And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.” Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”
The timeless book of Ruth is timelier than ever. For the first time in U.S. history, as well as in many other nations, the majority of adults are single. And, anyone seeking a mate can testify that finding a safe person is perhaps more difficult than ever.
Who can you trust, especially if you’re a single woman who’s poor and new to a big city? That’s the situation Ruth found herself in as a new Christian on the brink of starvation in Bethlehem.
For the first time, the human hero of the book of Ruth, Boaz, steps onto the stage. His name means strength, and he rose above the previous men in the book who had failed in so many ways. Illustratively, his name also appears on one of the pillars in Solomon’s Temple (1 Samuel 9:1; 1 Kings 11:28; 2 Kings 5:1; Nehemiah 11:14). This is fitting because Boaz was a man with enough character and strength to hold up Ruth and Naomi so that their life wouldn’t crumble around them.
We are told that Boaz was a distant relative in some way through the family of Elimelech, Naomi’s deceased husband. Furthermore, he was spoken of as “a worthy man,” which is used throughout Scripture to refer to men of wealth (2 Kings 15:20), war (Joshua 6:2–3; Judges 6:12; 2 Samuel 17:8), and wherewithal (1 Samuel 9:1; 1 Kings 11:28; 2 Kings 5:1; Nehemiah 11:14). Boaz continually displayed such impeccable character, blessing everyone in the story, that many have called him a “type” of Jesus Christ. The great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon affectionately referred to Jesus as “our glorious Boaz.” Though Boaz wasn’t a prophet, priest, or pastor, he is a paragon of piety.
Ruth’s character was also impeccable. Rather than dating, relating, and fornicating, this single and broke young woman worshipped, worked, and waited. With the two women likely very hungry and desperately in need of food, Ruth asked her mother-in-law, Naomi, for her approval to glean in the fields. In this request, we see that the women had hit the proverbial rock bottom. Ruth took a great risk, venturing out in faith as a foreign woman to scavenge for food in a new town.
Looking at the character traits displayed in this passage, what would a man like Boaz look like today? A woman like Ruth?