Ruth, so we saw, had made the good choice. She was dead to Moab, to the pleasures of Moab, which were the pleasures of sin; dead was she to Moab’s idols, but she was alive to God. Thus she wanted God, His people, and Naomi. Forsaking Moab and all that Moab represented, she went to God in Canaan. He was calling her to His sanctuary. Naomi, considering that the blessings of Abraham were for Israel alone—it was the dispensation of shadows—was insistent that Ruth return to her people. But she was adamant. Great was her faith and great therefore was her determination that nothing should deter her. “Cease urging me to leave thee. . . .” said she to Naomi. Then she left off speaking to her. But she was still doubtful. Yet, in the end she was made to see that Ruth was truly accepted of God. She gained permission of Naomi to go to the field and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight she might find grace, and the Lord directed her feet to the fields of Boaz, who bestowed upon her signal favors and blessed her. Considering her good confession and her love of God and of His people and of Naomi, mindful of how she had come to trust under the wings of Israel’s God, he perceived that she was of the sheep of God’s pasture, despite her being a Moabitess. Naomi, too, perceived, that the Lord had accepted Ruth’s person, and joyfully exclaimed, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead.’’ This exclamation of Naomi on hearing the name of Boaz, is worthy of careful attention. Without knowing what field to select, Ruth had lighted on that of Boaz. Without knowing who he was, she was favored by him. Naomi profoundly recognized God’s hand in this. Let us remember that her great grief was that God’s hand her. He had slain her husband. And her two sons had died in the land of Moab without children. Thus there was no man child left to her to perpetuate the name of her husband and to repossess his inheritance in Israel. Hence, his name was to be extinguished and as, upon Naomi’s death, his inheritance would go to his nearest kin, his very place in the Israelitish commonwealth, the (typical) city of God, would know him no more. That to her was the certain token that the Lord had forsaken her dead. He had blotted out their name and taken, from them their place in His country. This was her great grief. For to every God-fearing Israelite the land of Canaan was heaven. For there dwelt God. There His people sought and found His fellowship. Considering the calamity that had befallen her and the departed, it seemed that God had excluded her and them from His fellowship. It was as she lamented. “I went out full’’. T had husband and sons and a name and place in Israel.’ “And the Lord hath brought me home again empty,’’ empty of all these.
True, there was a law in Israel () that when a man died without issue, his brother was bound to marry his widow. This was the right of the woman. She could demand it of him, and if he refuse, put him openly to shame. The firstborn of the woman succeeded in the name of the deceased husband that his name be not put out in Israel. The law reads, “If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him a wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother unto her. And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.’’ Thus the firstborn, that she bore, was accounted the issue of the one who had died, in order that his name and place might be perpetuated in Israel. If a man die without children, a branch withered in the family tree. To remedy this, the brother married the widow, and regarded the son she bore as heir to the name and the inheritance of the deceased husband. And if there was no brother, the law, as given in Deut. 25:5ff, does not declare it, but it is an inference in accordance with its spirit, that in that case the obligation passes over to the nearest relative of the deceased. This is what the narrative of our book plainly shows. Naomi understood these things certainly. Yet, at first she could take no comfort from them, for she herself was too far advanced in years to bear and Ruth was a heathen with respect to whom the law could not operate. Of this she felt certain. To her mind there could be no husband for Ruth among Elimelech’s kin in Canaan. She could not see how the covenant of Jehovah, established, as it was, with Abraham, she must have perceived that any heathen, who like Ruth, came to trust under the wings of the Lord God of Israel, was accepted of him and His people. Boaz had understanding of this and likewise all the elders and the people. For Ruth is blessed of them all. There is the notice, “And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said,. . . . The Lord make the woman that is come unto 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 woman.” Assuredly, Naomi, too, knew that if the Moabitess truly sought she would find and that asking she would receive. Hence, the reason of her urging Ruth to return to her people was not that, to her mind, a truly converted heathen found no favor with God. Such a strange belief could not have been hers. The reason that she with such persistence, urged Ruth to return was that, whereas Ruth was a Moabitess, she had great difficulty in believing that Ruth, in cleaving to her, was truly being constrained by the love of Christ, and not by a purely natural love of Naomi. Either wittingly or unwittingly, she put Ruth to the severest test. And the test was endured. Everyone in Bethlehem, hearing Ruth’s story, concluded that her heart was with God and His people. And of God and His people she was accepted. And when Naomi heard of Ruth, that, without knowing what field to select, she had lighted on the field of Boaz, she instantaneously perceived that the Lord had not, as it had seemed, left off His kindness to the living and to the dead, that is, to her deceased husband and to her deceased son, the husband of Ruth. Having heard Ruth’s story of her experiences of the day, she was persuaded, that, however ill-deserving she and her dead might be, the Lord would not blot out Elimelech’s name but would perpetuate his name and place in Israel, and this by uniting Ruth and Boaz in marriage. Thus, despite her sins, the Lord was for her and the dead. She and they were forgiven. For He showed them kindness. Her joy was full. And she blessed Boaz.
That Naomi so interpreted Ruth’s lighting on the fields of Boaz and the latter’s kindly treatment of Ruth, is plain. Having heard Ruth’s story, she said to her, “The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen.” In saying this to Ruth, she had reference, certainly, to the obligation under which the law in Deut. 25:5ff. put Boaz with respect to Naomi, Ruth, and the dead. And even now, she was persuaded that Boaz would assume the obligation. How otherwise could she say that the Lord was showing kindness unto the living and the dead. The marriage would take place. Of that she was confident. It was in this confidence that she instructed Ruth to glean in no other field but that of Boaz for the rest of the season. It was again in this confidence that, at the end of the barley harvest, she actively sought rest for Ruth, that it might go well with her. She sent Ruth to request Boaz to fulfill the right. Now this right had its symbol, under which it was claimed. We are made acquainted with it by the words addressed by Ruth to Boaz, and by her action in drawing an end of the coverlet over herself. Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry, and he went to lie down at the end of a heap of corn. Then came Ruth softly, uncovered his feet, and laid her down. Becoming aware of her presence at midnight, he was startled. “Who art thou,” he said to her. And she said, “I am Ruth thy handmaid, spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.” The reply of Boaz is worthy of careful attention. “Blessed be thou of Jehovah, my daughter! Thou hast made thy latter kindness even more beautiful than the former, in as much as thou followest not young men whether rich or poor.” Ruth’s former kindness approved itself, when, after the death of her husband, she left parents and home in order to take care of her mother-in-law, unmoved by the certainty of misery and humiliation in a foreign land. And this is what she does now. Young and comely, she might before this looked out a husband according to her wish, rich or poor, from among the young men of Israel. But this she did not. Instead of preferring the love of young men, as were natural, she came to assert her right with one more advanced in years and this one was Boaz, her redeemer. She asked him for the protection of his wings, in order that he, a blood relative, may again raise up a name for her husband and mother-in-law. In this also she offered her heart and happiness as a sacrifice of love to her family. She had come to trust under the wing of Jehovah and she was ready to run the way of His commands. Doubtless Boaz was no longer young. But Ruth found rest with him more than she would have found among thousands of young men.
Trembling, Ruth had done what she had been instructed. What Boaz hitherto had said, contained no decision but only praise. Hence, he speaks to her again, addressing her as daughter. He will do all that she required: for “all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.” However, there was a kinsman, nearer than he, who proved unwilling. So Boaz took Ruth and she was his wife.