top of page

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17

There was a famine (Ruth 1:1) in the land of Judah, in Bethlehem. One of the many families there decided they couldn’t take it anymore, so they went where they heard there was food: the Land of Moab.

Yet, disaster struck again for this family. The father died, leaving a widow and two unwed sons. What’s a woman to do in a foreign land, with no income to get food, with two sons to raise and no father to get them a proper marriage in the custom of the time?

She hustled to make it work. She found two wives for her boys, her last blessings on earth. She wasn’t able to get them the best wives, since they didn’t have a dad, or any land or money or inheritance to speak of since they left their everything, which still wasn’t much, to go to Moab.

Ten years go by and disaster strikes again. Her beloved boys, both wed now for ten years, die. Both. Boys. Gone. How? Why? And worse yet, neither of them had any children. The family line is doomed. No husband. No sons. No grandsons. In a Foreign land. Her Daughters-in-law did not come from good families anyway. Who will care for the mother now?

She is the female Job of the people of God, of the Old Testament. Naomi has had everything she cares about in life taken from her and, in their society, that means she has no hope for a future, no hope for provision or love or companionship.

The foreign, poor, now widow, who was not from a good family, not worthy of a good husband, not part of the people of God, idol-worshipping daughter-in-law became the mouthpiece of the Word to that mother. Ruth brought the Gospel to Naomi, the Word of life when only death abounded (see Ruth 1:16-17).

Together they travel back to Bethlehem. It was hard there too. They are just two women. Actually, they are worse. They are two women who are two widows, who have no man in a patriarchal system, and thus have very few provisions in the law and religion for their care and safety. The only way to get food is to beg or become a harlot. But there’s hope for a few weeks, because it’s the barley harvest and the law allows for gleaners to gather the meager leftovers on the ground from the paid laborers after each day’s work. Naomi is unable to help, maybe because she’s old, maybe because she’s sick or weak, so Ruth must make it happen. Naomi has carried the family load for 10 years since her husband died, now Ruth looks forward to returning some of the good favor that she has received.

She goes to glean and for seven weeks experiences the providence of God. Instead of being abused by the field workers or illegally thrown out of the fields by the owner of the land, Ruth gleans from the very field which is owned by a relative of Naomi’s husband. What providence! As well, Naomi has had these 7 weeks to think and pray and try to figure out how to provide for Ruth, who has been only Good News to her for a while, when she isn’t around any longer? Naomi is constantly thinking ahead, constantly showing us just how wise and powerful she is in her marginalized body.

Naomi tells Ruth her plan. It’s risky, tricky, many things could go wrong, but if they are going to be provided for after the barley and wheat harvests are over, during the winter and their life ahead of two widows with no inheritance, then they must try something. Boaz has proven he is a good man, even if he is old and possibly has other wives and children. So surely a God-fearing, wealthy business man of his standing would not forsake the two laws that show up in these contexts, the first being the Levitical law of providing a male heir for his relative so that side of the family name will not die out. But that will cost him. That heir will inherit the inheritance that would be due to him as next of kin. The second law is similar, being that the closest relative must buy back the land so that the male heir he might pr