Yes, I know, there isn’t one!
But I promised that we would conclude our studies on the book of Ruth with a piece on Boaz. I did say that I would also do something on homecoming but I have decided that would be just too much information for us to deal with. It will have to wait for another time perhaps.
Next Friday we will be beginning a new study series on the Holy Spirit. I have produced the material, which aims to provide a good foundation for understanding and coming to know the Spirit, and how he works in people’s lives. It is available in printed form to anyone who cannot access the internet, so please ask those you know who might find this interesting. If they contact me I will send them a printed copy.
The text below about Boaz is mostly from John Pass of St David’s, who I asked for help with looking at the story from the male perspective. Thank you for your help here, John. The questions, in italics, are mostly mine.
The book of Ruth is titled as being the story of a woman. Some people say it should be called the book of Naomi. But what about the main man in the story?
What can we deduce about Boaz? Before reading the notes below, think back over your reading of Ruth and try to remember what you thought about Boaz and his actions.
Might you have looked at him differently depending on whether you are a man or a woman?
How about the story overall? Is it a love story, a romance, a historical account, or what? Might your view be influenced by whether you are a man or a woman?
Look at how differently these artists have depicted Ruth and Boaz:
Which version are you most attracted to? Why?
From Ruth chapter 2:
- Boaz is an influential rich man. V1
- He’s also a man who loves God; uses God’s name to bless his workers. V4
- He obeys the law and allows the poor to glean in his fields.
- He’s probably much older than Ruth; calls her ‘my daughter’. V8
- He is deeply impressed by everything she has done for Naomi and prays a blessing over her. V11.
Sometimes, when you read commentaries on the book of Ruth, people suggest that Boaz fancied her from the word go. That he noticed her because she was beautiful. The Bible doesn’t say that anywhere – her appearance isn’t even mentioned. All that is referenced is her character: her courage, sacrifice and determination, that everyone in town knew she was ‘a woman of excellence.’ And that is what Boaz sees in her. He’s heard the gossip in the village, he’s been told that she is working her fingers to the bone and, since she is part of his extended family and he has the power to help, he does just that.
Yes, he invites her to eat with the workers.
Yes, he makes an exception to provide more for her.
Yes, he instructs his men not to harass her in anyway.
But there’s no implication it’s because he thinks he’s got a ready-made ‘catch’. Isn’t Boaz just a kind, generous older man trying to help a destitute young widow?
Well, is he? How do we tell?
How much do we read our own agenda into Biblical stories?
How much do we do the same with topical stories in the news today?
How much is the Biblical writer (or journalist in our time) trying to influence us?
How aware are we of the influences on our thinking?
In a world where we think everyone has an agenda we assume Boaz must have been on the prowl. Was his purpose to ‘groom’ Ruth?
On the other hand, was this God-loving rich man, respected and honoured in the community, just being loving and kind as was his nature? Maybe he was also a lonely older man with a broken heart? It’s interesting there’s no mention of a wife.
Why not? Why would a wealthy, prominent, mature Jewish landowner not have a wife and family? We don’t know for sure but it seems quite likely that Boaz had been widowed. The idea of ‘waiting for the right one’ wasn’t really Jewish custom – so it’s unlikely that Boaz had been holding out for his dream girl. It was also a sign of disgrace not to have descendants, children to carry on your name. So, given that he doesn’t appear to have children that must have been a source of distress for Boaz. Perhaps he lost his wife in childbirth? It was very common.
Now, think back to the scene at the harvest celebration, where Ruth (encouraged by Naomi) lies down at the feet of Boaz as he sleeps.
How do you think Boaz felt when he awoke to find the young woman there?
How might he want to react?
How does he react?
Naomi’s plan for Ruth to seek out Boaz at the harvest celebration is successful.
Perhaps Boaz is flattered by the way she ‘offers‘ herself to him. But there is no indication in the account that he takes advantage.
He comforts her, ‘do not be afraid,’ and promises he will marry her, protect and provide for her – but that he wants to do this right. There are some family complications to sort out – a closer relative has first choice! Does Boaz perhaps think he will lose Ruth – miss out through doing what’s right?
But God has his hand on the situation. The relative declines, Boaz and Ruth marry, Obed is born, the lineage of David begins…and so to Jesus. All’s well that ends well!
For Boaz, Ruth coming into his life was a real blessing for him as well as for her and Naomi.
Do you really think God honours people who are faithful and obedient to him?
Is there ever a time when we can truly say “All’s well that ends well”? When is the end?
Do you think God often works through people to fulfil his plans? Have you experienced that?
Why was Boaz attracted to Ruth?
What character attributes do you find attractive in other people?
What character attributes might be attractive in you?
Can God use these for his purposes?
To conclude, why not spend some time with God considering:
- how you react to other people, whether you jump to conclusions about them, whether other people do the same with you
- how you can offer your character to God, with all its positives and all its faults, for him to use for good.
Children’s activities can be found here.