Ruth was a Moabite, who was married to an Israelite man named Elimelech who was sojourning with his parents in the land of Moab. Unfortunately the man, his brother, and father died in the land of Moab. The young woman was left with Naomi, her mother-in-law. Naomi wanted to return to Israel from Moab and asked her two daughters-in-law to return to their families. One did but Ruth said, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16–17).
After learning about the God of Israel, Ruth experienced a change and felt she would rather live in the strange land of Israel and among its people who worshiped God than live among her own people who worshiped heathen gods. She was so impressed by the loving God of Naomi and could not separate herself from Him.
“Spread … Thy Skirt Over Thine Handmaid”
Naomi and Ruth came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. They were very poor, so the young woman asked to go to the fields each day to glean wheat during the harvest after the reapers. The owner of the land she was gleaning from was Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
Boaz heard of Ruth’s situation and told his workers to allow her to work in the fields and not hurt her. The young woman was very grateful to him and said, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10). Boaz told Ruth that he was impressed with her kindness to Naomi (Ruth 2:11-12).
Naomi learned that Boaz was a close relative who, according to Jewish law, had the right to redeem Elimelech’s property, probably already sold for debt (Leviticus 25:24). Also, he had the right to marry Ruth, raise a seed for her deceased husband and become trustee of the property.
So Naomi instructed Ruth to say to Boaz, “spread … thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman” (Ruth 3:9). The Jewish Talmud explains Ruth’s action as a proposal for marriage (Deuteronomy 22:30). It is said that a similar custom still exists in some parts of the world.
Ruth’s request may have reminded Boaz of what he had recently said to her: “The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:12). Ruth asked Boaz to fulfill in a personal way his own prayer that God would bless her.
But Boaz could not agree to Ruth’s request right away for he had a nearer kinsman to her, Elimelech. Boaz needed to first ask that relative for his permission. So, the second day, Boaz met with that relative in the presence of the town leaders and asked him if he would be willing to redeem Naomi’s late-husband’s land and marry Ruth. When the relative declined, Boaz then made a public announcement that he would redeem the land and marry Ruth.
Ruth’s supreme desire to be among God’s people was honored by God greatly. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed, who became the grandfather of King David, from whose lineage came the Messiah (Matthew 1:5–6).
In His service,