GOD’S WORD FOR YOU
In the Hebrew language, there is often a climax at the end of a sentence to stress an important point. When we translate Hebrew into English, some of these emphatic points are missed, but not always. One good example is in the story of Jonah. When Jonah was aboard the ship and the sailors cast lots to see who was responsible for the terrible storm, the lots are cast and we find out in the very last word of the sentence that the lot fell on… Jonah (Jonah 1:7). Here in Ruth chapter 2 there is another example. As Ruth tells her mother-in-law about her day and describes the one “at whose place she had been working,” the writer of the account leaves the name of the man until the very end of the verse so that we will notice the man’s name and remember him. We will come across this emphasis again in the last verse of the book.
When God chose Hebrew to be the language of the Old Testament, that choice was magnificent. For one thing, Hebrew poetry uses little or no rhyme except in parts of Isaiah and not much meter. The emphasis is on parallelism, or saying something two different ways (as I have just done in this sentence). This means that the content of the Old Testament can be faithfully translated into virtually any language without loosing vital factors such as rhyme. Sometimes some wordplay, puns and so forth, must be explained in a footnote, but not nearly so much as when Shakespeare is translated out of English into another language. Remember to thank God today for using the beautiful Hebrew language to give us his word in the Old Testament; his word which endures, today and always.
17 She gathered fallen grain in the field until evening. Then she threshed what she had gathered, about two-thirds of a bushel of barley. 18 She carried it back to the village; and her mother-in-law saw what she had gathered. Ruth also brought out what was left over after she had eaten all she wanted.
Ruth’s harvest was quite a lot more than expected. She came home with an ephah of threshed grain—picture a five-gallon pail with some room left at the top. It was full enough to have been a pretty heavy load for her to carry home to the place where she and Naomi were staying.
We can safely say that Boaz’ servants had done everything he had asked them to, letting her glean wherever she wanted, leaving her alone when she made a mistake, and even pulling out some of their harvest for her to take. The result was she had enough, more than enough, for her and Naomi to live on for a long time. They might even have been able to sell some of it. Besides her harvest, Ruth even had leftovers from her midday meal!
19 Her mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you gathered fallen grain today? Where did you work? May the man who noticed you be blessed!” Ruth told her mother-in-law the man in whose field she had worked, and she said, “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz.”
Naomi asked two questions, but since they are virtually the same question (the same answer would be given for both), we can see that they are a form of emphasis. Naomi didn’t want the questions to go unanswered. It was important to know how this had happened, because it meant that someone had noticed Ruth. Someone was looking out for her.
Ruth’s answer reveals the story for her mother-in-law. She had worked in a field—she immediately sets aside any suspicion that she might have gotten this grain some other way. In fact, she had worked with the man—the very man—who owned that field. Therefore Ruth’s bounty was given freely by the man who could lawfully give it (it wasn’t stolen for her). And what is more, the name of the man she worked with today was… Boaz.
The drama is simple, but we want to hear every syllable. This is a romance and a story of grace and salvation. Ruth is reaching out like a drowning victim, and there is the hand of the man she will marry, reaching back for her! The story of our own salvation also holds our attention, and we do well to hang on to every syllable. We were lost in our sins, drowning in the shame of our guilt, and a hand reached down to rescue us just when we were closing our eyes in death. The hand belongs to our Savior, our Lord, who wants us to join him in his heavenly mansions for all eternity. Eternal life is his to give; the blessings he offers come from the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Don’t hurry through the story of your salvation or shrug it off as unimportant. It’s how you were saved! Cherish it. It’s the word of truth, “the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:13). It’s the story of “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify us for himself” (Titus 2:13-14).
Pastor Timothy Smith
Archives by Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel: http://www.wlchapel.org/worship/daily-devotion/
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota