Getting to Provide
And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” Ruth 2:20-21
A clue to the remainder of the story is then revealed when Naomi informs Ruth that Boaz was, in fact, a relative somehow connected to them through her deceased husband, Elimelech (see also 2:1). Consequently, Boaz was qualified to become a “redeemer” for the women if he so chose and if other relatives concurred.
In the Old Testament, the redeemer was a relative who would literally redeem people and property. If someone sold themselves into slavery/servitude to pay off a debt, the redeemer was the family member who could purchase their freedom (Leviticus 25:35-55). If a widow was in need, the redeemer would care for her (Ruth 4:4-10), and if someone was murdered, the redeemer would avenge the crime (Numbers 35:9-34). If someone was going to lose land because of poverty, the redeemer was the family member who would save the land by paying off the debt (Leviticus 25:23-34).
What’s curious about Naomi’s statement is that her words were true in the spirit, but not the letter, of the law. Boaz, in fact, had no legal obligation to Ruth because she wasn’t a blood relative like Naomi. Furthermore, Boaz wasn’t the closest relative to Naomi; another man was technically the legal redeemer. But because Naomi loved Ruth so dearly, she considered her as a daughter and expected her to be treated as such. In addition, because of her conversion, it seems that Ruth was no longer to be seen as anything less than a fully respected and cared for member of God’s people. In this, we see that sometimes we feel closer to people in God’s family than we do to those in our own family.
Ruth then explained that Boaz had appointed himself not only as her provider, but also her defender and protector for the remainder of the harvest. This would have been a period of perhaps six to seven weeks between late April and early June. And, in light of the amazing provision she received from one day’s labor in the field of Boaz, his invitation to continue on for the rest of the harvest was essentially an opportunity for her to make enough to care for herself and Naomi for the entire year in less than two months.
- How does Ruth’s humble and thankful acceptance of Boaz’s undeserved grace inform how we should respond to God’s undeserved grace toward us?
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