There was a man named Boaz, a mighty man of valor, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech. Having no food, Ruth took it upon herself to gather food for Naomi so she could eat. She heard of the fields where the people could glean barley and of the mighty man Boaz. She was intrigued in meeting such a man of valor. However, she didn’t know where his field was. So, she thought she might search for it whilst she gleaned barley.
“Let me go to Boaz’s field and glean barley that I might find his favour,” she said to Naomi.
“Go, my daughter,” Naomi replied.
So, Ruth departed and gleaned in the fields with the reapers after the young women, after the other foreigners, after the widows, and after the poor, for she and Naomi were the poorest of poor. Yet unbeknownst to her, she happened to come to the field belonging to Boaz.
On that particular day, Boaz came from town and greeted the reapers, “The LORD be with you!”
They answered, “The LORD be with you!” Such was the traditional salutations in the field of Boaz.
Suddenly noticing Ruth, Boaz said to his young servant in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”
The young servant replied, “She is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from Moab. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So, she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”
Boaz knew immediately who she was, for she was the daughter-in-law of his relative, Naomi. Impressed by her deeds, Boaz approached Ruth and said, “Listen, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. I have ordered the young men not to touch you. And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”
Ruth was utterly amazed by Boaz’s extreme mercy. He placed her behind the young women and ahead of other foreigners, widows, and the poor, in order to have first opportunity to collect the best barley for harvesting. It was customary for foreigners to draw water for Israelites, but Boaz made them draw water for her instead. It was also customary for the women to draw water for men; and now, at Boaz’s command, men will draw water for her. It was a strange thing to do in the face of the customs of their day.
So, she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favour in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”
Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
Humbly, Ruth said, “I have found favour in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”
Ruth, a destitute foreigner who was doing the menial work of gleaning to eat, suddenly rises in status at the grace of Boaz during the midday meal.
“Come here,” Boaz said to her, “and eat some bread and dip your food in the wine.”
This was a serious service Boaz was doing for Ruth. So, she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. She ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.
When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not disgrace her. Also, pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.
Gleaners typically followed the young women who bundled together stalks and ears of cut cereal grass into a sheaf. And now Ruth gleans before the young women bundled the sheaves. Boaz’s generosity has far exceeded the requirements prescribed in the Law for the poor, as delineated in the Holy Scriptures of Leviticus 19:9 and Deuteronomy 24:19. So, it is obvious that Boaz has a particular interest in Ruth.
Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about 29 pounds of barley. She took it up and went into the city, and Naomi saw how much she had gleaned. Ruth also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied with what she had eaten
Naomi said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.”
Ruth answered her, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.”
Astounded, Naomi said, “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead! The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”
This was good news, for part of a redeemer’s responsibilities, according to the Law in Leviticus 25, was “buying back the estate of a deceased relative.”
Ruth said to Naomi, “He also said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” This was also good news because it meant that Boaz’s men would keep a protective eye on Ruth, for it was dangerous being a foreign woman in this land.
Naomi said, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women servants, lest in another field you be assaulted.”
So, Ruth kept close to the young women servants of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests while she lived with Naomi.