THE BOOK OF RUTH
Lesson 2: Chapters 2:1-3:5
Ruth's Life in Bethlehem

God of Mercy,
You have called us to demonstrate our faith and devotion to You in our acts of mercy and charity to others.  You have told us that the wedding garment of the Bride of Christ is made of the good deeds of the saints, and Jesus has warned us that the Last Judgment will be based on not only how we loved You but in how we show the love to Christ to those in need.  Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study as we look to the Gentile woman Ruth as a model of virtue and charity that all of us should strive to emulate.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen

+ + +

his two months are [olive] his two months are
grain planting his two months are late planting
his month is hoeing up of flax
his month is barley harvest
his month is harvest and festivity
his two months are vine-tending
his month is summer-fruit

This is the inscription on the "Gezer Calendar," a tiny 3.5 x 6 inch piece of limestone that was found by archaeologists in 1908 during an excavation in Gezer, a town in the foothills that separated Philistia from Judah.  The scrap of stone, dated to the 10th century BC, describes seasonal agricultural activities-sowing, hoeing, pruning and harvesting. Instead of starting in the spring, as does the liturgical calendar, the list of months follows the civil calendar and begins in the fall.  At the end of the inscription are the letters that epigraphers have read as "Abiya"-perhaps the name of the writer who may have been a school boy completing an assigned school exercise.

Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest (Rt 1:22).  As attested in the Gezer Calendar, the planting of grain began in the fall (c. October-November), after the rains had softened the soil to allow for plowing.  The sowing of the grain lasted for two months and was followed by two months of vegetable sowing and a month of hoeing.  The harvest begin in the early spring with flax and barley, then the wheat and early figs in late spring, followed by the summer grape and in the late summer dates and figs.  Finally, there was the fruit harvest, including the olive harvest, in the early fall.

The barley harvest in ancient Israel took place in the early spring (see the Israelite civil and liturgical calendar in the handout to lesson 1).  According to the Law, the first grain of the barley harvest was to be brought to Yahweh's Temple and offered at Yahweh's altar of sacrifice on the first day of the week on the Feast of Firstfruits during the holy week of the pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev 23:5-14).  At that time, the offerer was to present the basket with his grain offering before Yahweh's altar and make a profession of faith: The priest will then take the basket from your hand and lay it before the altar of Yahweh your God.  In the presence of Yahweh your God, you will then pronounce these words: "My father was a wandering Aramaean, who went down to Egypt with a small group of men, and stayed there, until he there became a great, powerful and numerous nation.  The Egyptians ill-treated us, they oppressed us and inflicted harsh slavery on us.  But we called on Yahweh, God of our ancestors.  Yahweh heard our voice and saw our misery, our toil and our oppression; and Yahweh brought us out of Egypt with mighty hand and outstretched arm, with great terror, and with signs and wonders.  He brought us here and has given us this country, a country flowing with milk and honey. Hence, I now bring the first-fruits of the soil that you, Yahweh, have given me" (Dt 26:4-10).

Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem after the men (and many of their families) had returned from attending the festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread and offering the first fruits of the barley harvest on the Feast of Firstfruits at Yahweh's proto-Temple at Shiloh (Josh 18:1; 1 Sam 1:3). Upon their return, the entire village would have been committed to harvesting the barley crop from dawn to dusk. 

~ CHAPTER 2 ~

... he [God] judges each person as his deeds deserve: the sinner will not escape with his ill-gotten gains nor the patience of the devout go for nothing.  He takes note of every charitable action, and everyone is treated as he deserves.
Sirach 16:12/13b-14/15.

Outline of chapter 2:

  1. Ruth's devotion to Naomi in Bethlehem
    1. Introduction of Boaz
    2. Naomi gives Ruth permission to glean in the fields
  2. Ruth supports Naomi by gleaning
    1. Ruth gleans in the fields of Boaz
    2. Boaz inquires about her identity
  3. Boaz offers Ruth his protection
    1. He tells her to only glean in his fields
    2. Boaz asks Yahweh's blessing for Ruth
    3. Boaz invites Ruth to eat with his servants
    4. Boaz commands his workers to treat Ruth with kindness
  4. Ruth returns to Naomi with her gleanings
    1. Ruth tells Naomi about Boaz
    2. Naomi asks Yahweh's blessing on Boaz and reveals that he is a kinsman with the right of redemption over them
  5. Ruth continues to glean in Boaz's fields throughout the barley harvest and the following wheat harvest

Ruth 2:1-3 ~ Ruth's devotion to Naomi in Bethlehem
1 Naomi had a kinsman on her husband's side, well-to-do and of Elimelech's clan.  His name was Boaz.  2 Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, 'Let me go into the fields and glean ears of corn [grain] in the footsteps of some man who will look on me with favor.'  She replied, 'Go, daughter.'  3 So she set out and went to glean in the fields behind the reapers.
[..] =
literal translation IBHE, page 702.

Naomi's kinsman, Boaz, is introduced into the story.  He is a kinsman from the same clan as Naomi's husband, which we assume is the clan of Ephratha (Rt 1:1), and he is a man of high social status/wealth within the Bethlehem community.  His name means "strength," and is a name that is found outside of the Book of Ruth in four other passages in the Old Testament.  Naomi's kinsman Boaz is named in the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 2:11-12, and Boaz is the same name that will be given to the left column that supported the portico of Solomon's Temple; the right column was called Yakin/Jachin (1 Kng 7:21; 2 Chr 3:17). 

Question: What contrast do you notice between Boaz and the women and between Boaz and Naomi's deceased male family members?
Answer:  Naomi's husband was a man of weakness who abandoned his people in their time of distress, but Boaz, a man of strength, remained with his people.  Like the other names in the story, Boaz's name is a reflection of Boaz the man.  Also Boaz's wealth and influence in the village is in contrast to Naomi and Ruth's poverty.

Society in this period was divided into states, tribes, clans and families.  The clan consisted of families descended from a common ancestor and was the most important unit in Israelite society.

Question: What does the Bible tell us about Boaz's ancestral line?  Can you name two illustrious ancestors of Boaz, one a Judahite prince/chieftain from the era of the forty years in the wilderness journey to the Promised Land and the other a Gentile woman from the conquest of Canaan? See Ex 6:23; Num 1:7; 2:3; 7:12, 17; 10:11-14; Rt 4:20; 1 Chr 2:10-11; Mt 1:4 and Josh 2:1-21; 6:22-25; Mt 1:4; Heb 11:31; Jam 2:25.
Answer: Boaz was a descendant of Nahshon, the Judahite prince who was the nephew by marriage of Aaron, Moses' brother who was Israel's first High Priest.  Nahshon was the chieftain of the tribe of Judah chosen by God to lead the march of the twelve tribes during the forty years of the wilderness journey to the Promised Land.  Boaz was also the descendant of Rahab, the Canaanite heroine of Jericho who saved the Israelite spies, became a convert and married Nahshon's son/grandson, Salmon.

Although the biblical genealogies list Salmon as Boaz's father and Rahab as Boaz's mother, it is more likely that there are missing generational names and that Salmon was Nahshon's grandson or great-grandson and that there were at least two centuries between the generations of Salmon and Rabah and their descendant Boaz.  Biblical genealogies often list only the prominent names, skipping generations.  It is the same way in which Jesus is called the "son of David" even though there is a thousand years between David and Jesus.

Ruth 2:2-3 ~ Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, 'Let me go into the fields and glean ears of corn [grain] in the footsteps of some man who will look on me with favor.'  She replied, 'Go, daughter.'  So she set out and went to glean in the fields behind the reapers.

The grain identified as "corn" in our English translations is not what we commonly call "corn" in the United States.  What Americans call "corn" has been developed from Indian maize.  "Corn" is the name the English immigrants gave to the Indian maize that they had never seen before.  "Corn" is an English word for any multi-grain plant whether barley or wheat or American "corn." 

Ruth's request to be allowed to glean in the fields of Bethlehem was her right under the Law of the Sinai Covenant.  It will be the means by which she will feed Naomi and herself.  According to the Law, there was to be no one who was destitute among the covenant people.  Provisions were made for widows, orphans and foreigners living in the Promised Land:

These laws remind us that it is Yahweh who is the rightful owner of the land with the authority to extend the gifts of His land to whomever He chose to extend those gifts: The land will not be sold absolutely, for the land belongs to me, and you are only strangers [tenants] and guests of mine (Lev 25:23).  The poor had the protection under the Law to glean, but permission to glean in an owner's field was not always willingly guaranteed. Ruth's position is tenuous because she does not have a man of her family to protect her and she is a foreigner.

Three questions might be raised concerning Ruth's request and Naomi's reply.  Why didn't Naomi tell Ruth to glean in the fields of a kinsman?  Why doesn't she warn Ruth about the dangers she might face as a lone, vulnerable, foreign woman working among strange men?  Perhaps Naomi is disappointed that her kinsmen have not reached out to her so she does not expect any consideration from them.   Is she too proud to approach a kinsman to ask him to protect her daughter-in-law who intends to glean in his fields?  Perhaps Naomi still too focused on herself, as she was when she told the women of Bethlehem that she left "full"-a happy and wealthy woman, but that God had sent her back to Bethlehem "empty"-forgetting to be grateful for Ruth who returned with her (1:21).

Question: How does Ruth express her anxiety about gleaning in the fields of Bethlehem?
Answer: She expresses the hope that she will find someone with a kind-heart to allow her to glean near him and who will offer her his protection.

It was dangerous for a poor, single young woman who did not have the protection of a man to be gleaning in a field full of strange men.  Notice that for the first time Naomi calls Ruth "daughter," suggesting that Ruth's love, devotion and sense of responsibility for the welfare of her mother-in-law is reciprocated by Naomi.

The process of bringing in the harvest was hard work and involved eight basic steps:

  1. The stalks of ripened grain were cut with hand sickles and laid on the ground by men (Dt 16:9; 23:25; Jer 50:16; Joel 3:13).  Ancient Egyptian art depict women also involved in reaping the grain.
  2. The cut stalks were gathered into bundles and tied into sheaves (Gen 37:7; Job 24:10; Ps 126:6) which were then set upright to prevent moisture from causing mold or mildew.  Ancient art depicts men, women and children involved in this activity (Rt 2:7, 15), which Scripture describes as a joyous occasion (Ps 126:6; 129:7-8).  The corners of the field and any stalks of grain that happened to fall were to be left for the "gleaners," the poor who under the Law had the right to gather the gleanings (Lev 19:9-10; 23:22). Some sheaves were also deliberately left behind for the poor (Dt 24:19; Job 24:10; Rt 2:7, 15).
  3. The bundled and dried sheaves were then transported to the threshing site (Rt 3:6-7; Amos 2:13; Mic 4:12).  The "threshing floor" was a flat elevated area with a smooth surface, usually on a hill top where afternoon winds would help in the winnowing process.
  4. At the threshing floor the grain was loosed from the straw and chaff by "threshing."  This part of the process was usually accomplished by oxen treading on the stalks (Dt 25:4; Hos 10:11) or by using the wheels of carts (Is 28:28) or by oxen drawing wooden sleds with notched rims (Dt 25:4; Is 28:27; 41:15; Amos 1:3; 1 Cor 9:9).
  5. At this point the process of "winnowing" began.  The grain was tossed into the air with winnowing forks (Is 30:24; Jer 15:7). Hopefully, the wind cooperated by blowing away the chaff while the heavier grain fell to the ground (Ps 1:4), but in the absence of wind, winnowing fans were used to create a breeze.
  6. The grain was gathered and sifted (Am 9:9) to remove any foreign debris like stones, dirt particles or manure. 
  7. The clean grain was bagged and transported either for storage in a silo or to the market for sale (Gen 41:35-36, 47-49).
  8. The chaff was burned in bonfires and the community celebrated with singing, dancing and feasting (Rt 3:7; Is 5:24; 9:2/3; Mt 3:12; Lk 3:17).

Question: How did John the Baptist symbolically use the image of the harvest and the threshing floor in His confrontation with the religious leadership of the Old Covenant and in his message to the crowds?  See Mt 3:7-12 and Lk 3:15-18.
Answer: He used the harvest and the threshing floor as images of the Messiah's power to bring God's divine judgment to the righteous and the wicked.

In the Bible the "harvest" and the "threshing floor" are often used as symbols of divine judgment.  The altar David built for Yahweh and later the site of the Jerusalem Temple where God sifted the souls of the just from the wicked was formerly the site of a threshing floor (2 Sam 24:18-25; 1 Chr 21:18-28; 2 Chr 3:1).  The imagery of the threshing floor and God's judgment is found in other Old Testament books (i.e., Dan 2:35-36; Ps 1:4-6; 35:5; Job 21:17-18; Jer 51:33; Joel 4:13).  Both John the Baptist and Jesus spoke of the prelude to the Last Judgment being the harvesting of souls by the angels of God and the separating of the good souls, the grain, from the wicked, the chaff (Mt 3:12; Lk 3:17; 13:36-43; Jn 4:35-36).  The same imagery is found in the Book of Revelation (Rev 14:14-20).  It is interesting that the single most climactic moment in this story will take place on Bethlehem's threshing floor when Boaz must make a decision that will have an impact on his life and on salvation history.

Ruth 2:3b-7 ~ Ruth supports Naomi by gleaning food
3b Chance led her to a plot of land belonging to Boaz of Elimelech's clan.  4 Boaz, as it happened, had just come from Bethlehem.  'Yahweh be with you!' he said to the reapers. 'Yahweh bless you!' They replied.  5 Boaz said to a servant [the young man] of his who was in charge of the reapers, 'To whom does this young woman belong?'  6 And the servant [young man] in charge of the reapers replied, 'The girl [young woman] is the Moabitess, the one who came back with Naomi from the Plains of Moab.  7 She said, "Please let me glean and pick up what falls from the sheaves behind the reapers."  Thus she came, and here she stayed, with hardly a rest from morning until now.'
[..] =
literal translation IBHE, page 702.

This day is a turning point in Ruth's life.  Verses 3b and 4 are the first of several examples of the providence of God working in the lives of Ruth and Naomi.  What appears to be chance that Ruth has unknowingly chosen a field belonging to Naomi's kinsman, chance that Boaz just happens to visit his workers as Ruth is gleaning and just happens to notice Ruth is not chance at all but part of God's divine plan.  It is a reminder that God is the hero of this story.

'Yahweh be with you!' he said to the reapers. 'Yahweh bless you!' They replied.  Boaz's greeting invoking Yahweh's covenant name is both a greeting and a blessing for his workers, who are under Yahweh's protection.  Notice how frequently Yahweh's name is used by the people in the story.  Indeed, when God identified Himself to Moses as Yahweh, a name used by Abraham (Gen 15:2), He told Moses This is my name for all time, and thus I am to be invoked for all generations to come (Ex 3:15)At this time there was no invented pious restriction against using God's personal, covenant name.  By the 1st century AD, God's name was only uttered aloud in the daily Tamid liturgical worship services.

Greetings in the ancient world often included acts as well as words.  The spoken greeting could be accompanied by a kiss on the hand or on both cheeks of the face or falling on the neck and embracing if the person was a close kinsman (Gen 27:27-28; 48:10) , or by bowing or kneeling or even prostrating oneself before a superior (Gen 18:2; 19:1; 23:12; Rt 2:10; 1 Sam 20:41; 25:23; 2 Sam 15:5; 1 Kng 1:16; Mk 10:17).  Salutations were given at meetings as well as at partings (i.e., 1 Sam 1:17; 20:42; 2 Sam 15:9; Mk 5:34).  Boaz's men probably bowed in his presence to show their respect.

Question: What was Jesus' favorite greeting that we repeat in the celebration of the Mass?  See Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19, 21, 26.
Answer: "Peace be with you."

Ruth 2:5 ~ Boaz said to a servant [young man] of his who was in charge of the reapers, 'To whom does this young woman belong?' 

Boaz notices Ruth and asks his estate manager about her.  "To whom does this young woman belong" may refer to her husband or to the family or clan to which she belongs.   He is presuming that his estate manager has hired her.  The Hebrew word translated as "young-woman" refers to a young woman of marriageable age (Hubbard, page 146).

Estate managers presided over the laborers (same Hebrew word in 2 Sam 9:9-10). Ruth is identified as a Moabitess, an identification that is repeated five times in the Book of Ruth (Rt 1:22; 2:2, 21; 4:5, 10). 

Ruth 2:6-7 ~ 6 And the servant [young man] in charge of the reapers replied, 'The girl [young woman] is the Moabitess, the one who came back with Naomi from the Plains of Moab.  7 She said, "Please let me glean and pick up what falls from the sheaves behind the reapers."  Thus she came, and here she stayed, with hardly a rest from morning until now.'

Notice that although it is her right as both a foreigner and a poor widow to glean in the field that she asks permission from the chief servant.  Her action demonstrates not only courage but sensible restraint in first seeking permission. 

Question: Ruth's request to the foreman in verse 7 to "follow behind the reapers" and to glean from what falls from the sheaves (the bound stalks) is interesting.  According to the Law, the poor had the right to pick up any stalks that the reapers had dropped, but what limitation does Ruth place on her gleaning in verse 7?
Answer: She will not glean from the dropped stalks of the reapers, but she will glean after the sheaves have been tied in bundles and set upright.  This will limit her take, but it assures the foreman that she will not take advantage of his generosity in allowing her to glean the field.

Question: What report does the foreman give his master concerning Ruth?
Answer: Ruth is the young Moabitess who returned with Naomi, she respectfully requested to glean the field after the stalks have been sheaved and she is a hard worker.  She had worked without stopping gathering the gleanings left by Boaz's workers.

Boaz must have been impressed.  He has already heard about Ruth and her devotion to Naomi from the other village women (see Rt 2:11).

Boaz's workers were not slaves but free Israelites or visiting foreign workers who hired themselves out to work the harvest for a agreed upon wage.  Jesus tells a parable about a landowner hiring such workers in Matthew 20:1-16.    In ancient Israel the harvesting of the grain took place in the spring from immediately after the Feast of Firstfruits, a feast falling on the day after the holy Sabbath of Unleavened Bread, after the spring equinox and the first full moon (c. late March to April) to the end of May.  The first harvest was the flax and barley followed fifty days later by the wheat harvest.

Ruth 2:8-16 ~ Boaz offers Ruth his protection
8 Boaz said to Ruth, 'Listen to me, daughter.  You must not go gleaning in any other field.  You must not go away from here.  Stay close to my work-women [young women].  9 Keep your eyes on whatever part of the field they are reaping and follow behind.  I have forbidden my men [young men] to molest [touch] you.  And if you are thirsty, go to the pitchers and drink what the servants [young men] have drawn.'  10 Ruth fell on her face, prostrated herself and said, 'How have I attracted your favor [found grace in your eyes], for you to notice me, who am only a foreigner?'  11 Boaz replied, 'I have been told all about the way you have behaved to your mother-in-law since your husband's death, and how you left your own father and mother and the land where you were born to come to a people of whom you previously knew nothing.  12 May Yahweh repay you for what you have done, and may you be richly rewarded by Yahweh, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!'  13 She said, 'My lord, I hope you will always look on me with favor!  You have comforted and encouraged me [spoken to the heart of your handmaiden], though I am not even the equal of one of your work-women [handmaidens].  14 When it was time to eat, Boaz said to her, 'Come and eat some of this bread and dip your piece in the vinegar.'  Ruth sat down beside the reapers and Boaz made a heap of roasted grain for her; she ate till her hunger was satisfied, and she had some left over.  15 When she had got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his work-people [young men], 'Let her glean among the sheaves themselves.  Do not molest her [shame her].  16 And be sure you pull a few ears of corn out of the bundles and drop them.  Let her glean them, and do not scold her.'  17So she gleaned in the field till evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned and it came to about a bushel of barley [literally an ephah of barley].   [..] = literal translation IBHE, pages 702-4.

God's providence had brought Boaz and Ruth together, but now the next step was up to Boaz-how would the wealthy Israelite nobleman respond to this destitute foreign girl?  Their encounter is a turning point in the story.

Ruth 2:8 ~ Boaz said to Ruth, 'Listen to me, daughter. 

Boaz graciously places Ruth under his protection.  She is a kinswoman by marriage and so he can address her as either "sister" or "daughter." In the Bible, wives, women relation by blood or marriage, or women who share the bond of God's holy covenant are often addressed as sister:

"Sister" is a title Christians reserve in our modern age for those women of the New Covenant in Christ who take the vow to devote their lives to God's service.

That Boaz calls Ruth "my daughter" may suggest that he is closer to Naomi's generation than to Ruth's.  It is the term Naomi uses to address Ruth five times (Rt 2:2, 22; 3:1, 16, 18), and Boaz will use the same term for Ruth three times (2:8; 3:10 and 11).  It is interesting that the inspired writer, others in the story and Boaz himself refers to Ruth and his men and women workers consistently as "young men" and "young women" fourteen times in the Hebrew text of Ruth:

All of which may suggest that the Boaz and the inspired writer consider Boaz to be of the older generation.

Question: What is significant about Boaz addressing Ruth as "my daughter" rather than using the term "young woman" that he used with the foreman when asking about Ruth?
Answer: He addresses her in the tender but proper distance of a father to a daughter not as a man to an unattached woman. 

Previously we recognized Ruth as a symbol of hesed, but now we see the same covenant loyalty displayed by Boaz.  These are two people of extraordinary character.

Ruth 2:8b-9 ~ You must not go gleaning in any other field.  You must not go away from here.  Stay close to my work-women [young women].  9 Keep your eyes on whatever part of the field they are reaping and follow behind.  I have forbidden my men [young men] to molest [touch] you.  And if you are thirsty, go to the pitchers and drink what the servants have drawn.'

Question: Boaz gives Ruth a series of what five commands?
Answer:

  1. Do not glean in other fields
  2. Stay in my fields
  3. Stay close to my young women
  4. Follow behind the reapers
  5. When thirsty, go and drink what my servants have brought to the fields

Ruth 2:10 ~ Ruth fell on her face, prostrated herself and said, 'How have I attracted your favor [found grace in your eyes], for you to notice me, who am only a foreigner?'

Ruth displays both her modesty and her gratitude to Boaz. 

Question: What does Ruth's posture and words suggest as she responds to Boaz's greeting?
Answer: She acknowledges his greeting by responding as a person of lesser status, falling on her face.  She also responds graciously, acknowledging her gratitude for his kind words and expressing her surprise that he is extending his kindness to a woman who is not of his people.

Ruth 2:11-12 ~ Boaz replied, 'I have been told all about the way you have behaved to your mother-in-law since your husband's death, and how you left your own father and mother and the land where you were born to come to a people of whom you previously knew nothing.  12 May Yahweh repay you for what you have done, and may you be richly rewarded by Yahweh, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!'

Boaz acknowledges that he has inquired about Naomi's plight and the role Ruth has played in her faithful loyalty to his kinswoman.  It is for this reason that Boaz asks Yahweh's blessing on Ruth as recompense for her righteous actions. 

under whose wings you have come for refuge!
In voicing his blessing, Boaz speaks in beautiful poetic imagery of God's loving protection for those who seek refuge in Him.  The same imagery is found in Dt 32:10-11, 37; Ps 17:8; 36:8; 61:6; 63:8; 91:4 and by Jesus in Mt 23:37

Question: How is Boaz's petition to Yahweh for a reward for Ruth a summary of the theme of the Book of Ruth?
Answer: Whoever seeks the shelter of Yahweh will be rewarded.

The Jewish Study Bible notes that the Rabbis interpret this phrase as a reference to Ruth's conversion (page 1582 note 8).

The main meal of the day was usually taken at noon.  Ruth had probably been working since dawn.  "Vinegar" in verse 14 refers to the cheap red wine that the land owner provided for the harvesters.

15 When she had got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his work-people, 'Let her glean among the sheaves themselves.  Do not molest her [shame her].  16 And be sure you pull a few ears of corn out of the bundles and drop them.  Let her glean them, and do not scold her.'  17 So she gleaned in the field till evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned and it came to about a bushel of barley [literally an ephah of barley].    

Question: What five commands did Boaz give his servants concerning Ruth?
Answer:

  1. Let her glean among the sheaves themselves
  2. Do not molest/shame her
  3. Pull a few ears out of the bundles and drop them for her
  4. Let her glean unhindered
  5. Do not scold her

Ruth gleaned an ephah of barley.  The ephah was a large container holding between 21/22 liters or about 4 gallons or .62 bushels (Archaeological Study Bible, page 389; Navarre Bible Commentary, page 199).  Ruth had worked very hard to gather this unusually large amount of barley for one day's gleaning.

Question: Boaz's treatment of Ruth not only demonstrated his "hesed" to a kinswoman and an impoverished foreigner by marriage but fulfills what other command of the Law?  It is the same command Jesus will quote Mt 22:39 as the second greatest commandment after love of God, expanding the command beyond one's kinsmen and women; see Lev 19:18.
Answer: This righteous man is also fulfilling the command to "love your neighbor as yourself."

Concerning Boaz's kindness toward Ruth, St. Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167 AD) wrote: When Boaz observed the poverty of Ruth, the Moabite, he spoke to her as she was gathering ears of corn behind his reapers, consoled her and invited her to the table of his servants, and sparing in kindly fashion her embarrassment, he ordered his reapers to leave ears of corn even purposely so that she might collect them without shame.  In the same way we ought to more adroitly to seek out the needs of our friends, anticipate their requests by good services, and observe such demeanor in our giving that the recipient, rather than the giver, appears to be bestowing the favor.

Question: What does the Church call the charitable acts by which we come to the aid of "our neighbor" in bodily and spiritual distress?  See CCC 2447
Answer: The works of mercy.

Question: Can you name the spiritual and corporal acts of mercy?  See Is 58:6-7; Lk 11:41; Mt 25:31-46; Jam 2:15-16; Heb 13:3, and CCC 2447.
Answer: Spiritual works of mercy: Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. Corporal works of mercy: almsgiving to the poor, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.

Question: What do Tobit 12:9, Sirach 29:8-13 tell us about such acts of mercy?
Answer: Acts of mercy atone for sins, and the spiritual reward God will give to you will be greater than the money you spent.

Ruth 2:18-23 ~ Ruth tells Naomi about her meeting with Boaz
18 Taking it with her, she went back to the town.  Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. Ruth also took out what she had kept after eating all she wanted, and gave that to her.  19 Her mother-in-law said, 'Where have you been gleaning today?  Where have you been working?  Blessed be the man who took notice of you!' Ruth told her mother-in-law in whose field she had been working.  'The name of the man with whom I have been working today', she said, 'is Boaz.'  20 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, 'May he be blessed by Yahweh who does not withhold his faithful love [hesed] from the living or dead!  This man', Naomi added, 'is a close relation of ours [goalim].  He is one of those who have the right of redemption over us.'  21 Ruth the Moabitess said to her mother-in-law, 'He also said, "Stay with my work-people [young men] until they have finished my whole harvest."'  22 Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, 'It is better for you, daughter, to go with his work-women [young women] than to go to some other field where you might be ill-treated [and that men may not attack you in another field].'  23 So she stayed with Boaz's work-women [young women], and gleaned until the barley and wheat harvests were finished.  And she went on living with her mother-in-law. [..] = literal translation, IBHE, page 704.

Seeing the grain that Ruth has gleaned, Naomi is suddenly hopeful and thankful.  She blesses (baruk) the unknown benefactor by Yahweh's name in 2:19 and cites Yahweh's divine faithfulness (hesed). When she learns the name of the benefactor in 2:20, Naomi blesses Boaz a second time, this time by name for his hesed/covenant loyalty to Naomi and Ruth and therefore to his deceased kinsmen. 

The women are grateful for Boaz's offer of protection for Ruth.  Not only is she a young woman who might be taken advantage of by the male workers, but she is the daughter of a people who are Israel's enemies and racial hatred for her people might put her in danger.

Question: How many times in chapter two are there allusions made to Boaz's protection of Ruth from his workers?
Answer: Four times in Ruth 2:8, 15, 16, and 22.

This man', Naomi added, 'is a close relation [goalim] of ours.  He is one of those who have the right of redemption over us.' 

Goalim is the plural of go'el, "redeemer."  A person's go'el was a blood relative who had the obligation to come to the rescue of his kinsman/kinswoman who was in difficult circumstances and could not sort out those circumstances him or herself.  For example:

Naomi identifies Boaz as a close kinsman who has the authority to exercise the right of redemption as the Go'el Haddam "Blood Redeemer" over Naomi and her kin under the Law of the Sinai Covenant.

Question: What were the three qualifications the Go'el Haddam (Blood Redeemer) had to be willing fulfill under the Law?  See Lev 25:24-55 and Dt 25:5-10?
Answer:

The Qualifications for a Go'el Haddam
(Blood Redeemer)
Scripture Passages

1. He must be related by blood to those he redeems. Lev 25:23-25, 48-49;
Dt 25:5, 7-10
2. He must have the necessary resources to pay the price of redemption. Lev 25:25-26
3. He must be willing to redeem. Dt 25:7, 9
M. Hunt © copyright 2010

Ruth 2:21-22 ~ Ruth the Moabitess said to her mother-in-law, 'He also said, "Stay with my work-people [young men] until they have finished my whole harvest."'  22 Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, 'It is better for you, daughter, to go with his work-women [young women] than to go to some other field where you might be ill-treated [and that men may not attack you in another field].' 

Question: How does Naomi correct Ruth's statement in verse 21, a correction which reminds the read of the dangers Ruth faced gleaning among strangers?
Answer: Ruth mentions staying among Boaz's young men and Naomi responds that is better for her to stay among the young women and to not go into another field where she might be molested.

Ruth 2:23 ~ So she stayed with Boaz's work-women [young women], and gleaned until the barley and wheat harvests were finished.  And she went on living with her mother-in-law.

There were seven weeks which totaled fifty days (fifty days as the ancients counted with no concept of a zero place-value and counting the day of Firstfruits as day #1) between the first offering of the barley harvest and the first offering of the wheat harvest.  On the fiftieth day after the Feast of Firstfruits, which always fell on a Sunday, the first of the wheat was harvested and presented to Yahweh at His Sanctuary (Lev 23:15-21).  This annual feast was called Shavuot in Hebrew, in English the Feast of "Weeks."  It was named for the seven weeks that were counted from Firstfruits.  In the first century AD the Feast of Weeks was called the Feast of Pentecost ("Pentecost" means fiftieth-day in Greek).  This annual feast was one of the three so-called "pilgrim feasts" where every man of the covenant must present himself before Yahweh's holy altar of sacrifice (Ex 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Dt 16:16; 2 Chr 8:13).

Question: What critical event in salvation history occurred on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost in the spring of 30 AD?  See Mt 28:1-6; Acts 1:1-3, 9; 2:1-3.  Note: the feasts of Firstfruits and Weeks/Pentecost, according to the Law were to always fall on the first day of the week, our Sunday.
Answer: The Jewish feast of Weeks/Pentecost was the day God the Holy Spirit filled and indwelled the members of the New Covenant Church praying in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, fifty days after Jesus' Resurrection on the Feast of Firstfruits.

Question: How does the Church determine the date to celebrate the Christian feast of Pentecost today?  Consult a liturgical calendar and count the days from Resurrection Sunday to Pentecost.  Count as the ancients counted with Resurrection Sunday as day #1.
Answer: Pentecost is fifty days from Easter Sunday, as the ancients counted, with Pentecost always falling on a Sunday.  Today the Church determines the time between the Christian holy days in the same way that the Jews counted the days between the holy days of Firstfruits and Weeks/Pentecost.

Question: What were the three "pilgrim feasts"?  See Ex 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Dt 16:16; 2 Chr 8:13.
Answer: The Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost, and the Feast of Shelters (Booths)/Tabernacles.

The action in this part of the story takes place after Boaz and the other member of the community have returned from attending the pilgrim feast of Weeks at Yahweh's Sanctuary at Shiloh where the men made their offerings of the first fruits of the wheat harvest at Yahweh's Sacred Assembly (Lev 23:15-22; Num 28:26-31).

Question: Jesus fulfilled all seven of the sacred annual festivals (see Col 3:16-17).  How did He fulfill the Feast of Firstfruits on Resurrection Sunday?  See 1 Cor 15:20-23.
Answer: Jesus Christ is the first fruits of the resurrected dead.

~ CHAPTER 3:1-5 ~

And truly he did not speak falsely in saying so; for the festival, which we call Pentecost, did then all out to be the next day to the Sabbath ...
Flavius Josephus, Antiquates of the Jews, 13.8.4 [252]

Ruth 3:1-5 ~ Naomi's advise to Ruth at the end of the wheat harvest
1 Her mother-in-law Naomi then said, 'Daughter, is it not my duty to see you happily settled?  2 And Boaz, the man with whose work-women [young women] you were, is he not our kinsman?  Tonight he will be winnowing the barley on the threshing-floor.  3 So wash and perfume yourself, put on your cloak and go down to the threshing-floor.  Don't let him recognize you while he is still eating and drinking.  4 But when he lies down, take note where he lies, then go and turn back the covering at his feet and lie down yourself.  He will tell you what to do.'  5 Ruth said, 'I shall do everything you tell me.' [..] = literal translation IBHE, pages 704-5.

Question: According to Ruth 1:22 and 2:23 about how much time has passed since Naomi and Ruth came to live in Bethlehem?
Answer: The barley harvest began as soon as the men had returned from the festivals of Passover (Abib 14th), Unleavened Bread (Abib 15-21st) and Firstfruits (on the day after the Sabbath with the 7 days of Unleavened Bread).  The Feast of Weeks/Pentecost was fifty days after Firstfruits.  The wheat harvest began after the men returned from the festival and probably continued through the next month and a half.  It can be estimated that at this time Naomi and Ruth had been in Bethlehem at least three months.

This is the point at which one might say, "Ah-ha, the plot thickens!" Encouraged by Boaz's kindness to Ruth, Naomi has a plan.  Robbers sometimes attacked the harvest at threshing time (1 Sam 23:1), so during the threshing and winnowing the laborers slept on the threshing floor with the grain, both working late into the night since the winds helpful to winnowing came up in the late afternoon and evening and to guard the harvest. 

Question: What opportunity does Naomi see in this tradition of the workers and landowners sleeping on the threshing-floor?
Answer: Naomi sees this as the opportunity for Ruth to approach Boaz and formally request that he become her Go'el Haddam.

Ruth 3:3 ~ So wash and perfume yourself, put on your cloak and go down to the threshing-floor.  Don't let him recognize you while he is still eating and drinking.  Naomi gives Ruth a series of instructions and the surprising command not to approach Boaz or let him see her during the evening.

According to the teaching of the Jewish rabbis, Ruth's preparations were symbolic of her conversion:

(The Jewish Study Bible, page 1583).

Ruth 3:4 ~ But when he lies down, take note where he lies, then go and turn back the covering at his feet and lie down yourself.  He will tell you what to do.'
The end of the harvest was a time of celebration, feasting and drinking too much wine.  Naomi's intentions for Ruth may not have been honorable.  Some commentators, including the Jewish Study Bible, suggest that it may have been Naomi's plan to entrap Boaz by arranging a sexual encounter with Ruth while Boaz was both sleepy and drunk.  To "cover with one's cloak" is a symbolic request for marriage, as in Yahweh's desire to make Israel His bride: Your time had come, the time for love.  I spread my cloak over you and covered your nakedness... and you became mine (Ez 16:8).  But to "uncover," especially a man's feet or legs, suggests a non-verbal request for sexual contact or the sexual act itself, feet or legs being a euphemism for the sexual organs-exactly what was Ruth to uncover?   See Genesis 9:22 where Ham "uncovered" his father's nakedness; see the sexual prohibitions in Leviticus 18:6-17 in which the literal translation is "uncover her nakedness" for the sexual act; also see Deuteronomy 23:1 ~ A man must not take his father's wife; he must not withdraw the skirt of his father's cloak from her and 27:20 ~ Accursed be anyone who has sexual intercourse with his father's wife and withdraws the skirt of his father's cloak from her (emphasis added). 

Then too, the verb "to lie down" appears eight times in this chapter (three times in 3:4, in 7 twice, 8, 13 and 14) and is suggestive of sexual contact together with the frequent use of the verb "to know" which contributes the sexual innuendo (3:11, 14, 18).  Naomi's instructions to Ruth had risks and her motives may not have been righteous, but we have at the center of this drama two people who have behaved with modesty and righteousness.  We shall see that in this case character overcomes circumstance when Ruth takes her own initiative in not completely following Naomi's instructions.

Question for group discussion:

If it was Naomi's intention to entrap Boaz in a marriage for the good of Ruth's future happiness, is her action justified?  Can a wrong ever be perpetrated with the excuse that good is intended to come from it?  See CCC 1786-1789.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2012 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for this chapter:

Rt 2:15-17 CCC 1844, 2055, 2196, 2445-7

Rt 2:23 CCC 732, 767, 1076, 1287

Rt 3:1-5 CCC 1786-1789