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Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Ruth." To view all parts, click the link below.
Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem on the day of the wave-sheaf offering of barley. Most of the men of the town, no doubt, had gone to Shiloh for the feast of Passover and would return later in the day or by the next day to begin harvesting their fields of barley.
The setting of the story shows the connection between Bethlehem, the place of the Messiah’s birth (Micah 5:2), and His ultimate resurrection and presentation to the Father in heaven as the first-born from the dead (Colossians 1:15). To Naomi, arriving in Bethlehem completed their trip to the Promised Land and represented the place and time of entering God’s Rest.
Earlier, the Israelites had been led across the Jordan into the plains of Jericho on the tenth day of the first month—the day that the Passover lambs were to be selected (Joshua 4:19; Exodus 12:3). The men were then circumcised (Joshua 5:3-8) and recovered during the three days leading to the Passover. They killed the lambs on the afternoon of the 14th day of the month (Joshua 5:10).
Passover itself, being the 15th day of the month, was a day of rest, and the people then ate “parched grain” (i.e., barley) the following day, which was the wave-sheaf offering (Leviticus 23:14). This shows a three-day cycle that was repeated in the year that Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead on the third day. Since the wave-sheaf offering was waved on the day after the weekly Sabbath (Leviticus 23:11), it always fell on the day that was later called Sunday. Hence, the lambs were killed on Friday and the parched grain of barley was eaten on Sunday.
Joshua 5:10-12 tells us,
10 While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal, they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. 11 And on the day after the Passover [15th day], on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12 And the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land [16th day], so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.
In the prophetic story, Naomi here represents Joshua who led the Israelites (i.e., Ruth) into the Promised Land and to Bethlehem, the place of Naomi’s family inheritance (farm). There is a clear progression of events that parallel Israel’s entry into Canaan as well. After leaving Egypt, the Kingdom was established at Sinai; after 40 years the people entered the Kingdom; and seven years later the people inherited the Kingdom when the land was divided among the tribes and families.
So also Naomi’s “kingdom” (family) was established in the wilderness. Then Ruth (now an Israelite) entered the Kingdom at Passover—perhaps crossing the Jordan on the 14th day of the first month. They arrived at their inheritance on the day of the wave-sheaf offering.
It is likely that the day of decision, when Orpah returned and Ruth decided to go with Naomi, occurred on the Moabite side of the Jordan River. Ruth then became an Israelite when she stated by faith, “Your people will be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16). I stress this because some would teach that to become a Jew one must marry a circumcised Jew in order to have a genealogical connection to Judah and Abraham. Paul, however, makes it a matter of heart circumcision in Romans 2:28, 29.
Ruth the Israelite of Judah
Israel was originally one man (Jacob), who became an Israelite when he was about 98 years of age. He was not born an Israelite but attained that name or status after becoming an overcomer. His family were called Israelites, including their wives who were taken from other nations. After some centuries had passed, especially after a multitude of Egyptians joined them in coming out of Egypt (Exodus 12:48, 49; 12:38) Israel was a nation, not a race per se.
Isaiah 56:6, 7, 8 interprets this by prophetic decree, making provision for foreigners to become Israelites as well—not by genealogy but by nationality. To restrict the definition of an Israelite to the family of Jacob-Israel is to view the term too narrowly.
Essentially, Ruth became an Israelite—more specifically a Jew (tribe of Judah)—by heart circumcision at the time that the Israelites under Joshua had been physically circumcised. This occurred before her marriage to Boaz, and God gave her “praise” for her faith by memorializing her in the Book of Ruth. Judah means “praise,” and Paul uses this in Romans 2:29 to show that being a member of the tribe of Judah was a matter of God’s recognition, rather than depending on the recognition of men. He tells us that “his praise is not from men, but from God.”
In other words, one’s status or position as a Jew (“praise”) is based on faith and heart circumcision, not works or physical circumcision. Men’s definition of a Jew is not the same as God’s definition. Many claim to be Jews who are not really Jews at all by God’s definition, because they yet adhere to the Old Covenant and its sign of physical circumcision. But such are not recognized by God as “Jews,” nor do they receive “praise” from God.
These are the ones John mentions in Revelation 2:9 and 3:9, when speaks of “those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” Satan means adversary. In this case, by rejecting the Messiah, they became God’s adversaries and ought to repent of their hostility to God, as demanded by the Law of Tribulation (Leviticus 26:40, 41, 42). Only by repenting of their hostility to God and by placing their faith in Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant, can they become Jews in the sight of God.
A major theme of the story of Ruth is about how to become a Jew. When viewed in light of the New Covenant, where “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28), God’s intent to include everyone in His Kingdom and give them equality is made clear. So Ruth, the Moabite (Ruth 1:4) was able to become an Israelite, and God was not ashamed to include her in the genealogy of Christ. Neither was Boaz reluctant to show her kindness, though she was “a foreigner” (Ruth 2:10). Neither was he ashamed to take her as his wife (Ruth 4:13).
Boaz the Kinsman Redeemer
Ruth 2:1 says,
1 Now Naomi had a kinsman [mowda] of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.
Boaz was Naomi’s “kinsman.” The Hebrew word is mowda, derived from the root word yada, “to know.” A kinsman, in Hebrew thought, is one who is known to you, as in a family member. The root word yada is spelled with three letters, yod (hand), daleth (door), and ayin (eye). It is also the root word from which Judah is derived.
We can view yada as seeing a hand opening a door, or as seeing hands raised in praise (“Judah”), which opens a door to heaven.
There is also the specific authority and responsibility of a kinsman redeemer, often translated “avenger of blood” (Deuteronomy 19:12). Such translations come from an Old Covenant mindset, however, causing men to justify revenge. In fact, the blood avenger was the one responsible to seek justice for family members in order to restore the lawful order when some injustice had been committed.
The blood avenger was not allowed to take justice into his own hands but was to be the family advocate in a biblical court of law to give justice to those whose rights had been violated and to restore peace between the victim and the sinner. The word translated “avenger” is ga’al, “redeemer,” and it is so translated in Ruth 4:14 in reference to Boaz.
Hence, this is more literally rendered “bloodline redeemer,” or, better yet, “kinsman redeemer,” a term most Christians understand and apply to Jesus Christ.
So we see that Ruth 2:1 calls Boaz a “kinsman,” and Ruth 4:14 calls him a “redeemer.” He was both—hence, a kinsman redeemer. As such, he fulfilled a prophetic role of Christ Himself, but in the story of Ruth, Boaz redeemed the inheritance of Naomi through the principle of the law of Sonship in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.
The Meaning of Boaz
Scholars are uncertain as to the precise origin of the name Boaz, telling us that the name is derived from an unused root of uncertain meaning. The name means “fleetness, quickness, the strength of a sharp mind.” As such, it fits well with yada, “kinsman,” which has to do with knowing or having knowledge. Perhaps the picture being painted here is a man of intelligence and knowledge of the law, and (by implication) one who was careful to act lawfully at all times.
Boaz’ prophetic position as a kinsman redeemer is more significant when we link it to the pillar on the left side of the entrance of Solomon’s temple. The two pillars were Jachin and Boaz (1 Kings 7:21). Jachin (Yachiyn) means “He will establish.” The root word kuwn, sets forth the idea of stability and firmness. In Genesis 46:10, Jachin was one of the sons of Simeon (“hearing”), which suggests that hearing God’s voice provides a double witness which establishes all things.
Putting these together, we see that to enter the temple of God (as a priest), one must be part of the body of Christ, having the authority and doing the work of the kinsman redeemer. One must hear God’s voice and establish the will of God in the earth through the proper application of justice and mercy.
By implication, Boaz was such a man. He thus represents what it means to be an overcomer, as we read in Revelation 3:12, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God.” This is a reference to the two pillars at the entrance of the temple, as I have said. This is the culmination of the message to the Church in Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love.” The key to making this connection is found in Revelation 3:7,
7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia, write: “He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no man will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:”
This interprets the meaning of Jachin and Boaz, the pillars of the temple, in terms of one holding “the key of David.” The pillars in the New Temple being built are overcomers who guard the entrance and have the authority to determine who is allowed to enter and who is forbidden. They hold the key of David, which is Love.
This is also a reference to Isaiah 22:22, where we read that Eliakim replaced Shebna as the Chief of Staff of David’s house and the treasurer of Solomon’s temple:
22 Then I will set the key [maftaakh] of the house of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.
The implication is that Shebna was not an overcomer, so he was not qualified to hold the key of David. Christ Himself holds the key in the ultimate sense, but the overcomers who are part of His body, are also given responsible positions under His authority. Revelation 3:8 goes on,
8 I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.
Such worthy “pillars” in the temple are those who keep his word and do not deny His name. Apparently, Shebna did not keep His word and thus denied God’s name. We know little about that story, but both Shebna and Eliakim were officials in the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:18). As I wrote in The Revelation, Book 2, it appears most likely that Shebna had falsely accused Eliakim of some misdeeds, thereby succeeding in overthrowing Eliakim for a season. When the truth came out later, Shebna was exiled and Eliakim was summoned and restored to his position (Isaiah 22:20, 21).
John then links this story in Revelation 3:9 to “those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie.” The implication is that these false Jews are like Shebna, who was deposed after attempting to usurp the authority of Christ and the overcomers. The key of David is Love, and that key is then given to the overcomers who manifest the nature of God.
Boaz himself represents both Christ and the overcomers in general in the story of Ruth. He represents one who knows and therefore keeps the word (law) of God according to His intent. As we will see as the story unfolds, Boaz was motivated by love for Ruth. He also implemented the law of Sonship, whereby he was willing to raise up seed on behalf of his near kinsman, Elimelech, who had lost his sons in Moab.
As we will see later, the purpose of the law, given in Deuteronomy 25:6, was to prevent the loss of a brother’s inheritance. It says, “that his name may not be blotted out from Israel.” Those who refuse to do this on behalf of Jesus Christ, our elder Brother who died childless, are those who deny His name (Revelation 3:8).
Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Ruth." To view all parts, click the link below.