Grateful to Know You

So she [Ruth] gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah[a] of barley. And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man's name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 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.” Ruth 2:17-20

Boaz demonstrated his generous and kind character in his care for Ruth, making sure she is fed, safe, and employed. Also demonstrating ongoing remarkable character, Ruth continued her day of hard labor until the evening darkness fell upon her. The ephah of barley she received from Boaz’s kindness and her day’s labor is an amount which scholars debate, but is perhaps 4-6 gallons, or some 30-50 pounds, which Ruth carried home. In our modern day, this would be the equivalent of perhaps a few weeks’ wages, or a few thousand dollars, for one day’s work!

Arriving home, Ruth gave the food left over from her lunch with Boaz and his employees to the likely very hungry Naomi. Excited by God’s provision for both their dinner and the riches Ruth obtained from her one day’s work, Naomi simply had to know who had been so kind to her. Speaking for the first time in this scene of the story, Ruth reveals that the gracious provision of God had come to them through the hand of Boaz, the man of war and wealth and wherewithal.

Overjoyed, the bitter Naomi (who, we see, isn’t so very bitter and hadn’t lost all faith), prayed that God would bless Boaz for his kindness to her as well as bless the name of her family that had suffered greatly. In her prayer, Naomi spoke of the “kindness” of God by using the word hesed, which is an important theme throughout the book. It summarizes all of God’s most beloved attributes, such as love, grace, mercy, kindness, compassion, patience, and devotion. And hesed is occasionally used to describe people who reflect the character of God, such as with Ruth and Boaz. The debate among scholars on Ruth 2:20 is whether Naomi was saying that God or Boaz had acted in a way of hesed, and the truth is that both are true: God acted kindly through the providential kindness of Boaz. 

  • What character traits do you observe in Boaz and Ruth, and how did those traits begin to shape Boaz and Ruth’s early relationship?
  • What changes are you seeing in Naomi as this story progresses? Why do you think those changes are taking place?