A thought or two on Ruth arising from student papers.

The book begins with “a certain man ” (1:1) and introduces a couple of other men (1:2). In a few verses, the men are all dead, and the next time a man appears in the story it is Boaz (2:1). He is identified as a kinsman of Elimelech, and the immediate expectation might be that he is the redeemer for Naomi. In the end he is, but he becomes the redeemer for Naomi by becoming more immediately the redeemer of the Gentile Ruth.

More than one student has pointed to the exchange between Ruth and Boaz in the field. Boaz instructs his men to take special care of Ruth, returning kindness for the kind loyalty she has demonstrated toward Naomi. Ruth is surprised by the attention, because she is “not like one of your maidservants” (2:10, 13), not a member of Boaz’s household. But Boaz incorporates her into the house - allowing her to glean in his field like one of his own maids (2:8). When Ruth later approaches Boaz on the threshing floor, she has accepted that position in Boaz’s household - “I am Ruth your maid” (3:9). A little allegory of justification here: Boaz pronounces Ruth a member of the house, and then she begins to consider herself a member of her house.

And of course in the end, she is more than a maid: It’s a Shakespearean romantic comedy, as the maid becomes mistress.