Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Ruth Gleans in the Field of Boaz - Ruth 2
Ruth went to the field to glean ears of corn, for the purpose of procuring support for herself and her mother-in-law, and came by chance to the field of Boaz, a relative of Naomi, who, when he heard that she had come with Naomi from Moabitis, spoke kindly to her, and gave her permission not only to glean ears in his field and even among the sheaves, but to appease her hunger and thirst with the food and drink of his reapers (vv. 1-16), so that in the evening she returned to her mother-in-law with a plentiful gleaning, and told her of the gracious reception she had met with from this man, and then learned from her that Boaz was a relation of her own (Rut 2:17-23).
The account of this occurrence commences with a statement which was necessary in order to make it perfectly intelligible, namely that Boaz, to whose field Ruth went to glean, was a relative of Naomi through her deceased husband Elimelech. The Kethibh מידע is to be read מידּע, an acquaintance (cf. Psa 31:12; Psa 55:14). The Keri מודע is the construct state of מודע, lit. acquaintanceship, then an acquaintance or friend (Pro 7:4), for which מודעת occurs afterwards in Rut 3:2 with the same meaning. That the acquaintance or friend of Naomi through her husband was also a relation, is evident from the fact that he was "of the family of Elimelech. " According to the rabbinical tradition, which is not well established however, Boaz was a nephew of Elimelech. The ל before אישׁהּ is used instead of the simple construct state, because the reference is not to the relation, but to a relation of her husband; at the same time, the word מודע has taken the form of the construct state notwithstanding this ל (compare Ewald, 292, a., with 289, b.). חיל גּבּור generally means the brave man of war (Jdg 6:12; Jdg 11:1, etc.); but here it signifies a man of property. The name Boaz is not formed from עז בּו, in whom is strength, but from a root, בּעז, which does not occur in Hebrew, and signifies alacrity.
Ruth wished to go to the field and glean at (among) the ears, i.e., whatever ears were left lying upon the harvest field (cf. Rut 2:7), אשׁר אחר, behind him in whose eyes she should find favour. The Mosaic law (Lev 19:9; Lev 23:22, compared with Deu 24:19) did indeed expressly secure to the poor the right to glean in the harvest fields, and prohibited the owners from gleaning themselves; but hard-hearted farmers and reapers threw obstacles in the way of the poor, and even forbade their gleaning altogether. Hence Ruth proposed to glean after him who should generously allow it. She carried out this intention with the consent of Naomi, and chance led her to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, a relation of Elimelech, without her knowing the owner of the field, or being at all aware of his connection with Elimelech. מקרה ויּקר, lit., "her chance chanced to hit upon the field."
When Boaz came from the town to the field, and had greeted his reapers with the blessing of a genuine Israelites, "Jehovah be with you," and had received from them a corresponding greeting in return, he said to the overseer of the reapers, "Whose damsel is this?" to which he replied, "It is the Moabitish damsel who came back with Naomi from the fields of Moab, and she has said (asked), Pray, I will glean (i.e., pray allow me to glean) and gather among the sheaves after the reapers, and has come and stays (here) from morning till now; her sitting in the house that is little." מאז, lit. a conjunction, here used as a preposition, is stronger than מן, "from then," from the time of the morning onwards (see Ewald, 222, c.). It is evident from this answer of the servant who was placed over the reapers, (1) that Boaz did not prohibit any poor person from gleaning in his field; (2) that Ruth asked permission of the overseer of the reapers, and availed herself of this permission with untiring zeal from the first thing in the morning, that she might get the necessary support for her mother-in-law and herself; and (3) that her history was well known to the overseer, and also to Boaz, although Boaz saw her now for the first time.
The good report which the overlooker gave of the modesty and diligence of Ruth could only strengthen Boaz in his purpose, which he had probably already formed from his affection as a relation towards Naomi, to make the acquaintance of her daughter-in-law, and speak kindly to her. With fatherly kindness, therefore, he said to her (Rut 2:8, Rut 2:9), "Dost thou hear, my daughter? (i.e., 'thou hearest, dost thou not?' interrogatio blande affirmat;) go not to reap in another field, and go not away from here, and keep so to my maidens (i.e., remaining near them in the field). Thine eyes (directed) upon the field which they reap, go behind them (i.e., behind the maidens, who probably tired up the sheaves, whilst the men-servants cut the corn). I have commanded the young men not to touch thee (to do thee no harm); and if thou art thirsty (צמת, from צמה = צמא: see Ewald, 195, b.), go to the vessels, and drink of what the servants draw."
Deeply affected by this generosity, Ruth fell upon her face, bowing down to the ground (as in Sa1 25:23; Sa2 1:2; cf. Gen 23:7), to thank him reverentially, and said to Boaz, "Why have I found favour in thine eyes, that thou regardest me, who am only a stranger?" הכּיר, to look at with sympathy or care, to receive a person kindly (cf. Rut 2:19).
Boaz replied, "Everything has been told me that thou hast done to (את, prep. as in Zac 7:9; Sa2 16:17) thy mother-in-law since the death of thy husband, that thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and thy kindred, and hast come to a people that thou knewest not heretofore" (hast therefore done what God commanded Abraham to do, Gen 12:1). "The Lord recompense thy work, and let thy reward be perfect (recalling Gen 15:1) from the Lord the God of Israel, to whom thou hast come to seek refuge under His wings!" For this figurative expression, which is derived from Deu 32:11, compare Psa 91:4; Psa 36:8; Psa 57:2. In these words of Boaz we see the genuine piety of a true Israelite.
Ruth replied with true humility, "May I find favour in thine eyes; for thou hast comforted me, and spoken to the heart of thy maiden (see Jdg 19:3), though I am not like one of thy maidens," i.e., though I stand in no such near relation to thee, as to have been able to earn thy favour. In this last clause she restricts the expression "thy maiden." Carpzov has rightly pointed this out: "But what am I saying when I call myself thy maiden? since I am not worthy to be compared to the least of thy maidens." The word אמצא is to be taken in an optative sense, as expressive of the wish that Boaz might continue towards her the kindness he had already expressed. To take it as a present, "I find favour" (Clericus and Bertheau), does not tally with the modesty and humility shown by Ruth in the following words.
This unassuming humility on the part of Ruth made Boaz all the more favourably disposed towards her, so that at meal-time he called her to eat along with his people (לה without Mappik, as in Num 32:42; Zac 5:11; cf. Ewald, 94, b. 3). "Dip thy morsel in the vinegar." Chomez, a sour beverage composed of vinegar (wine vinegar or sour wine) mixed with oil; a very refreshing drink, which is still a favourite beverage in the East (see Rosenmller, A. and N. Morgenland, iv. p. 68, and my Bibl. Archologie, ii. p. 16). "And he reached her parched corn." The subject is Boaz, who, judging from the expression "come hither," either joined in the meal, or at any rate was present at it. קלי are roasted grains of wheat (see at Lev 2:14, and my Bibl. Arch. ii. p. 14), which are still eaten by the reapers upon the harvest field, and also handed to strangers.
(Note: Thus Robinson (Pal. ii. p. 394) gives the following description of a harvest scene in the neighbourhood of Kubeibeh: "In one field nearly two hundred reapers and gleaners were at work, the latter being nearly as numerous as the former. A few were taking their refreshment, and offered us some of their 'parched corn.' In the season of harvest, the grains of wheat not yet fully dry and hard, are roasted in a pan or on an iron plate, and constitute a very palatable article of food; this is eaten along with bread, or instead of it.")
Boaz gave her an abundant supply of it, so that she was not only satisfied, but left some, and was able to take it home to her mother (Rut 2:18.)
When she rose up to glean again after eating, Boaz commanded his people, saying, "She may also glean between the shaves (which was not generally allowed), and ye shall not shame her (do her any injury, Jdg 18:7); and ye shall also draw out of the bundles for her, and let them lie (the ears drawn out), that she may glean them, and shall not scold her," sc., for picking up the ears that have been drawn out. These directions of Boaz went far beyond the bounds of generosity and compassion for the poor; and show that he felt a peculiar interest in Ruth, with whose circumstances he was well acquainted, and who had won his heart by her humility, her faithful attachment to her mother-in-law, and her love to the God of Israel, - a face important to notice in connection with the further course of the history.
Thus Ruth gleaned till the evening in the field; and when she knocked out the ears, she had about an ephah (about 20-25 lbs.) of barley.
This she brought to her mother-in-law in the city, and "drew out (sc., from her pocket, as the Chaldee has correctly supplied) what she had left from her sufficiency," i.e., of the parched corn which Boaz had reached her (Rut 2:14).
The mother inquired, "where hast thou gleaned to-day, and where wroughtest thou?" and praised the benefactor, who, as she conjecture from the quantity of barley collected and the food brought home, had taken notice of Ruth: "blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee!" When she heard the name of the man, Boaz, she saw that this relative of her husband had been chosen by God to be a benefactor of herself and Ruth, and exclaimed, "Blessed be he of the Lord, that he has not left off (withdrawn) his favour towards the living and the dead!" On חסדּו עזב see Gen 24:27. This verb is construed with a double accusative here; for את cannot be a preposition, as in that case מאת would be used like מעם in Gen. l.c. "The living," etc., forms a second object: as regards (with regard to) the living and the dead, in which Naomi thought of herself and Ruth, and of her husband and sons, to whom God still showed himself gracious, even after their death, through His care for their widows. In order to enlighten Ruth still further upon the matter, she added, "The man (Boaz) is our relative, and one of our redeemers." He "stands near to us," sc., by relationship. גּאלנוּ, a defective form for גּאלינוּ, which is found in several MSS and editions. On the significance of the gol, or redeemer, see at Lev 25:26, Lev 25:48-49, and the introduction to Ruth 3.
Ruth proceeded to inform her of his kindness: כּי גּם, "also (know) that he said to me, Keep with my people, till the harvest is all ended." The masculine הנּערים, for which we should rather expect the feminine נערות in accordance with Rut 2:8, Rut 2:22, Rut 2:23, is quite in place as the more comprehensive gender, as a designation of the reapers generally, both male and female; and the expression לי אשׁר in this connection in the sense of my is more exact than the possessive pronoun: the people who belong to my house, as distinguished from the people of other masters.
Naomi declared herself fully satisfied with this, because Ruth would be thereby secured from insults, which she might receive when gleaning in strange fields. "That they meet thee not," lit. "that they do not fall upon thee." בּ פּגע signifies to fall upon a person, to smite and ill-treat him.
After this Ruth kept with the maidens of Boaz during the whole of the barley and wheat harvests gleaning ears of corn, and lived with her mother-in-law, sc., when she returned in the evening from the field. In this last remark there is a tacit allusion to the fact that a change took place for Ruth when the harvest was over.