The book of Ruth is a beautiful story. I have read it many times throughout my life and consider it a wonderful love story. I even had a song sung at my wedding containing lyrics from the book. For most of my life I stopped short of really grasping the full meaning of the book. Hopefully in this short article I can expose some of those deeper revelations that I have had.
If you have never read the book in its entirety then please do so.
Ruth was a Moabite. Her ancestor, Moab, came from an incestuous relationship between father and daughter (Genesis 19). She married a man of Judah but he died (and his only brother) leaving her childless. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, encouraged her to remain in her home country when she decided to return to Bethlehem. Naomi's husband had also died while in Moab. Naomi lost both her husband and her two sons. Ruth would not be persuaded and would not leave her mother-in-law’s side. She desired to return to Bethlehem with her.
When they arrived in Bethlehem it was the beginning of the barley harvest. This occurs in the spring, in the first month of the Hebrew agricultural year (March/April on the Gregorian calendar). The barley harvest can only occur after the firstfruits of the barley have been offered to Adonai. Firstfruits of the barley harvest happens during the week of Unleavened Bread (think Passover time). After the firstfruits have been offered then the counting of weeks toward the wheat harvest (Shavuot/Pentecost) occurs. This is called the Feast of Weeks or the counting of the omer. As the harvest of barley begins, each week for 7 weeks an omer, or sheaf, of barley is set aside for an offering which is to be presented to Adonai on Shavuot (Pentecost), along with the first fruits of the wheat harvest. This is the setting for the story of Ruth. It was a busy time of the year.
As was the usual custom the poor were allowed to glean what was left in the barley fields. Ruth is gleaning in the field of Boaz who happens to be a relative of Naomi's dead husband. Ruth finds favor in his eyes and is allowed to continue gleaning in his fields. Boaz takes notice of Ruth and the kindness that she has shown towards her mother-in-law and commands his workers to leave extra barley behind for her to glean.
Here the story gets interesting and turns into a true love story, one of a true kinsman redeemer. For those who may not know, a kinsman redeemer is a male relative who has the responsibility to help a relative in need or in danger.
Naomi devises a plan by which she will send Ruth to the threshing floor to ask favor from Boaz. Ruth prepares for the occasion and anoints herself and dresses herself up for the occasion. She then makes a bold move by approaching Boaz as he sleeps and uncovering his feet and lying down to sleep at his feet. This was a very risque move on her part. She was essentially asking him to “cover her” or to take her as his wife.
When Boaz awakens in the night he notices her at his feet. Now imagine what he could be thinking? A strange woman is lying at your “uncovered” feet in the middle of the night! Anyway, to shorten the story, Boaz understands what she is requesting an agrees to the deed.
He then sends Ruth back to Naomi with 6 sheaves of barley fastened upon her. Many commentators have commented upon the fastening of these sheaves of barley. Some have noted that they were fastened around her middle so that it would make her appear to be pregnant. It would have still been dark when she returned to her mother-in-law. Upon seeing her in the dim light it could have immediately appeared to Naomi as if Ruth were pregnant. This could have also been a clear sign to Naomi from Boaz that he intended to bring forth an heir to her dead husband, Elimelech. The child that he would bring forth with Ruth would be as if it were Naomi's child.
What about the use of 6 sheaves of barley that he tied around her? My belief is that this too was a sign for Naomi that, just perhaps, they were in the 6th week of the barley harvest, the counting of the omer, and that he had to finish the barley harvest before he could carry out this promise. During the last week before Shavuot he would make the preparations needed to marry Ruth.
Ruth and Boaz were married and the wedding most likely took place on Shavuot, making her a firstfruits bride. Shavuot is known as a day for weddings and traditionally Jewish homes are decorated in festive wedding decor during this feast time. This is because it also represents the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai when the children of Israel entered into a marriage covenant with YHVH.
In Revelation 14:4 the saints/bride of Messiah are called the firstfruits.
Ruth was a Moabite and as such she was supposed to be excluded from the congregation of Israel to the tenth generation (Deut 23:3). Ruth was grafted into the lineage of Judah even though she was not an Israelite. No Jewish person denies Ruth as an ancestor. She was the great grandmother of David. She was grafted in because she rejected her pagan background and clung to and accepted the God of the Israelites. Ruth shows us how all, Jew and Non-Jew, can be part of the bride of Messiah by accepting and clinging to the God of Abraham.
Ruth is a beautiful story of redeeming love and shows us a picture of the firstfruits bride of Messiah. Messiah Yeshua is our kinsman redeemer and He is making preparations for the day that He will return and take His firstfruits bride. Just as Ruth prepared and anointed herself to go out to Boaz so also we must make ourselves ready so that we are presentable to our beloved.
The book of Ruth is traditionally read on the Feast of Shavuot.