Ruth 3–4, Acts 28, Jeremiah 38, Psalms 11–12

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Ruth 3–4, Acts 28, Jeremiah 38, Psalms 11–12. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Ruth 3-4.

Once again we see the godly character of Boaz on display in today’s two chapters from Ruth. His actions protecting and providing for Ruth in chapter 2 may indicate his personal attraction to her, but he is aware of the age difference (v. 10) and another man who was a closer relative to Ruth and, therefore, had the first right to marry her (vv. 12-13). According to Old Testament law, the other man was supposed to marry Ruth and, with her, produce a son who would be heir to Elimelek’s estate. This nearer relative (plus the age thing) may have been why Boaz did not make a move for Ruth himself. Regardless, Ruth comes to him secretly, at night, and requested his protection for her and Naomi through marriage. Although some have suggested that Ruth’s actions of “uncovering Boaz’s feet” was a sexual act, the text indicates the opposite. The wording in the passage was “uncovered his feet and lay down” (3:7) so this would have to be some kind of Hebrew idiom/euphemism such as when we say two people “slept together.” But the fact that Boaz slept through Ruth’s actions and, later something “startled him” (v. 8), indicates that the plain reading of the text is the correct one. Ruth pulled the covers off Boaz’s feet, laid down on the ground by his feet and waited. 

Although the passage does not say so, it seems clear that Boaz was an unmarried man. Singleness was highly unusual in Israel; perhaps he was a widower whose original wife died before giving him any heirs, but we do not know. What we do know is that his blessing on Ruth (3:10) indicates his desire to be married to Ruth. Given that life during the period of the Judges resembled the wild west, Boaz may have been able to get away with undercutting the nearer relative of Ruth by marrying her before he was aware of her existence. However, despite his desire to marry Ruth and the possibility of doing so unrighteously, but without consequences, Boaz wanted to do the right thing. And, in chapter 4, he did. He gave the closer relative the opportunity to do right, then got what he wanted when the other man refused to do his duty. 

And, you have to admire Boaz and give him some style points for how he approached Ruth’s nearer relative. He mentioned the benefit of doing the right thing first when he asked the man if he would redeem the land that Elimelek owned (4:3). When the man stated his intention to buy the land from Naomi, then Boaz mentioned the string that was attached, namely the responsibility to marry Ruth, too (4:5). Notice how, at the end of Ruth 4, when Obed was born, the women said, “Naomi has a son!” (v. 17). The reason they said this is that Obed was the heir to Elimelek’s land. This legal entanglement was the reason the closer relative to Ruth did not want to buy the land if it meant marrying her. If she were to have a son before the other man’s original wife had a son, there would be “firstborn issues” and Obed might get everything. That’s what he’s saying in verse 6 when he said, “…I might endanger my own estate.” Boaz thought about this before he invited the man to buy Naomi’s property. In other words, although Boaz was determined to do the right thing, even if that meant losing Ruth, he still presented the situation in the best possible way to get what he wanted, namely the legal right to marry Ruth.

The lesson from this, for us, is to be careful about pursuing desires that are outside of the moral will of God. It is so easy for us to see situations like this in clear black and white terms when we are looking at the responsibilities and actions of others. But, when we ourselves want something that maybe outside of God’s will for us, we can easily make excuses that justify doing what we want to do. Couples who are considering marriage can do this kind of justifying when it comes to crossing lines of sexual activity. “We’re planning on getting married,” they might reason, “so it’s not wrong for us as long as we do get married anyway.” It is so easy to justify what we want to do and so hard, when our desires are engaged, to do what God commands us to do. But a man of moral character like Boaz and a woman of godly character like Ruth will seek to do right and wait for the Lord.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.