This series is about love stories in the Bible that are types and shadows of the Lord and the church, or they play a significant role in the history of Israel or even, Jesus, and I think you'll never look at these Bible stories quite the same way again. The last section of each week in this series will be entitled 'The Twist', so read on...
The girl that proposed
We are told in Ruth 1:1 the following story took place in the days when the judges ruled. The Judges ruled and are listed in the book of Judges, over the course of about 300 years after Joshua died but before King Saul ruled. Samuel was the last Judge and appointed Saul king. Notable Judges included Gideon, Samson and Deborah.
Moses had died and then Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land, conquering first Jericho, with the help of a prostitute named Rahab, who hid the Israeli spies and then lied about it to the Jericho authorities and was honored by God for doing so. For her kindness she requested she and her family be spared for she believed in the God of Israel. She let down a red rope through her window on the outside of the wall, and when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, her house remained standing. All Joshua 6:25 tells us is that Rahab settled in Israel 'to this day' (the time of the writing of the book of Joshua).
It was in that time when Israel settled the land that the book of Ruth takes place. We are told in the opening verses that due to a famine in Israel a family had migrated to Moab, the area near Jericho. Over time the man died leaving his wife Naomi, a widow, and their sons got married to two Moabite women: Orpha and Ruth.
Over the course of about 10 years we are told, both men died, leaving now all 3 women widowed and destitute. Orpah decided to stay in her homeland, but Ruth insisted on going with Naomi back to Israel, uttering some of the most famous words in scripture: "Entreat me not to leave you, nor return from following you; for where you go I go; and where you lodge, I lodge. For your people shall be my people, and your God, my God." (1:16)
Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, catch me a catch...
Chapter 2 opens with the statement Naomi had a distant relative, Boaz, who was very wealthy. The law in Israel was that if a brother or close relative died and left a widow, a relative of the dead man had the responsibility if he was looking to get married, to look first to his dead brother's wife, so that his brother's family could survive. If not a brother, then a distant relative - in other words, better to stay in the family than being forced to suddenly have no family network for her and her children.
Another law in Israel was for the harvesting of the grain fields to be done with rounded off corners, leaving the corners to be harvested by the poor as an offering to the Lord, for He promised if they would do that then He would bless the farmer and Israel for caring for others. That is exactly the situation Ruth and Naomi found themselves in, poor enough to have to glean from the corners of Boaz's field.
Yet a plan is afoot in Naomi's mind, for she instructs Ruth to only go to Boaz's field(s), and she tells her to walk up to him and let him know she will be gleaning. Boaz recognizes her as a relative and insists she stay with him and his fields...the plot thickens just as Naomi had hoped. In fact he appears to 'like' her, for he invites her to eat meals with him and his employees. (2:6-17)
The proposal and more
Chapter 3 opens up with instructions from Naomi to Ruth that are lost on we Gentile readers looking at this story some 3,200 years later. Naomi is giving Ruth instructions on how to propose to Boaz. She tells her to take a bath, put on clean clothes and look all pretty, hang around unseen for the evening, and when the harvest party is winding down and Boaz falls asleep, go in and she says: "..go in and uncover his feet, and lay yourself down, and he will tell you what next to do." (v4)
THAT my friends, is a wedding proposal. Today a Jewish wedding often places the bride and groom under a chupah, a tent, and with variations, the groom will often at some point put a veil over his wife as a symbol that they are one and she is under his covering. As I said, with 3200 years having passed there are variations, but we see that Ruth's taking Boaz's coat and covering herself and going to sleep under his robe at his feet was indeed taken as a proposal. We know this because...
Verse 7 says she did so, and v8 says, "At midnight the man turned over, and behold, a woman was lying at his feet, and he was afraid." LOL I would think so! When Ruth identified herself she was very bold to follow through with her proposal in v9: "I am Ruth, Now spread your skirt over me for you are my near family."
And the good news is, he accepted her proposal! Look at Ruth's boldness, look at her ingenuity!
We must ask ourselves why Boaz was so willing to marry a Moabite woman; why did he fall in love with her? Of all the women in Israel, why did Ruth's boldness that started with her going right up to him to inform him she would be gleaning his field, appeal to him? Had he seen that before in another Moabite woman perhaps? And some may wonder why the story of Ruth was even place in the Bible - there is no teaching, not instruction, just a love story.
The twist is revealed in the closing verses of the book of Ruth where it lists the genealogy of the family. In verses 21-22 we are told Boaz's dad's name was Salmon (Sal-mon), but it is only by looking at Matthew 1:5 at the list of the same family list that Matthew tells us not only that Salmon was Boaz's father, but his mother was none other than Rahab the former prostitute of Jericho. That's right - Boaz' mom was Rahab - a Moabite woman convert to the God of Israel, just like Ruth.
Now the love story becomes clear - Boaz's dad, Salmon, saw something in Rahab, the Moabite convert to the God of Israel, just as he saw something in Ruth - the same love of God, the ingenuity, the boldness, and as his father disregarded her life as a prostitute as the old her for all things are new in God, so did Boaz do the same with Ruth. Wow, the stories that family could tell - I can hardly wait to meet them in heaven and hear the whole story straight from them.
The closing words of the book of Ruth continue with the family line: Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed, who grew up and had a son named Jesse, who grew up and had a son named David - future King of Israel. That makes Ruth and Boaz David's great-grandma and grandpa, and makes Rahab his great-great grandma.
The story of Ruth begins with Rahab and is the story of redemption in Christ, and further confirmation that the decisions we make in the Lord now may have far reaching effects that will be seen only after we are gone. And we cannot forget that both women, Rahab and Ruth, are in the family line of Mary and Joseph - and therefore, Jesus.
Another love story next week, until then, blessings,