A Moabitess who married Mahlon after the death of his father Elimelech and while Mahlon, his mother Naomi, and his brother Chilion were living in Moab. A famine had caused the family to leave their native Bethlehem in Judah. Ruth’s brother-in-law Chilion was married to the Moabitess Orpah. Eventually the two brothers died, leaving behind childless widows. Learning that Jehovah’s favor was again manifest in Israel, Naomi, accompanied by her two daughters-in-law, proceeded to return to Judah.—Ru 1:1-7; 4:9, 10.
Her Loyal Love. Whereas Orpah finally returned to her people at Naomi’s recommendation, Ruth stuck with her mother-in-law. Deep love for Naomi and a sincere desire to serve Jehovah in association with his people enabled Ruth to leave her parents and her native land, with little prospect of finding the security that marriage might bring. (Ru 1:8-17; 2:11) Her love for her mother-in-law was such that, later, others were able to say that she was better to Naomi than seven sons.—Ru 4:15.
Arriving in Bethlehem at the commencement of the barley harvest, Ruth, in behalf of Naomi and herself, went out to the field to procure food. By chance she lighted on the field belonging to Boaz, a relative of Elimelech, and requested the overseer of the harvesters for permission to glean. Her diligence in gleaning must have been outstanding, as is evident from the fact that the overseer commented about her work to Boaz.—Ru 1:22–2:7.
When Boaz extended kindnesses to her, Ruth responded with appreciation and humbly acknowledged being less than one of his maidservants. At mealtime he provided roasted grain for her in such abundance that she had some left over to give to Naomi. (Ru 2:8-14, 18) Though Boaz arranged matters to make it easier for her to glean, Ruth did not quit early but continued to glean until the evening, “after which she beat out what she had gleaned, and it came to be about an ephah [22 L; 20 dry qt] of barley.” Having been requested by Boaz to continue gleaning in his field, Ruth did so during the remainder of the barley harvest, as well as the wheat harvest.—Ru 2:15-23.
Requests That Boaz Act as a Repurchaser. Desiring to find “a resting-place,” or home, for her daughter-in-law, Naomi instructed Ruth to request Boaz to repurchase her. Accordingly, Ruth went down to Boaz’ threshing floor. After Boaz lay down, Ruth quietly approached, uncovered him at his feet, and lay down herself. At midnight, trembling, he awoke and bent forward. Not recognizing her in the dark, he asked: “Who are you?” She replied, “I am Ruth your slave girl, and you must spread out your skirt over your slave girl, for you are a repurchaser.”—Ru 3:1-9.
Ruth’s actions, in compliance with Naomi’s instructions, must have been in line with the customary procedure followed by women when claiming the right to brother-in-law marriage. In Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Paulus Cassel makes this observation regarding Ruth 3:9: “Undoubtedly this symbolical method of claiming the most delicate of all rights, presupposes manners of patriarchal simplicity and virtue. The confidence of the woman reposes itself on the honor of the man. The method, however, was one which could not easily be brought into operation. For every foreknowledge or pre-intimation of it would have torn the veil of silence and secrecy from the modesty of the claimant. But when it was once put into operation, the petition preferred could not be denied without disgrace either to the woman or the man. Hence, we may be sure that Naomi did not send her daughter-in-law on this errand without the fullest confidence that it would prove successful. For it is certain that to all other difficulties, this peculiar one was added in the present case: namely, that Boaz, as Ruth herself says, was indeed a goel [a repurchaser], but not the goel. The answer of Boaz, also, suggests the surmise that such a claim was not wholly unexpected by him. Not that he had an understanding with Naomi, in consequence of which he was alone on the threshing-floor; for the fact that he was startled out of his sleep, shows that the night visit was altogether unlooked for. But the thought that at some time the claim of Ruth to the rights of blood-relationship might be addressed to himself, may not have been strange to him. Even this conjecture, however, of what might possibly or probably take place, could not be used to relieve Ruth of the necessity of manifesting her own free will by means of the symbolical proceeding.”—Translated and edited by P. Schaff, 1976, p. 42.
That Boaz viewed Ruth’s actions as being completely virtuous is evident from his reaction: “Blessed may you be of Jehovah, my daughter. You have expressed your loving-kindness better in the last instance than in the first instance, in not going after the young fellows whether lowly or rich.” Ruth unselfishly chose Boaz, a much older man, because of his being a repurchaser, in order to raise up a name for her deceased husband and her mother-in-law. As it would have been a natural thing for a young woman like Ruth to prefer a younger man, Boaz viewed this as an even better expression of her loving-kindness than her choosing to stick with her aged mother-in-law.—Ru 3:10.
Doubtless Ruth’s voice must have reflected some anxiety, prompting Boaz to reassure her: “Now, my daughter, do not be afraid. All that you say I shall do for you, for everyone in the gate of my people is aware that you are an excellent woman.” The hour being late, Boaz instructed Ruth to lie down. However, both of them got up while it was still dark, evidently to avoid starting any rumor that would cast a bad reflection on either one of them. Boaz also gave Ruth six measures of barley. This may have signified that, just as six working days were followed by a day of rest, Ruth’s day of rest was at hand, for he would see to it that she would have “a resting-place.”—Ru 3:1, 11-15, 17, 18.
Upon Ruth’s arrival, Naomi, perhaps not recognizing the woman seeking admittance in the dark, asked: “Who are you, my daughter?” Or, it may be that this question pertained to Ruth’s possible new identity in relationship to her repurchaser.—Ru 3:16.
Later, when the nearer relative refused to perform brother-in-law marriage, Boaz promptly did so. Thus Ruth became the mother of Boaz’ son Obed and an ancestress of King David and also of Jesus Christ.—Ru 4:1-21; Mt 1:5, 16.