Luck or Providence?

So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” Ruth 2:3-4

As Ruth went out to glean for food, she found herself in the fields of Boaz.

The way the author of Ruth states Ruth's location is very unusual and unprecedented in all of Scripture. It essentially says that Ruth got “lucky” or by “chance” and “coincidence” found herself “fortunately” in the field of Boaz. The phraseology is so peculiar it has led to much speculation about what the author intended. Indeed, the author used an ironic tone to grab our attention and turn our focus to the invisible hand of God’s providence in the daily affairs of ordinary people.

Ruth arrived at the field of Boaz not because an angel led her, or because a voice spoke to her from heaven, or because of any other miraculous occurrence. Instead, we see that God’s invisible hand was working through Ruth’s decision about which field to glean.

In Acts 17:26, Paul says that it is ultimately God who determines where and when we live. By peering below the loom of our lives, we often see what appears to be various knots of free will and choice, but by peering above the loom as God does, we see that He was weaving nothing less than a meaningful and orderly tapestry out of the frayed ends of our lives. When life comes together, some people will give credit to happenstance, circumstance, or chance rather than God’s providence. But the Bible is clear that Fortune is a false God who likes to take credit for God’s creativity (Isaiah 65:11). This is the big point the author of Ruth is driving home: God is involved in our lives and directing our destiny.

Adding to the irony, we witness that not only was Ruth in the field of Boaz but she, by providence, also happened to be there when he was making the rounds to examine his business venture. We then hear the first words of Boaz in the story, and they were a brief prayer for his employees, that God’s hand of providence would be with them. Echoing the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24, his workers likewise responded with a brief prayer that God would bless their boss. Boaz and his servants knew and depended on God's guidance of their lives.

  • Review the passage again. What observations can you make regarding Boaz and his relationships, specifically his relationship with God? His employees? The women he encountered? The marginalized?