvests, pulling down their barns to build greater? Why does the lightning strike the very steeple of the church? On the story goes, and God is working in it all. In the darkness his hand seems to be groping after something that he may loop on to something that had gone before. The movement of God is a movement of very subtle and intricate connections. Sometimes we wonder how the next link can be found, and often it is found in the night-time when we cannot see either the finder or the link he has found. Look at such portion of society as is open to our survey, and see how wonderful are the associations which have been made in life—the unexpected relationships, the strange coincidences, the marvellous creations of help, deliverance, and friendship culminating in the most practical affection. How are these people brought together? There was no plan in it on the human side; there was nothing on the human side but surprise; yet how the movement has proceeded, and how out of mysteries has happiness been consolidated! You heard a discourse, and it became the turning-point in your life; you listened to a prayer, and whilst it was arising to heaven you made solemn oath and vow that you would be better, and that vow has been redeemed: you went into a public assembly, and saw a face, the seeing of which has changed the whole course of your life. The providence of God is not an Old Testament story; it is the action of the day, the movement now circling around us,—the rustling of the leaves, the ploughing up of the land, the singing of the birds, the occurrences at home and abroad. Behold the hand of the living God, and in that hand put your trust. The most mysterious action of this providence was the bringing-in of the Gentiles. A new thing has been wrought in Israel: a Moabitess is numbered among the chosen children. Now that we read the story backwards we see the meaning of it all. Reading it as the facts occurred, the reading was often rough and most difficult. How true it is that we must wait to the end to see the real meaning of the beginning! When God's way is finished, God's way will be clear. We ought to take an interest in the introduction of Ruth into the sacred lineage, because she was the first-fruits of the people to whom we belong. She was a heathen woman, an outsider, a Gentile, and we belonged once to that outlawed class. Mean it is of us to say we do not take any interest in the conversion of distant nations, when we ourselves were once a distant nation, and have been converted to the faith and crown of Christ. We are not true to our own history, or grateful for our own deliverance, in the degree in which we are indifferent to the conversion of those who are afar off. Ruth was our first-fruits; Ruth was our kinswoman in the larger sense. Blessed be God for the introduction of our sister into Israel. She was in the direct line of the Son of God. The Gentile woman became a progenitor of God's own Christ. A strange genealogy! Having perused it line by line we know what it is:—the great king, the unknown man, the harlot, the Gentile Ruth,—they all stand there, a symbolic humanity, so that when the Son of God comes, he comes not in one direction alone, not as born of the Jew only, but of a line of kings; in him all men are gathered up—the mightiest, the weakest, the wanderer, the homeless. Verily this Man was the Son of God—the Incarnate Deity!