Ruth 2:17-23 –
17 So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley.
18 And she took it up, and went into the city: and her mother in law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved after she was sufficed.
19 And her mother in law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to day? and where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she shewed her mother in law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man’s name with whom I wrought to day is Boaz.
20 And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the LORD, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen.
21 And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me also, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest.
22 And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field.
23 So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law.
First, Ruth had to glean her grain and then thresh it so that she was only taking the grain home. An ephah was approximately a bushel. That’s quite a bit of grain, especially when you consider that she had to glean a lot more than that to thresh it down to a bushel. Ruth certainly wasn’t a shirker when it came to work.
Our family buys whole grain and grinds it. I know from experience that a bushel of grain would have lasted two ladies a long time, and this was only the beginning of harvest. If things could continue this way they would have plenty of food until the next harvest.
When she came to her mother-in-law the first thing Naomi noticed, of course, was how much Ruth brought home. Then Ruth gave Naomi her leftovers from lunch. If they didn’t have much food (which we assume they didn’t), this was probably a huge blessing to Naomi. She didn’t have to wait to prepare food from what Ruth brought home. She could eat right away.
No wonder Naomi asked her where she had gleaned. She would have been curious in any case, but seeing the bounty would have made her doubly curious.
I love how this verse builds our anticipation. We know where Ruth was, and we know how Boaz is related to Naomi. The only thing we don’t know is Naomi’s reaction to who Ruth’s benefactor is. And we have to wait until the last word in the sentence for Naomi to know.
Naomi certainly does not do things by halves. In chapter one she tells everyone to change her name to “Mara” because it means “bitter”. Naomi now loudly exclaims how good God is, and then she has a surprise for Ruth. This man who was so generous is a relative of theirs. They are no longer alone and friendless. They have a relative and a generous one. Certainly God is blessing them now as much as He seemed to be working against them before (…the hand of the LORD is gone out against me. 1:13).
Then once again we are reminded of Ruth’s “foreigner” status. Perhaps this is to show just how great Boaz was in his generosity with Ruth. Naomi’s response shows love as she calls Ruth “my daughter”. Naomi agrees with Boaz that Ruth should go to his fields. No doubt Naomi knew the character of this man and knew Ruth would be safe there. Ruth willingly complied and stayed near the maidens – another layer of protection.
Naomi and Ruth have been through a deep, trying valley. Now they’re coming out of it. Moving into green pastures and quiet waters, as it were. Life is looking more hopeful in a long time. And yet…
This chapter feels a little sad in its ending. The harvest is over, and yet nothing seems to have come from what looked like a budding romance. Ruth dwells quietly with her mother-in-law with no sign of Boaz wanting to give her attention.
Sometimes life looks like it’s not going the way we desired. Sometimes it’s hard to sit quietly and wait for God to work His plan for our life. But patient waiting is always best. God has a plan for our lives – a good plan.