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The book of Ruth is the Bible's primary illustration of the law of sonship found in Deuteronomy 25. The story also illustrates the principles of New Covenant marriage as God set forth from the beginning. In addition, it is a natural sequel to the last five chapters of the book of Judges, showing the moral contrast between the home towns of Saul and David as a way of explaining the failure of Saul and the success of David.
Category - Bible Commentaries
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 (Col. 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.
Many years earlier, Joshua had led the Israelites 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 Passover.
The Israelites 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. The people then ate “parched grain” (i.e., barley) the following day, the 16th, which was the day of the wave-sheaf offering (Lev. 23:14). This shows a three-day cycle from Abib 14-16 that was repeated in the year that Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead on the third day.
The wave-sheaf offering was always to be waved on the day after the weekly Sabbath (Lev. 23:11), so it always fell on the day that is now called Sunday. Hence, in Joshua’s time, according to the account in Joshua 5:10-12,
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 [16th 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, 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.
The account tells us that the Passover lamb was killed and eaten on the 14th day of the Abib. The actual day of Passover began that evening and extended into the following day (Abib 15). Then on the day after the Passover, i.e., the day after the 15th of Abib, or Abib 16, the people ate “parched grain” (barley), as allowed by law.
The 16th was also the day that the manna ceased, because now they were able to eat the fruits of the Kingdom.
This prophesied of a greater sequence of days wherein the true Joshua (Yeshua) was killed as the Passover Lamb on the 14th, buried just before sundown, and remained in the tomb throughout the 15th, and was then raised in the early morning hours of Sunday, the 16th of Abib. He ascended to be presented to the Father later at the third hour of the day when the high priest waved the sheaf of barley in the temple.
The three-day sequence in Joshua prophesied of the same three days in the story of Jesus, for He often said that He would be raised “on the third day” (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19, etc.). By Hebrew reckoning, even partial days were counted as full days. Hence, it did not have to be 72 hours, as we often mean today when we speak of three days.
The one time where Jesus speaks of “three days and three nights,” it is not to be interpreted as 72 hours but as a Hebrew idiom meaning continuous time, day and night, as we see in Esther 4:16. She was told to “not eat or drink for three days, night or day,” but as it turned out, she broke her fast “on the third day” (Esther 5:1). She did not have to fast for 72 hours to fulfill her instructions.
Israel was originally just one man (Jacob), who was given this name 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 children were called Israelites, as well as 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 became a nation, not a race per se.
Isaiah 56:6, 7, and 8 makes provision for foreigners to become Israelites as well—Israelites, not by genealogy, but by nationality. To restrict the definition of an Israelite to the bloodline of Jacob-Israel is to view the term too narrowly.
In fact, Isaiah tells us that foreigners who attach themselves to the covenant with Israel will be given “a name better than that of (physical) sons and daughters” (Isaiah 56:5). This is because the basis of their sonship is spiritual, rather than physical bloodline. This foreshadows the New Covenant sonship theme in which we become sons by being begotten by the Spirit. Bloodline cannot make anyone a son of God (John 1:13).
Essentially, Ruth became an Israelite—more specifically a Jew (tribe of Judah)—by heart circumcision when she determined to cross the Jordan with Naomi. 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 Rom. 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”) from God’s perspective 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 Rev. 2:9 and 3:9, when he 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 (Lev. 26:40-42). Only by repenting of their hostility to God and by placing their faith in Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant, can they receive praise as 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” (Gal. 3:28), God’s intent to include everyone in His Kingdom and give them equality is made clear. So Paul also tells us in Eph. 2:14-16 that Christ has united both Jew and non-Jew into one body, or “one new man.” Hence, we should stop discriminating between bloodline Jews and non-Jews, as if they were to be treated differently.
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).
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 mistranslated “avenger of blood” (Deut. 19:12). Such translations come from an Old Covenant mindset, causing men to justify revenge and holding grudges. In fact, the so-called “avenger of blood” was the family judge to deal with family disputes. But if someone was unjustly treated by one of a different family, the “avenger of blood” served as the advocate in a higher Levitical court. He was the one responsible to file cases for family members in order to restore the lawful order.
The blood avenger was not allowed to take justice into his own hands as if he were a judge, 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 correctly 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. In the story of Ruth, Boaz redeemed the inheritance of Naomi through the principle of the law of Sonship in Deut. 25:5-10.
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 Gen. 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 Rev. 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 Rev. 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. The key of David is their pass key, 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. Rev. 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 Rev. 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 love-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 purpose and 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 Deut. 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 (Rev. 3:8).