Chapter two opens with the introduction of a new character, Boaz. He was a relative of Elimelech’s, a “wealthy, prominent man” (Ruth 2:1). Verse two continues the narrative left off from chapter one. The women needed food, and Naomi was presumably too old to do manual labor, so she sent Ruth to glean barley in the fields (Ruth 2:2-3). According to the Mosaic Law, Jewish field owners were required to leave some of their harvest in the fields and on the vines for the poor to glean (Leviticus 19:9-10; 23:22). 1 Ruth obeyed Naomi and went to work in a nearby field. According to the narrator, “She just happened to end up in the portion of the field belonging to Boaz.”
In addition to being wealthy and prominent, Boaz was also a considerate and detailed man. Although Bethlehem was never a big city, Boaz apparently knew every poor person, because he immediately noticed a new young woman gleaning with the other poor people, someone he did not recognize (Ruth 2:4-7). Discovering Ruth’s identity as Naomi’s daughter and Mahlon’s widow, Boaz knew that he was responsible to take care of them as his extended family. Calling her aside, Boaz told Ruth that she must never leave his field to glean elsewhere and that she was to gather alongside his workers rather than finding the leftovers with the other poor people (Ruth 2:8-13). This would assure that she would never find too little. As if that were not enough, he invited her to eat lunch with him and his workers, and he commissioned his chief harvesters to intentionally drop ears of grain in front of her so that she could gather more for the time she worked (Ruth 2:14-17). Altogether, in a single day, Ruth gathered “about thirty pounds of barley,” after cleaning and processing!
Upon returning home to Naomi, Ruth told her everything that had happened and her encounters with Boaz (Ruth 2:18-23). Naomi immediately recognized his name and told Ruth to do everything that he told her. Not only would this keep Ruth physically safe, but it would ensure their survival.
- This was one of the ways God provided for all the Jewish people, no matter their economic status. It is worth noting that this is not the same as the civil government taking from some people to give to others. The poor people received nothing if they did not go out to work for it. ↩