The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem: And let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the Lord shall give thee of this young woman.
Ruth 4:11-12We are all familiar with the story of Ruth. Ruth was a Moabitish woman who married into the family of Elimelech during the period of the Judges. Elimelech and his wife Naomi had moved from Bethlehem of Judah to Moab with their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, during the time of famine. In Moab, Mahlon and Chilion took wives of Moab, Ruth and Orpah. It was not a happy time for the family of Elimelech in Moab. Elimelech died, as did also his two sons, leaving three widows. This was God’s chasteningfor a family that should have stayed in Canaan, the land of promise.
When Naomi decided to return to her home in Bethlehem, Ruth insisted on going with her. This was because the Lord had worked in her heart to turn her from idols to serve Him, the living and true God. Ruth not only accompanied Naomi to Bethlehem but also supported her by gleaning in the fields.
God in His providence brought Ruth to the fields of Boaz, who was a close relative of Elimelech’s family. When Boaz showed great kindness to Ruth, she proposed marriage to him at Naomi’s suggestion. The law required that when a man died childless, the next of kin must marry his widow to raise up seed in the name of his deceased relative. Ruth proposed to Boaz that he perform the duty of the next of kin. But there was a closer relative than Boaz. And so Boaz agreed to marry Ruth provided the closer relative refused to perform his duty of a kin.
This brought Boaz to the city gate, where legal transactions were conducted before the elders and the citizens. The one closer to Ruth than Boaz declined to perform his duty as next of kin. So Boaz expressed his intention of performing this duty, acquiring not only Ruth but also the fields of Elimelech.
The elders and those that witnessed this transaction pronounced a benediction (word of blessing) on Boaz and Ruth that the Lord prosper them and make them famous through their children.
This word of blessing is also our desire for every couple that joins in marriage and that brings forth children.
A glorious benediction! The benediction expressed by the elders and citizens of Bethlehem was that Boaz would do worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem. To do worthily means to prosper. It includes such ideas as being strong and wealthy. To be famous means to make a name for oneself. This was the express desire of the citizens of Bethlehem for Boaz as he entered his marriage with Ruth and lived in the region of Ephratah and the city of Bethlehem.
The citizens of Bethlehem gave content to this wish in the rest of what they said.
They spoke of the house of Israel that Rachel and Leah did build.
To build a house for someone means to give him offspring. The term “house” is often applied in the Bible to family and children, so that one who begets children builds a house. Under the Lord’s blessing, Rachel and Leah built a house for Jacob. They gave Jacob twelve sons and one daughter. Actually, there were two other mothers that were involved in building the house of Jacob, Bilhah and Zilpah; but because they were concubines, they had no legal status, and thus were not mentioned.
Through the house that Rachel and Leah built for Jacob, he prospered and became famous. This is because Jacob’s house developed into the great nation of Israel—a nation of prosperity and fame. One who fathers a prosperous and famous nation shares in its prosperity and fame.
This prosperity and fame of Jacob and his house was not just physical. It was primarily spiritual. Certainly, the house that Jacob built did become wealthy and prosperous from an earthly point of view. It eventually developed into a mighty nation that conquered and occupied the land of Canaan. It became a great nation among the nations. But the prosperity and fame of Jacob’s house was primarily that it became the covenant people of Jehovah God, whom He had chosen out of all the nations of the world to receive His blessings.
The citizens and elders of Bethlehem also spoke of the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah.
Boaz was of the house of Pharez.
The house of Pharez had an ignoble beginning in that it was born of incest. Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law, who played the harlot, so that through Judah she would conceive and raise up a child to her dead husband, Er, whom the Lord smote for his wickedness (cf. Gen. 38).
In spite of its humble beginnings, the Lord prospered the house of Pharez and made it famous. It became, in fact, the leading family in the tribe of Judah. This becomes evident in the genealogies of Israel recorded in Genesis, I Chronicles, and Nehemiah.
This was evidently the Lord’s blessing on the house of Pharez for its faithfulness to the Lord. The Lord blessed faithfulness with prosperity and fame. This is evident from the lives of Joseph and David. In turn, the Lord judged those families that were unfaithful. All one has to do is think of the houses of Eli and King Saul.
The benediction of the citizens of Bethlehem for Boaz (and Ruth) was that the Lord would bless them in the same way that He had blessed the houses of Jacob and Pharez. They desired that under the Lord’s blessing Ruth would build a house for Boaz and that in this house Boaz would prosper and become famous. Their desire was that Boaz and his house would flourish in the covenant and even become famous for their place in the covenant—a leading family in the covenant. They also desired that Boaz and his family would prosper materially. Remember, God’s covenant blessings were inseparably connected in the Old Testament to material prosperity in Canaan.
This desire for covenant prosperity and fame is our desire for every family in the church. It is our desire that under the providence and grace of God every couple that marries in the Lord build a house with children. It is also our desire that the Lord prosper them so that their home will be a covenant home, with children who not only give joy to them but also make them famous for the godliness of their children.
A divine response
The Lord responded to the benediction by prospering Boaz and Ruth and making them famous.
In the immediately following verses we learn how. The Lord blessed Boaz and Ruth with a child, whom they named Obed. Through Obed, Boaz and Ruth became the great grandparents of David, the great king of Israel, who was a man after God’s own heart. In David the Lord prospered Boaz and Ruth and made them famous. So highly did the Lord elevate David’s house that it became the ruling house of all Israel. But, more importantly, the Lord brought forth the Christ and Savior from David’s line.
This was the Lord’s reward for the faithfulness of Boaz and Ruth.
Boaz and Ruth were both very godly people. Boaz’s godliness is evident from the way he addressed his workers (Ruth 2:4: “The Lord be with you”). There was also the kindness he showed to Ruth as she gleaned in his fields. And there was his willingness to do the part of a kinsman. Ruth’s godliness was evident in how she insisted on accompanying Naomi, from Moab to Bethlehem, even though it promised to be only a life of poverty. There was also her faithful care of Naomi and her desire to raise up seed for the house of Elimelech.
This faithfulness the Lord blessed. He blessed this godliness with covenant children who learned from their parents to walk in the way of the Lord. He blessed this godliness with a place of prominence in the kingdom and covenant of God.
The Lord will respond similarly to godly parents today.
The Lord ordinarily blesses godly husbands and wives with covenant children. There are exceptions. Sometimes the Lord has special work for a couple that requires them to go childless. And this is God’s blessing of grace for them. But ordinarily the blessing of God for faithful husbands and wives is to build them a house of children and grandchildren.
And the Lord also blesses those parents who are faithful to the Lord with prosperity and renown in the house they build. The Lord brings their children to the salvation of the covenant, so that they and their parents prosper. The Lord often makes their family to be leading families in the church—leaders in godliness.
May this encourage parents to be faithful in all things of the covenant and to train their children faithfully in the truths of the covenant.
A great faithfulness!
In all this history we see the great faithfulness of Jehovah God to His covenant people Israel.
How unfaithful Israel had been as a nation. The book of Ruth places us at the end of the 400-year period of Judges. This was a period characterized by Israel’s repeated unfaithfulness, which brought the chastening rod of Jehovah’s wrath to correct them. The benediction of the citizens of Bethlehem on Boaz and Ruth pointed out that this unfaithfulness went way back into Israel’s history. The history of Jacob and his family displayed much unfaithfulness.
But Jehovah was faithful to His covenant people.
He was faithful in chastening them, rather than destroying them.
And now He showed His faithfulness in this history of Ruth. He brought, by His grace, this Moabitish woman into Israel to continue the house of Elimelech by marrying Boaz. By this union He created the family that would bring forth Israel’s great king, who would deliver them from all their troubles. From this family He brought forth David, who delivered Israel from her oppressors and led Israel into godliness. From this family He brought forth David’s son, the Christ, who delivers us from all our enemies to enjoy the blessings of the covenant fully.
Let us cling to and be encouraged by that faithfulness.
This faithful God will chasten us and our families, should we become unfaithful. But this faithful God will certainly bless us when we in Christ Jesus are faithful to Him, by making us prosper and be famous, as Boaz and Ruth.