And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.
Verse 1. - And Naomi had, on her husband's side, a friend. The C'tib reading מְיֻדַּע (absolute מְיֻדָע) is much to be preferred to the K'ri מודַע. But מְיֻדָּע is ambiguous in import. It primarily means known, well-known, acquainted, an acquaintance (see Job 19:14; Psalm 55:13; Psalm 88:8, 18). But as intimate acquaintances, especially in a primitive and comparatively unwelded state of society, are generally found within the circle of kinsfolk, the word may be used, and is here used, in reference to a kinsman. The Vulgate translates it consanguineus. The translation is interpretatively correct; but the original term is less definite, and hence, in virtue of the ambiguity, there is not absolute redundancy in the appended clause, of the family or elan of Elimelech. This friend of Naomi on her husband s side is said, in King James's version, to be a mighty man of wealth. But the expression so rendered has, in the very numerous passages in which it occurs, a conventional import that stretches out in a different and nobler direction. It is the expression that is so frequently translated "a mighty man of valor (see Joshua 1:14; Joshua 6:2; Joshua 8:3; Joshua 10:7; Judges 6:12; Judges 11:1, etc.). In only one other passage is it rendered as it is by King James's translators in the passage before us, viz., in 2 Kings 15:20. There it is correctly so translated, interpretatively. Here there seems to be a leaning in the same direction, and yet it is not strongly pronounced. Cassel, however, takes the other cue, and translates "a valiant hero "Probably," says he "he had distinguished himself in the conflicts of Israel with their enemies." The expression originally means "strong in strength" (δυνατὸς ἰσχύι, Sept.), but is ambiguous in consequence of the many-sided import of the latter word מִשְׁפָחָה, which means originally, either strength, and then valor; or, clannish following (see Raabe), and then military host, or force, or forces; also, faculty or ability, and then, as so often "answering all things," riches or wealth. The idea the writer seems to be that the friend of the widow's husband was a strong and substantial yeoman. He was of the family or clan of Elimelech. The word family is conventionally too narrow, and the word elan too broad, to represent the import of שָׂדֶה as here used. The idea intended lies somewhere between. And his name was Boaz. The root of this name is not found, apparently, in Hebrew, as was supposed by the older philologists, and hence its essential idea is as yet undetermined. Raabe finds its original form in the Sanscrit bhuvanti, which yields the idea of prosperousness.
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.
Verse 2. - And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, Let me go, I pray thee, to the cornfields, that I may glean among the ears after whosoever shall show me favor. In modern style one would not, in referring, at this stage of the narrative, to Ruth, deem it in the least degree necessary or advantageous to repeat the designation "the Moabitess." The repetition is antique, and calls to mind the redundant particularization of legal phraseology - "the aforesaid Ruth, the Moabitess." She was willing and wishful to avail herself of an Israelitish privilege accorded to the poor, the privilege of gleaning after the reapers in the harvest-fields (see Leviticus 19:9; Leviticus 23:22: Deuteronomy 24:19). Such gleaning was a humiliation to those who had been accustomed to give rather than to get. But Ruth saw, in the pinched features of her mother-in-law, that there was now a serious difficulty in keeping the wolf outside the door. And hence, although there would be temptation in the step, as well as humiliation, she resolved to avail herself of the harvest season to gather as large a store as possible of those nutritious cereals which form the staff of life, and which they would grind for themselves in their little handmill or quern. She said, with beautiful courtesy. "Let me go I, pray, thee;" or, "I wish to go, if you will please to allow me." Such is the force of the peculiar Hebrew idiom. "There is no place," says Lawson, "where our tongues ought to be better governed than in our own houses." To the cornfields. Very literally, "to the field." It is the language of townspeople, when referring to the land round about the town that was kept under tillage. It was not customary to separate cornfield from cornfield by means of walls and hedges. A simple furrow, with perhaps a stone here and there, or a small collection of stones, sufficed, as in Switzerland at the present day, to distinguish the patches or portions that belonged to different proprietors. Hence the singular word field, as comprehending the sum-total of the adjoining unenclosed ground that had been laid down in grain. "Though the gardens and vineyards," says Horatio B. Hackett, "are usually surrounded by a stone wall or hedge of prickly pear, the grain-fields, on the contrary, though they belong to different proprietors, are not separated by any enclosure from each other. The boundary between them is indicated by heaps of small stones, or sometimes by single upright stones, placed at intervals of a rod or more from each other. This is the ancient landmark of which we read in the Old Testament" ('Illustrations of Scripture,' p. 110). The word field in Hebrew, שָׂדֶה, denotes radically, not so much plain, as ploughed land (see Raabe's 'Glosser'). In English there is a slightly varied though corresponding idiom lying at the base of the Teutonic term in use. A field (German Fold) is a clearance, a place where the trees of the original forest have been felled. The expression, that I may glean 'among' the ears, proceeds on the assumption that Ruth did not expect that she would "make a clean sweep" of all the straggled ears. There might likely be other gleaners besides herself, and even though there should not, she could not expect to gather all. After whosoever shall show me favor. A peculiarly antique kind of structure in the original: "after whom I shall find favor in his eyes." Ruth speaks as if she thought only of one reaper, and he the proprietor. She, as it were, instinctively conceives of the laborers as "hands." And she said to her, Go, my daughter. Naomi yielded; no doubt at first reluctantly, yet no doubt also in a spirit of grateful admiration of her daughter-in-law, who, when she could hot lift up her circumstances to her mind, brought down her mind to her circumstances
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.
Verse 3. - Ruth, having obtained the con. sent of her mother-in-law, went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers. That is, she "went forth," viz., from the city, "and came to the cornfields, and gleaned." "There are some," says Lawson, "whose virtue and industry lie only in their tongues. They say, and do not. But Ruth was no less diligent in business than wise in resolution." The later Jews had a set of fantastic bylaws concerning gleaning, detailed by Maimonides. One of them was, that if only one or two stalks fell from the sickle or hand of the reaper, these should be left lying for the gleaners; but if three stalks fell, then the whole of them belonged to the proprietor (see Carpzov's 'Collegium Rabbinico-Biblicum,' p. 242). Happily for Ruth, her steps were so ordered that the field which she entered as a gleaner belonged to Elimelech's kinsman, Boaz. And it so happened, runs the story, that it was the portion of the fields that belonged to Boas, 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.
Verse 4. - On the very day that the Moabitess entered on her gleaning, Boaz, in accordance with his wont, as a good and wise master, visited his harvest-field. And, behold, Boas came from Bethlehem. The law of kindness was on his lips; and while benevolence was beaming from his countenance, piety was ruling within his heart. He said to the reapers, Yahveh be with you! And they said to him, Yahveh bless thee! Courtesy met courtesy. It is a charming scene, and we may reasonably assume that there was reality in the salutations. Such civilities of intercourse between proprietors and their laborers are still, says Dr. W. M. Thomson, common in the East. "The Lord be with you is merely the Allah makum! of ordinary parlance; and so too the response, The Lord bless thee" ('The Land and the Book,' p. 648). Modern Moslems are particular in the matter of salutations. "Abuhurairah reports that he heard Mohammed say, You will not enter into paradise until you have faith, and you will not complete your faith until you love one another, and that is shown by. making salaam to friends and strangers" (Kitto's 'Bible Illustrations,' in loc.).
Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this?
Verse 5. - And Boaz said to the young man who was set over the reapers, Whose is that young woman! His eye had been instantaneously arrested by the handsome stranger. Perhaps, as Jarchi remarks, he took note of the modest and graceful carriage of her person while she picked up industriously the straggled stalks. It is too Rabbinic, however, and artificial, finical, bizarre, to suppose with the same Jewish annotator that Boaz would notice with admiration that, while she picked up zealously all available couples of stalks, she left the triplets in the field unappropriated! The question which he put to the overseer is not who but whose is that young woman! She had not the gait or air of an ordinary pauper, and hence he wondered if she could belong to any of the families in Bethlehem.
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:
Verse 6. - And the young man who was set over the reapers replied and said, She is a Moabitish young woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. The young man had already received, no doubt from her own lips, particulars regarding the attractive stranger. Instead of the free definitive rendering of Luther and King James's English version, "the Moabitish damsel," it is better, with Michaelis, Wright, Raabe, to adhere to the original indefiniteness, "a Moabitish maiden." Note the Zeugmatic use of the word returned as applied here, as well as in Ruth 1:22, not only to Naomi, but also to Ruth. It is thus used on the same Zeugmatic principle as the word die in Genesis 47:19: "Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land?"
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.
Verse 7 - The steward continues his account of Ruth. She had respectfully solicited leave to glean. She said, Let me glean, I pray thee, and gather in bundles after the reapers. The expression, "and gather in bundles," is in Hebrew וְאָסַפְתִּי בָךעמָרִים and is rendered in King James's version, as also by Coverdale, Tremellius, Castellio, Luther, Michaelis, "and gather among" or "beside the sheaves." But such a request on the part of Ruth would seem to be too bold, the more especially as we find Boaz afterwards giving instructions to the young men to allow her, without molestation, to glean "even between the sheaves" (ver. 15). Hence Pagnin's free version is to be preferred, "and gather bundles" (et congregabo manipulos). Carpzov pleads for the same interpretation, and translates thus: "Let me, I pray thee, glean, and collect the gleanings into bundles (colligam obsecro spicas, collectasque accumulem in manipules). Montanus too adopts it, and Raabe likewise (und sammele zu Haufen). The steward praises Ruth s industry. And she came, and has remained ever since the morning until just now. She had worked with scarcely any intermission, diligently, from early morning. Drusius says that the following expression, rendered in King James's version that she tarried a little in the house, occasioned him critical torture (locus hie et diu et acriter me torsit). Coverdale also had been inextricably perplexed. He renders it, "And within a litel whyle she wolde have bene gone home agayne." The word house troubled these and many other interpreters, as if the reference were to Naomi s dwelling-house in the town. The reference, however, is evidently to a temporary but, shed, tent, or booth erected in the harvest-field for the siesta of the workers, and the accommodation of the master, when he was visiting by day, or exercising supervision by night. We would translate the clause thus - "Her resting at the but (has been) little." Her siesta in the shade of the but was trot brief. She felt as if she could not afford a long repose.
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:
Verse 8. - And Boaz said to Ruth. We are to suppose that Boaz, having communicated with his overseer, and having given some instructions to his rearers, and likewise to the young women who bound the reaped corn into sheaves, moved onward to the place where Ruth, keeping modestly far in the rear, was gleaning. He entered into conversation with her, and, among other things, said to her, Hearest thou not, my daughter! A grave antique way of drawing special attention to what is about to follow. "My daughter" is a fatherly expression, appropriate on the part of an elderly person when addressing a young woman. Do not go to glean in the other field. Pointing, no doubt, as he spoke, to a parcel of adjoining fields, belonging to a neighbor proprietor. Boaz's interest and sympathy went out strong, all at once, toward the daughter-in-law of his deceased relative. His heart was smitten with admiration for the modest and fascinating widow. He said further to her, as he walked on along with her in the direction of the reapers, and also do not pass on hence. The expression is not a redundant repetition of the preceding utterance. It was intended, apparently, to direct Ruth to a particular line of gleaning-ground, probably right behind the sheaf-binders, which it would be advantageous for her to occupy. He would point it out with his hand. And so keep close by my young women. Their proximity would give the stranger a feeling of security, and her nearness to them in their work would be manifestly for her benefit.
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.
Verse 9. - Boaz continues his talk, led on by an interest that was, probably, surprising to himself. Let thine eyes be on the field which they are reaping. He feels increasingly anxious concerning the fascinating stranger, and gives her excellent counsel. "Let not thine eyes be wiled away, wanderingly, from the work on which thou art so praiseworthily engaged." And go thou behind 'them.' The reference is not to the same parties, who are indeterminately spoken of in the preceding clause - "which 'they' are reaping." A determinate feminine pronoun makes it evident that the reference is to the maidens, who were working in the rear of the reapers (אַחֲרֵיהֶן post eas). Have not I charged the young men not to touch thee? A fine euphemistic injunction; that was best obeyed, however, when most literally construed. And when thou thirstest, go to the jars, and drink of whatever the young men may draw. Most likely it would be from the well that was "by the gate of the city that the young men would draw - that very well of which her illustrious descendant, King David, spake, when he "longed, and said, O that one would give me drink of the water of the well in Bethlehem, which is by the gate" (see 2 Samuel 23:4, 15; 1 Chronicles 11:17, 18). When the water was drawn by the young men, then the maidens would carry the filled jars upon their heads to the resting-place. Gleaners could not be expected to get the freedom of the water which was thus so laboriously drawn, and then fatiguingly carried from a distance. But Boaz made Ruth free, and thus conferred on her a distinguishing privilege, that must have been at once most acceptable and most valuable. The Vulgate renders the last clause too freely - "of which the young men 'drink.'" The familiar well referred-to "appears," says Dean Stanley, "close by the gate" of the town ('Sinai and Palestine,' p. 163). Yet not very close. "It is," says Dr. John Wilson, "less than half a mile distant from the present village, and is in a rude enclosure, and consists of a large cistern with several small apertures" ('Lands of the Bible,' vol. 1. p. 399). Dr. Wilson has no doubt of its identity, though Dr. Robinson hesitated to come to the same conclusion ('Researches, ' vol. 2. p. 158).
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?
Verse 10. - RUTH did not seize the opportunity for bewailing the hardship of the lot to which she had been reduced, and which now constrained her to undertake a species of work which at one time she little anticipated. With beautiful humility and modesty, and in the profoundest gratitude, she accepted wonderingly the kindness of Boaz. And she fell on her face. A rather remarkable expression, physiologically viewed. Her face was part of herself. How then could she fall on it? It was part of that which fell, and yet she is said to fall upon (עַל) it, as if it had been underneath the self-hood that fell. It was what was undermost as she bowed herself, so that the pressure of the sum-total of the body fell on it as she gracefully stooped. And prostrated herself to the ground. Thus completing, and doubtless in no sprawling or clumsy way, her respectful obeisance. Her face would be made, with aesthetic delicacy of movement, to touch the ground. Wherefore have I found favor in thine eyes; She was surprised, amazed, bewildered. So that thou takest notice of me, and I a stranger! Boaz had done far more than merely rake notice of her. But, with equal gratitude and felicity, she specifies not the culminating acts of kindness, but the very first step that her benefactor had taken. He began by taking notice of her. There is an interesting paranomasia in the two words הַכִּירֵנִי and נָכְרִיָּה. A foreigner, though unknown, and just indeed because unknown, is naturally noted and noticed.
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.
Verse 11. - Boaz's interest and admiration grew. And Boaz answered and said to her, It has been fully showed to me, all that thou hast done toward thy mother-in-law since the death of thy husband: and that thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and hast come to a people whom heretofore thou knewest not. When Boaz says, "It has been fully showed to me," he probably refers to the information which he had received from his overseer. The expression rendered "fully showed" is a fine specimen of a very antique idiom, showed-showed (הֻגֵּד הֻגַּד). "Toward thy mother-in-law." The preposition which we render "toward" is literally "with," which, indeed, when laid side by side with the Hebrew preposition, looks as if it were organically identical. (אֵת = eth. Compare the old Hebrew etha with the Sanscrit itah. See Raabe's 'Glossar'). The expression which we render "heretofore" is literally "yesterday and the day before," a very primitive way of representing time past. It must have been like balm to the anxious heart of Ruth to hear from the lips of such a man as Boaz so hearty a "well-done." "Ruth," says the venerable Lawson, "showed no disposition to praise herself. She did not claim a right to glean from what she had done for Naomi, but wondered that such kindness should be showed by Boaz to her who was a stranger, and she hears the voice of praise from the mouth of one whoso commendations were a very great honor. No saying was oftener in the mouth of Jesus than this, He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
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.
Verse 12. - May Yahveh requite thy work, arid may thy recompense be complete from Yahveh God of Israel, to trust under whose wings thou art come. Already there were streaks of light shooting athwart Boaz s horizon. His very phraseology is getting tipped with unwonted beauty. He sees Ruth cowering trustfully under the outstretched wings of Him who is "good to all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works" in all lands (see Psalm 91:1-4). The metaphor, says Fuller, "is borrowed from a hen, which, with her clucking, summons together her straggling chickens, and then outstretcheth the fan of her wings to cover them." "Who would not," says Topsell, "forsake the shadow of all the trees in the world to be covered under 'such' wings?"
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.
Verse 13. - May I continue to find favor, sir, in thine eyes, for indeed thou hast comforted me, and cheered the heart of thine handmaid, and yet I have not the position of one of thy maidens. To be one of his maidens was, in her estimation, to be in a most desirable condition. She could not aspire to that. But as he had spoken so graciously to her heart, and soothed its sorrows, she trusted he would still befriend her. אֶמְצָא should not be rendered, with the Vulgate, "I have found" (inveni); nor, with Tremellius and Junius, "I find" (in, ohio); but, with Piscator, optatively, "may I find" (inveniam), that is, "may I still find, may I continue to find. So Luther, Coverdale, and Michaelis. The courtesy-expression, rendered in King James's version "my lord" (אֲדֹנִי Mein-Herr or Men-sieur), is used, as Carpzov remarks, in "humility and civility."
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.
Verse 14. - And Boaz, at meal-time, said to her, Come along hither. Luther, Coverdale, and King's James's English translators took the expression "at meal-time" as part of the report of Boaz's words: "And Boaz said, At meal-time come along hither." But it is evidently to be taken, in accordance with the Masoretic punctuation, as the historical statement of the narrator: "At meal-time, Boaz said, Come along hither." At meal-time Boaz rejoined Ruth, and said to her, "Come along hither." Then they would walk along in company, till they reached the siesta-hut, ' And eat of the bread, that is going, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar, or the sour wine that was quite a favorite beverage with out-door workers. It had a peculiarly cooling and refreshing effect. It corresponded to the posed used by the Roman soldiery, and would, according to circumstances and individual taste, be taken either "neat" or diluted with water. And she sat by the side of the reapers. Probably along with the other young women, although the refer-once to them is accidentally overlapped by the specification of the male workers. And he prepared for her a bunch of parched corn. יִצְבָּט is only conjecturally rendered "reached" in King James's version, and by many other translators. The rendering is given under the leadership of the Chaldee Paraphrast, who explains the word by אושִׁיט, which is a pure Chaldee word for "reached." But light is thrown on the old Hebrew word by both Arabic and Sanscrit cognates, as well as by the Septuagint version (ἐβούνισε). It meant to bind into a bunch or bunches (see Furst and Raabe). The word is illustrated by modern Oriental usage. Dr. W. M. Thomson says, "Harvest is the time for parched corn. It is made thus: - A quantity of the best ears, not too ripe, are plucked with the stalks attached. These are tied into small parcels; a blazing fire is kindled with dry grass and thorn bushes, and the corn-heads are held in it until the chaff is mostly burnt off. The grain is thus sufficiently roasted to be eaten, and it is a favorite article all over the country" ('The Land and the Book,' p. 648). Mr. Legh, in like manner, states, in MacMichael's Journey, 1819, that, traveling in harvest-time in the country cast of the Dead Sea, they one day rested near some cornfields, "where one of the Arabs, having plucked some green ears of corn, parched them for us by putting them into the fire, and then, when roasted, rubbing out the grain in his hands" (Kitto's 'Pictorial Bible,' in loc.). Sometimes, however, the parched corn is otherwise prepared. Dr. Robinson says, "In one field, as we approached Kubeibeh, nearly 200 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 with bread, or instead of it. Indeed, the use of it is so common at this time among the laboring classes, that this parched wheat is sold in the markets; and it was among our list of articles to be purchased at Hebron for our journey to Wady Musa. The Arabs, it was said, prefer it to rice; but this we did not find to be the case. The whole scene of the reapers and gleaners, and their 'parched corn,' gave us a lively representation of the story of Ruth and the ancient harvest-time in the fields of Boaz" ('Biblical Researches,' vol. 2. p. 394, ed. 1841). Boaz had given Ruth a kind of Benjamin's portion of parched corn. She could not use it all. And she ate, and was satisfied, and left over. Carefully reserving, however, and "basketing up" the liberal surplus.
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:
Verse 15. - And she rose to glean: and Boaz charged his young men, saying, Even between the sheaves let her glean, and do not affront her. Boaz would probably thus speak in the hearing of Ruth herself, so that, without any fear of reproach, she might feel free to take full advantage of the privilege accorded her. Boaz wished her to gather a large gleaning, no doubt rightly conjecturing that there must have been for some time past but little superfluity in the larder of Naomi. The space "between the sheaves," as distinguished from the spaces outside their line, would probably be the part whither the maidens conveyed their collected armfuls, and where they bound them into sheaves. It would thus be the place where there would be the greatest number of 'waifs.' It would also be the place in which unprincipled gleaners might have the best opportunity for stealing from the sheaves. Boaz felt unbounded confidence in Ruth, and said to the reapers, "Affront her not," namely, by saying or insinuating anything to the effect that she was either pilfering, on the one hand, or making herself too forward, on the other. The Vulgate version completely merges out of sight the poetic beauty and tenderness of the injunction by rendering it thus: "Do not hinder her."
And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.
Verse 16. - And even of set purpose draw out for her from the bundles, and leave them, and let her glean them, and do not find fault with her. His kindness grows as he sees her, or speaks concerning her. He gives additional injunctions in her favor, both to the young men and to the maidens, though the line of distinction between the two sexes dips at times entirely out of sight. When the sheaf-makers had gathered an armful of stalks, and there seemed to be so clean a sweep that none were left behind, then they were of set purpose (de industria) to draw out some from the bunches or bundles, and leave them lying. The act of deliberate, as opposed to unintentional, drawing, is expressed by the emphatic repetition of the verb שֹׁל־תָּשֹׁלוּ. The verb thus repeated was a puzzle to the older expositors, inclusive of all the Hebrew commentators. But comparative philology has clearly determined its radical import, and thus illuminated its use in the passage before us. It does not here mean "spoil," though that is its usual signification. Nor can it mean "let fall," as in King James's version. It means draw out. Do not find fault with her. The word is almost always rendered rebuke in our English version; but the force of the preposition may be represented thus: "do not chide 'with' her." "It was," says Dr. Andrew Thomson, "a thoughtful and delicate form of kindness to Ruth, thus to increase her gleanings, and yet to make them all appear the fruit of her own industry.... There are persons to be met with in social life who, while possessing the more solid qualities of moral excellence, are singularly deficient in the more graceful. They have honesty, but they have no sensibility; they have truth, but they are strangely wanting in tenderness. They are distinguished by whatsoever things are just and pure, but not by those which are lovely and of good report. You have the marble column, but you have not the polish or the delicate tracery on its surface; you have the rugged oak, but you miss the jasmine or the honeysuckle creeping gracefully around it from its roots. But the conduct of Boaz, as we stand and hear him giving these directions to his reapers, proves the compatibility of those two forms of excellence, and how the strong and the amiable may meet and harmonies in the same character. Indeed, they do always meet in the highest forms of moral greatness" ('Studies on the Book of Ruth,' pp. 119, 120).
So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley.
Verse 17. - And she gleaned in the field until the evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. Gathering together her various sheaves, lots, or bundles (see ver. 7), she threshed them with some suitable rod or simple 'flail' (flagellum), which she had either brought with her in the morning, as part of her equipment as a gleaner, or had obtained at the hut; or perhaps, like many others, she would make use of a convenient stone. Speaking of the village of Huj, near Gaza, Robinson says, "We found the lazy inhabitants still engaged in treading out the barley harvest, which their neighbors had completed long before. Several women were beating out with a stick handfuls of the grain which they seemed to have gleaned. One female was grinding with a hand mill, turning the mill with one hand, and occasionally dropping in the grain with the other" ('Researches,' vol. 2. p. 385). "In the evening," says Dr. W. M. Thomson, "you might see some poor woman or maiden, that had been permitted to glean on her own account, sitting by the roadside, and beating out with a stick or a stone what she had gathered, as Ruth did. I have often watched this process in various parts of the country" ('The Land and the, Book,' p. 647). The diligent gleaner on Boaz's field found, after threshing, that she had nearly an ephah of barley. It would be a considerable load for a female to curry - about a bushel. Josephus mentions incidentally, in his ' Antiquities' (15:9, 2), that the Hebrew cot or homer was equivalent to ten Attic me>dimnoi. But as the ephah was exactly the tenth part of a cor or homer, it follows that the Hebrew ephah was equivalent to the Attic μέδιμνος. Moreover, just as the ephah was the tenth part of a homer, so the omer was the tenth part of an ephah (Exodus 16:36); and thus, if an omer of barley would be somewhat equivalent for nutritive purposes to an omer of manna, it would be a sufficient daily allowance for a man (see Exodus 16:16). Hence Ruth would take home with her what would suffice for several days' sustenance to Naomi and herself.
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.
Verse 18. - And she lifted it up, and went into the city: and her mother-in-law beheld what she had gleaned. She likewise brought forth, and gave to her, what she had left over after she was satisfied. It would be with gratitude and pride that Ruth would let her heavy burden slip off into the hands of Naomi. It would be with gratitude and wonder that Naomi would behold the precious load. Other gentle emotions would stir within the mother-in-law's hungry heart when her beloved daughter-in-law produced and presented the remains of her delightfully refreshing repast at the tent. The expression, "after she was satisfied," is literally, "from her satiety."
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.
Verse 19. - And her mother-in-law said to her, Where hast thou gleaned today! and where hast thou worked? May he who took notice of thee be blessed! The grateful eagerness of the mother-in-law to get full information overflows in a delightful redundancy. "Where hast thou gleaned today? and where hash thou worked?" She saw at a glance, from the magnitude of the load, from the bright and beaming countenance of her daughter-in-law, and from the delicious parched corn which the master had given with his own hands, that the day had been crowned with peculiar blessings. The lines had fallen in pleasant places. Hence her womanly and motherly interest to get full particulars. Ruth, on her part, would feel as if a kind of inspiration had seized upon her tongue. And she showed to her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and she said, The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz. A thrill would shoot through Naomi's heart as that once familiar name fell upon her ears.
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.
Verse 20. - And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, Blessed 'of' Yahveh be he who - . The expression is literally, "Blessed 'to' Yahveh be, he who," that is, "Blessed in relation to Yahveh be he who," or "Blessed be he! I carry the desire and prayer up to Yahveh," which just amounts, in meaning, to this: "Blessed ' by' Yahveh be he who." See other instances of the same construction in Genesis 14:19, and Psalm 115:15. Who has not let go his kindness to the living and to the dead. Some take these words to be descriptive of Yahveh. Others take them to be descriptive of Boaz. If they be regarded in the former point of view, then the foregoing clause must be rendered, not, "Blessed by Yahveh be he who," but, "Blessed be he by Yahveh who." Dr. Cassel assumes, but without any formal reasoning or apparent reason, that the reference of the relative is to Yahveh, and hence he makes out an ingenious argument in defense of the doctrine, that those who are dead to us are yet alive to God - the doctrine of immortality. It is strained. Yet Raabe thinks that the reference is to Yahveh, inasmuch as Naomi had as yet no evidence of Boaz's kindness to the deceased. The reason thus given for carrying the reference up to God is certainly unsatisfactory; for, looking at the subject from the human point of view, it is obvious that Boaz's peculiar kindness to the living was his kindness to the deceased; whereas, if we look at the case from the Divine point of view, it is difficult, if not impossible, to account for the discrimination between the living and the dead. The first feeling that sprang up in the heart of Naomi at the mention of the name of Boaz was one of adoration. The next was a generous desire in reference to Boaz himself. She prayed that he might be graciously recompensed by Yahveh for the kindness he had shown that day, both toward the living - Ruth and herself - and toward the deceased - Elimelech and his sons. A man of less noble nature might have been ready, in reference to relatives in reduced circumstances, to ignore the present, and to bury in oblivion the past. After giving scope to her feelings of adoration and benediction, Naomi, with the prompt and practical directness of a true woman, said to her daughter-in-law. The man is near to us, adding immediately, and with a rapid glance at bright contingencies that were in the region of the possible, He is one of our peculiar kinsmen (our Goelim). She meant that he was one of those peculiarly near kinsmen who had a right of redemption over' whatever lands may have formerly belonged to her, and the first right of purchase over whatever lands might yet remain in the possession of herself or of her daughter-in-law. Naomi and Ruth, though greatly reduced in circumstances, and painfully pent up in present straits, were far from being Paupers. They were proprietors (see Ruth 4:3, 5). But their property was not, for the time being, available for income or sustenance. It had either been farmed out on usufruct or allowed to lie waste. In the absence of the yod in מִלֺגּאֲלֵגוּ we have an instance of scriptio defectiva, as distinguished from scriptio plena. Such defective manuscription might be expected to occur occasionally in transcription from dictation, when, as here, the presence or the absence of the letter made no difference in the pronunciation of the reader. Michaelis, however ('Mosaisches Recht,' § 137), and Gesenius ('Thesaurus,' in voc.), instead of regarding the absence of the yod as an instance of scriptio defectiva, have conjectured that מִלֺגּאֵל is a noun, or name, meaning the seemed in order of the Goelim. But, notwithstanding the ingenuity of the conjecture, there is not a shadow of evidence to evince that the Hebrews themselves ever knew of such a word. Nor does the supposition or subsumption of such a word in the least facilitate the construction on the one hand, or illumine the narrative on the other.
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.
Verse 21. - And Ruth the Moabitess said. It seems to us rather remarkable that Ruth should be here again particularized formally as "the Moabitess." There is apparently no discoverable reason for the re-repetition. It is simply antique particularity, not amenable to any literary law - "the said Moabitess." There is a peculiar abruptness in the initial words of what follows: - Yea also he said to me. Carpzov and Wright understand them thus: "'Yea' blessed be he, 'for' he said to me." But the word blessed, as used by Naomi, is too far removed to make it natural for the yea of Ruth's remark to fall back upon it. Her mind and heart were full. She was profoundly affected by the kindness that had been shown to her. Hence she piles up her representation. "Also," - so may I well speak, - "for he said to me." Keep close by my young men, until they have finished all my harvest. The "young men" are not here discriminated from the "young women" (see ver. 8). The idea, consequently, is not that Ruth was to keep close to them in distinction from the young women. It was understood that she should work behind the young women, who followed in the rear of the young men. But it was the express desire of Boaz that, instead of exposing herself among strangers, on any adjoining harvest-fields, she should maintain her position behind his raspers as long as there remained any golden crops to reap.
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.
Verse 22. - And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law. It is good, my daughter, that thou shouldest go with his young women, and that thou be not set upon in another field. Here again we have the archaic repetition, "Ruth her daughter-in-law." Naomi was grateful for Boaz's invitation. Compliance with it would be "good," both immediately and prospectively. In particular, it would save Ruth from running the risk of being rudely handled by utter, and perhaps rough and unprincipled, strangers. "It is good," says Naomi, "that 'they' do not set upon thee in another field." She says "they," but allows the parties she had in view to remain, dimly visible, in the shade. No doubt, however, she refers to the reapers, binders, gleaners, and other workers who might have to be encountered "in another field." "Meaning," says homely Richard Bernard, "some lewd and lustful men whom Naomi would not so much as make mention of." The verb פָּגַע־בְ is often rendered in our English version fall upon. It originally means to light upon, whether for good or for evil.
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.
Verse 23. - And she kept close by Boaz's young women to glean. Wright translates thus: "And she kept gleaning along with the maidens of Boaz." But the maidens of Boaz are not represented as gleaning. The historical statement of the verse is to be explained from the hortatory statement of ver. 8: "Keep close to my young women." Till the end of the barley-harvest and the wheat-harvest. Ruth's gleaning labors extended to the close of the wheat-harvest, during which time, no doubt, there would be frequent opportunities for a growing intimacy between the beautiful gleaner and the worthy proprietor. Often too, we may rest assured, would Boaz be a visitor in the humble home of Naomi. "The harvest upon the mountains," says Dr. Robinson, "ripens of course later than in the plains of the Jordan and the sea-coast. The barley-harvest precedes the wheat-harvest by a week or fortnight. On the 4th and 5th of June the people of Hebron were just beginning to gather their wheat; on the 11th and 12th the threshing-floors on the Mount of Olives were in full operation. We had already seen the harvest in the same stage of progress on the plains of Gaza on the 19th of May; while at Jericho, on the 12th of May, the threshing-floors had nearly completed their work" ('Biblical Researches,' vol. 2. p. 99). "The Syrian harvest," says Dr. W. M. Thomson, "extends through several months. On the plain of Philistia it commences in April and ends in June; and this not only gives ample time, but it has this great advantage, that the villagers from the mountains can assist the farmers on the plain, since their own crops are not yet ripe. I was struck with this fact while at Mesmia. Several Christians from Bethlehem, who had thus come to reap, spent the evening at my tent, and one of them explained to me the advantages from thus laboring on the plain. He not only, received wages for his own and his wife s labor, but his children were permitted to follow after them and glean on their own account, as Boaz allowed Ruth to do in their native village" ('The Land and the Book, ' p. 544). When it is said, in the last clause of the verse, and she dwelt with her mother-in-law, the reference is not to be restricted to the time that succeeded the period of harvesting. The Vulgate indeed connects the clause with the following verse, and renders it, "After she returned to her mother-in-law," pointing the verb thus וַתָּשָׁב instead of וַתֵּשֶׁב. The same translation is given to the verb by Luther and Coverdale. But there is no evidence whatever that Ruth slept anywhere else than under her mother-in-law's roof. The clause was written, apparently, for the very purpose of bringing out clearly before the mind of the reader her stainless innocence, and sweet simplicity, and never-tiring devotion to her noble mother-in-law.