So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the fieled where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me–a foreigner?”
Boaz replied, “I have been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband–how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a peole you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
“May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant–though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.” Ruth 2: 8-13.
Boaz sounds like decent person to me. His motivations were not about himself, and I doubt from his surprise at Ruth’s eventual courting ritual later in the story that he even imagined himself elegible for her at all. So his generosity was genuine and done for the reasons he said they were. He respected Ruth’s ethics and loyalty to Naomi, her willingness to work and humility. In her reply that she didn’t have any right to the kindness he showed her, she wasn’t quite correct according to the law of Moses for it stated that all foreigners were to be treated this way. No, she spoke out of her own cultural experience.
Boaz, on the other hand, was fully aware of the law and not only performing it according the its letter but showing a heart full of kindness and consideration for the less fortunate. His respect for Ruth’s actions motivated his extra gestures toward her, so that we know he merely wanted her to find a place where she could not only survive but thrive.
Naomi, however, knew of her family connection to Boaz and saw right away an opportunity to redeem her losses through Ruth–I don’t think she cared about herself so much as Ruth here. Her ability to provide for Ruth was non-existent it seems, therefore she did what any good Jewish momma would do for a favorite daughter, she began match making. I can’t fault her for this because she wanted Ruth, whom she loved, to be happy, to find comfort after her losses and to belong. An unmarried woman that era, without immediate relatives lived without protectors or provision, which means charity. A woman without children was considered cursed, hence Naomi’s assertion that she was “bitter”.
Yet we see in all the people concerned with this story character shining through time and again. Each character showed extraordinary refinement, demonstrating time and again their willingness to sacrifice self in order to do good to others. Whether we take this story as metaphor or fact we can’t miss its message. Ruth became, even as a Moabitess, the grandmother of David the king. Taking this lineage into the NT we see her mentioned specifically as an ancestor of the Messiah, Jesus. God honored her character beyond what most would consider reward by not only including her in Christ’s lineage but making a point of shining a light on her name.
Boaz is shown here as the quintessential Jew, a Hebrew of Hebrews, who honors both his God and his law. His willingness to redeem Naomi’s property could be said to have ulterior motives and we would be right to assume these, but that doesn’t make his sacrifice any less noble. To redeem Ruth’s property Boaz gave up any right to a name for himself or to carry it on through his first born, a big deal to any man from that age. The second boy born to them would carry on his family name and take over his father’s property, but Ruth’s first born son would be named as heir to Elimelech not Boaz. You see the nobility in Boaz? He wasn’t just after some hotty but truly sacrificing any possibility of his own legacy for the sake a dead man.
Yet he’s mentioned in the lineage of Christ as the true father of David and Jesus. God honored his generous spirit by giving him what he didn’t even seek: a name to be carried on. Boaz demonstrated the character of love beyond the pale. If men developed his kind of character, what kind of marriages would we see?