Saturday, November 3, 2012

LXXXIII - The Book of Ruth

LXXXIII  -  The Book of Ruth
Author:        Unknown (possibly Samual)
Place:        Judah and Moab
Period:        Time of the Judges
Main Theme:   Love, Loyalty, Faithfulness are rewarded

I've always enjoyed the book of Ruth.  It's a beautiful love story, but it's more than that.  As we study this wonderful book, we'll see how so many individuals are touched by the humble actions of so few.  Ruth is one of only two books (Esther is the other one) where a woman is the main character.  But in Ruth, there are actually two women who are the main characters.  We will see that this book is almost equally a tribute to Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law.

Chapter 1  -   We can see that this is during the time when judges ruled in Israel, which is a long span of time.  I'm not sure which judge was in authority during this time, but it must have been one of the latest ones, due to the geneology leading to king David.  There was famine in the land of Israel.  God placed famine on His people, usually as a way of  drawing their attention.  But this famine was so severe that Elimelek, an Ephraimite living in Judah, took his family out of his homeland and went southeast to the land of Moab, in hopes to find prosperity.  His wife was Naomi and they had two sons, Mahlon and Kilion.  Verses 3, 4, and 5 tell a whole lot:  While this family was in Moab, Elimelek died, leaving Naomi with two sons to raise in a foreign land.  Her sons, Mahlon and Kilion married two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth.  Then both sons died, leaving Naomi, a Hebrew woman, with two daughters-in-law, both Moabitesses.  Naomi was the matriarch of this shrinking family and she was still a foreigner in the land of Moab.

In verse 6 we see that Naomi heard that the famine was over in her homeland of Judah and she felt led to return home where she could perhaps rely on some family.  {A widow in a strange land was a frightful situation, even for someone as strong as Naomi.}  This was a difficult decision for Naomi because she still felt responsible for the well-being of her two daughters-in-law.  So she thought the best thing for them was to return to their families.  This made the most sense, since they would come under hardship in Judah, being Moabite widows.  She made more than a reasonable case for them to leave, but as the Scripture said, they "wept bitterly" at the thought of leaving this woman they both had grown to love so dearly.  {These three women had come to depend solely on each other, which creates a very strong bond.}  Naomi finaly persuades Orpah to return to her family (vs 14).  But then Ruth speaks in vss 16-17.  This is a much written passage, much quoted and memorized.  No littany of dedication quite matches this.  "Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.  May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me."  Think on this.  In verse 18 it says that after hearing this that Naomi no longer pressed Ruth.  This must have brought tears to Naomi.

Vss 19-->  So the two women went to Behlehem.  {This would have been a tremendous journey for two widows.  I'm sure they found some caravans or some type of protection to travel with.}  When they arrived in Bethlehem, Naomi was recognized and the people marvelled at her return, a widow with a widowed daughter-in-law.  Vs 20 - She said don't call me Naomi, but call be Mara because my life has been bitter.  The name Naomi means "pleasant".  The name Mara means "bitter".
Chapter 2  -  Now their timing was good because Naomi and Ruth had arrived in Judah just in time for the barley harvest.  {A quick review of the Law:  (Lev. 19,23, Deut.24)  The practice of "gleaning" was a part of the law to provide for the poor, widows, and orphans, as a way to provide them with food (although they had to work for it).  The word "gleaning" means the "gathering of leftovers".  The Law forbids the owner of a field, vineyard, or orchard to pick them clean during harvest.  He was not to go back over the vines to pick whatever grapes he missed the first time.  He was not to strip the olive trees of fruit left by the thrashers. And he was to leave any grain that fell to the ground or that was left standing in the corners of the fields.  These gleanings, by Law, were to be left for widows, orphans, and foreigners. (Foreigners were not allowed to own land in Israel.)  By chance, Ruth chose a field that was owned by Boaz.  Although Ruth was not aware of this, Boaz was a not-so-distant relative of Ruth's deceased husband.  {This calls for another quick review of the Law, but I'll get to that a little later.}  Boaz was a great man.  I think a Christ-like man.  {I realize what the Law says about gleaning, but we have seen that Israel has disregarded sooooo many Laws of God.  I suspect that there were many land owners too greedy and ungodly to honor this Law.}  But Boaz was an exception.  Look at how he greets his employees when he arrives in the field.  He also says "The Lord bless you" in vs 4.  But in verse 5 he asked the foreman, "Who is that woman?", speaking of Ruth.  He single her out.  {Three things come to mind:  1) Ruth may have been a very pretty lady, 2) Her work ethic could have been above and beyond any that Boaz had observed in the other gleaners, and 3) He may have noticed her because she was new and he had not noticed her before.  I think a little of all three.}  Verse 7 indicates her strong work ethic.  In verse 8 Boaz tells Ruth not to go to another field, but rather follow the harvest group that stays in Boaz's fields.  Boaz is so exceptionally kind and generous to Ruth that she felt compelled to ask him in vs 10 "why are you being so nice to me".  His response in vs 11 makes me respect Boaz even more.  He told her he was honoring her noble treatment of her widowed mother-in-law and her commitment to move from her Moabite roots to Israel to be with Naomi.  It goes on to tell several ways Boaz continues to treat Ruth special.  He even instructs his foreman to make sure she gets an opportunity to get as much grain as possible.  So much did she glean that she had about a bushel to take home to Naomi.

Vss 19-->  Naomi was so excited she was beside herself with joy.  Naomi knew that gleaners never brought back nearly that much.  Ruth tells Naomi all about her day and how Boaz dealt so generously with her.  Look at verse 20.  Naomi referred to Boaz as one of their "guardian-redeemers".    Vs 23 tells us that Ruth stayed with the servants of Boaz throughout the harvest season.   Naomi and Ruth had now realized that their decision to go back to Judah was a good one.  {God knows all of us need help sometimes, and especially if we're doing everything we can to help ourselves.}

Next Post  -  Ruth Marries Boaz 

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