Act IV-Ruth’s Reward Scene 1 Act IV, scene 1, takes place at the city gate of Bethlehem. The gate of ancient towns was the place where political and legal decisions were made. Boaz sat down at the gate
and, behold, the close relative of whom he had spoken
just “happened” to pass by. This could not be a coincidence. That
relative could have been any number of places, but God drew him to
the gate to confront Boaz because He was ready to bring His plan to a climax (chapter 4).
We never learn the identity of Boaz’s kinsman. The Holy Spirit
substitutes “such a one” for his name in Boaz’s greeting. After asking
him to sit down , Boaz stopped ten more men of the city as they passed by. They became a legal committee; because instead of written contracts, these witnesses attested to everything that transpired. Boaz states his case in verses 3 and 4:
Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a
parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s: And I thought
to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before
the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it, but if
thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is
none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee.
The reply of the kinsman was, “I will redeem it. “ And again we
want to say, Oh, no! The love between Boaz and Ruth will not be realized because the worst thing has happened. The nearer relative has agreed to redeem the land! But Boaz had not finished yet. He went on to describe the most vital condition of the transaction almost as a “by the way, Mr. Kinsman.”
What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou m u s t
buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up
the name of the dead upon his inheritance.
At that point the closer kinsman changed his mind saying, “I cannot
redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance; redeem thou my light
to thyself, for I cannot redeem it. “ At last we can relax. The final obstacle to the romance has been removed.
The right of redemption was rather complicated. When a parcel of
land was lost because of bankruptcy, there were certain conditions attached to the redemption of the land. Many times, the conditions for
redemption were written on the inside and outside of a scroll. The scroll was sealed with seven seals and placed within the temple, or tabernacle, or within another legal depository. When someone decided to redeem the land, he went to the priest, and asked to read on the outside the conditions for redemption that were duplicated on the inside of the scroll.
There were three acknowledged criteria to qualify as a redeemer.
1) The redeemer had to be a relative. That was the case for both
the close redeemer of the relative for whom we have no name, and for Boaz. It was also true in the case of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, because when Adam sinned, the earth came under the curse, and the Lord Jesus became the close Relative-Redeemer to buy it back. 2) The redeemer had to be willing. An unwilling redeemer, such as the man whose name is not given, was the same as no redeemer. Again, the Lord Jesus qualified to be our Redeemer. John 10 tells us He willingly laid down His life for His sheep. “I lay it down of myself’ (vs. 18) 3) The redeemer had to be able to redeem. A bankrupt redeemer was also the same as no redeemer. Again, the Lord Jesus qualifies because Hebrews 7:25 says of Him: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
So, just as Boaz qualified to redeem Ruth and the inheritance of
Elimelech, even so the Lord Jesus Christ meets all of the criteria to
redeem us because He is a relative, He is willing, and He is able.
In Ruth 4: 10, Boaz confirmed the fact that He had redeemed the
land and taken Ruth to be his wife. Incidentally, it is at this point we learn that Ruth had been the wife of Mahlon. Previously, we did not know which of Naomi’s sons she was married to. The city elders pronounced their blessing on the new family, and Scene I comes to an end.
Scene 2 In verse 13, Ruth became the wife of Boaz and in time gave
birth to a son. Now the women of the city came to rejoice
with Naomi because she had a redeemer, saying, “Blessed be
the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman. “ Imagine the
thoughts of Naomi. She had come back from Moab empty, but now
things could not have been better. The hardships were behind her. God is in control and His purpose is evident. She has progressed from being a poverty-stricken widow, to having biome the grandmother of the man who would become the grandfather of King David. For the balance of the story, turn to Matthew 1:5-6. There you will learn that Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestor of the Lord Jesus
XXI A PRAYING MOTHER
FIRST SAMUEL-The Philistine Occupation We still need to determine the starting date for the book. Alongside First Samuel 10:24, write 1050 B.C. That was when the people shouted “Long live the king,” and Saul began his forty year reign, (Acts 13:21).
The crowning of Saul was preceded in chapter 8 by the demand of the people for a king. Until then they were a Theocracy under the leadership of Judges. It appears that not much time went by between the demand in chapter 8, and the introduction of Saul in chapter 9, and his crowning in chapter 10-perhaps two years at the most. Write 1052-1050 B.C. beside chapter 8.
Mizpeh The demand for a king followed immediately after the military
activity recorded in chapter 7, which is an important consideration for
our dating system. The event was the Battle of Mizpeh and it marked
the end of the Philistine occupation, for we read (vss. 10 and 13):
The Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the
Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before
Israel.... So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more
into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the Lord was against the
Philistines all the days of Samuel.
Assuming therefore, a date of 1055 to 1050 B.C. for that battle, we
can date Judges 13:1 at 1095 B.C., since it records the birth of Samson and the beginning of the forty year Philistine occupation which terminated with the Battle of Mizpeh. We still need more information in order to determine the date for the beginning of I Samuel. We find it in I Samuel 7:1, which states:
And the men of Kirjath-jearim came, and fetched up the ark of the
Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and
sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord. And it came
to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim, that the time was
long; for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel lamented
after the Lord.
This is a valuable piece of information, not only for our current study,
but for a later study in the life of David. But for now, if we can discover the circumstances surrounding how the Ark came to be in Khjath-jearim for twenty years, we will have another historical event that can be used to determine the opening date for the book of First Samuel.
Aphek The Philistines took possession of the Ark during the Battle
of Aphek which is described in I Samuel 4. Since I will cover the actual events of this battle later, I will just summarize here by saying that the Philistines were victorious and as a result captured the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites who had taken it with them into battle. First Samuel 5:1 records: “And the Philistines took the Ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod. “ Verse 9 tells us that during the time the Ark was in the city of the Philistines, the hand of the Lord was against the city and smote the inhabitants. Chapter 6:1 says that the Ark was in the country of the Philistines seven months.
When the Philistines realized that possessing the Ark was causing
their problems, they arranged for its return to Israel where, as we read, it remained in Kirjath-jearim for twenty years. Based on this evidence, we can date the Battle of Aphek to 1075 B.C., or twenty years before the Battle of Mizpeh. The Battle of Aphek would have occurred at about the midpoint of the Philistine oppression, which takes us back to 1095 B.C. for its beginning.
Dating Samuel We can now see that First Samuel 1:1, and the birth of Samuel, would have occurred about llOOB.C. First Samuel
25:l records Samuel’s death and we have a fairly close date of 1012 B.C. for that chapter. Assuming that Samuel was born in 1100 B.C. and died in 1012 B.C., he would have lived eighty-eight years. That means that he was twenty-five years old at the time of the Battle of Aphek when the Philistines took possession of the Ark, and between forty-five and fifty when he led the armies of Israel in the victory over the Philistines at Mizpeh, and fifty when he crowned Saul king.
So, writing 1100 B.C. beside I Samuel 1:1, we see that the book
spans ninety years of Israel’s history. It begins with the birth of one of
the greatest men Israel had ever known, and ends with the death of a
man who had everything to gain, but died in infamy.
Samuel-Birth and Childhood The opening portions of First Samuel give us good insight into what was going on during that era in the history of Israel. Chapter 1 introduces us to a man from the hill country of Ephraim. His name was Elkanah and he had two wives, Hannah and Peninah. Peninah had children by Elkanah, but Hannah bore no children. But, Elkanah loved Hannah and was a godly man. Chapter one says that he went up yearly from his city to worship at Shiloh and sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts. At that time, the tabernacle and Ark were at Shiloh. The high priest was Eli and his two sons served as priests.
Hannah’s problem In the first three verses, we are introduced to Hannah, the Samuel, would of the story and her husband Elkanah. We are made aware that the tabernacle was in Shiloh and that Eli the high priest had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. Then we go on to Hannah’s situation. We learn that when Elkanah sacrificed, he gave portions to both his wives, but a double portion to Hannah because he loved her. The Bible says she was barren because the Lord had closed her womb.
To the eastern mind, this was a terrible dilemma and a sign of the Lord’s disfavor. In many parts of the world she would be looked upon as a murderess for it was believed that she killed her husband’s living seed within her own body. We do not know why the Lord closed Hannah’s womb, but we do know that everything God does is for His own glory. We also know that because she was barren for so long, her constant prayers for a son resulted in the kind of consecration which was necessary in order for her to raise Samuel and to make the promises which she did regarding his future.
Hannah’s vow As Hannah went up to the tabernacle year by year, her husband’s other wife taunted and ridiculed her because she
was barren. Hannah wept and prayed and did not eat. Finally, in verse
11: She vowed a vow, and said, 0 Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed
look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me,
and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine
handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord
all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.
She made a Nazarite vow for her son who was not even yet
conceived. What marvelous faith!
She was in such agony as she prayed, that while speaking in her
heart, her lips moved as she mouthed the words although no sound
came. Eli, the High Priest, looked over from the doorway of the tabernacle, and seeing her, assumed she had been drinking. “How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee, “ he scolded (vs. 14). That gives some insight into the spiritual qualifications of the High Priest. He was supposed to be a man of God with spiritual discernment. Eli was such an ungodly priest, and so spiritually undiscerning, that he could not even distinguish a godly Israelite woman praying earnestly to God, from one whom he believed was drunk with wine.
But Hannah answered him respectfully and explained (vss. 15-
16): No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk
neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before
the Lord. Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for
out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken
Eli, realizing his error made a priestly reply: “Go in peace: and the
God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him. “ Hannah
conceived and gave birth to a son and called his name Samuel. When Elkanah went up with his household to pay the yearly sacrifice, Hannah did not go but stayed home with her young son and explained (vs. 22):
“I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he
may appear before the Lord, and there abide for ever.”
Samuel dedicated After she had weaned young Samuel, (we may assume he was about five years old), she went up to Shiloh taking with her a three year old bull and an ephah of flour. Here was a truly godly woman about to fulfill the vow she had made earlier. History is full of “foxhole” consecrations and unkept promises. How often, when in trouble, we cry to the Lord for deliverance and make promises which we forget to keep when the difficulty is behind us. Scripture makes it clear that unless you keep your vow, it is better not to make one (Eccles. 5:5).
Hannah’s vow was not a “foxhole” promise. We can increase our
appreciation of what she did by looking at the situation surrounding
her at that time. Assuming that Samuel was born in 1100 B.C. he was
five years old in the year 1095. In Judges 13: 1, we read that the Philistine oppression began. Hannah was living in an unsafe land occupied by an enemy army. It would be equivalent to living in France during World War II, when it was occupied by Nazi Germany. Families stayed close together at such a time. There was always the fear that if they became separated they might not ever see one another again. Hannah might have rationalized that the land had been at peace when she made her vow and that God would not expect her to leave her son elsewhere during a time of military turmoil.
There was yet another factor that might have given Hannah a
reason for delay. Eli was an ungodly man and his two sons who served as priests were even worse. She certainly had at least some idea of the decadent and ungodly situation that existed at Shiloh and in the tabernacle of God. Gossip quickly spreads about that kind of activity. Also, she might have rationalized that she had not been aware earlier of the sinful environment at the tabernacle and could have reasoned that Samuel should not grow up in so ungodly an atmosphere. But Hannah was not putting her trust in Eli, Hophni, or Phinehas, but in God who had accepted her vow. She knew He would take care of Samuel regardless of the ungodly environment.
Chapter one ends with the dedication of Samuel, while chapter
2:1-10 records Hannah’s song of rejoicing.
Hophni and Phinehas First Samuel 2:12 introduces us to the sons of Eli and says that they were sons of Belial; that is, worthless men. They developed a custom that when someone was offering a
sacrifice, the priest would send his servant around, while the meat was cooking, with a big three-pronged fork. He would stick his fork down into the kettle and whatever he could bring up from the pot, the priest would take for himself. They would also take the fat before it was burned. The servant would also demand that the worshiper give him the meat raw, because the priest wanted to roast it rather than having it boiled. If the worshiper insisted that the fat must be burned first according to the law, the servant threatened to take it by force. “Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord” (vs. 17).
They had no respect for the offerings of the Lord and caused others to despise them also. It had been only a little over three hundred years since the law was given, yet already the priestly family and their servants were disregarding God’s specific instructions. Leviticus 3 describes the preparation of various sacrificial animals with special attention to the removal of the fat, and concludes by saying (vss. 16-17):
And the priest shall burn them upon the altar. it is the food
of the offering made by, fire for a sweet savour, all the fat is
the Lord’s. It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations
throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.
But the wicked priests had no regard for this law. They took the fat for
themselves, and as a result, we will learn later that Eli was a fat man. I believe he said to his sons, “You boys keep the fat meat coming.” Thus, as First Samuel 2:17 says, they “Abhorred the offering of the Lord.
In all of this, Eli is one of the most pitiable of characters in
the Old Testament. According to verse 22:Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel, how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of
the tabernacle of the congregation.
This is a description of something that went even beyond licentious
sexual behavior. In the Canaanite religion, the worship of Baal involved male prostitution. What the sons of Eil had done was to take
the concept of male prostitution and introduce it into the tabernacle
of the Lord. I believe they introduced this evil practice because they
were priests of God, and if the women wanted to worship, they must
do as the Baal worshipers of the land did. The women were familiar
with the practice, and many would succumb to having sexual relations with the sons of Eli in a belief that it was religious. In that way,
they perverted the religious system and the pure worship of Jehovah. Worst of all, they were doing it right in the tabernacle! They
brought Baalism into the tabernacle of God, and the women accepted
it because they saw it taking place in the Baal temples around them.
(Remember God’s disregarded command to kill all the Canaanites?)
One would think that Eli, as the High Priest, would do everything in
his power to bring such evil and corruption to an end, to rebuke and
punish his sons, possibly even to have them stoned. But he only
goes to them and says, in verses 23 and24:
Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all
this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye
make the Lord’s people to transgress.
Not only was Eli a pitiable character, he was a spineless milquetoast as well. Verse 25 says that the Lord desired to put his sons to death.
Eli’s warning Because Eli would not take the situation in hand and bring it to an end, he had to be warned. In time, a man of God
approached him with a prophetic message that began with a
review of the Lord’s historic dealings with Israel. In later times, we will
see that God sent His prophets to rebuke kings. At this time he must
rebuke the High Priest. Under the Theocratic system, the high priest
was the religious leader and as such he was the one to whom high
respect belonged. He was answerable to God, but he had become evil like the evil kings who would come later, and God sent a prophet to rebuke him. This nameless prophet spelled out Eli’s sins (vs. 29), accusing him because he “honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people. “
The words indicate that Eli, as well as his sons, was implicated in the unlawful taking of the fat meat. The prophet suggested they were all a bunch of fat evil men, operating the tabernacle in ungodly fashion, for personal lust and gain, imitating the priests of Baal in the tabernacle of God. The warning of judgment is very similar to the prophecy Elijah proclaimed to Ahab centuries later. The prophet said to Eli (vss. 31-35):
Behold, the days come. . . . that there shall not be an old man in
thine house; ... and all the increase of thine house shall die in the
flower of their age. And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall
come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they
shall die both of them. And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that
shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind:
and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine
Again we see the concept that no one can sin with impunity. God
can and will bypass His own established organization if it becomes wicked to the point that it cannot be used.
Although verse 35 is eschatological and refers eventually to our
High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, God did by-pass the organization
and chose Samuel.
XXII SAMUEL THE JUDGE
FIRST SAMUEL At the time of the visit of the unnamed prophet, several years had probably gone by since Samuel had been taken to live at Shiloh. We know from 2:19 that his mother visited him “from year to year,” bringing him a new coat each time. So, when the prophet came, Samuel was probably about ten years old. Apparently, Eli paid no attention to the warnings of the unnamed prophet. So, in a final effort to reach Eli, God used young Samuel to give him a second warning.
Samuel’s First Task Chapter 3 opens with God’s call to Samuel. It tells us that “the word of the Lord was precious (or rare) in those days, there was no open vision.“
And no wonder, when the religious system headed by Eli and his two
sons was so debased and wicked.
The Lord told Samuel that what He was going to do would make
everyone’s ears tingle. He described it in verses 12-14:
In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken
concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end.
For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the
iniquity which he knoweth: because his sons made themselves vile,
and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the
house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged
with sacrifice nor offering for ever.
When Samuel heard God’s message, he was afraid. It was a natural
reaction for a ten year old boy receiving such a message to be afraid to tell Eli. But when Eli asked him what God had said, he faithfully delivered the entire message to the High Priest. When Eli heard the message, he should have fallen on his face before God. He should have taken his sons before the people and had them stoned to death. He should have repented in the dust. But what did Eli say? “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. “ What a spineless jellyfish!
If this took place in the year 1090 B.C., God gave Eli fifteen years
to straighten out his house. But, fifteen years went by and nothing happened.
Samuel grew up and all Israel from Dan to Beersheba (that is a
literary way of saying from the north to the south) “knew that Samuel
was established to be a prophet of the Lord.