Beyond the Book of Ruth, Part 2
17So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket. 18 She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal. (The Book of Ruth, verses 17-18)
As soon as I read that Ruth had leftovers from the dinner provided by Boaz, I knew she’d share them with Naomi. This tells a lot about Ruth’s character. She didn’t hoard the leftovers, she took them home to her mother-in-law.
When Ruth told Naomi about her day, Naomi pronounced a blessing over Boaz. “He is one of our family’s redeemers,” she told Ruth. What did this mean? It meant that he was a near kinsman of Elimelech. Through his acts of kindness, Boaz was also showing respect for the dead.
I believe this is when Naomi began to form a plan. We know she trusted in Jehovah, so we’ll assume she prayed for direction. When the barley harvest was coming to an end, she gave some very specific instructions to her daughter-in-law:
“Tonight he [Boaz] will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. 3 Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.” –Ruth 3:2-4
After a grain harvest, the men “winnowed” the grain, which separated the grain from the stalk and chaff (the breeze or wind blew away the lighter outer covering of the grain). Then they must guard the grain until morning when it would be bagged or otherwise stored. Of course, after all their labor, they celebrated by “eating and drinking.”
Because Ruth trusted Naomi, she obeyed her. This obedience placed Ruth in a precarious position, but Naomi knew Boaz was a man of integrity, so she didn’t worry. While Boaz slept, Ruth “uncovered his feet, and lay down.” He woke around midnight and became alarmed when he found a woman lying there. He was confused. Had he drunk that much?
When she identified herself, and spoke as Naomi had instructed, Boaz knew what was happening. In a way accepted by the customs of their time, she’d proposed to Boaz. He was impressed. You see, Boaz was not a young man. We know this because he says in verse 10, “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before [in following Naomi to Bethlehem], for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor.”
So if you were always thinking Boaz was a young hunk, sorry to destroy your fantasy. He was probably less like a Chris Hemsworth, more of a Harrison Ford. Oh well. Older guys have value, too. Maturity counts for something. Established, reliable. A man who is able to provide for both Ruth and Naomi. Hey, he was a landowner with servants. She could do worse.
Even though Boaz wanted to marry Ruth, there was a nearer kinsman. So he promised to have a word with that guy. Naomi had confidence that Boaz would take care of everything that very day.
And that’s exactly what he did. He spoke to the man who was a closer relation of Elimelech’s. This man was definitely interested in the land belonging to Naomi, but he was unwilling to take on the widow of Mahlon (Ruth), since it would threaten his own children’s inheritance (according to Levitical law). Boaz was unencumbered by such concerns. There is no mention that he had a wife and/or family. So he was willing to take them in, with full knowledge that his first offspring would be considered the child of his deceased kinsman, Mahlon, son of Elimelech.
The happy ending: Boaz marries Ruth. He gets the property and the mother-in-law as well. And when the time came, a son was born to Boaz and Ruth.
“Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. 17 The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!”–Ruth 4:16-17
They named the baby Obed. Obed grew up and had a son named Jesse, who grew up and had many sons. The last of those was named David. He was a shepherd who was later anointed as king by the prophet Samuel. David would become known as one of the greatest kings of Israel, and he and his great-grandmother Ruth would always be included in the lineage of Jesus.
A little bit of trivia
Mahlon, Ruth’s first husband, was Naomi’s second son. His name means “man of weakness or sickly”. If he was given this name at birth, he must have always been weak. His older brother’s name, Chilion (pronounced Killy-on) literally means “wasting away” –so this gives a little insight into Naomi’s early life. Her sons were not hale and hearty. She may have realized they weren’t going to grow old, so took wives for them early, hoping to have grandchildren to inherit Elimelech’s property.
Elimelech had also died early. Perhaps if the sons had produced children, they would’ve inherited the weakness of their fathers.
(All scriptures from the New Living Translation, via biblegateway.com)