Ruth 2:1-18, Gleaning in the Fields
Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favor.” She said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers. As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. 4 Just then Boaz came from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you.” They answered, “The Lord bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “To whom does this young woman belong?” 6 The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 She said, ‘Please, let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.’ So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.”8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9 Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, and follow behind them. I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.” 10 Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?” 11 But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!” 13 Then she said, “May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.”14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here, and eat some of this bread, and dip your morsel in the sour wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he heaped up for her some parched grain. She ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she got up to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, “Let her glean even among the standing sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 You must also pull out some handfuls for her from the bundles, and leave them for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
The Literary and Historical Worlds of Ruth
The book of Ruth is set in Bethlehem. Although the author is unknown, the book came into existence between David’s reign and the Postexilic Period. The books digs into the historical conflict surrounding “strangers in a strange land” and the role of women in a male-dominated society. Naomi abandons her community in Bethlehem to live in Moab with her husband—and later with her sons and daughters-in-law. Once the males in her family have died, Naomi chooses to return to the place she originally turned away from; Ruth joins her. The women are powerless.
In Ruth’s world, a woman had nothing until she married and brought forth a son. The men in her life would protect and feed her, but the men would also conduct all business affairs and make the crucial family decisions. Ruth, as a foreign woman, could participate in Bethlehem’s community even less than Naomi could. However, many Bible stories with similar predicaments are woven together to signify how God works through the people who show up. In the second chapter of the book, Ruth lands in the field of Boaz, an important man in the community, and Boaz turns out to be a relative of Naomi. These events happen by chance, and a reader may even look upon this fortune as unfathomable. However, the author uses Ruth’s willingness to serve Naomi to demonstrate how such loyalty leads to something greater: serving God. Ruth does not pray to land in a rich man’s field, nor does she expect to be treated any differently than the others when she does. She expresses her faithfulness to Naomi by showing up to glean, and God’s hand moves the rest of the pieces into place.
Knight, George Angus Fulton. Ruth and Jonah : The Gospel in the Old Testament. Revised ed. Torch Bible Commentaries. London: S.C.M. Press, 1966.
Newsom, Ringe, Newsom, Carol A., and Ringe, Sharon H. The Women’s Bible Commentary. London : Louisville, Ky.: SPCK ; Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992.
Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. Ruth. Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press, 1999.