Ruth 2:4

It is a pleasant picture of old-world life, among the ancient Hebrews, this of the "mighty man of wealth" coming down from his house to his cornfields to watch the work of the reapers, the progress of the harvest. Boaz seems to have lived on friendly terms with those in his employment, and to have taken an interest in them and in their toils. A lesson for all masters and employers of labor. And how picturesque the scene when the proprietor meets his laborers, and they exchange the customary greeting of the East, sanctified by Hebrew piety! Salutations are -

I. SANCTIONED BY SCRIPTURAL USAGE. E.g. When the mower filleth his hand, and be that bindeth sheaves his bosom, "they which go by say, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we bless you in the name of the Lord!" (Psalm 129.). E.g. Angels are represented as greeting those they are commissioned to visit. Gideon was saluted thus: "The Lord is with thee;" and Mary thus: "Hail, highly favored one I the, Lord is with thee." E.g. Christ himself' was wont to greet his disciples, saying, Peace be with you!" E.g. The apostles closed their letters with greetings and benedictions. "The Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means: the Lord be with you all!"

II. FOUNDED UPON DIVINELY-IMPLANTED PRINCIPLES OF HUMAN NATURE. They presume our social existence and nature. They imply sympathy. They express friendly and benevolent feelings.

III. CONDUCIVE TO THE EASY AND PLEASANT INTERCOURSE OF HUMAN SOCIETY. We all feel the influence of courteous address, polite expressions, and the minor benevolences of life. Christians should not be offended or contemptuous when well-meaning persons accost them with hand-shaking and minute inquiries after health, &c.; if well meant, courtesies should be kindly accepted.

IV. In the case of pious persons, EXPRESSIVE OF PRAYERFUL WISHES FOR GOOD. HOW many of our common salutations have their origin in piety and prayer! So, in the text, The Lord be with you! The Lord bless thee! So with such phrases as, Adieu! Good-bye! Good morning! God bless you! Farewell! They all convey a desire, a prayer. Let our salutations be sincere, and let our language and our conduct prove that they are so. - T.

Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you.


(R. Bernard.)

1. The works of God's providence are very wonderful works. There is a "behold" put upon this passage. Oh, the wonderful concurrence of these occurrences! Here Ruth is ordered by Providence into Boaz's field, and Boaz is ordered by the same Providence to meet Ruth in his field; and all this in tendency to accomplish a great design of their marrying together, infinitely above both their thoughts. It would plainly astonish us to observe diligently the strange occurrences of Divine Providence, and it is our great loss to live so little in the observation of every passage and footstep thereof.

2. It is comely and commodious for masters to mind personally their own concerns. Thus Boaz here did. Wise Cato could say, "That man which minds not his vintage or harvest, the further he is from his labour, the nearer he is to his loss"; and his eyes are every way, and everywhere.

(1)Upon the servants;

(2)upon the reapers;

(3)upon the gleaners;

(4)not only looking to, but even lodging in the midst of, his labourers, if he did not also labour him self in winnowing work (Ruth 3:2, 4).

3. Christianity is no enemy to comity and courtesy; or, civil salutations are consistent with true sanctity in humane society.

4. Civil salutation ought to be paid again in the same coin, saluting for saluting.

(C. Ness.)

Farming, rather than gardening in the ordinary sense of the word, is man's oldest occupation. It may not be esteemed the most dignified one, nor may those engaged in it be generally found either the most enlightened or refined of men; still, instituted by Divine authority, and pursued by man in his primeval innocence, with the ordinances of marriage and the Sabbath-day, it is a vestige of Eden. Besides, it is probable, if not certain, that it is the one employment in which man had God for his teacher. The heathens themselves represent the gods as having taught him how to cultivate corn; and in this, as in many of their other legends, they have preserved a valuable fragment of ancient truth. There is that indeed in the nature of wheat, barley, and the other cereals, which goes almost to demonstrate that God specially created them for man's use, and originally committed them to his care. These plants are unique in two respects — first, unlike others, the fruits or roots of which we use for food, they are found wild nowhere on the face of the whole earth; and secondly, unlike others also, they cannot prolong their existence independent of man, without his care and culture. When mines are empty, and furnaces stand quenched and cold, and deep silence reigns in the caverns where the axe of the pitman sounded, the husbandman shall still plough the soil. His, the first man's, shall probably be the last man's employment. The occupation which Boaz followed rises still higher in importance when we look at the multitudes it employs. Great as we are in commerce and manufactures — clothing nations with our fabrics, covering every sea with ships, and carrying the produce of our arts to every shore — the cultivation of the soil employs a larger number of hands than any other trade. Now these interests turn to a great extent on the manner in which those who follow Boaz's occupation discharge their duties: and it is therefore a matter of thankfulness that in him the book which instructs both kings and beggars, peers and peasants, how to live, sets before us a model farmer.

I. HIS DILIGENCE IN BUSINESS. Boaz was not one whom necessity compelled to labour. He was rich; and is indeed called "a mighty man of wealth." Yet he made that no reason for wasting his life in ease and idleness. Nor, though he employed overseers, did he consider it right to commit his business entirely into their hands. In the first place, such irresponsibility is not good for servants. It places them in circumstances of temptation to act dishonestly. Neither is it, in the second place, for the master's interests. "The eye of the master maketh a fat horse," says an English proverb. "The farmer ploughs best with his feet," says a Scotch one — his success turning on the attention he personally gives to the superintendence of his servants and the different interests of his farm.

II. HIS COURTEOUSNESS. "Be ye courteous" is a duty which Paul — himself a fine example of it — enjoins on Christians (Acts 26:12). His was courtesy to a superior; but a still finer ornament of manners, and of religion also, is courtesy to inferiors. And what a fine example of that is Boaz! It is with no cold looks, nor distant air, nor rough speech, nor haughty bearing, making his reapers painfully sensible of their inferiority — that they are servants and he their master — Boaz enters the harvest field. More beautiful than the morning, with its dews sparkling like diamonds on the grass, and its golden beams tipping the surrounding hills of Bethlehem, these morning salutations between master and servants! Loving him, they esteemed his interests their own. His conduct corresponded with his speech. Observe the eye of compassion he cast on Ruth. He paid as much honour to the virtues and feelings of this poor gleaner as if she had been the finest lady in the land. Behold true courteousness! This grace is a great set-off to piety. As such it should be assiduously cultivated by all who desire to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour."

III. HIS PIETY. "The Lord be with you"— his address to the reapers on entering the harvest field — has the ring of sterling metal. What contrast Boaz offers to farmers we have known, by whose lips God's name was frequently profaned, but never honoured — their servants, like their dogs and horses, being often cursed, but never once blessed! "Like master, like man." Boaz almost never opens his mouth but pearls drop out. His speech breathes forth pious utterances. All his conversation is seasoned with grace; and, though the result of a Divine change of heart, how natural his religion seems! — not like a gala-dress assumed for the occasion — not like gum-flowers worn for ornament, but such as spring living from the sward — not like an artificial perfume that imparts a passing odour to a thing that is dead, but the odours exhaled by roses or lilies bathed in the dews of heaven. Nor was it only in the language of piety that his piety expressed itself. It did not evaporate in words. We have heard him speak; see how he acts! One night sleeping by a heap of corn, alone as he supposed, he wakes to find a woman lying at his feet. It is Ruth. Instructed by Naomi, she takes this strange Jewish fashion to seek her rights and commit her fortunes into his hands.

IV. HIS CARE FOR THE MORAL AND RELIGIOUS INTERESTS OF HIS SERVANTS. Boaz in his own life set them an example of piety which could hardly fail to produce a favourable impression on their minds. Some are content to get work out of their servants; they take no interest in their souls — no more than if, like the cattle they tend, they had no souls at all. Unlike these, Boaz spoke to his servants as a God-fearing man. One who felt himself responsible to God and to their parents also, he charged himself with the care of their morals. This appears in the warnings and kind instructions he gave both to them and to Ruth.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The great operations which some in these days think fit to carry on, more for their own glory certainly than the good of their country or countrymen, entirely preclude anything like friendship between the chief and the multitude of his subordinates. It is impossible that a man who has a thousand under him should know and consider each, and there would be too much pretence in saying, "God be with you," on entering a yard or factory when otherwise no feeling is shown with which the name of God can be connected. Apart altogether from questions as to wealth and its use, every employer has a responsibility for maintaining the healthy human activity of his people, and nowhere is the immorality of the present system of huge concerns so evident as in the extinction of personal goodwill. The work man, of course, may adjust himself to the state of matters, but it will too often be by discrediting what he knows he cannot have and keeping up a critical resentful habit of mind against those who seem to treat him as a machine. He may often be wrong in his judgment of an employer. There may be less hardness of temper on the other side than there is on his own. But the conditions being what they are, one may say he is certain to be a severe critic. We have unquestionably lost much and are in danger of losing more, not in a financial sense, which matters little, but in the infinitely more important affairs of social sweetness and Christian civilisation.

(R. A. Watson, M. A.)

How lovely is the picture of this Hebrew harvest field! It has often been remarked that the Bible, in its histories, doctrines, and precepts, is suited to all nations and all times. Though written by Jews, it is written for the world; though addressed chiefly to Israel, it is framed to suit mankind. To a monarchy in one age, and a republic in another, it gives forth its saving lessons without partiality and without embarrassment. The patriarchal institutes that prevailed in the time of Boaz were very different from the political constitutions of modern Europe. The subjection of the servant to his master which prevailed in those days was very different from the freedom and equal rights of all classes in our own land. Human happiness and misery do not turn on the form which the organisation of society may assume. It is a baptism by the Spirit that will sweeten and hallow the relations of life, whatever the external form may be into which they have been cast. In view of the condition and tendencies of society, what is the duty of a Christian patriot? He is not to whine idly for the return of the good old days, when society consisted only of two classes, kind masters and happy serfs; neither is he madly to plant himself in the breach, with the view of stemming and turning the advancing tide. Let believing men, whatever may be their views of the optimism in political organisation, fix it as an axiom in their minds that for the highest good of the species much more depends on the spirit which animates persons than on the forms which institutes may assume. Let all who hope in God and love their brethren act on this principle, and act together on it. Consider now, more particularly, the two features that characterised the intercourse between Boaz and his reapers. These are kindliness and godliness; there is love of men, and there is reverence of God.

I. KINDLINESS is greatly to be desired in the intercourse of employers and employed in our day. The master and the men must meet often for the transaction of business that is of common concern. If the meetings be devoid of kindness, they are unpleasant and injurious. How much we suffer from harsh, supercilious pride on the one hand, and dogged, discontented pride on the other! Here is a noble field for the philanthropist to labour on. He who shall increase the kindliness between operatives and their employers will be a benefactor of his race. All does not lie with the masters, but the initiative is with them. They have more in their power. We shall lose all the benefit of our vast machinery, it will be blighted by a curse, if we use living men as a part of it — if we make no distinction between the most wonderful work of God and these dead, mindless workers which our own hands have set up. Human brains have been weighed in the same balance with the dross that feeds the furnace! You take the girth of a man's soul, as you do of a wrought-iron piston, with the view of ascertaining the amount of propulsion that may be expected out of it. Both, and both alike, you put under the steam, and work them till they be worn. This is the ailment of society. Man is not a brother to man. The labourer should not fret against the employer as such. He is part of the organisation of Providence. We don't want this wheel that racks you taken out of the way. We want it oiled with holy human sympathy. But how shall we get such kindliness poured out upon the too, too sharp spirits of men, when the classes meet in a bristling array of mutual suspicion and defiance? We must go to seek it in the source of all good. The sympathy of which we have been speaking is the second commandment; in order to reach it we must climb up to the first. We must begin at the beginning (Ecclesiastes 12:13). We are thus brought to the other leading characteristic of the intercourse depicted in the text.

II. ITS GODLINESS. Look to the subject-matter of that kind mutual salutation, and you will find that master and men lived in the fear of God, and were not ashamed to own their religion in each other's presence. The secret lies here. There would be more of human kindness amongst us if there were more of genuine faith in God. It is here that our defect lies. In great measure God is banished from history, from politics, from merchandise, from manufactures. God is not willing to be banished from any of His works. In Him we live and move and have our being. We do not propose that at your desks or your counters you should set aside your ledgers and commence a debate on systems of theology. Everything in its own time and place. There is such a thing as doing common business in a Christian spirit, walking about on earth like one who is going home to heaven. We are very low as to the existence of godliness in the heart; and we are still lower as to the manifestation of it in the ordinary intercourse of society. Very little of it is possessed; and even that little is not brought into exercise. We are persuaded that few masters are to be found at present who would not be ashamed to acknowledge a sinner's hope in a precious Saviour in presence of their workmen; and comparatively few mechanics, who, if such an acknowledgment were made, would not openly sneer or secretly impute it to hypocrisy. The two classes distrust each other. Even the religion that they have they hide in each other's presence. Alas, the only salve is by a tacit compact kept far away from the sores of society! The motions of the community are jarring and painful, because they are not softened by Divine grace. It is a short-sighted policy to shut up religion in churches and prayer-meetings, or even in households. Religion is intended for the world. The world has need of it. There cannot in the nature of things be a proper intercourse between human beings if the fear of God and the faith of the gospel do not pervade it. How can you treat a man aright when you have in view only the lowest part of his nature — the briefest period of his destiny? If all that your mind takes in regarding him be his work and his wages — the profit and loss in money of retaining or dismissing him — your treatment of him cannot possibly be right. It is only when you learn to take in the whole man that your conception can be accurate and your conduct wise. Conclusion:

1. Those who have no chief end for their souls, and no chief aim of their lives beyond things seen and temporal, bring no godliness to bear on the business of society. You cannot apply to a brother what you have not experienced yourself. One thing is needful. If you are not working for God, you are idle; if you have not gained your soul, you have lost all.

2. Those who are born from above bring too little godliness to bear on the common interests of life.

(W. Arnot.)

Why do not employers take employes into their confidence? I know a gentleman very well who has over a thousand hands in his employ. I said to him some years ago, when there was great trouble in the labour market, "How are you getting on with your men?" "Oh," he said, "I have no trouble." "Why," I said, "haven't you had any strikes?" "Oh, no," he said, "I never had any trouble." "What plan do you pursue?" He said, "I will tell you. All my men know every year just how matters stand. Every little while I call them together and say, 'Now, boys, last year I made so much; this year I make less; so you see I can't pay you as much as I did last year. Now I want to know what you think I ought to have as a percentage out of this establishment, and what wages I ought to give you. You know I put all my energy in this business and risked everything, put all my fortune in it and risked everything. What do you really think I ought to have, and you ought to have?' By the time we come out of that consultation we are unanimous; there never has been an exception. When we prosper, we all prosper together; when we suffer, we all suffer together; and my men would die for me." Now, let all employers be frank with their employes. Take them into your confidence. Let them know just how matters stand. There is an immense amount of common sense in the world. It is safe always to appeal to it.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

1. It is remarkable that those who stand prominently forward in the lineage of our Lord according to the flesh represent the varied callings and positions of the human race; as if He who was not ashamed to call us brethren had woven into the tapestry of His human scenes threads borrowed from every skein of life, that He might be, as it were, girt with the garment of our humanity, and consequently be able entirely to sympathise with us.

2. But whilst on the one hand our blessed Lord received into Himself according to the flesh streams from every source of human life, He manifested again in His life and works the scenes from which they flowed. So that there is no employment in life but what the labourer, be he monarch, priest, or peasant, may find a practical brotherhood in Christ, and derive lessons of instruction and comfort in the hours of toil from Him who was "King of kings," "our great High Priest," and "had not where to lay His head."

3. The leading lesson which Boaz teaches us is the sanctity of every earthly occupation when pursued by the servant of God. The real greatness of any man's work consists in its being done according to the standard and limits of religion; and the absence of consciousness or religious expression is no sign of the unreality of real religious principle.

4. In the country, a large portion of whose population is agricultural, the conduct and character of the farmer or the landed proprietor is of no small consequence. He can improve or deteriorate the race of the labourer, he can elevate or depress multitudes of those around him, by the way in which he acts; and we are bound to believe that to a great degree God blesses the crops and the harvest according to the character of those connected with them.

5. The position of Boaz is one which silences all possible objections. He was no inferior farmer who could afford to be religious because he had not the opportunity of speculation, "for he was a mighty man of wealth." He was not ashamed to recognise God, while, alas! how many amongst us of a similar class have not the courage to acknowledge to those they employ that they recognise God as the source and author of all that they possess. The example of the master will be followed by the man; if he puts religion forward in the front of his intercourse with his labourers, he will set the fashion to the field, the farmyard, and the cottager's home. The foreman will own God, and the reaper will "catch the trick" of reverence. It would seem as if some men imagined that some chance hand opened the womb of the teeming earth. It is to such men that God says, "They did not know that I gave the corn; therefore will I return and take away My corn, I will destroy her vines and her fig-trees" (Hosea 2:9). But in the stately and almost sublime interview between Boaz and his reapers we find a practical suggestion also — why should not farmers not only recognise God and religion, but do something to realise the connection between God and themselves?

6. Another striking feature in the conduct of Boaz is the care that he takes of the purity of unmarried women when at work in his fields; for Boaz said unto Ruth, "Have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? Go not to glean in another field, but abide here fast by my maidens." It would almost seem as if the young men and young women worked in different fields. How lamentable is the "contrast of a picture like this with that displayed by the estates of our farmers in seedtime, hay harvest and corn harvest. Imagine the long tale of shameful and miserable life that many a woman wrecked early on the quicksand of impurity has to tell upon her death-bed, and too often connects it all with the first hint given in the field in which God's merciful hand was most singularly manifested in scattering His bounties.

7. But there is one more point full of instruction in the conduct of Boaz — his consideration of the gleaners. Some farmers close their gates altogether against the gleaner, and many are strict in their injunctions that but little shall be left for the poor. Yet surely the prayers of the poor, when genuine and honest, bring a blessing upon all around them, and what is given to them is but a loan to God.

(E. Monro, M. A. )

Our forefathers symbolised a beautiful truth when in our old market towns they erected a market cross. As if to teach the buyers and sellers to order their actions and to sanctify their gains by the remembrance of a crucified Saviour. In the orders which God gave for the encampment of Israel during their pilgrimage to Canaan it was provided that every part of the camp looked towards the tabernacle. And thus God taught them ever to remember that He was in their midst, and that before Him they must walk day by day.

(Aubrey C. Price, B. A.)

Piety not only stands with humanity and civil courtesy, but also exacteth and requireth it (Matthew 12.; 1 Peter 3:8; Luke 10:5). God hath, His ethics, and commandeth good manners as well as good conscience. Affability and courtesy is the way to win others; men's minds are taken with it, as passengers' eyes are with fair flowers in the springtide; whereas a harsh, sullen, sour, churlish conversation is very distasteful to all, galleth the best (witness David, 1 Samuel 25.), and openeth bad men's mouths to speak evil of religion.

(J. Trapp.)

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