R U T H
There is scarcely any chapter in all the sacred history that stoops so low as this to take cognizance of so mean a person as Ruth, a poor Moabitish widow, so mean an action as her gleaning corn in a neighbour’s field, and the minute circumstances thereof. But all this was in order to her being grafted into the line of Christ and taken in among his ancestors, that she might be a figure of the espousals of the Gentile church to Christ, Isa. 54: 1. This makes the story remarkable; and many of the passages of it are instructive and very improvable. Here we have, I. Ruth’s humility and industry in gleaming corn, Providence directing her to Boaz’s field, ver. 1-3. II. The great favour which Boaz showed to her in many instances, ver. 4-16. III. The return of Ruth to her mother-in-law, ver. 18-23.
B. C. 1312.
1 And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. 3 And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.
Naomi had now gained a settlement in Bethlehem among her old friends; and here we have an account,
I. Of her rich kinsman, Boaz, a mighty man of wealth, v. 1. The Chaldee reads it, mighty in the law. If he was both, it was a most rare and excellent conjunction, to be mighty in wealth and mighty in the scriptures too; those that are so are mighty indeed. He was grandson of Nahshon, who was prince of the tribe of Judah in the wilderness, and son of Salmon, probably a younger son, by Rahab, the harlot of Jericho. He carries might in his name, Boaz–in him is strength; and he was of the family of Elimelech, that family which was now reduced and brought so low. Observe,
1. Boaz, though a rich and great man, had poor relations. Every branch of the tree is not a top-branch. Let not those that are great in the world be ashamed to own their kindred that are mean and despised, lest they be found therein proud, scornful, and unnatural.
2. Naomi, though a poor contemptible widow, had rich relations, whom yet she boasted not of, nor was burdensome to, nor expected any thing from when she returned to Bethlehem in distress. Those that have rich relations, while they themselves are poor, ought to know that it is the wise providence of God that makes the difference (in which we ought to acquiesce), and that to be proud of our relation to such is a great sin, and to trust to it is great folly.
II. Of her poor daughter-in-law, Ruth.
1. Her condition was very low and poor, which was a great trial to the faith and constancy of a young proselyte. The Bethlehemites would have done well if they had invited Naomi and her daughter-in-law first to one good house and then to another (it would have been a great support to an aged widow and a great encouragement to a new convert); but, instead of tasting the dainties of Canaan, they have no way of getting necessary food but by gleaning corn, and otherwise, for aught that appears, they might have starved. Note, God has chosen the poor of this world; and poor they are likely to be, for, though God has chosen them, commonly men overlook them.
2. Her character, in this condition, was very good (v. 2): She said to Naomi, not, “Let me now go to the land of Moab again, for there is no living here, here there is want, but in my father’s house there is bread enough.” No, she is not mindful of the country from which she came out, otherwise she had now a fair occasion to return. The God of Israel shall be her God, and, though he slay her, yet will she trust in him and never forsake him. But her request is, Let me go to the field, and glean ears of corn. Those that are well born, and have been well brought up, know not what straits they may be reduced to, nor what mean employments they may be obliged to get their bread by, Lam. 4:5. When the case is thus melancholy, let Ruth be remembered, who is a great example,
(1.) Of humility. When Providence had made her poor she did not say, “To glean, which is in effect to beg, I am ashamed,” but cheerfully stoops to the meanness of her circumstances and accommodates herself to her lot. High spirits can more easily starve than stoop; Ruth was none of those. She does not tell her mother she was never brought up to live upon crumbs. Though she was not brought up to it, she is brought down to it, and is not uneasy at it. Nay, it is her own motion, not her mother’s injunction. Humility is one of the brightest ornaments of youth, and one of the best omens. Before Ruth’s honour was this humility. Observe how humbly she speaks of herself, in her expectation of leave to glean: Let me glean after him in whose sight I shall find grace. She does not say, “I will go and glean, and surely nobody will deny me the liberty,” but, “I will go and glean, in the hope that somebody will allow me the liberty.” Note, Poor people must not demand kindness as a debt, but humbly ask it, and take it as a favour, though in ever so small a matter. It becomes the poor to use entreaties.
(2.) Of industry. She does not say to her mother-in-law, “Let me now go a visiting to the ladies of the town, or go a walking in the fields to take the air and be merry; I cannot sit all day moping with you.” No, it is not sport, but business, that her heart is upon: “Let me go and glean ears of corn, which will turn to some good account.” She was one of those virtuous women that love not to eat the bread of idleness, but love to take pains. This is an example to young people. Let them learn betimes to labour, and, what their hand finds to do, do it with their might. A disposition to diligence bodes well both for this world and the other. Love not sleep, love not sport, love not sauntering; but love business. It is also an example to poor people to work for their living, and not beg that which they are able to earn. We must not be shy of any honest employment, though it be mean, ergon ouden oneidos—No labour is a reproach. Sin is a thing below us, but we must not think any thing else so That Providence calls us to.
(3.) Of regard to her mother. Though she was but her mother-in-law, and though, being loosed by death from the law of her husband, she might easily suppose herself thereby loosed from the law of her husband’s mother, yet she is dutifully observant of her. She will not go out without letting her know and asking her leave. This respect young people ought to show to their parents and governors; it is part of the honour due to them. She did not say, “Mother, if you will go with me, I will go glean:” but, “Do you sit at home and take your ease, and I will go abroad, and take pains.” Juniores ad labores–Youth should work. Let young people take advice from the aged, but not put them upon toil.
(4.) Of dependence upon Providence, intimated in that, I will glean after him in whose sight I shall find grace. She knows not which way to go, nor whom to enquire for, but will trust Providence to raise her up some friend or other that will be kind to her. Let us always keep us good thoughts of the divine providence, and believe that while we do well it will do well for us. And it did well for Ruth; for when she went out alone, without guide or companion, to glean, her hap was to light on the field of Boaz, v. 3. To her it seemed casual. She knew not whose field it was, nor had she any reason for going to that more than any other, and therefore it is said to be her hap; but Providence directed her steps to this field. Note, God wisely orders small events; and those that seem altogether contingent serve his own glory and the good of his people. Many a great affair is brought about by a little turn, which seemed fortuitous to us, but was directed by Providence with design.
– Matthew Henry Commentary