Sunday, November 10, 2013

RUTH & BOAZ: Ruth 1-4

DAY 10: RUTH & BOAZ   
              
Link: Ruth 1-4                           
Symbol: Wheat

This story shows how God provides for His people. Discuss a time in our lives when God supplied for our needs in a time of trouble. How can we be “God’s hands” to help others?

Pay attention to the genealogy at the end of Ruth 4. Who was the grandson of Ruth and Boaz? (Jesse of the Jesse Tree!) Who was their great-grandson? (David) Who is a descendant of King David? (Jesus) Now you know how important is was for Ruth to marry Boaz! (So Jesus could be born)


For deeper discussion with older children you can discuss the concept of "kinsman-redeemer." See below if you need help explaining this concept. 

BBC BACKGROUND: Ruth 1-2; 3-4

Ruth 1-2 


Here is a map of Palestine in the day of the Judges. Note the location of Bethlehem (below "Jebus" which is Jerusalem) in relation to Moab on the other side of the Dead Sea:



Palestine in the Days of the Judges Logos Bible Atlas 2.0
Copyright © 1997 Logos Research Systems, Inc.


The story of Ruth occurred during the time of the Judges (perhaps during the time of Gideon). It is so nice to read a beautiful love story of light and hope in the midst of such a dark time in Israel's history.

The famine in the land was probably God's act of judgment on erring Israel. During the time of the Judges, worship of the Canaanite gods, Baal and Ashtoreth, was common. Since the intercourse between these two gods was believed to give fertility to the earth, it would make sense that God would judge by making the land infertile.


Elimelech journeyed 50 miles east of Bethlehem (Ephrath is another name for it) to Moab in order to escape the famine. Jewish tradition regards the death of Elimelech, Mahlon, and Kilion as God's punishment for leaving the Promised Land and not trusting God for provision, but this is not stated in Scripture.


Ruth was a Moabitess. You might remember that Lot's two daughters got him drunk, and Moab and Ben-Ammi were the fruit of that union which led to Moabites and Ammonites, respectively (Genesis 19:30-38). These nations would often war with Israel (Judges 3:12ff). While friendly relations with the Moabites were not forbidden because they lived outside the Promised Land, the inhabitants of Moab were not part of the congregation of the Lord (Deuteronomy 23:3-6). Marriage to a Moabite was not forbidden in God's law as marrying those inside the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 7:3), but it was not encouraged either since they were worshipers of the god, Chemosh (Numbers 21:29). We will soon see that Solomon's downfall was serving the gods of his foreign wives, some of whom were Moabites (1 Kings 11:1-6; Malachi 2:11).


But good thing Mahlon married Ruth, for she was a woman who chose Israel's God (1:16) and exhibited ḥeseḏ, which is the Hebrew word for loyal lovingkindness, toward the dead and her mother-in-law (1:8). This Hebrew word is a key word in the book of Ruth (1:8; 2:20; 3:10).  Ruth showed loyal lovingkindness to all, and the Lord showed his loyal lovingkindness (or covenantal love) to Ruth and Naomi. By the way, Orpah was not criticized for turning back to Moab. She simply obeyed her mother-in-law. (Yes, Oprah Winfrey's birth name was Orpah, but her family could never pronounce it correctly. Interesting to note that Oprah is in this spell check and Orpah is not, but I digress . . . )


Boaz was a prince of a man.  I love my New Living Translation DVD because his voice sounds so gallant! In the margin of the New American Standard Bible, it says he was a "mighty, valiant man." The same Hebrew word also describes the Judges Gideon and Jephthah (Judges 6:12; 11:1). Boaz was a godly man also (2:4, 12). His actions toward Ruth in the fields proved his faith and character. The poor were allowed to reap (glean) the corner of the fields after the harvesters had left, but he allowed her to follow along with the reapers and drink with them. This was far beyond the requirements of the Law (Leviticus 19:9-10; 23:22). Ruth received unexpected favor (ḥēn, "grace, favor, acceptance") from Boaz, but he had heard of her actions toward Naomi. Ruth responded to his kindness with humility. When Ruth reported all of this to her mother-in-law, Naomi's sorrow and suffering was turned into joy.

Painting by Antonio Cortina Farinos [1841-1890]

Ruth 3-4

At this point in the story Naomi stepped in as the matchmaker for the welfare of her daughter-in-law by suggesting Ruth go to the threshing floor. While sleeping at his feet could be interpreted as an immoral step, Naomi knew that Ruth was "a woman of noble character" (3:11).The uncovering of his feet was a Israelite ceremonial act. It was common for a servant to lie at the feet of the master and share a part of his covering. By this act, Ruth was informing Boaz that he could be her kinsman-redeemer by finding a near relative to marry her or marrying her himself.

A kinsman-redeemer was a relative who volunteered to take in the extended family. The law provided that a widow could marry a brother of her dead husband. This was called a "levirate marriage" (levir is the Latin word for a husband's brother) and is stipulated in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. If there were no brothers, the nearest relative to the deceased husband could become the kinsman-redeemer and marry the widow, but it was not a requirement.


Boaz, being an honorable man, knew that he was

not the nearest relative, but he was willing to go to the nearest relative, and if that man did not want to marry Ruth, he surely would.

Boaz praised Ruth for being willing to marry an older man like himself rather than a younger man who was not a relative. She had shown loyal lovingkindness to her first husband, Mahlon, by being committed to Naomi and seeking to carry on his family name (4:10). Boaz praised her for being a "noble woman." This is the same Hebrew word that describes the woman in Proverbs 31.


The nearer kinsman had the right to the property for sale (Leviticus 25:23-34). In order to qualify as a kinsman-redeemer one had to be able to pay the redemption price.  The nearest relative wanted to pay that price until he learned that Ruth was part of the bargain. That was too high a price for him to pay because it might endanger his own estate. Some have speculated it was because if a child were born through his union with Ruth, that son would have a right to his own estate and that wealth would be transferred to Elimelech's family.


Regardless, the way was clear for Boaz to redeem Ruth, the Moabitess, and make him his wife. He could pay that high price. The passing of the sandal symbolized Boaz's right to walk on the land he redeemed as his property (Deuteronomy 1:36; 11:24; Joshua 1:3; 14:9).


The Scarlet Thread of Redemption


This story has both historical and symbolic significance. Historically, Ruth and Boaz became the proud parents of Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David, and this line would continue to the Eternal King of all kings, Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-16)!


Symbolically, it portrays a kinsman-redeemer (Boaz) coming for his bride (Ruth). This is a beautiful picture of Christ, as our kinsman-redeemer, coming for His bride, the church. Jesus paid the high price for our redemption!


REFLECTION


You have probably read this quote on a bumper sticker: 


“Well-behaved women seldom make history." 

The bumper sticker implies that women need to misbehave if they are going to make any progress in the world. The quote was written by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in a 1976 article about Puritan women. In the article, Ulrich is lauding "well-behaved" women because they have quietly and humbly woven the fabric of our history without a word being said about them in print. (I just read A Midwife's Tale: The Diary of Martha Ballard by Ulrich, and she makes a similar point.) 

Ruth is an exception; she was very well-behaved, AND her name is the title of one of the history books of the Bible (an honor given to only one other woman: Esther)! In addition, she is one of the few women in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1).

She embraced Israel's God, showed loyal lovingkindness to her mother-in-law, and showed humility and purity in her interactions with Boaz.  God rewarded her with his loyal lovingkindness by giving her a kinsman-redeemer. Beautiful!

APPLICATION

We can make "quiet" history and change the world by our gentle, patient, humble ways. Ruth is such a good example for all of us. 

PRAYER

Lord, Thank You for sending our redeemer, Jesus, who paid the ultimate price for our salvation, by His death on the cross. Lord, give us the character of Ruth through Your Spirit working in and through us to bring glory to You. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen. 
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