Devotion: DISCOVERING JESUS IN RUTH- HONOR AND DUTY
October 18, 2018
"And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. 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 kinsman. And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord , my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich. 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. And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman's part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the Lord liveth: lie down until the morning. And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor. Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day." Ruth 3:8-14, 18 KJV
A THOUGHT TO PONDER:
Naomi knew that a single act would press Boaz into action. Naomi's objective in sending Ruth to the threshing floor was to place Boaz in a position where a decision was required. His mind had been on business, but Naomi was determined to move his mind to responsibility about Ruth. Whether Naomi knew Boaz was actually one removed from the 'nearest' of kin, is not revealed in the text. Boaz realizing the pressure being applied, clarified his role with Ruth. Never did Boaz chastise or attempt to relinquish his obligation as 'redeemer kinsman'. Awakening in the middle of the night, Boaz was startled and surprised. Upon learning it was Ruth laying at his feet, knew what the objective was. Her presence was a marriage proposal. He was a responsible man and committed to settling the matter.
Following the years of famine Boaz was focused on recovering his financial losses. Not knowing future conditions Boaz did not waste either time or conjecture the potential for better years in the future. He rested his business success on the opportunity before him. He seized the moment and was diligent in the combined reality of the pressing needs of a community that had endured multiple years of limited food, intersecting with the blessings of a bountiful harvest. It was both a blessing for others and of benefit to his business. There was another business Boaz had not engaged for which he was equally obligated. Ruth had to be redeemed before other suitors pursued her. Marriage was not just a matter of convenience or whimsical love, it was a deliberate selection. Ruth's well being was of paramount consideration to Naomi. Ruth had proven faithful and supportive of Naomi's every need. Naomi knew the legal requirements, Ruth did not. Ruth did not recognize her vulnerability in her new homeland. Ruth had been consumed with caring for Naomi. Naomi was looking out for Ruth, and Naomi knew Boaz was a man who was honorable and had a profound sense of duty. Sending Ruth to the threshing floor, forced his values into prominence.
CONTEXT AND CUSTOM:
8. Afraid. The [Septuagint] renders the word as “troubled.” Would not any upright man be troubled, or “startled” (RSV), under circumstances such as these?
9. Thy skirt. Literally, “thy wing,” an expression commonly used of the loose, flowing upper garment. The Jewish Talmud explains Ruth’s action as a proposal for marriage (see on Deut. 22:30). It is said that a similar custom still exists in some parts of the world. Ruth’s plea may have reminded Boaz of what he had recently said to her: “The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust” (Ruth 2:12). Ruth calls upon Boaz to fulfill in a personal way his own prayer that God would bless her. A gracious and devout man, Boaz promises to fulfill Ruth’s request, in case the nearer kinsman does not consent to do the kinsman’s duty.
Thou art a near kinsman. Ruth makes the basis of her request clear. Her coming to Boaz is both right and honorable.
10. Blessed be thou. The first words of Boaz express his high esteem for Ruth and the favor with which he looks upon her request. Moreover, he invokes the blessing of God and expresses his desire that the proposal of Ruth be carried out in harmony with the will of God.
My daughter. The form of address Boaz used in speaking to Ruth when they first met (ch. 2:8), probably based on some considerable difference of age between the two of them.
Shewed more kindness. Boaz graciously accepts Ruth’s proposal as an act of kindness toward himself, whereas what Ruth asked for was in reality an act of kindness and mercy toward her and her deceased husband. By this statement Boaz removed any measure of embarrassment Ruth may have felt from taking the initiative in proposing marriage. Boaz denies any reluctance on his part to carry out the proposal.
At the beginning. That is, toward Naomi.
Followedst not young men. Boaz was obviously no longer a young man himself. Before Boaz had known who Ruth was, at the beginning of the harvest season, he had spoken of her as a na‘arah, a “young girl” (ch. 2:5, 6). The townsfolk of Bethlehem later used the same term of her at the time of her marriage to Boaz (ch. 4:12). The fact that a young woman of her years would look upon him, a man probably well advanced in middle life, greatly impressed Boaz.
11. Fear not. Boaz is not in a position to give Ruth an immediate and definite answer, for the reason he forthwith proceeds to explain (vs. 12, 13). In other words, there must inevitably be some delay. Boaz cannot accede to her request at the moment, but she is not to think that in so doing he is evading the issue. So he bids her, “Fear not.” He has already expressed his intentions in the matter, and has done so sincerely. But to avoid gossip and perhaps criticism, Boaz considers that the only proper course is to wait until the “kinsman nearer than I” shall first be given the opportunity of meeting the obligation that logically devolves upon him. Should Boaz do otherwise, the nearer kinsman would probably consider himself grievously wronged and might even take legal action against Boaz. The only safe and proper course was to follow the procedure approved by law and custom.
I will do. In spite of postponing the matter, Boaz gives Ruth a categorical promise—a promise limited only by the possible choice of the other kinsman to exercise his prerogatives with respect to Ruth.
All the city. Though a widow and a foreigner who has resided in Bethlehem but a few weeks, Ruth is already known and respected by all. It would seem that Elimelech had been an influential and respected citizen of Bethlehem, and that the townsfolk naturally interested themselves in the affairs and fortunes of his family. Furthermore, the arrival of a foreigner would attract attention, and everyone would observe her carefully during those first few weeks. Ruth had stood the test. She was recognized as a “virtuous woman.” In mentioning this fact Boaz expresses still more emphatically his own high regard for Ruth.
12. A kinsman nearer than I. The degree of relationship was apparently the determining factor. It was not any kinsman who might claim the right to Ruth’s affections and her property. The nearer the kinsman, presumably, the greater would be his interest to protect the rights and privileges of the widow and her deceased husband. Conversely, he was presumed to be less influenced by selfish interests.
13. Tarry this night. Boaz sets a definite time limit to his request for a delay in fulfilling Ruth’s request. It would be but a few hours at the most (see on v. 11).
18. Sit still. Or, “wait” (RSV). Ruth had done all she could; the kinsman, Boaz, must make the legal arrangements for their marriage. The law was not so much concerned with the personal desires of the woman, it would seem, as with those of the near kinsman. All he needed to do was to establish his rights to the satisfaction of the jury of citizens that he would be able to gather at the city gate.
How the matter will fall. Or, “how the matter turns out” (RSV). To wait patiently for an important issue to be resolved is never easy, particularly when there is nothing a person can do to influence the decision, except to pray about it. This, we may presume, Ruth did (see ch. 1:16).
RSV The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version (New York, 1952)
RSV The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version (New York, 1952)
Talmud The Babylonian Talmud, Soncino, ed., translated under the editorship of I. Epstein (35 vols.; London, 1948-1952)
Nichol, Francis D.: The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 2. Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978; 2002, S. 438
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