The Appendix to Judges Chapters 17 and 18 are an appendix to the book. If we examine Judges from a literary perspective, we discover that chapters 1 through 16 contain the history of the period from 1385 B.C. down to approximately 1050 B.C. These are the parameters of the 335 year period of the Judges. Chapters 17 and 18 give examples of the idol worship which became so prevalent as the period progressed.
The focus here is also on the tribe of Dan which, having been
driven from the location that God had given them, sought an alternative place to settle. Judges 18:1 records that they did not have a place to five and Scripture indicates that they had lost some of their inheritance to the Philistines, while much of their land had been absorbed by Ephraim, Benjamin, and Judah.
In an effort to find a permanent inheritance and location, the
Danites sent five men to spy out the entire land. Verse 7 tells us that
they came to a place far north beyond the Sea of Galilee, approximately 125 miles away. The inhabitants were a quiet people and secure; there was not a ruler anywhere humiliating them; they were far from the Zidonians, and had no dealings with anyone. According to the Military Manual, these people fell into the category of “cities afar off,” and it was the God-given principle that the Danites should have gone to this city and proclaimed peace to it and given the inhabitants an opportunity to surrender and to serve them.
However, the evil Danites determined ahead of time that they
would go in and possess the land. According to verses 27 & 28:
They. . . came unto Laish, unto a people that were quiet and secure:
and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city
with fire. And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon,
and they had no business with any man.
Through this endeavor the tribe of Dan became positioned far
north of the Sea of Galilee and became confirmed idol worshipers. We know they loved idols because years later, under the reign of Jeroboam I, one of the two golden calves that was set up in the northern kingdom was located in the territory of Dan. An examination of the twelve tribes which will be sealed during the tribulation period, recorded in Revelation 7, reveals that the tribe of Dan is missing. Evidently, the Danites fell into such dishonor during the Old Testament period, because of their idolatry and ungodly activities, that God refuses to acknowledge them, along with Ephraim, in the accounting of the tribes in Revelation 7.
Appendix II Appendix I gave us a picture of the spread of idolatry and of its
corrupting influence on one tribe. Appendix II (chapters 19 through 21)
presents additional insight into the corruption and moral decadence
which became prevalent during the years covered by the book of Judges. It is a depressing story of sodomy and homosexuality. The period is summed up in 21:25, which closes the book by saying: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
XX A DRAMA OF REDEMPTION
RUTH We now come to a story of the village life of a pious and humble people which is a refreshing contrast to the ungodliness recorded in Judges. The book of Ruth can be called Appendix III to Judges. In fact, the Hebrew canon often included it with Judges, Verse 1 begins: “Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled.”
Since we have analyzed the social, economic, military, and religious
situation which prevailed during the times of the Judges, we are now
able to take this little cameo of Ruth, presented by the Holy Spirit, and see it as a shining example of spiritual life in a dark era. It glistens like a star in the evening sky against the dark background of decadence and immorality all around them. We have a glimpse of a small community and the lives of some individuals who can be an inspiration to us.
Perspectives on the Book of Ruth The book of Ruth can be studied from a variety of perspectives. It is a rich book which will be a blessing to you as you teach it and to those who learn as you present it to them. You can approach the book from the standpoint of history, using it to show the ancestry of the family of David and the Messiah. You can look at it from a theological perspective and examine the doctrine of redemption. You can study it from the perspective of customs and traditions and examine the levirate marriage system and the traditions which existed during that era.
From a social perspective, you can see how the common people lived and how they interacted with one another. From a spiritual perspective you can see God’s watch care and direction behind the scenes, ever sovereign, ever guiding His people as they act out this narrative. From the standpoint of typology, you can see Christ, you can see the Church, and you can see the believer. From the standpoint of application, you can see yourself and those you know, in the biographies of these individuals. You can learn how to react to God in different situations, and how to see things with a spiritual eye. From the perspective of assurance. you can see that even when wrong decisions are made, God will still bring about His sovereign will.
For this study, we will examine the book of Ruth as literature.
From this perspective, we will see six individual sections, each one complete in itself. There are plots, subplots, potential bad ends and ironic twists. I want us to see it as a drama; to see the book as a stage play in four acts and six parts (Acts 1 and 4 each having 2 scenes). For the next few minutes I want you to forget where you are. Go back in time and assume you are in a theater engrossed in the drama taking place on stage.
Act I-To Moab and Back Scene 1 The scene begins with a family that has moved from Bethlehem to Moab because there was a famine in the land. We learned from Deuteronomy 28:15, 23, that when famine
came on the land it was the result of sin in the nation. This is a phase in the sin cycle. A man of Bethlehem decided to leave the area and try to find sustenance somewhere else, so he went to “sojourn” in the land of Moab. I believe what we have recorded here indicates a lack of faith, because Elimelech left God’s promised land to go to Moab. We might say he left the “house of bread,” for that is what the word Bethlehem means, and went to Moab which was, in effect, the “garbage can” of the world. His name, Elimelech, meant, “God is my king, “ but it is rather obvious that he did not live up to it. The name of his wife was Naomi and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chihon.
Although he went only to “sojourn” in the land, verse 2 tells us
that he remained there. But instead of finding refuge, he found death as verse 3 tells us. Because of his lack of faith, he died in a land which was an abomination to the Israelites, for reasons the book of Judges made clear, and left a widow and two sons, without income or support.
Being left alone, the two sons did the next obvious thing. Each
took a Moabite woman for a wife. The name of one was Orpah, which
means “little dear,” or “little dear one.” The other was Ruth, which
means “glamorous. “ They lived there about ten years.
The names Mahlon and Chilion mean “sickly” and “piney.” That
May have been a good description of them, for we are told in verse 5
that Sickly and Piney died and Naomi was left alone with two Moabite
At the close of Scene One, we appear to have the potential for a
very sad ending. Naomi, whose name meant pleasant, was now a widow. Her husband Elimelech was dead; her two sons were dead; she was dwelling in a land hated by the Israelites, with two Moabite daughters-in-law for whom she was responsible. On the positive side, we must realize something she did not; viz., that God had simply cleared the decks. He had taken the wrong-doers out of the way and was ready to act in sovereign grace.
Scene 2 Scene Two begins with verse 6. Naomi rose up and began
the return journey to Bethlehem after she heard that the Lord
had visited His people in giving them food. This demon
states that the famine was not random chance or coincidence, but was caused by God as phase two of one of the sin cycles. Evidently, back in the land of Israel, the people were in a repentance and deliverance phase, so God had visited His people and allowed the land to begin to produce grain again.
When Naomi began the journey back to Bethlehem, both of her
daughters-in-law were determined to go with her. After a little time,
perhaps at a fork in the road, Naomi tried to bid the young women
farewell. Verse 8ff says:
Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with
you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The Lord grant
you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband.
At that point, both Orpah and Ruth insisted they would return
with Naomi. But Naomi began to argue against the custom of the time. Welfare was not available, and there were no social services to care for widows, so God had provided, in Deuteronomy 25, the concept of levirate marriage.
Levirate marriage provided that if a man died before he had a son
to continue his name, his brother was to take the widow as his wife and father a son for his dead brother to continue the name of the deceased.
This was God’s way of providing adequate care for the widows of the
land. It appears that Orpah and Ruth were planning to go back with
Naomi and participate in the levirate marriage system, but Naomi argued against it, saying in verse llff:
I am too old to have an husband . . . if I should have an
husband also tonight, and should also bear sons; Would ye tarry
for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having
husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your
sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me.
When they heard that argument, Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye
and returned to her people and to obscurity.
Following Ruth’s statement of commitment and her vow in the
name of the God of Israel (vss. 16-17), Naomi realized that she was
determined to go with her, and so they both came to Bethlehem where their arrival caused quite a reaction. The women of the city said, “Is this Naomi?” Can’t you imagine the small talk? Can’t you imagine the insinuations?
A decade before, Naomi had left with her husband and two
sons. Now she had come back ten years later, a poor destitute widow
with a Moabite girl. Her husband and her two sons had died, and here
they were two widows, an Israelite and a Moabite-looking like beggars.
In the eastern philosophy of that time, such circumstances were
indicative of God’s judgment on sin in an individual’s life. On the other
hand, if one were prosperous and lived a life of abundance, that was
the outward indication of God’s blessing on a life. So when the women of the city saw the two destitute widows, they could not help but say, “Is this Naomi?”
In verse 20, Naomi replied, “Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara.“
Mara means bitter and it is the same word that was used of the bitter
waters in Exodus 15:23. Naomi was saying, “I am bitter because God’s
hand has gone out against me.“ She believed that God had become her
enemy. “For the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.“
“I went out full”, she continued. She had gone out with abundance, a
husband and two sons. “The Lord hath brought me home again empty why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?”
The word “Almighty,“ as it is used in verse 21, is the Hebrew word
El Shaddai. It was the name God used for Himself when He addressed Abram, in Genesis 17, as He talked about the promise of the seed and multiplied blessing through seed too numerous to count. There seems to have been a play on words here as Naomi used this term, because God had cut off her seed. He is the Almighty, but He is not the Almighty in her case. In her mind He had afflicted her. You can see the improper response which Naomi had toward God at that point. She had been brought low through circumstances and God’s hand had gone out against her for a purpose that she could not comprehend. But, she was acting improperly toward God because she mistakenly believed He was her enemy. So, rather than being pleasant, as her name implied, she became bitter.
If only Naomi could have seen the future and recognized that
God had cleared the way for His sovereign grace to act in her life, her
total attitude would have been different. But she had a myopic point of view. She had tunnel vision. She was hungry; she was alone with a
Moabite girl; she was back in her hometown where people were speaking against her. She had lost her husband and her sons, and she was bitter. She was no longer pleasant. She had gone out full and had come back empty.
Verse 22 is a summary. It appears as if a narrator has come on the
stage and says: “So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.“
This was the perfect time to return. The story is just beginning and
the blessing is just starting. At the end of 1:22, the curtain falls on Act 1, Scene Two.
Act II Enter the Hero Before Act 11 begins, it seems in verse 1 as if the Holy Spirit, as Narrator, stands before the curtain and whispers, “Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.” With this introduction, the stage is set for the next act.
As Act 11, Scene One begins, Ruth asked permission to go out
into the harvest fields and glean after the reapers. Her desire indicates that she had knowledge of the customs of the time. The law of gleaning, designed by God as a protective measure for those unable to otherwise provide for themselves, is described in Deuteronomy 24:19:
When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field and hath forgot
a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it. It shall be for
the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow, that the Lord thy
God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand.
It was a commonplace, everyday thing, for the widows in the land to
follow behind the reapers and glean what remained. As Ruth went out to glean, she “happened” to come upon a portion of the field belonging to Boaz.
Now we begin to see that God was working behind the scenes,
guiding and directing. Of all the fields Ruth could have gleaned, she
just “happened” on the one belonging to Boaz. At some cross roads in Bethlehem, Ruth had a decision to make and she was sensitive enough some nomads who sold him into slavery in Egypt.
to follow the leading of God and make the right decision.
How can we ever know, or ever over-emphasize, the eternal and
momentous consequences of every small decision we make? Ruth’s first decision, as the three of them stood crying together on a dusty cross roads in Moab, was whether to continue on with Naomi or to turn back. She made another decision when she left her mother-in-law to go and glean. Because of a seemingly inconsequential decision, the lineage of the Messiah was determined.
Don’t underestimate the eternal consequences of small decisions.
If Ruth had made the wrong turn that morning, she would not have
been in the lineage of Jesus Christ. She would not have married Boaz. She would not have been the ancestor of King David. Who would have thought, when she left the house that morning, that the field she selected would determine whether or not she would be in the ancestry of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God?
Verse 4 reads: “And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the
reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee.“ see in Boaz a big, burly, bearded, godly businessman. I want you to think about how all of these pieces are fitting together. They just “happened” to get back to Bethlehem at the beginning of the harvest. Ruth “happened” to take advantage of the law of gleaning. She wanted to glean and she was submissive. She selected the field of Boaz. Then, just about the time she sat down for a little break, Boaz, the owner and her kinsman, just “happened” to come from Bethlehem out to his field. He just “happened” to be a godly man. And he just “happened” to notice Ruth. There are too many coincidences here; we must see God’s sovereign hand behind the human activity and decisions.
Boaz asked his servant in charge of the reapers, “Whose damsel is
this?” In the vernacular of today, that inquiry translates into “Wow!“
The servant replied, “It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the county of Moab.” Notice that the man in charge knew all about her. I am sure the village was still talking negatively. But the servant spoke well of her as he continued (vs. 7):
And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers
among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the
morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house.
Verse 8 describes an unusual event. Normally a man in that culture
would not speak to a woman in public, and certainly a man in Boaz’
position would not speak to a servant girl, especially a widow gleaning among his reapers. Yet he said (vss. 8-9):
Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field,
neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens: Let thine
eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have
I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and
when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which
the young men have drawn.
Ruth’s response was to fall on her face in gratitude and ask, “Why
have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me,
seeing I am a stranger?” The better translation would be “foreigner,” rather than stranger. The answer to Ruth’s question could not have been her personal appearance. Though Boaz might have said “wow,” I am sure that after working in the sun all morning, Ruth, dusty and tired, was not overly attractive. It certainly was not self-worth, because Moabites were despised and a widowed Moabite woman was not worth any consideration. It was, on the part of Boaz, unmerited favor.
And so it is with us. We were dead in trespasses and sins, unable
to help ourselves, but Christ, of whom Boaz was a type, extended His
grace and love to us who were alienated from Him, as Boaz extended
his grace and love to this foreign woman who had no reason inherent in herself to be loved.
Boaz answered her, “It hath fully been skewed me, all that thou hast
done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband” (vs.11). As a
leader in the community, Boaz was aware of everything that went on.
He had not been listening to the murmurings and undercurrents of the
women, but had been hearing with a spiritual ear. So he added (vs.12): “The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.”
Ruth was comforted by this kindness that had been spoken to her
heart, and responded, “though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens.“ As in the words of Jesus in John 10: 16: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold. them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. “ The typology continues to unfold.
At mealtime, Boaz invited Ruth to share the meal with his reapers
and dip bread with them in the vinegar. That may not sound like a very good meal to us, but I am sure that after working all morning in the field, that bread and vinegar, (or bread and a sop as they would have called it,) had some appeal. Here I see an example of God’s condescending grace. Imagine this wealthy Hebrew man condescending to eat at the table with a Moabite widow. She sat beside the reapers and he served her roasted grain. He fed her himself and Ruth even had some left after she was satisfied.
I am again reminded of the Lord’s grace and goodness illustrated in
His feeding of the multitudes. Regardless of how much of His grace we use day by day, there is always an abundance in reserve.
After Ruth left, Boaz ordered his reapers to let her glean even
among the sheaves not just the discarded husks. They were not to insult her or rebuke her. He even added, “And let fall also some of the handfuls of grain on purpose for her. “ Ruth continued working until evening, probably becoming more and more excited as she saw how much good grain she was gathering. At dusk, she took home an ephah of winnowed barley and also gave Naomi the leftover lunch she had saved.
When Naomi recognized that the day’s results were unusual, she
inquired about where Ruth had worked. Hearing her reply, “The man’s
name with whom I wrought today is Boaz, “ Naomi’s reaction was the equivalent of our “Praise the Lord! (vs. 20). Ruth repeated all Boaz’s words. Naomi identified him as a near kinsman and redeemer. She urged her daughter-in-law to obey his instructions: “It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field.
We also need to remember that this was a lawless era, “when every
man did that which was right in his own eyes.” If Ruth had been required to work outside the protection of Boaz, she could very well have been assaulted, injured, or dishonored.
The harvesting required approximately seven weeks. This meant
that these two widows had seven weeks of security to rely on. Chapter 2 ends with the statement that Ruth did stay close by the maids of Boaz until the end of the barley harvest and even through the wheat harvest. The curtain falls on Act II and seven weeks go by.
Act III Ruth Seeks Redemption When the curtain goes up on Act III Naomi begins the next step in the levirate process. I want you to notice that Naomi was the one with first option on Boaz as the kinsman-redeemer, but with a kind, loving spirit, she relinquished this right to her daughter-in-law, Ruth. “My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?” she said. She reminded Ruth of who Boaz was, and that the harvest season was over. She knew he would be winnowing barley on the threshing floor which was a time of celebration.
When the winnowing was done and they looked at the results of their
harvest, they would eat, drink, and celebrate; then Boaz would go to sleep.
Naomi instructed Ruth how to approach him (vss.4-5):
Wash thyself, therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon
thee, and get thee down to the floor; but make not thyself known
unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. And
it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place here
he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee
down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do.
Obediently, Ruth went down to the threshing floor and did all
that Naomi had instructed her. She waited until big, kindly, burly Boaz
had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry. He made a bed for himself near his heaps of grain and lay down. He was in for a surprise that night, the like of which his old bachelor ’s heart had never known. Verse 7 says Ruth went in at midnight, lifted up the cover and snuggled down beside him. Boaz was startled. He sat up, looked forward, and behold, there was a woman lying beside him. Imagine his surprise! “Who are you?” he asked. Ruth identified herself and added, “Spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid, for thou art a near kinsman. “ In spreading his garment over her he was giving the sign of acceptance. He acknowledged his role as redeemer.
Notice that she requested redemption and he granted it in the
words of verses 10 and 11:
Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter. for thou hast shewed
more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as
thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich. And now,
my daughter, fear not, I will do to thee all that thou requirest. for
all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.
Ruth had stayed within the prescribed family program of levirate marriage and had become obedient to Hebrew customs. I call your attention to the fact that her deportment during the past two months had been exceptional and she had acquired an excellent reputation. She was in a place where every eye was on her and every tongue was ready to spread malicious gossip about her. But she had behaved herself in such a way that her virtue and her unspotted character had become known throughout the town, and more importantly, to Boaz.
But then, although he acknowledged his role as redeemer and
agreed to fulfill it, he had to add in verse 12: “And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. “ Now, after all this, we sit back in our chairs and think, Oh, no! There’s going to be a bad ending. It all looked so good, but now Boaz is not the right man after all.
Boaz showed his godly character by adhering to the accepted social
system. Lie still until morning, he instructed Ruth. Then, if he discovered that the closer relative would redeem her, “let him do the kinsman’s part. “ If the other was not willing, however, “then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the Lord liveth.
I guarantee you that neither of them got any more sleep that night.
Don’t you know Boaz was thinking, “I wonder if this other man will
redeem her?” And don’t you know Ruth was thinking, “I could love
this man. What if the other man redeems me? What does he look like? Who is he?” Here are the potential bride and groom, together throughout the night, but separated by the possibility that another closer redeemer existed who could claim the right of redemption.
Ruth lay at his feet until morning and got up before anybody
could recognize her. Boaz cautioned her not to let anyone know that
she had been there. This statement reveals that he was protective of her reputation. Since the prostitutes came to the threshing at harvest time, he knew that Ruth’s honor would be compromised if she was seen leaving with a sack of barley.
As Ruth entered the house, Naomi asked her, literally in Hebrew,
“Who are you?” What she meant was, “Are you Mrs. Boaz this morning?” Well, at that point Ruth could not say for sure, but she reported the conversation between them and gave Naomi the pledge which Boaz sent, repeating Its words, “Go not empty unto thy mother in law.”
Naomi was beginning to see God demonstrate His lasting love.
She had complained of coming home empty, but now she was no longer empty. Now, she knew she could rely on Boaz because we read that she instructed Ruth, “Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be at rest, until he has finished the thing this day.”
The curtain falls on Act III, and we wait with growing suspense
for it to rise again. Will Boaz be the one to get the girl, or will it be the
other unknown kinsman?