A Study of Ruth and Boaz in the Bible
Before Tristan and Isolde, before Romeo and Juliet, and even before Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth of Pride and Prejudice, there were Boaz and Ruth. Their love story, dating from approximately 1000 BC, is still powerfully relevant in the twenty-first century.
Boaz, the leading man in the Hebrew book of Ruth, enters this short love story in chapter 2. This book is the story of a young widow named Ruth, whose heart had been broken by her husband’s death yet healed by faith in the God of Israel. Having touched God’s heart, she also touched the heart of one of God’s champion followers — Boaz. The intersection of their lives becomes not only the framework of an earthly love story but also the foreshadowing of the greatest love story, God’s love for the world through Jesus — Himself a descendant of the union of Boaz and Ruth.
After we look at their story, we’ll look at how it affects your story today. Granted, this story has some odd twists and turns unfamiliar to our twenty-first-century minds, but solid principles are there as well.
An Ancient Love Story: Boaz and Ruth
Ruth, as I’ve mentioned, was a young widow. After her husband’s death, she chose to continue living with her former mother-in-law, Naomi, also widowed, who believed in the God of Israel. Ruth was a Moabitess — a foreigner who did not follow the Hebrew God. Yet when she opted to remain Naomi’s companion, she stated, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). She swore her allegiance to the lonely older woman, who was heartbroken over the total loss of her family. The two traveled from Moab to Naomi’s home in Bethlehem just as the harvest of barley was starting.
These women had no men to provide for them, but Ruth was enterprising, and she suggested she glean in the fields behind the barley harvesters. God had commanded that landowners leave anything harvesters didn’t pick up so the poor, the widowed, the foreigners, and the fatherless had a supply of food (Lev. 19:9 – 10). Ruth just so happened to glean in a field owned by a man named Boaz — a relative of Naomi’s dead husband, no less.
When Boaz came out to see how the harvesters fared, he noticed Ruth and asked about her. Learning that she was a hard worker, he pulled her aside and told her to glean alongside his servant girls. There, she — young, foreign, and alone — would be safe from possible molesters among the harvesters. And Boaz gave Ruth freedom to drink from his water jars as she worked.
This was extraordinary treatment! Ruth was stunned and asked why the man gave with such kindness. Boaz responded that he had heard of Ruth’s devotion to Naomi, how she left her homeland to be companion to her weary mother-in-law. And he admired her newfound faith in the God of Israel. Boaz blessed Ruth, saying, “May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge” (Ruth 2:12).
He went on then to feed her from his own table and to make sure his harvesters left behind choice grain for her to pick up.
Naomi Has an Idea
Naomi suggested that Ruth act on the custom of the day, which allowed the young woman to call upon her nearest male relative to serve as her kinsman-redeemer. A kinsman-redeemer would buy back Ruth and Naomi’s dead husbands’ land as well as become Ruth’s new husband.
As instructed, Ruth went one evening to the threshing floor where Boaz and his men were working. When Boaz lay down that night, Ruth uncovered his feet and lay down near him. In the middle of the night he awoke, saw her, and asked who she was.
“I am your servant Ruth,”she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer” (Ruth 3:9).
Again Boaz reacted kindly to Ruth, blessing her and noting that she did not “run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.” He assured her, “Don’t be afraid. . . . All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character” (Ruth 3:10 – 11). He promised to act on her request.
Boaz Acts Honorably
One rule stood in the way: Ruth had one nearer male relative who had first rights to buy the land that belonged to her as part of the family of Elimelech, Naomi’s husband. Boaz, a fair man, said he would give this man his opportunity to buy the land and marry Ruth.
Long story short, the man was interested in the land but not Ruth, so he opted out of both. Boaz and Ruth were married, and they later produced the forebear of David — who was the forebearer of Jesus.
All the World Is Blessed
That this is a love story with eternal impact reveals why the book of Ruth was read each year to the children of Israel during the feasts of Israel.1 It reminded them that their Lord was their Boaz: their pillar of strength, their trustworthy, forever Bridegroom. Isaiah the prophet wrote, “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD Almighty is His name” (Isa. 54:5).
Boaz Then and Now
Let’s look now at what this story tells us today about men — what to hope for, what a good man will act like, and why he’s worth waiting for.
A Boaz Respects You
In the third chapter of this love story, Ruth approached Boaz with the request that he become her kinsman-redeemer. This was not the bold move of an impatient single woman. This was a request guided by Naomi, who understood the legal obligations of family based on Deuteronomy 25:5 – 10.
Boaz was surprised and pleased by Ruth’s request. His godly character and respect show in his reply to her request: “The LORD bless you, my daughter. . . . I will do for you all you ask” (Ruth 3:10 – 11).
In short, this exchange tells us that if a man won’t speak and act respectfully toward you, he’s a Bozo.
A Boaz Respects the Law
Boaz obeyed the law God gave in Deuteronomy. He didn’t grab what wasn’t his; he wasn’t sneaky. Instead he openly respected the law and his relative. And he won the bride!
A Boaz Will Handle Your “Baggage” with Care
Boaz as the kinsman-redeemer was not only willing to buy the land that had belonged to Ruth’s dead husband, but he was also willing to honor the name of the dead husband when he married Ruth. The cost, financially and emotionally, did not cause Boaz to hesitate. Ruth 4 reveals that another relative was a close kinsman. But this relative was not willing to accept the “baggage” that came with marrying Ruth — therefore, Boaz was granted the privilege of being Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer.
Remember, Ruth was a Moabitess, a member of Israel’s enemy tribe. Boaz enthusiastically married a woman from the wrong side of the tracks who had financial and emotional needs.
Of course, all women bring needs into a marriage. When it comes to God’s best for a woman, it involves so much more than just a great guy. A Man Worth Waiting For is a man who can handle your particular baggage.
For example, my Boaz had to handle the “baggage” I brought to our marriage: the impact of a very dysfunctional family and sexual abuse. Not just any man could handle such heavy “luggage.” God knew the man who had enough faith to patiently love me while Jesus and I sorted through my past emotional and physical wounds.
Boaz was a symbol of Jesus as our ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer, who brought us back from the enemy of our souls. Jesus, like a Boaz, can handle the baggage of our lives and He alone knows the best man to handle all of our wounds without becoming bitter or resentful.
A Boaz Notices More Than Just Beauty
We see that Boaz noticed Ruth among all the harvesters and those who gleaned after the harvesters. We don’t know how many people that entailed, but we know she stood out. The Bible tells us she was known for more than her looks; remember how he said, “All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character” (Ruth 3:11)?
When one Boaz, a guy named Ben, first noticed an attractive single girl, they were sitting at their local singles’ meeting. He saw that she was nodding as they listened to a great speaker. This Boaz said to his roommates who were at the Bible study with him, “I bet that girl is a P-31 [code for a ”Proverbs 31 woman’],” and they asked, “How can you tell?” He replied, “I have noticed that she nods when the speaker makes some deeper remarks. Her nods showed she was tracking with him and really hungry for the truth.” Later, he discovered that this P-31 woman’s name was, ironically, Ruth.
During their first lengthy phone call, they told each other their life stories. As Ruth was sharing what she does and her passion to teach young people to choose the best by staying pure sexually, Ben realized that he needed to share with Ruth about his mom’s ministry. So, in the middle of the conversation, Ben blurted out, “You need to meet my mom! You have the same vision and passion.”
Ben recognized the heart of his own mom in a young woman. Consequently, I met Ruth and she ended up with me in a speaking ministry with Virtuous Reality. A modern Ruth was discovered by the son of a woman who wrote a book about Ruth ( Lady in Waiting)! Ruth had never read my book, which totally shocked Ben, because Ruth lived the very principles that I wrote about.
A woman declares her heart even through a simple nod during a Bible study. She also declares her heart when she shares what she is passionate about. To a Boaz, a passionate heart is captivating in the way that a low-cut blouse is captivating to a Bozo! Boazes look for more than looks.
A side note: Most people are aware of the chapter in Proverbs that describes the ideal woman — the one my son referred to. The chapter says, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies” (Prov. 31:10). When I started thinking about the ideal husband/man, I thought the description should start this way: “Who can find a virtuous man? His price is far above diamonds!”
The Word of God has one chapter describing the virtuous woman — Proverbs 31 — but I wonder if the preceding thirty chapters of Proverbs do not describe the virtuous man. We could call The Man Worth Waiting For a “Proverbs 1 – 30” man. Let’s look at him more closely next.
Copyright © 2008 by Jackie Kendall