Judges 10:3-5 The chronology of Judges

GOD’S WORD FOR YOU 
JUDGES 10:3-5
 
3 After him came Jair of Gilead, who judged Israel twenty-two years. 4 He had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys. They governed thirty towns in Gilead, which are still called the Villages of Jair today.  5 When Jair died, he was buried in Kamon.
 
These villages of Jair were originally captured by Jair’s namesake (Numbers 32:41). His sons worked as his deputies, helping their father with his responsibilities. Unlike Abimelech, they worked together and with respect for their father’s authority. They rode donkeys, which had been used as mounts for a thousand years, as far back as Abraham’s time (Genesis 22:3). Horses were not used for riding in Israel until much later. The Holy Spirit describes Jair’s donkeys as “donkey colts,” just a glimmer of a foreshadowing of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:7; Luke 19:35). Jesus honored his Father in all matters including that one, and we are reminded by the brevity of this account that there was no upheaval during Jair’s judgeship. It was mostly uneventful, and so his sons simply carried out the will of their father. This, too, reflects the perfect obedience of Christ for his Father in heaven. 
 
The fact that this many men could peacefully ride around on donkeys in one area suggests a time of quiet safety—a holdover from the hints of general safety we saw during (of all time) the recent anti-judgeship of Abimelech. 
 
Tola’s judgeship lasted twenty-three years, and Jair’s twenty-two. Although it’s tempting to add them together, our text says that Jair’s term began “after” Tola’s, but not at all how long after. It seems likely, based on the chronology we have of the judges, that these two men governed in different places at just about the same time, with Tola coming just slightly ahead of Jair (by a year or two). The reason for this estimate is that we are late enough now in the time of the judges to need to account for some events that happened later on. Jephthah (who is next in line) will say that Israel has by now “occupied Heshbon for three hundred years” (Judges 11:26). Since the war against Sihon king of Heshbon and the conquest and occupation of Heshbon happened under Joshua in about 1360 BC (Joshua 13:15-21), Jephthah’s statement must have been made around 1060 BC (he could certainly have been speaking in round numbers). So a chronology of the judges might look something like this (based on Lawrenz). I also hesitantly include Ruth: 
 
1446            The Exodus
1330            Death of Joshua (during the reign of King Tut in Egypt)
1330-1290   OTHNIEL (40 years)
1290-1210   EHUD (80 years)
1230 ?          SHAMGAR (no record of years judged)
1210-1170   DEBORAH (and Barak, 40 years)
1170-1130   GIDEON (40 years)
1130-1127   A b i m e l e c h (3 years)
1127-1104   TOLA and JAIR (23 and 22 years)
1125 ?         Naomi moves to Moab?
1115 ?         Naomi and Ruth return; Ruth married Boaz? 
1106-1066   Eli, High priest and judge (40 years)
1086-1080   JEPHTHAH (6 years)
1086-1066   SAMSON (20 years)
1080-1073   IBZAN (7 years)
1073-1063   ELON (10 years)
1068-1060   ABDON (8 years)
1066            Battle of Aphek, loss of Ark, death of Eli, death of Samson
1066-1046   Samuel, prophet and final judge (20 years)
1052 ?         Saul anointed first king of Israel
 
Eli was also judge over Israel for forty years (1 Samuel 4:18). Since Eli died in about the year 1066, that would mean that he became judge at just about the same year that both Tola and Jair were called home by the Lord, and that while Eli was Israel’s high priest (and judge) at Shiloh, the last five judges of our book (Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon and Samson) were serving elsewhere in Israel at the same time. 
 
God provided judges for his people, yet “God himself is judge” (Psalm 50:6). We think about this especially in terms of judgment day, when God will raise us from the dead to stand before him. John saw in his vision that “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done” (Revelation 20:13). Our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus (“the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin,” 1 John 1:7), and so for all of us who have faith in Jesus, the resurrection and judgment have nothing for us to fear. In fact, our faith in Jesus is centered on the resurrection and the promise of life in heaven. Without the resurrection, what would we need to have faith in? Our religion would be nothing but superstition, a vague hope that God would send rain and good weather and bless our crops, but it would be a miserable existence, no better than that of a worm nosing around for filth to keep it alive in the dirt for a few years. But because there is a judgment day, and a resurrection to bring us all before our heavenly judge, the victory of Christ means everything for us. Jesus’ blood is the righteousness we need to stand before God. We have it through faith in Jesus. “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:25). As you look forward to your resurrection and the eternal life that will begin then, thank God for Jesus, who is not only your judge but your Savior, too.
 
In Christ,
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

Judges 10:1-2 The structure of Judges

GOD’S WORD FOR YOU 
JUDGES 10:1-2
 
Tola and Jair
10 After Abimelech, Tola son of Puah, son of Dodo rose up to save Israel. He was from Issachar and lived in Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 Tola judged Israel twenty-three years. When he died he was buried in Shamir.
 
Tola’s name means either “worm” (recall Psalm 22:6, “I am a tola and not a man”) or  “scarlet, purple” as in “Those nurtured in purple (tola)” (Lamentations 4:5). Both Tola and Puah are family names in Issachar’s tribe (Genesis 46:13). We don’t know where Shamir was located, but it is probably the old name for Samaria. 
 
There is no story here with Tola, just an introduction and an epitaph. Perhaps his battles were won quietly and without fanfare; perhaps in his wisdom, he did more with words than with swords. But he saved Israel—he led the people to repentance and to a closer walk with God. After the chaos and drama of the judgeship of Gideon and the terror of his son Abimelech, it may have a blessing to have had a quiet judge like Tola. 
 
Since Tola has no story but is the sixth of the twelve judges, this seems like a good time to mention something about the structure of the book. Almost all of the judges are described according to what tribe they come from (are all twelve tribes accounted for besides Levi?): 
 
   Othniel from Judah (1:13; cp. Num. 13:6)
   Ehud from Benjamin (3:15)
   Shamgar (from Simeon? 3:31)
   Deborah and Barak from Naphtali (4:6)
   Gideon from Manasseh (6:15)
   Tola from Issachar (10:1)
   Jair (from Gilead, Gad? 10:3-5)
   Jephthah (from Gilead opposite Ammon = Reuben? 11:4) 
   Ibzan (from Bethlehem in Galilee: Asher? 12:8)
   Elon from Zebulun (12:11)
   Abdon from Ephraim (12:15)
   Samson from Dan (13:2,24)
 
The following chart (attached if you get this devotion by e-mail) is based on one appearing in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 49 (1991) pages 77-85: “The Structure of Judges 2:6-16:31” by Jay G. Williams. In the circle’s four quadrants, he places the judges in chronological order according to the text, beginning left center with Othniel. Wiliams assumes that the uncertain judges (Shamgar, Jair, Jephthah and Ibzan) are definitely from the tribes that they were only likely to have come from. 
 
 
The mothers of the tribes are abbreviated: L Leah, R Rachel, RB Rachel’s servant Bilhad, and LZ Leah’s servant Zilpah. Notice that the circle is balanced so that beginning with Reuben (the eldest son, quadrant III) the sequence of mothers is identical in both directions: L, LZ, R, RB, L, R. 
 
The tribes in the circle are grouped for the most part geographically. Quadrant I is made up of southern tribes, II is north-central tribes, III is eastern tribes except for Ibzan, and if we let Ibzan sneak into group IV, that group has all west-central tribes.
 
Williams comments: “Ephraim and Manasseh, the twin sons of Joseph, stand opposite each other; so do Reuben and Benjamin, the oldest and youngest tribes” (p. 80). 
 
There are other points we see more easily in the diagram. Most of the major judges (Othniel, Barak, Gideon, Samson) are balanced with minor judges across the circle. The exception is Ehud and Jephthah, who were both major judges and both of which have unique similarities. They fought against the offspring of Lot (Moab and Ammon), they both sent ‘messages’ to their opponents, and both were connected with the people of Ephraim. They are also the more (or most) devious of the judges. Williams: “It may also be significant that [two of the most] obscure judges, Shamgar and Ibzan, also ‘face each other’ on the circle” (81). 
 
These details tell us that the text of Judges was written carefully by a single author with a very intricately planned outline. It is not merely a hodgepodge of stories roughly jumbled together, but a carefully researched and recorded account of the events of the stormiest and most violent centuries in the history of Israel.
 
William’s circle is taken by Williams himself to be a picture of an ancient calendar, and he takes great pains to relate the various episodes of the book into the cycle of the year. However, his conclusion is that “the author chose ancient mythological themes and transformed them into history.” This contradicts Scripture, which tells us that that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21) and that “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). Professor Quenstedt explained, “The Apostle does not say, ‘Everything in Scripture, πάντα ἐν γραϕῇ θεόπνευστα,’ but “All Scripture, πᾶσα γραϕὴ θεόπνευστος,’ in order to show that not only the things written about, but also the writing itself is θεόπνευστον. And whatever is said of the whole Scripture must of necessity be understood also of the words, not the most insignificant part of Scripture. For if one little word occurred in Scripture that is not suggested or divinely inspired, it could not be said that ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.’” 
 
So the wheel-outline of Judges presented here is a tool for us to see the book’s structure more clearly; a way for us to better see the hand of God in the glory of his creation and inspiration. It is a verse in our hymn of praise to our perfect, holy and eternal God. To him be glory forever. 
 
In Christ,
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
 

Judges 9:50-57 The Anti-Judge

GOD’S WORD FOR YOU 
JUDGES 9:50-57
 
50 Abimelech went to Thebez, laid siege to it, and captured it. 51 There was a strong tower inside the city, and all the men and women—all the people of the city—fled there. They locked themselves in and went up to the roof of the tower. 52 Abimelech came and attacked the tower. He fought his way to the tower entrance  to set it on fire. 53 But a woman threw the upper portion of a millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. 54 He quickly called to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me, or they will say about me, ‘A woman killed him.’” So his armor-bearer ran him through, and he died. 
 
The city of Thebez here should not be confused with the Egyptian stronghold of Thebes (mentioned in Jeremiah 46:25; Ezekiel 30:14-16 and Nahum 3:8). This Thebez was not far from Shechem (ten or eleven miles north-northeast) and another of the cities over which Abimelech was supposedly king. He was systematically destroying his own kingdom, like a little boy kicking over towers he built in the sand. 
 
Probably unaware of the fate of Shechem, the people of Thebez fled to their tower, and we can almost see the smug expressions on the faces of Abimelech and his men. The old “hide in the tower” trick was no match for a match… and some firewood. 
 
No sooner had Abimelech lit the fire than his death came crashing down. Women as a rule did not handle swords and spears in battle, but they were often present, hurling rocks and other things down on attackers. Here, a woman defending her city used a woman’s tool—a small upper millstone. Since women did the grinding, this made Abimelech’s death doubly shameful—killed by a woman using a woman’s implement. Translations struggle with how to present the verb ratsats; NIV has “cracked,” the new Christian Standard Bible has “fractured,” the King James Version uses the archaic past tense “brake,” and the Latin has confregit “shattered.” The usual meaning is “crush” or “oppress” (Job 20;19; 2 Chron. 16:10). 
 
Dying, Abimelech asked his servant to run him through and change the story of his death, but nobody bought it. Everyone remembered the actual circumstances, so that when Joab reported to King David about the battle of Rabbah two hundred years later, he knew that David would use the old story of Abimelech’s death at the hands of a woman to criticize his tactics (2 Samuel 11:21). 
 
55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they all went home.
 
This is the anticlimax of the story of the anti-judge. There was no month of mourning as when Aaron died (Numbers 20:29). There was no national funeral, as when Samuel died (1 Samuel 25:1). There were no songs composed to mourn for him, as when Josiah died (Jeremiah himself wrote those laments, 2 Chron. 35:24-25). There was no funeral fire like the ones made for Zedekiah and some of the other kings (Jeremiah 34:5). No, there was nothing at all. When Abimelech died, the people just went home. His terror was at an end, and so they just left. 
 
Abimelech had been like an angry, frightened dog in an alley, barking and snarling and making everyone afraid. But when he started to pull down his kingdom around his own head, the people defended themselves, and when he finally died, and all his barking and fuming were silenced, everyone quietly went back to their lives, exhausted and relieved that he was finally gone and the terror was at an end. This is how we will feel in the resurrection, when the devil is led away, silenced and chained with all his demons to their eternal dungeons, and the burden of temptation and accusation will be removed. The sweet aroma of peace will overtake us, and Christ’s love and forgiveness will surround us; and if a writer were recording our actions, he could quote the end of this verse: “and they all went home…to heaven.”
 
56 In this way, God repaid the evil that Abimelech had done to his father when he murdered his seventy brothers. 57 God also repaid the men of Shechem for all their evil. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came upon them.
 
Our Seminary notes state the conclusion briefly: “Seducers are seduced. Rebels overthrow rebels. God enacts his just retribution upon those who try to thwart the accomplishment of his purpose” (WLS Old Testament Isagogics notes, p. 235). Jotham’s curse back in verse 20 was that fire would come from Abimelech to destroy Shechem, and Abimelech himself accomplished that. Jotham had also said that fire would come from Shechem and destroy Abimelech. Abimelech got this fire in his belly when he found another tower to burn. It made him rash and reckless, and it cost him his life. 
 
Abimelech had been a robber, a thief, a bully, and a murderer. He lusted for the power his father had refused, but he had none of his father’s wisdom, humility or faith. As a king, he killed almost all his subjects. When word came that he was coming north to Thebez, no one cut palm branches to welcome their sovereign and show their adoration. Instead, everyone got ready to defend themselves. The men strapped on their swords and hefted their spears. The women carried stones and things to the tower to have something to throw, not sure whether they would live through it. And then there was that one woman, the one who carried a round stone like a big pizza stone (sixteen to eighteen inches across, and two or three inches thick) up the stairs (or ladder!) and took her place. Sure enough, there he came, their horrid king, with a branch and a torch, ready to burn them alive. The woman rolled the thing out a window, and it was over in a moment. Before she did it, the rest of the people were probably wondering what she thought she could accomplish with the unwieldy stone. Was even her husband impatient her? But then—victory!
 
He murdered his brothers on a stone, and with a stone he himself was killed. And he is never, ever, listed with Israel’s kings. 
 
We learn lessons from this anti-judge. All of them are negative, but we can rejoice knowing what we have in Jesus. 
 
Abimelech was the anti-Gideon. As we have already said, he had none of his father’s faith, humility, or wisdom. “A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom” (Prov. 10:23). 
 
Abimelech was the anti-Jerub-Baal. Abimelech’s father was given the nickname Jerub-Baal when he tore down his father’s idols and took his stand for right worship of the true God. Abimelech never stood up for God, and instead spent his life taking other people’s property, breaking nearly every commandment (the only commandment untouched by him is the sixth, but we need not praise a man for keeping one tenth of the Ten). “A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him” (Prov. 17:25). 
 
Abimelech was the anti-judge. The judges protected God’s people from the Canaanite nations around them and turned the people back to God in repentance. Gideon attacked God’s people to glorify himself. “Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good” (Ecclesiastes 9:18). 
 
Abimelech was an anti-king. He brought no protection to his people, no prosperity, no government. But Jesus brings all of these things: “You, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation upon the earth” (Psalm 74:12). 
 
Abimelech was an anti-Christian. There was no love for God and no love for his fellow man in what he did. Abimelech had room in his heart only for Abimelech. Even his dying words were an attempt to change what people thought of him rather than an appeal to God his Judge to forgive his sins. “Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways, for the LORD detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence” (Prov. 3:31-32).
 
Abimelech was an antichrist. What are some of the marks of Christ and those few who foreshadowed him in the Old Testament? He was to be the son of David, from the tribe of Judah (gen. 49:10), who brought forgiveness and salvation to God’s people (Psalm 103:2-4) by laying down his life for his flock (Isaiah 53:10).  Abimelech robbed his own people, murdered his brothers, destroyed his cities with fire and the sword, and he was a terror to all.  
 
Abimelech was an anti-Jesus. Jesus is the gospel in person; the gospel personified. Abimelech was at best—and a poor best—a reminder of God’s punishment for sin. Isaiah said about Jesus, “Who of his generation considered that he was cut off from the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the blow was due?”  Jesus rescued us from the coming punishment, so that we will hear the Father say from heaven: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4). 
 
In Jesus alone we have rescue, healing, peace, and the promise of everlasting life. 
 
In Christ,
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

Judges 9:46-49 The fire of hell

GOD’S WORD FOR YOU 
JUDGES 9:46-49
 
46 When all the citizens in the Tower of Shechem heard this, they went into the inner chamber of the temple of El-Berith. 47 This was reported to Abimelech, that all the citizens of the Tower of Shechem had assembled there. 48 So Abimelech and all the men who were with him went up to Mount Zalmon. He took an ax and cut a branch from the trees. He picked up the branch, put it on his shoulder, and said to the men who were with him, “Hurry and do what you have seen me do!” 49 Each of the men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They put the branches against the inner chamber and set it on fire. About a thousand men and women died, all who were in the Tower of Shechem.
 
We don’t need to talk about the details of what Abimelech did to the people who fled to the Tower of Shechem. But since we have already seen that Abimelech was acting within his rights (even if he may have done so unwisely), we can take a moment to talk about what this foreshadows: The fire of hell.
 
Let’s point out first of all that hell is a real place, a “somewhere,” and although we cannot place our fingers on a map to say where, we can say that hell is not on earth, and hell is not in heaven. It is elsewhere, “outside” of heaven, Revelation 22:15). The rich man in hell called it “this place of torment” (Luke 16:28), and Judas went “where he belongs” (Acts 1:25). 
 
The simple definition of damnation is separation from God, but it would be better to remember that it is a separation from God’s grace and love, since the punishment there is divine, not the work of the devil. The devil has a dungeon there and is punished eternally along with the rest of his evil angels. It is “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41), and they “will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). 
 
Permit me to share a paragraph from writer Ursula K. LeGuin. She is describing the land of death, which she calls the dry land, from the point of view of two travelers, one of them called Arren. “All those whom they saw—not many, for the dead are many, but the land is large—stood still, or moved slowly and with no purpose… They were not loathsome as Arren feared they would be, not frightening in the way he had thought they would be. Quiet were their faces…and there was in their shadowed eyes no hope…. He saw the mother and child who had died together, and they were in the dark land together; but the child did not run, nor did it cry, and the mother did not hold it or ever look at it. And those who had died for love passed each other in the streets” (“The Farthest Shore,” p. 173). Ms. LeGuin’s vision of the land of the dead is agonizingly sad in its own way, but falls short of what the Bible says. Jesus’ description of hell is of a place not only of punishment but also of torment. 
 
Our Lutheran teachers describe hell according to different groups of passages. Remember that our only source of information about this and any of the other teachings of the Bible is the Bible itself.
 
First, hell is a mala privativa, a “loss of good.” Idolaters, those who live in homosexual sins, the greedy, the gossips, the arrogant and many others “deserve death” (eternal death), Romans 1:32. “Whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). 
 
In the same way, hell is a poena damni, a “punishment of loss.” “The wicked will not stand…in the assembly of the righteous” (Psalm 1:5). “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence” (Psalm 5:5). “There is no peace for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22). 
 
Second, hell is a mala positiva, “an actual evil.” “They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42). “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness” (Matthew 25:30). Hell is also described as “everlasting ruin” (Psalm 52:5). 
 
In the same way, hell is a poena sensa, a punishment that will be felt. “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 2:9). “The smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:11).
 
There are some Christians who think that the punishment of hell will end after some period of time, so that the damned will have a rest from their torment. A common argument is that the phrase “for ever and ever” does not always mean eternity. “I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever” (Jeremiah 7:7); here the duration is certainly a long time, but not an eternity. This is because the Hebrew ‘olam means “unbounded time,” and must always be translated according to context. Sometimes it means eternity, and sometimes it means a very long time in history. But when Jesus talks about “eternal punishment” it is in contrast with “eternal life,” (Matthew 25:46), so they have the same duration. And Jude calls the suffering of hell “eternal fire” (Jude 7). This is why our Augsburg Confession makes the Bible’s teaching clear: “(Our churches) condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils” (XVII,4).  
 
So the Bible uses terms like fire, tribulation, anguish, torment, darkness, to have no peace, to be thrust out, and to have these things without end (Isaiah 66:24). Some have asked: Will the fire of hell be a real fire, a supernatural fire, or a figurative fire like a permanent uneasiness and terror? I suppose we can reserve our human judgment on what the fire of hell will be. What we must do is pray that we will not discover the answer by experience. People who try to say that they don’t have to suffer hell because they’re already experience some horrible pain on earth have a complete misunderstanding of what hell is. Just because a driver on the tollway pays for his lunch at the drive thru doesn’t mean he doesn’t still have to pay the toll at the end of the road. 
 
Finally, we need to remember that the Bible describes hell for us as a warning, so that we will understand the punishment for sin and have the desire to escape it through Christ, who said: “Be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).  
 
The escape from hell is not something we do ourselves. We don’t wriggle out of it by our own craftiness; we don’t talk our way out of it like a child escaping punishment from an indulgent parent. No, the punishment of hell fell onto Jesus, who suffered in our place (Isaiah 53). He had to be lifted up on the cross, “so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:15). Jesus has us firmly in his grasp, and has rescued us from every part of the eternal sufferings of hell. Through Jesus, we have everything else to look forward to – joy, peace, reunion, praise, healing, prosperity, contentment and everlasting love. 
 
In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith
 
Archives by Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel: 1http://www.wlchapel.org/worship/daily-devotion/
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota

Ruth 2:13-16 More than gleaning

GOD’S WORD FOR YOU 
RUTH 2:13-16
 
13 Ruth said, “You have been so very gracious to me, my lord, because you have given me comfort, and because you have spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not even one of your servant girls.” 
 
It’s been pointed out that Boaz has said the first comforting thing to Ruth since the death of her husband. Ruth had comforted Naomi, but who had been a comfort to Ruth? Now this stranger was  gracious to her. He was both comforting (“you have given me comfort”) and kind (“you have spoken kindly”). This was out of the blue for Ruth, and it must have affected her deeply. She was not a girl caught “on the rebound” from a bad breakup; she was a grown women who had been grieving for her lost husband and experiencing great pain in her life. Now she was beginning to feel new emotions, beginning with gratitude, and Boaz was fast becoming her source of safety and protection—and so her feelings for him were beginning to coalesce into something firm and resolved. She wasn’t even one of his servant girls, and he had treated her exceptionally well. 
 
14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread, and dip it in the wine vinegar.”
 
Boaz spoke up at mealtime.  He wanted her to share the good things from his table. This was one more unusual point in their developing relationship. This wasn’t how he would have treated a new servant girl. She had said that he treated her well even though she didn’t have a servant’s status, and he showed that she was perfectly right—but he would remove the “even though,” since he did not see her as a servant, but as a noble woman, a lady, and his equal. Their exchange here is a positive example of Jesus’ warning about what place we should seek in the kingdom of God: “When you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will me exalted” (Luke 14:10-11). 
 
She sat with the harvesters, and they passed her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted, and had some left over. 15 When she got up to gather fallen grain once again, Boaz gave orders to his men: “Let her gather fallen grain even among the sheaves, and don’t embarrass her. 16 Also, pull some sheaves out for her from the bundles, and leave it for her to gather. But do not scold her.”
 
Now Boaz was going beyond the letter and even the spirit of the law of Moses. He was being generous in the extreme. First, she was able to eat “all she wanted” at the meal—a drastic change from the life she had led in Moab during the famine. Second, he gave her a generous helping of leftovers from the meal. She was allowed to take home food already prepared and ready to eat, so that she would not need to work to hard that evening for her evening meal with Naomi. Third, he ordered his men to let her gather from the already prepared sheaves without saying anything about it. He made Ruth “golden,” unable to do anything wrong while gleaning. She wasn’t going to take home mere gleanings, but she was going to end up looking as if she had reaped a harvest of her own! Fourth, he told his men to pull out some sheaves and leave them for her—just so that she would understand that this was all intentional (like Jesus making the deaf man certain who it was who was healing him in Mark 7:33). Fifth, Boaz ordered them not to scold or rebuke her. She might see them rapping the knuckles of other gleaners, or scolding some local girl who was trying to take more than her fair share. But not Ruth. No matter what Ruth did, they were to allow it and not even get upset about it. 
 
When I was a little boy, I would go to my dad’s Paint Store downtown and visit with my mom or grandma as they watched the store during the day (later on I stood behind the cash register myself). I don’t know if it was my dad’s policy or Grandma Smith’s, but I could take the little jars of paint for plastic model kits without paying for them. Grandma would have me show her what I took, and she would even give me a little paper bag for them, but I could take whatever I wanted. It made me nervous, and I tried never to take it for granted, but it got me used to thinking of my dad’s business as a part of my life—something I should take responsibility for, and to help with if I could. This is how God our Father wants us to feel about his kingdom. He shares the good things with us, and we respond by taking ownership for the kingdom and doing our part according to his will.  
 
It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that Ruth was beginning to think of Boaz’ fields as more than a stranger’s plantation, but as something she had a concern for. It wasn’t hers, but she cared about it, and she was beginning to care about this man. 
 
In Christ,
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

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