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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
After Ruth brought home gleanings to Naomi, Ruth 2:19, 20 says,
19 Her mother-in-law then said to her, “Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.” Again Naomi said to her, “The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.”
It appears that Boaz himself did not tell Ruth of his close relationship with Naomi’s family. He obviously knew who Ruth was, but Ruth did not know who Boaz was. Ruth had been led by the Spirit to Boaz’ field, where “she happened to come” (Ruth 2:3).
It was customary to bless those who had shown kindness or integrity toward them. The word “blessed” is from the Hebrew word baraq, which literally means “to bend the knee.” Strangely enough, baraq is also translated “curse” in Job 2:5, where Satan speaks to God about Job:
5 However, put forth Thy hand, now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse [baraq] Thee to Thy face.
Again, we read in Job 2:9,
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse [baraq] God and die!”
The usual word for “curse” is arar, as we see in the story of Balaam in Num. 22:12,
12 And God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them; you shall not curse [arar] the people; for they are blessed [baraq].
Apparently, baraq, “to bow the knee,” has to do with submitting to another’s blessing or curse, depending on the situation. The implication is that the blessing may also be turned into a curse or a curse turned into a blessing, according to the will of the one speaking it. Perhaps this is similar to the greeting shalom, “peace,” where this blessing may also be revoked (Matt. 10:13).
Curses also affect people, particularly when the curse is pronounced on account of some sin. The divine court backs such curses until or unless the cursed ones repent and reverse its cause. So we read in Exodus 22:22, 23,
22 You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 23 If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry.
One who is guilty, then, should not only repent toward God but should also do whatever is possible to make peace with the injured party that has filed his case in the divine court.
When Noah cursed Canaan in Gen. 9:25, he and his descendants, the Canaanites, came under a long-term curse that finally resulted in their expulsion from their land in the time of Joshua. Joshua led Israel into the land to displace the Canaanites 828 years (2 x 414) after Noah’s curse. This is according to the factor of Cursed Time, which runs in cycles of 414 days (personal) or years (national).
In another story, Balaam was unable to curse Israel, because they were blessed. In other words, the divine court would not ratify a curse on Israel nor put them on Cursed Time, because they had done nothing worthy of such a curse. Yet many years later, when Saul consulted the witch of Endor (1 Sam. 28:7), he put the monarchy of Israel under Cursed Time, and 414 years later the result was that King Jehoiachin was deported and put into a Babylonian dungeon (2 Kings 24:12).
Men and nations are not placed under Cursed Time for every type of sin, but some sins are serious enough to warrant it. Most of the time, it has to do with claiming a calling that belongs to someone else, or, conversely, by refusing one’s legitimate calling. Regardless of the causes, repentance is always the solution, and the period of Cursed Time is actually God’s grace period giving them time to repent. If they do not repent, divine judgment is carried out.
If they repent by the deadline (414 days or years), judgement is averted and they begin a time of cleansing to transition them into Blessed Time, which is characterized by the number 490. Often this means a 76-day cycle for individuals and a 76-year cycle for nations, because 414 + 76 = 490.
In this way, the curse is turned into a blessing, because the time spent under Cursed Time turns out to be a learning experience through divine discipline. The execution of divine judgment is thus avoided, and the person or nation grows in spiritual maturity.
We see multiple examples of this in Scripture and in long-term history. I have also experienced this in my own personal life in short-term 414-day cycles. (See The Wars of the Lord.) Fortunately, in my own life I was able to repent and therefore lived to tell about it, whereas I have observed others who have died in their unrepentance.
Yet I must stress again that not every time of trouble is the result of being on Cursed Time. Such times appear to be fairly unusual and are limited to certain types of sin, most often related to one’s calling.
In daily life it is wise to treat others with kindness, respect, and love, as Boaz treated Ruth and Naomi. As a result, he received their blessing and the approval of God Himself. Blessings are not just nice words to make people feel good. Blessings are actually backed up by the law of God and are therefore a form of appealing to the divine court in a positive sense.
Too often we think of the divine court merely in terms of filing complaints and hoping to obtain justice, but the great Judge of the Universe loves to hear cases of blessing as well.
Most people bless certain ones through “normal” prayer before the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16) without realizing that this throne is in a court of law. Naomi’s blessing upon Boaz on account of his kindness may be why he was blessed to be included in the messianic lineage.
When Naomi told Ruth that Boaz was one of her closest relatives, we are given a detail that will soon be vital to the rest of the story. As we will see shortly, near kinsmen had certain rights and responsibilities in the law which mere friends did not have. All of this relates directly to the principles of sonship and the laws of inheritance, which speak directly into the idea of the manifestation of the sons of God in the New Testament.
As we will see, Boaz was a near kinsman but was not Naomi’s nearest kinsman, as defined by law. There was one other who was responsible to marry Ruth and to raise up an inheritor of Elimelech’s estate in Bethlehem. Boaz could not bypass him without violating the law, and so we find that this nearer kinsman had to be given the first opportunity to marry Ruth.
In all of this, Boaz complied with the law’s requirements, knowing (I believe) the sovereignty of God and believing that if it were truly God’s will that he should marry Ruth, there would be a way to do so without violating the right of the other kinsman.
Ruth 2:21-23 says,
21 Then Ruth the Moabitess said, “Furthermore, he [Boaz] said to me, ‘You should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.’” 22 And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, lest others fall upon you in another field.” 23 So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
Boaz was not legally responsible for Ruth’s protection, but he took upon himself that responsibility out of kindness and benevolence. He recognized a broader law of love which was fundamental to the law itself (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37). We are told little about the moral character of the men in Bethlehem, but Boaz was concerned that some might take advantage of beautiful foreigners who lacked protective coverings.
Under normal circumstances, every Israelite family had a head of the family whose duty it was to protect the family. This was the “avenger of blood,” better translated kinsman redeemer, who represented the members of his family in court at the gate of a walled city. Yet there were always a few who had no such covering to protect them, and there were always others who sought to take advantage of such unprotected people.
Those who had no protective covering, such as widows, orphans, foreigners, and even animals were covered by God Himself. So we read in Exodus 22:21-23,
21 And you shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 23 If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.
Hence, no one is truly without a covering, but many who have no earthly covering may not realize that God takes personal responsibility for their protection. When unjustly treated, they have recourse to the divine court, where they may appeal to God Himself as their kinsman redeeemer. God says that in such cases, “I will surely hear his cry.”
This principle also applied to David, after his parents were forced to renounce him to avoid Saul’s wrath. He prayed in Psalm 27:9, 10,
9 Do not hide Thy face from me, do not turn Thy servant away in anger; Thou hast been my help; do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! 10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.
David was not a literal orphan, but when he was considered an outlaw during the reign of Saul, his parents were probably forced to renounce him and were unable to protect him without endangering their inheritance in Bethlehem. For this reason, David appealed to God Himself to be His covering, and we know that the law honored his appeal.
It is the same today. There are some who insist that all believers must be under the covering of some established church or leader and that if they fail to do so, they are outside of the will of God. But, like Saul, the church itself has created many orphans through their oppressive laws (traditions of men). They have no right to turn around and blame the orphans for not returning to their oppressors to receive more beatings. Even David himself had to flee for his life from Saul’s spear, thus becoming an orphan in the eyes of the law.
The point is that God Himself becomes their kinsman redeemer, as the law tells us. It is not a sin to be an orphan. In fact, we find in many cases that being orphaned by the church is often a sign that God is with them in a greater way than those who have an earthly covering.
Naomi was a widow, and Ruth was both a widow and a foreigner. They were therefore under God’s direct protective covering. The story of Ruth shows how God took an active interest in their lives to protect and guide them to a blessed conclusion.