Naomi evidently saw that their removing into an idolatrous country for the sake of worldly good, thereby exposing themselves and their children to evil influences, was wrong, and she mourned the unwise step.
It was the beginning of barley harvest when Naomi arrived in Bethlehem and settled in her homely lodgings; and Ruth, expecting nothing in this country of her adoption but toil and hard fare, said to her mother-in-law, "Let me go to the field and glean after the reapers." Naomi probably was too old and infirm to endure the fatigue of such an employment, and knowing that she must have something on which to subsist, said, though perhaps somewhat reluctantly, "Go, my daughter."
So Ruth went out from the city early in the morning, and arriving at a field where the reapers were already at work, she asked leave to pick up the scattering grain, and immediately set herself to work, and was busily employed when Boaz the owner entered the lot. He seems not to have known who she was; and after inquiring, and being told that it was Naomi's daughter-in-law, his kindly feelings were at once awakened, and he told his young men to let her glean where she pleased, and also to drop occasionally a few handfuls of grain on purpose for her.
Boaz was a mighty man of wealth, and a prince in Judah; but notwithstanding his exalted position and power, he daily went out upon his farm to superintend his workmen; and as he approached, his common salutation to them was, "The Lord be with you;" and they answered in return, "The Lord bless thee;" a salutation which beautifully illustrates the genuine effects of true religion in producing kindness in superiors, and respect and affection in inferiors.
He soon after came to Ruth, and calling her his daughter, told her to remain in his filed and gather after the reapers, and when she was thirsty to drink of the water that the young men had drawn. She with great humility and modesty expressed her thanks for his kind consideration towards her a "stranger," meaning one born and brought up on heathen Moab. But Boaz replied that it had fully been told him all that she had done for her mother-in-law since the death of her husband, and how she had left her father and mother and come to dwell with a people with whom she was unacquainted; and that he hoped a full reward would be given her by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings she had come to trust. Little did he know that he was to be the instrument in fulfilling his own wishes.
He also invited her to dine with him, which invitation she accepted, and at dinner she took her seat by the side of the reapers. Boaz, although so high in rank and dignity, partook of the homely meal with the workmen, and helped Ruth at table to such things as they had, and in such a bountiful manner, that after she had eaten, a large quantity remained, which she carefully secured and preserved to meet the wants of Naomi her mother-in-law. Kind and thoughtful Ruth! An own daughter could not have been more considerate of a mother's need.
At night Ruth found to her joy, after she had beaten out her grain, that she had three pecks of barley. This she took home to Naomi, who received it with thankfulness, and said, "Blessed be Boaz of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and the dead."
From this time till the end of the barley harvest, and then all through the wheat harvest, Ruth went daily into Boaz's fields to glean, returning at night, laden with the fruits of her toil, to her mother-in-law. And who would not, in this world of want, be at least a gleaner like Ruth, that he might have not only a supply for his own wants, but wherewith to give to him who needeth, if it be but a kind work, a loving smile, or an ephah of barley? And how many there are who could readily spare from their own sumptuous supplies food sufficient for some poor widow in Israel, to be repaid by her blessing and prayers.
Naomi's anxiety to do something to place Ruth in a more comfortable and eligible position in life still continued; and bethinking herself of a law in Israel, that the nearest relative of a married deceased without children should marry his widow, she asked Ruth if she should not attempt to bring about a marriage for her in accordance with this law, that she might be placed above the hardships to which she was then subjected.
"All that thou sayest I will do," meekly responded the trusting Ruth. Naomi then directed her in regard to the steps she should take to bring Boaz's attention to the subject, for he was the near relative; and Ruth implicitly obeyed all her instructions, having full confidence in her wisdom and goodness. And when Ruth afterwards said to Boaz, "Spread thy skirt over me, for thou art a near kinsman," he understood at once that she was urging a customary claim, and he acknowledged its justice, and promised to give immediate attention.
Boaz then informed her that there was another more nearly related to Mahlon, her first husband, than he was; but if this man did not or could not marry her, he himself would take her for his wife.
The next day Boaz repaired to the gate of Bethlehem, and sat down upon one of the seats. Justice was there statedly administered by the judges to any requiring their aid. He had not waited long when the kinsman of whom he spoke to Ruth passed by, and Boaz said, "Ho; turn aside, and sit down." So he sat down. Boaz then took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, "Sit ye down here;" and they sat down. The court was now in session, the judges upon the bench, and the case was called.
Boaz's statement seems to have been about to this effect: That the land of Naomi, which had been sold till the year of jubilee, was about to be redeemed, and this was to be done by paying certain charges. Then turning to his kinsman, he said, "There is none to redeem it, save you or I, and it must be kept in the family. Will you do it?" And he answered, "I will redeem it." Boaz then informed him that Ruth was entailed upon the property, and if he took the land, he must also take her. This he said he could not do, and he yielded up all claim upon it in favor of Boaz; and, as was the custom at the time in sealing business transactions, the kinsman pulled off his shoe and gave it to Boaz.
The business was now completed; and turning to the elders, Boaz said, "Ye are witnesses that I have purchased all that was Elimelech's; and moreover, Ruth the Moabitess have I purchased to be my wife. To this ye are witnesses this day." And all the people who had been standing by as spectators, and all the elders said, "We are witnesses. The lord make the woman that is come into they house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel; and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem."
This public recognition of Boaz's taking Ruth for his wife, accompanied by prayers and benedictions, was probably the customary method of distinguishing an honorable marriage; and Ruth became his wife.
Her sudden exultation, however, from the depths of obscurity and poverty to wealth and an enviable position in society, did not raise her above the poor widowed Naomi; and like a good and dutiful daughter, she took her to her own comfortable home, and provided for all her wants during the remainder of her life.
The divine historian records only one more event in regard to this interesting family, and that is the birth of a son. This was an occasion of great rejoicing, particularly with Naomi, for in would her family be represented and sustained. But the joy was not confined alone to the home of Ruth, the happy mother, for the neighboring women flocked in to see the little stranger, and they called his name Obed. And Naomi the grandmother took the child and laid it in her own bosom, and became its nurse. Obed was grandfather to David the king of Israel, and from them Christ descended.