Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?2 Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.3 Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.4 But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.”5 And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”
6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her.7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down.8 At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet!9 He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”10 And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.13 Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”
14 So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city.16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her,17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’”18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”
1. What did Naomi mean when she said she wanted to “seek rest” for Ruth?
2. In order to understand what is about to transpire between Ruth and Boaz in Ruth 3 and 4, it’s important to familiarize yourself with Deuteronomy 25:5-10, God’s instructions for levirate marriage. What was the purpose of levirate marriage? Why is it significant that Boaz was a relative of Naomi’s? (2) How was he related to her family? What did it mean that Boaz was a “redeemer,” and that there was a nearer redeemer than he? (9, 12-13)
3. Naomi’s instructions to Ruth (1-8) may seem a little odd, even inappropriate, to our Christian way of thinking. This is why it’s important, when studying God’s word, to understand, as best we can, the culture and customs of the audience of the book we’re studying. Read this commentary on Ruth 3:2-4. Were Ruth’s actions in any way immoral or inappropriate, biblically, or in her culture? What did Ruth mean when she said, “Spread your wings over your servant”? What was Ruth trying to convey to Boaz by her words and actions?
4. What are some ways Ruth demonstrates submission and humility in this passage? Compare Ruth’s demeanor with 1 Peter 3:4. How does Ruth model a “gentle and quiet spirit”?
5. Examine Naomi’s wisdom and counsel to Ruth in this chapter. How does Naomi exemplify the older “Titus 2 Woman“? How does Ruth exemplify the younger “Titus 2 Woman”?
6. If Boaz is a type (symbol, foreshadowing) of Christ, who does Ruth symbolize? Did Ruth have anything to offer Boaz that would make this marriage materially beneficial to him? When we come to Christ as sinners, do we have anything to offer Him that would make us “worthy” of saving? Compare Ruth’s humility and dependence on the good graces of Boaz to redeem her to our humility and dependence on God’s grace and mercy to redeem us. Compare verses 13b-14 to Ephesians 2:1,4-6. If Ruth represents us as sinners, what does her lying down for the night and rising at dawn symbolize?
Boaz points us to Christ as our redeemer. Look up the word “redeem” in a Bible dictionary and study these verses. What does it mean for Christ to “redeem” us- that He is our “Redeemer”?
Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”3 So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.”5 Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”6 And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.7 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.”
8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women.9 Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11 But 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.12 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!” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”
14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”
17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.18 And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied.19 And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.”20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”21 And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’”22 And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.”23 So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
1. What is the backdrop of activity/time of year (23) as this chapter opens?
2. What is gleaning? Who was gleaning to provide for according to Levitical law? Where did Ruth and Naomi fit into this law? What sorts of things would Boaz have done to obey this law? (cf. 15,16) How is gleaning an example of God’s love and care for all of His people? How can the gleaning laws serve as an example to the church today?
3. Did Ruth know who Boaz was before she got home and Naomi told her? (19-20) Did Boaz know who Ruth was? How does this demonstrate God’s sovereignty, providence (2-3- Did Ruth really just “happen” to come to Boaz’s field?), the infallibility of His plans, and the truth of verses such as Proverbs 3:5-6?
4. Examine verses 1, 4, 8-16. Write a brief character sketch or description of Boaz. Boaz is a type of Christ. What are some aspects of Boaz’s character that point ahead to the character of Christ? How does Boaz’s (an Israelite) open arms welcome of Ruth (a non-Israelite foreigner) point ahead to God’s inclusion of Gentiles in salvation?
5. Since the story of Ruth and Boaz points so strongly to Christ and to the inclusion of Gentiles in salvation, may we assume that verses 10-12 mean that we will find favor with God, and that He will save us, on the basis of our own good works? Why not?
6. Compare verse 20 with Naomi’s outlook and attitude in chapter 1. How has her focus and perspective changed? How can thankfulness and recognizing how God has blessed us change us from bitter “Maras” to pleasant “Naomis”?
7. Which fruit of the Spirit is most prominently displayed by Ruth to Naomi and Boaz to Ruth? Ask God to grow you in this area and help you find ways to display it to others.
Boaz’s kindness toward Ruth gave Him an opportunity to “share the gospel” (12-13) – so to speak – with her. This week, look for opportunities to take the time to show kindness to others. Be ready to share the gospel, or even just a tract, with anyone who is receptive.
These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.
Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 10 ~ Mar. 2-8 Numbers 16-32 Tackling Tough Issues: Genocide in the Old Testament
Genocide: It’s defined (by dictionary.com) as, “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” This week in our reading, we dealt with a passage in which God commanded the Israelites to kill nearly all of the Midianites, even those we might consider “innocent.” Was God being cruel or capricious? How could a loving God command such a thing?
Numbers 31:1-18 This is the first time (but won’t be the only time) we’ve seen God command Israel to wipe out a certain nation or people group. How do we make sense of this?
1. Hermeneutics principle: Clear passages interpret unclear passages. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Simply put, biblical hermeneutics is the proper application of 2 Timothy 2:15- a systematic and careful way of diligently studying God’s word so as to rightly understand and handle it. One of the principles of hermeneutics is that when you have a passage that’s confusing or could possibly be interpreted in more than one way, you dig into other biblical passages that address the same issue, but more clearly. In Numbers 31 we see a situation that is confusing because it seems like God is being cruel or unfair. We need to take a look at some clearer passages to help us understand this one.
2. What do we know about the nature and character of God? On the surface of this passage, God seems to be acting in a way that goes against what we know about Him from the rest of the Bible. That thought itself tells us that the rest of the Bible describes God in certain ways, and that “cruel” and “unfair” are not among those certain ways. We also know that, because God is perfect, He never goes against His own character. How does the Bible describe God?
God is good. (Psalm 100:5)
Some people go so far as to declare that (because God has commanded genocide) God is evil. But God’s word clearly states in many places that He is good.
God is love. (1 John 4:8)
As parents, it’s easy to understand that there are many different ways our love for our children plays out. We smile and hug our children to express our joy in them. We cuddle and comfort them when they’re hurt. We play and celebrate with them. We sacrificially provide for them. But we also love them in “tough” ways sometimes. We discipline them when they’ve disobeyed. We yank them out of harm’s way to protect them. We take them for vaccinations to prevent them from getting sick. We lock the doors to keep bad guys from getting to them. God’s love for us is similar. He loves His children in many ways, some of them, “tough love” ways.
God is patient. (Romans 2:4, 1 Peter 3:20, Psalm 103:14)
God made people, so He understands that we are “dust,” weak, and completely vulnerable to sin. He extends patience and kindness to people over and over again to lead them to repentance and faith in Him. He exhibits patience for a very long time before He executes judgment.
God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. (Ezekiel 18:23,32, 2 Peter 3:9)
Going back to the parent/child analogy, no good parent gets joy out of punishing her children. We would much rather the child obey so that we can be at peace with each other, love them in the “non-tough” ways, and because obedience is what’s best for the child. God’s love for people is infinitely deeper than our love for our children. He never wants to punish people for their sin, but rather wants them to repent and turn to Him. He has even mercifully provided us a way to be rescued from the punishment for our sin: He punished His own Son on the cross in our place! God is patient with disobedience and rebellion, but eventually, as any good parent would, He has to punish it.
God is just. (Genesis 18:25, 1 Peter 2:23)
God is the only completely just judge because of His omnipresence (He’s present everywhere, always) and His omniscience (all knowingness). He sees every action, even those where there is no other witness, and He knows every secret motive and intent of the heart. Because of this, all of His “verdicts” are always right.
3. How do these character traits fit in with and explain God’s command to destroy most of the Midianites?
Genocide is evil. Doesn’t that make God evil? (Deuteronomy 32:39)
No. Genocide is evil when unjust, sinful men take it upon themselves to kill people for evil and selfish reasons. God is, by definition, good, so if He initiates the judgment of genocide, it cannot be evil. As mentioned above, He is abundantly patient before He exercises judgment, and, due to His omniscience and omnipotence, His verdicts are always just. Therefore, when God uses genocide, it is not evil, nor is He.
What had the Midianites done to be worthy of God’s judgment? (Numbers 31:16, 22:6-7, Revelation 2:14, Isaiah 14:12-15)
Note– 31:3 makes clear this is God’s judgment on Midian, not Israel deciding on its own to annihilate them. God used Israel to carry out his sentence of judgment.
King Balak of Moab and the leaders of Midian conspired to pay Balaam to curse Israel (22:6-7). When Balaam couldn’t curse them, he instructed Balak to entice Israel into idolatry instead (Rev. 2:14).
Moab and Midian worshiped Baal. According to mythology, Baal was son of the chief god, El, but rose to power above El, who was considered weak and impotent. (This is very similar to the story we read in Isaiah about how Satan fell.) Baal was a fertility god, so “worship” consisted of sexual perversion including prostitution, and, often, the sacrifice of the first born son. The religion of Baal took everything good and holy from God’s story (God’s name- El-elyon, El-shaddai, Satan’s attempt to overthrow God, Satan’s contempt for God, and God’s sacrifice of His firstborn Son) and turned it inside out for Satan’s glory. This is what the Midianites were strategically drawing Israel into so that they could either defeat them or turn them into allies.
God showed His goodness by deciding to put an end to evil. He showed His love for Israel by protecting them from both Midian’s schemes and from idolatry and its consequences. God showed His justice by punishing the rebellion of Midian.
Why didn’t God just warn Midian and Israel to stop their evil ways? (Numbers 25, Exodus 20:2-6, Leviticus 26:30, Deuteronomy 4:3)
He did. And, he started with Israel, not Midian. Israel knew better. God had repeatedly told them idolatry was a gross sin (1st and 2nd Commandment) and that it was punishable by death (Lev. 26:30). He had all the Israelite chiefs impaled who had led the people into idolatry. He sent a plague that destroyed the 24,000 people who had bowed the knee to Baal. And, He showed, graphically, through Phinehas that God would not tolerate Israel joining itself to Midian. Finally, he gave the Midianites a taste of what was to come when He had Israel attack (but not annihilate) them at the end of chapter 25.
God would have much preferred both Israel and Midian repent of their idolatry than to put any of them to death here or in chapter 31. He was patient with them and continued to let them live and experience common grace in order that they might repent and turn to Him.
Why did God command Israel to kill “innocent” women and children? (Psalm 51:1, Romans 3:10, 6:23, Samuel 12:22-23) Note– Those women and children were not innocent. Every human is born in sin and rebellion against God.
The married women would have been adults, just as responsible for their sin of idolatry as the adult males who were killed. Had they been permitted to live, they would have continued to train their children in the ways of Baal worship, and the problem would have remained.
Though the male children may have suffered for a moment, we believe that they are in Heaven with Christ. Had they lived, they would have grown up (trained by their mothers) to be Baal worshipers, and as heads of their households, would have re-instituted Baal worship in Midian. Midian would have remained a threat (even more so because of the desire for revenge on Israel) militarily and in tempting Israel to idolatry.
The unmarried, young girls were allowed to live and marry Israelite men (even though they, too, were supposed to have been killed 31:15) because they would have had to conform to their husbands’ religion, the worship of Yahweh.
God showed His goodness in protecting the Israelites from Midian, in taking the male children to Heaven, and in sparing the young girls and allowing them to come to know Him through their marriage into Israel.
God’s exercising genocide on a people is a difficult issue to come to terms with. And, if it’s difficult for us, we can only imagine how difficult it must be for God. He created these people. He loves them and desires to save them so much that He sent His Son to rescue them from His wrath. Genocide is not a flippant decision by a God who kills people casually, but a heart rending last resort for putting an end to evil so rampant that the people will not turn back from it.