And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’ ” And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.” So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
A clue to the remainder of the story is revealed when Naomi informs Ruth that Boaz was, in fact, a relative somehow connected to them through her deceased husband, Elimelech (see also 2:1). Subsequently, Boaz was qualified to become a “redeemer” for the women if he so chose and if others concurred.
In the Old Testament, the redeemer was a relative who would literally redeem people and property. If someone sold themselves into slavery/servitude to pay off a debt, the redeemer was the family member who could purchase their freedom (Leviticus 25:35–55). If a widow was in need, the redeemer would care for her (Ruth 4:4–10), and if someone was murdered, the redeemer would avenge the crime (Numbers 35:9–34). If someone was going to lose land because of poverty, the redeemer was the family member who would save the land by paying off the debt (Leviticus 25:23–34).
What’s curious about Naomi’s statement is that her words were true in the spirit, but not the letter, of the law. Boaz, in fact, had no legal obligation to Ruth because she wasn’t a blood relative like Naomi. Furthermore, Boaz wasn’t the closest relative to Naomi; another man was technically the legal redeemer. But because Naomi loved Ruth so dearly, she considered her as a daughter and expected her to be treated as such. Furthermore, in her conversion it seems that Ruth was no longer to be seen as anything less than a fully respected and cared for member of God’s people. In this we see that sometimes we feel closer to people in God’s family than we do to those in our own family.
With wise motherly counsel, Naomi encouraged Ruth to stay close to Boaz and his workers because he was a godly and safe man. So the women settled into a routine of sorts, and Ruth continued working as the harvest was coming to an end. By that time, the relationship of Boaz and Ruth seems to have cooled, as they weren’t pursuing any sort of official romantic relationship. And, because it was almost harvest time, time was running out for any sort of fairy-tale ending. This set the stage for the next scene of the book where the single woman “pulls a Ruth” on the threshing floor.
In closing, we see the themes of the hero of this section of Ruth ultimately illustrated in the Hero of all of Scripture, Jesus Christ. As Spurgeon said, Jesus is “our glorious Boaz” who came to His earth to look upon us with love like Ruth and care for us like Boaz though He had no obligation to do so. Jesus is our hesed and the lovingly gracious kindness of God was extended to us as a gift of God for our eternal life—much like the hesed that was given to sustain the life of Ruth. And, like Boaz, Jesus is our great Redeemer who died, paying our debt of sin, thereby redeeming us… although He was in no way obligated to do so.
What observations can you make regarding Boaz and his relationships, specifically his relationship with God? His employees? The women he encountered? The marginalized?