Ruth 2

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap. You can read all my New Testament notes in my book New Testament: Chapter by Chapter.

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.

Notes:

  1. 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.

Judges 11

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.

Chapter eleven tells the story of Jephthah and his battle against the Ammonites (beginning in Judges 10:17). Like Abimelech, Jephthah’s mother was a prostitute, so he did not have a good relationship with his brothers from his father’s wife (Judges 11:1-3). They kicked him out of the house, and he formed a gang of “lawless men.”

“Some time after this” the Ammonites and Israel were at war, and the leaders of Gilead (Jephthah’s clan) requested his help (Judges 11:4-11). When he refused, citing their past disdain for him, they begged him, promising to make him their leader, if God granted them success in battle; he agreed to those terms. His first act as commander was to engage the Ammonites diplomatically (Judges 11:12-28). Asking why they were attacking Israel, he received the response that Ammon believed Israel had taken their land, and they wanted it back. Jephthah returned a message, detailing the true historical record – how Israel had defeated the Amorite king, Sihon, but they never attacked Moab or Ammon. This was true even though these nations tried to use Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 22-24). If God had protected Israel so far, how did Ammon think they could defeat Israel now? 1 However, “the Ammonite king disregarded the message sent by Jephthah.”

With Ammon’s response, God led Jephthah to take action against them (Judges 11:29-33). However, before going into battle, Jephthah vowed to God that, if God granted them success, whoever was the first to greet him at home would become a burnt offering to God. God did grant them success, but Jephthah was crushed when, returning home, his only child – a daughter – ran out to greet him first (Judges 11:34-40).

Much has been written about whether Jephthah fulfilled his vow or if his daughter simply remained a virgin in God’s service for the rest of her life (and even why he made that vow at all!). Those who reject that he followed through with his vow literally insist 1) that human sacrifice was always an abomination to God; 2) that the girl’s friends (and future generations) bemoaned her virginity, not her death; and 3) that God had established in the law a way to redeem a person who had been dedicated to him (Leviticus 27).

On the other hand, the natural reading of the passage seems to indicate that he did follow through with the sacrifice: 1) He said that he could not break his oath to God; 2) the special time to mourn her virginity with her friends was meaningless if they could mourn it the rest of her life; 3) the annual memorial feast is more appropriate for her death. Most importantly, the text states that, when she returned, “he did to her the vow which he vowed” (literal translation).

Notes:

  1. Judges 11:26 contains a rare time reference in Judges. According to Jephthah, Israel had been living in those areas “for three hundred years.” If this refers to when they entered that area approximately 1405 B.C., before the conquest of Canaan, Jephthah lived around 1100 B.C.

Acts 2

Chapter two records the event that has set the tone for the past 2,000 years of human history. The apostles waited for ten days in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised, until the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-3). While the Twelve 1 were celebrating the Feast of Weeks together (Leviticus 23:15-22), the Holy Spirit entered the house where they had gathered, coming in the form of a singular flame of fire which divided itself and “CAME TO REST UPON EACH ONE OF THEM.” This signified that his presence was not only general but individual.

Immediately the men (Acts 2:15) began praising God in other languages (Acts 2:4). Quoting the prophet Joel, Peter explained that this miracle was the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in them (Acts 2:14-21), which began to fulfill God’s promise that the Spirit would come upon people again. We should note that this is the clearest passage in Scripture on the subject of what “tongues” are; they are human languages previously unknown 2 to the speaker. Additionally, it is important to observe that the preaching was done in the common language, not in the other languages. The other languages were used to give praise to God, not the gospel message or new revelation or prophecy. This was the pattern in all three occurrences of speaking in tongues/languages in Acts (Acts 2:1-13; 10:44-48; 19:1-7).

After explaining how the Twelve could miraculously speak these other languages, Peter preached to the captivated crowd, highlighting two key points, each prefaced by “David said.” First, Jesus was God’s prophet, whom they publicly crucified, but he was resurrected (Acts 2:22-32). Second, Jesus was God’s Messiah, and he ascended to heaven to wait until he can receive his kingdom (Acts 2:33-36). This was the crux of the matter: “GOD HAS MADE THIS JESUS WHOM YOU CRUCIFIED BOTH LORD AND CHRIST” (LORD = Jehovah, CHRIST = Messiah).

Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the crowd asked the apostles how they should respond to the message (Acts 2:37-41). Peter’s reply was that they should repent – the same message given by John the Baptizer, Jesus, and the apostles over the previous several years. Upon repentance, they would gain forgiveness of their sins and the Holy Spirit as God’s gift. Each one who believed should also be baptized as a public indication of this new belief. 3

Out of the thousands in Jerusalem for Pentecost, “ABOUT THREE THOUSAND PEOPLE” joined the little band of Christians that day (Acts 2:41-47). Fully expecting that Jesus would return shortly, especially after that show of acceptance, they gathered together regularly, both in the Temple and in their homes. They began selling off their possessions and sharing what they had with each other, knowing they would not need anything in the Kingdom, because the prophets promised that Messiah would provide for them. They listened to the apostles teach, probably what they had learned from Jesus about the Kingdom (Acts 1:3). They were a happy, excited group, constantly sharing their joy with their neighbors. As a result, many others joined their group expecting to see Messiah again any day.

Notes:

  1. Whether it was only the Twelve or the entire group of believers gathered on that day is debated, but the evidence seems to lean toward only the Twelve.
  2. “Previously unknown” does not mean that the men were able to speak these languages fluently again. It means that, at the time of their speaking, they knew what they were saying, although they had not learned that language before.
  3. Most English translations make it seem as if water baptism was required in order to be forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit. While it is a command in the sentence, the structure of the Greek language separates baptism from the rest of the sentence, not putting it on the same level as repentance but subsequent to repentance.