Ruth is a happy interlude in these chapters. It’s not a story of a prophet, a war, or a dramatic intervention by the Lord. It’s a family story, a private story in some ways, but it’s the family story of the family of the Savior. Additionally, we discuss the story of Hannah and her faithful commitment to give up her son–the son she waited so long for–to the service of the Lord.
Notes from Podcast
Special thanks to Diana Webb, author of Biblical Lionesses-Protectors of the Covenant and Forgotten Women of God, who has provided her notes and research to make this podcast possible today.
Artwork: Whither Thou Goest by Sandy Freckleton Gagon. Used by permission.
Background on book of Ruth
-Not a story of a prophet, a war, a dramatic intervention by the Lord.
– It’s a family story, a private story in some ways, but it is the family story of the family of the Savior.
-A happy interlude after the Book of Judges where everyone is so concerned about self.
Shows us how people should act.
Battling the climate
–rain a gift from God, without it, famine.
-due to famine, a Judean man named Elimelech who lived in Bethlehem sold his land and went toMoab with his wife Naomi and their two sons.
-went to sojourn there, meaning he meant to return. Dwelt there ten years.
-the sons took to wife two Moabitish women. Orpah and Ruth.
-discuss: Moabites not covenant people. Posterity of Lot. Other chapters the idea that marrying a Moabite woman corroded your religion. They believed in idols.
-Both sons died, but Naomi and her daughters-in-law survived.
Returning to Bethlehem
– So now there were three childless widows – Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. To be a childless widow was to be among the lowest, most disadvantaged classes in the ancient world. There was no one to support you, and you had to live on the generosity of strangers. Naomi had no family in Moab, and no one else to help her. It was a desperate situation.
– From distant Moab, Naomi heard that God was doing good things back in Israel.
-She tells her daughters-in-law to stay. She believed that her difficulty in life is that she had left her people.“The hand of the LORD has gone out against me.” Perhaps wondered if she had sinned by going to Moab. Not bitter. She had no idea – not the slightest – of how greatly God was going to bless her in a short time.
Ruth 1:14 They lifted up their voices and wept again: Both Orpah and Ruth loved Naomi; both were anxious about the future. But a choice had to be made, and Orpah chose to stay in Moab, while Ruth clung to Naomi.
-These verses say that Ruth was converted to the true God of Israel. The kind of loyalty that is to be shown in the covenant.
16 And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.
17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
Arriving in Bethlehem
In Hebrew Naomi means “sweet or pleasant” and Mara means “bitter.” This reply was not an accusation, only Naomi’s way of saying that she had endured much tragedy while in Moab.
-They arrive at the beginning of the barley harvest
-Elimelech had a wealthy kinsman named Boaz. God had provided him. This can also be translated as “a mighty man of valor.” The word kinsman means more than a relative. He is a kinsman-redeemer, a special family representative to help secure the family.
-Ruth begins gleaning in Boaz’s fields. “What is gleaning? Young men moved through the fields grasping handfuls of the grain and cutting through the stalks with sickles. These small bunches of grain were then bound into bundles called sheaves. As the men worked rapidly, a number of stalks fell to the ground. If the men were careful and took the time, these too could be gathered up. However, any stalks that dropped were allowed to remain where they fell. Leviticus 19:9-10 commanded farmers in Israel that they should not completely harvest their fields. They were commanded to “cut corners” in harvesting, and always leave some behind. Also, if they happened to drop a bundle of grain, they were commanded to leave it on the ground and to not pick it up. This was one of the social assistance programs in Israel.
– “Poor people, following the reapers, were permitted to ‘glean,’ or gather, the random stalks-possibly all that stood between them and starvation. In addition, the edges of the field, where the sickle was not as easily wielded, were left unharvested.” (Diana Webb)
Why is this a wonderful way to provide for the poor?
–farmers would have a generous heart and workers provide for themselves with dignity.
-Boaz tells Ruth, she need not glean in any other field. He tells the men not to touch her. He invites her to share their water vessel and to dine with the other workers. He tells her to stay close to the other women who are reaping.
-Obviously he is impressed with her work ethic, her generosity. When he offers all of this:
Boaz favors Ruth
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?
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.
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 unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens.
Why has she found favor in his eyes?
She doesn’t complain about all the hard things that have happened to her, but is grateful, even awestruck by this good thing. When she eats with the workers, she sits next to Boaz and then “keeps some back”
A Change of Fortune for Naomi
Ruth 2:19-23 Ruth reported on her work that day, and told Naomi that she had worked with Boaz that day. Then she said, “Blessed be the name of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead.” Is this the same woman who came into town saying, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me (Ruth 1:20)? Is this the same woman who said, the Almighty has afflicted me (Ruth 1:21)? Now she sees more of God’s plan unfolding and she can see better how all things are working together for good for those who love God. “It is good, my daughter.”
Naomi wants to change her fortune
Naomi wanted to help her faithful daughter-in-law secure a husband and family. She knew that Ruth could best be taken care of if she was married, so she suggested that she appeal to Boaz for marriage. The Hebrew word for security (manowach) in verse one is the same word for rest in Ruth 1:9, where Naomi hoped that her daughters-in-law would find rest and security in the home of a new husband. This Hebrew word (manowach) speaks of what a home should be – a place of rest and security.
The custom of Goel
“Not at all; Naomi’s suggestion to Ruth was rooted in a peculiar custom in ancient Israel – the meaning behind the Hebrew word goel. The goel – sometimes translated kinsman-redeemer – had a specifically defined role in Israel’s family life.
The kinsman-redeemer was responsible to buy a fellow Israelite out of slavery (Leviticus 25:48).
“He was responsible to be the “avenger of blood” to make sure the murderer of a family member answered to the crime (Numbers 35:19).
“He was responsible to buy back family land that had been forfeited (Leviticus 25:25).
“He was responsible to carry on the family name by marrying a childless widow (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).”
Responsibility of a goel
“In this, we see that the goel, the kinsman-redeemer, was responsible to safeguard the persons, the property, and the posterity of the family. Since Boaz was a recognized goel for the family of Elimelech – the deceased husband of Naomi and father-in-law of Ruth – Ruth could appeal to him to safeguard the posterity of Elimelech’s family and take her in marriage. It may seem forward to us, but it was regarded as proper in that day. If Boaz did not fulfill this duty towards Elimelech (though he was now deceased), then the direct family and name of Elimelech would perish.” (Diana Webb).
A Symbol of Christ
“The word here rendered redeemer we translate literally from Hebrew go’el and this is its proper translation. It is rendered merely ‘kinsman’ in the King James English translation. The function of a go’el was to make it possible for a widow who had lost home and property to return to her former status and security and to have seed to perpetuate her family. It is easy to see why the later prophets borrowed this word from the social laws of Israel and used it to describe the functions of Him who would become the Divine Redeemer: Think of what He does to restore us to proper status with God, and to give us future security and eternal ‘seed.’
Ruth petitions Boaz
“She instructed Ruth to make herself pretty and smelling good (‘anoint yourself, put on your best garment’), and to leave Boaz alone while he ate (‘do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking).
“At the appropriate time, Naomi instructs Ruth to ‘go in, uncover his feet, and lie down.’. In the culture of that day, this was understood as an act of total submission.
“In that day, this was understood to be the role of a servant—to lay at their master’s feet and be ready for any command of the master. So, when Naomi told Ruth to “lie down” at Boaz’s feet, she told her to come to him in a totally humble, submissive way.
“She said to Boaz, “I respect you, I trust you, and I put my fate in your hands.” (Diana Webb).
At the Threshing Room
“There was a good reason why Boaz slept at the threshing floor. These were the days of the Judges when there was much political and social instability in Israel. It wasn’t unusual for gangs of thieves to come and steal all the hard-earned grain a farmer had grown.” (Diana Webb)
9 And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near akinsman.
She also answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.”
Under your wing
Under your wing is an idiom that means “protect me.”
11 And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.(Ruth 3)
He would be acting as a kinsman-redeemer, a goel for her.
The only hitch is that there is a closer relative, but he chose not to perform the duty. Remember had the duty to protect the persons, property and posterity, and this closer relative wanted the land, but not the extra duties.
Ruth 4:9-10 “Boaz said to the elders and all the people.” Boaz joyfully proclaimed, legally sealing the transaction, that he would redeem both the property and the posterity of Elimelech, and take Ruth, the woman he loved, as his wife. “That the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from the gate of this place” is a good description of the idea of preserving the posterity of the deceased.
Ruth will be Boaz’s wife.
Boaz will be a kinsman-redeemer just as the Lord is for us.
Establishes a model for marriage
First the love of God for Israel is mirrored in the love of a husband and a wife.
The married couple are supported and are part of a larger constellation of kinsfolk and family obligation and love. This is solid and foundational in contrast to our contemporary dating culture, which is about attraction which may come and go.
It is assumed that marriage will include the non-negotiable opportunity to create offspring.
There is a temple undertone in this story.
Boaz and wings
Jeffrey Bradshaw quotes a Catholic scholar Gary A. Anderson:
“Anderson mentions two elements of the temple undertone that pervades this deeply spiritual book. First, he explains the significance of the fact that “Boaz, the name of our hero, also happens to be the name of one of two pillars that sat athwart the entranceway of the Temple in Jerusalem.”[vi] Then, he connects this temple allusion to the later incident at the threshing floor where Ruth asks Boaz to spread his robe over her.[vii]
“In his discussion of Ruth’s request, Anderson points out the importance of the fact that ‘the word for ‘robe’ in Hebrew happens to be the exact same word as ‘wing.’ This remarkable word play carries us back to Boaz’ blessing in chapter two: ‘May you have a full recompense from the Lord, the God of Israel under whose wings you have sought refuge.’ Taken together, Anderson’s observations make it clear that the plot line of the story of Ruth takes us on a journey from the gate of the temple where the pillar of Boaz stands to the Holy of Holies where two cherubim ‘stretch forth their wings on high’ to cover the mercy seat.”
Jeffrey Bradshaw said, “God commanded Moses to craft the cherubim on the Ark so that ‘their faces shall look one to another.’ [In Rabbinic literature, they are understood as being a boy and a girl. “Similarly, Boaz and Ruth, as a couple, are described in biblical Hebrew as perfectly self-similar reflections — ‘a man of worth’ and a ‘worthy woman.’
Bradshaw said, “However, I would argue, with Anderson, that the most important result of the individual development of Boaz and Ruth in the story is not their single-minded devotion to one another but rather the achievement of joint purpose in their wholehearted effort to fulfill the terms of their covenant relationship with God and their neighbors.” (Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, How Does the Book of Ruth Provide a Model for Marriage? https://latterdaysaintmag.com/how-does-the-book-of-ruth-provide-a-model-for-marriage/#_edn8)
This is a story of loyalty as one of the primary aspects of the covenant. God’s loyalty to us and ours to Him, so much that He would perform the atonement to make us at-one again. This is unflinching loyalty, born from allegiance to God which then becomes allegiance to one another in one another in marriage. In a covenantal marriage in the temple, we kneel across an altar, representing the altar of sacrifice, because it is the Lord’s atonement that can make us one. This is so beautiful.
In our own marriages we become One through looking together toward God, as well as in looking to each other.
We have such a happy marriage, and we joke that when I am with you, I am besides myself. We would both credit this undying love and loyalty we have to each other because of our love for God.
I remember, Scot as we were coming to know each other and thinking about marriage, I had been through some hard experiences in my life, and I said, “I just don’t think God loves me.” You said, “God sent me into your life to tell you that He loves you.”
God has been the very center of our marriage. How many thousands of times have we prayed together, pouring out our hearts to Him. How could I know you better when I have heard your thousand thousand heart-felt prayers to God? How many times have we seen together God’s hand in our lives, in small ways and big ways. How many times have we lingered in the car after church so we can talk about what we’ve learned today or the sweet spirit of assurance we have felt. God feel our heart and teaches us day by day how to love each other better. My thoughts are how to comfort you when life is tough. How to serve you. How to build you and how to affirm the goodness I see in you. My job is to really see you and know who you are no matter how you are feeling on any given day.
A covenant marriage includes God at the very center and as you give your heart to Him, and are loyal to Him, so you do the same for your spouse. God teaches you love, and loyalty and fills your relationship with light.
The Meaning of Boaz and Ruth’s Story
The book of Ruth is not only a primer on marriage, but it also teaches something about the family history of Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate kinsman redeemer. We, like Ruth, are in vulnerable positions, but like Boaz there is one who comes into secure our position with God, to bring us home, to make a safe harbor for us, to watch out for us when we are stricken. Boaz and Ruth give birth to Obed, who is the father of Jessee, who is the father of David, who will become the king of all Israel and an ancestor of the Lord.
Another story of loyalty in 1 Samuel 1-3
1 Samuel starts with the story of Hannah. Diana Webb notes:
“Hannah’s story is one of quiet catastrophe – the catastrophe of empty arms, the oft-repeated and almost stereotypical catastrophe of barrenness and infertility. It is not a catastrophe to be compared with the destruction of the temple or the capture of the ark of the covenant, but to Hannah, childlessness is calamity.[i] And it doesn’t end there. Her husband’s second wife, Penninah maliciously throws salt on her raw wound and taunts her.
“This taunting is almost daily, according to the pseudepigraphal book called Biblical Antiquities, written sometime between the mid-first century and mid-second century CE. This is not scripture but paints a picture. Hannah is he beloved wife of her husband, Elkinah, but is barren, while Penninah has given him ten sons. In Biblical Antiquities, Peninnah ridicules Hannah by saying, “‘What does it profit you that Elkanah your husband loves you, for you are a dry tree? And I know that my husband will love me, because he delights in the sight of my sons standing around him like a plantation of olive trees.’” (Diana Webb)
Barrenness is a torment and each month a renewed disappointment and a dashing of hopes.
A Visit to Shilo
6 And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb.
7 And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
Elkanah discerned that Hannah was distressed, “her husband [said] to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:7-8). He is not childless, but she is, and he cannot give her what she yearns for.
Webb said, “Although she easily could feel that God has abandoned her, it is clear from her prayer that she has not abandoned God.Hannah is a model of devotion, worthy of emulation for her patient faith in the surety of God’s benevolence. “
At the house of Shilo, she wept and prayed, and we learn in 1 Samual 1:11
11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.
This is the first prayer of a women recorded in the Old Testament.
Eli, seeing her lips move, but not hearing her speak assumed she must be drunken because it was the time of a feast where this was common. She assured him she was not, but praying to the Lord and Eli said:
17 Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.
Samuel is born
Hannah will take him to the temple at age two when he is weaned. Imagine this woman who has longed for so many years and had empty arms, now taking this son to the sanctuary at Shilo to dedicate him to God’s service for life.
She will carry out the promise she made to God no matter what it costs her. When she returned home, the silence in her home without her baby Samuel must have been painful. She has given away her most prized possession.
Who could be joyful in these circumstances? In 1 Samuel 2, she begins with a song.
1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
2 There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.
Echoes of this song are remembered by Mary.
Hannah understands something. She lives in a world where nothing is beyond the reach of God’s reign. She realizes that just because she is a child of God she will not be spared the painful side of life. She knows that suffering has come close to knocking her off her feet, despite the enormity of her faith. She is assaulted by doubt, depression, and fear. She realizes that God uses the hard experiences of life to make us strong. Her own words assert that “they that stumbled are girded with strength”
Samuel is called
Could Hannah have had any understanding of who her son would be—this Samuel who would grow up as the Lord’s?
The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. He represented in the Old Testament in every role of leadership open to a Jewish man of his day—seer, priest, judge, prophet, and military leader.
So let’s turn to 1 Samuel 3 and his calling:
1 And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision .
2 And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see;
Is this a metaphor for loss of spiritual vision and understanding? “Eli’s blindness … reflects [not only] his decrepitude but [also] his incapacity for vision. … He is immersed in permanent darkness while the lad Samuel has God’s lamp burning by his bedside.
3 And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep;
God’s lamp has not yet gone out, and the young ministrant will be the one to make it burn bright again.”
4 That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I.
5 And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down.
the Lord called Samuel. Though Eli and Samuel both slept in the Tabernacle, only Samuel heard the Lord’s voice that night
6 And the Lord called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again.
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.
8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child.
9 Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
And the Lord came, and stood.
The Significance of Here am I.
This is a covenant phrase. The Lord says it to us. Lovingkindness. I will be there for you. I will respond when you call.
And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the son of Man: Here am I, send me.
Isaiah 58:9 “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.”
The phrase Here am I, goes the other way as well. We see this mostly in scriptures. He calls us and we answer. We are willing to do what he asks, even if it is very hard. We will seek to hear him. We will hear Him. We will take responsibility that he may help us to grow.
It is Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Isaiah and Samuel. What Samuel is asked to do will rekindle some of the spirit in Israel. Next week 1 Sam. 8-10, 13,15-18
[i]. See Trevor Dennis, Sarah Laughed (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1994), 116.