Notes on Ruth 2:8-23

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Ruth 2:8 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:

At this time, Boaz himself spoke to Ruth. He called her “my daughter”, much as Naomi had done; this may imply he was quite a bit older than she was.

It is not clear what Boaz meant when he said, “Don’t you hear . . .?” or “Hearest thou not . . . ?” This could mean the servant had carried Boaz’s okay for her to continue to glean here but she just couldn’t believe it. He may not have known that even though Ruth was from Moab, she could speak some Hebrew, at least, after living with Naomi, Another possibility is that Boaz himself wanted to show compassion to a foreigner who had voluntarily come to live with, and in, Israel.

9 (Let) thine eyes (be) on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of (that) which the young men have drawn.

Here we may see a reason for Ruth to be, at worst, suspicious of working in this field. Had the young men been tempted to hassle Ruth, for whatever reason? Had they tried to intimidate her from picking up any of the grain that was legally hers under the Law? Or, Boaz may have been “proactive”, giving the young men a solemn warning: don’t bother her!

Besides this, Boaz gives her the all clear to “go to the vessels” and drink anything the young men had drawn. Had they tried to stop her, or shame her, from getting some water? Many years after this, David longed for some water from Bethlehem’s well. Hearing this, three of his “mighty men” broke through enemy lines and got some for him. David was so moved that he wouldn’t drink any of it, pouring out the water as a drink offering (2 Samuel 23:15-16).

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?

Notice again Ruth’s humility in this matter. “Stranger” here means “foreigner”: Ruth knew she was not an Israelite and seems surprised someone would show her kindness. What had Naomi endured in Moab?

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.

Apparently Boaz knew about Ruth, how that she had left her native country, and settled with Naomi in Israel. He may not have known, before now, that this Ruth, in person, gleaning in his field! Notice how tenderly, and respectfully, he replies to her. There is no contradiction with verse 5: at that moment, he simply didn’t know who the “damsel” was or who was taking care of her. Now he knows.

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.

Boaz gives Ruth a blessing here. The mention of “wings” may be a reference to how God carried Israel “on eagles’ wings (Exodus 19:4, Deut. 32:11-12)” during the journey from Egypt to Canaan. Later, David would say in Psalm 17:8,“Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings,” The unknown author of Psalm 91 also had this to say, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler (Ps. 91:4)”

Hundreds of years later, the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove when Jesus was baptized, just before He began His public ministry (Matthew 4, Luke 4). Wings are an excellent figure of speech, describing God’s protection of His people.

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.

Here Ruth is grateful for Boaz’ comfort (or encouragement), and for his friendly speech towards her. What she means by “let me find favour in thy (Boaz’s) sight is not clear. From the next verse she may have been asking for permission to eat with the other reapers and gleaners. She was still aware that she was different from the other “handmaidens” whom Boaz knew.

14 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.

Now Boaz gives Ruth an “okay” to take part of the food and to “dip (her) morsel in the vinegar”. Perhaps there were different varieties of vinegar: in Psalm 69:21, David spoke prophetically how Messiah received vinegar to drink when He would be thirsty. Solomon wrote twice in Proverbs 10:26 and 25:20 of the effects of vinegar, comparing it to “smoke to the eyes” and its reaction to “nitre” or soda.

Boaz also gave her some parched grain besides the bread. Ruth had enough and then left to glean again.

15 And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not:

When Ruth had first come to the field, she had gleaned in the field, after the reapers (verse 3). Now Boaz gives a command to the young men to let Ruth glean among the sheaves (shocks or stands of grain?) and to not reproach her. Had they spoken in a reproachful manner to her before this? She was permitted to do this—glean among the sheaves—according to Deut. 24:19.

16 And let fall also (some) of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave (them), that she may glean (them), and rebuke her not.

Now Boaz also tells the young men to let Ruth glean some of what falls down, (perhaps what slips out of their hands?) and to not rebuke her. This last command, to not rebuke her is different from the command to not reproach her. Boaz is insisting the young men treat her with respect.

17 So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 And she took (it) up, and went into the city: and her mother in law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved after she was sufficed.

This most likely means that Ruth worked in the field until the late afternoon. There were two evenings, one in the afternoon before sundown and then the twilight/dusk part of the day. Regardless of which evening is specified, Ruth had put in a good amount of hours in the field.

An ephah is a unit of dry measure, equal to 10 omers (Exodus 16:36) but there does not seem to be an exact English equivalent. No matter the physical size, the ephah was light enough for Ruth to take home and provided enough food for Ruth and Naomi both.

19 And her mother in law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to day? and where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she shewed her mother in law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man's name with whom I wrought to day (is) Boaz.

Naomi seems not to know where Ruth had gleaned earlier that day. ”Where wroughtest thou?” most likely was another way of saying “where did you work?” Ruth lets Naomi know that she worked in Boaz’ field.

20 And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed (be) he of the LORD, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man (is) near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen.

Ruth did not know that Boaz was a near kinsman of Naomi or all the details of what this involved.

21 And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me also, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest.

Apparently Ruth had heard more from Boaz that is not preserved in the text. He had commanded the young men to not only leave her alone and let her glean, even among the grain that “fell” from their harvest, but also to not reproach her nor rebuke her. The barley harvest was in progress but how much longer before it was finished or before the work would be done is not specified here.

22 And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, (It is) good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field.

Naomi gives Ruth a suggestion to keep on working with Boaz’ maidens and not work in any other field.

23 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.

Ruth was occupied with gleaning through the end of barley harvest and the end of the wheat harvest. We are not told how much time was involved in these harvests nor when in the year they took place.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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