The family of Elimelech were evidently among these, though they took the backsliding step of going down into the Land of Moab for succour. The name Elimelech means ''My God is King''; and if his faith had been strong enough to depend upon his King, much trouble might have been spared. ''There was a famine in the land,'' even in Bethlehem, ''the House of Bread,'' and they went to Moab in search of food, and, as often happens, ''they continued there.'' Trouble upon trouble followed this downward step. Elimelech died, his two sons married Moabitish women, and then the sons died also.
After about ten years, Naomi heard ''that the Lord had visited His people in giving them bread,'' and she arose to return to her own land [1:6]. And then follows the memorable choice of Ruth to cleave unto her mother-in-law in following her to an unknown land, and to what seemed a life of privation and toil. When Naomi saw that she was ''steadfastly minded'' to go with her, she left speaking to her.
There must have been something very beautiful in Naomi's life thus to win the devotion and love of Ruth, first to herself and then to her God; and it has been well to keep her name, which means ''Pleasant,'' instead of substituting her suggestion of Mara [which means ''bitter''].
They arrived at Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest, and proved it to be the House of Bread once more. The calm poetry of those harvest fields of Bethlehem, the eager gleaner among the maidens, the reapers, the lord of the harvest-- have all lived in golden sunshine in our imagination from our childhood.
''Her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging to Boaz.'' Behind our lives there is a guiding Hand which causes even insignificant things to be fraught with mighty issues.
In Boaz, the kinsman of Elimelech, ''a mighty man of wealth,'' we have another beautiful character. The simplicity of his life, the courtesy of his behavior to all with whom he came in contact, his generosity, his regard for the Law, above all his constant reference of every event to God, stand out in striking contrast against the dark background of his time.
The reply of Boaz was: ''It is true that I am a goel (redeemer), but there is a goel nearer of kin than I. If he will redeem thee, well, let him redeem thee; but if he is not willing to redeem thee, then will I redeem thee, as the Lord liveth.''
Then follows the quiet rest of faith on the part of Naomi and her daughter, and the dignified carrying out of the Law in the presence of the elders in the gate of the city, on the part of Boaz.
The next of kin was willing to purchase the land that belonged to Naomi, but he was not willing for what that purchase involved, to take Ruth to be his wife, lest he should mar his own inheritance. This left Boaz free to carry out his gracious purpose; and he bought the inheritance of Elimelech, and he purchased Ruth the Moabitess to be his wife, ''to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.''
The story shows how unselfish devotion to God and to duty is rewarded. Orpah, who was content with the outward profession of affection, and returned to her people and her gods [1:14,15], forfeited her place in Israel. The kinsman who failed to fulfill his duty because of his own interests has not even his name recorded in God's Book. Ruth, on the other hand, who gave up all to follow Naomi and Naomi's God, and Boaz, who unhesitatingly fulfilled the kinsman's part, have their names handed down to all time as worthy of praise, and as the ancestors, not only of David, but of David's greater Son [Mat 1:1-6].
''Thirty times in this short book the word 'kinsman' is found, or 'redeemer,' 'near kinsman,' 'next of kin,' 'kindred,' --like words, all having reference to like things...
How plainly this book is intended to teach the doctrine concerning Redemption will be seen by examining Ruth 4:4-10. Here the word 'redemption' occurs five times in three verses; and in the tenth verse, Boaz declares that in redeeming the property he also purchases the widow of Mahlon to be his own wife. Nothing can explain the extreme minuteness of detail here, except a typical design on the part of the inspiring Spirit...
Our Lord Jesus had to become one with man in order to have the right to redeem. He is, therefore, our fellow-man; but if He had been involved in man's fall and identified with man's sin, He could not have acted as Redeemer. No sinner can redeem himself, much less can he redeem his brother (Psa 49:7). He is therefore, as the God-man, our Boaz [whose name means 'Strength' or 'Ability']; by that kinship and strength of ability, He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him'' (Pierson). [Heb 7:25]