It being traditional to read the book of Ruth for Shavuot, I thought I’d post some commentary for my fellow disciples of Yeshua.
The book of Ruth is, on the surface, a simple little romance story set in the backdrop of the time of the Judges. Actually, that’s only true in the minds of modern students since the idea of romantic love is a Medievil invention born of tales of chivalry, but that’s another issue. In truth, Ruth from its inception was intended as a story of redemption, one based in a very Jewish sense of love. And woven into that story of redemption is a prophecy of the redemption of all Mankind.
To understand Boaz’s role as a prophetic type of the Messiah, we must start with Naomi, who flees the land with her husband and two sons in the midst of a famine, just as Israel was driven from the land in the midst of a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). Naomi loses her husband and sons and is left with only her two Gentile (Moabite) daughters-in-law. At first, both resolve to travel with Naomi back to Israel, but only Ruth follows through. It is through Naomi that Ruth ultimately meets her own kinsman-redeemer.
Let’s consider the parallels for a moment: Israel, in the days of Yeshua’s ministry, was dispersed throughout the world–not by secular powers, but through a poverty of hearing the words of the Holy One when He delcared it time to return. As a result, the Jewish people became intermingled with the Gentiles. It is through that intermingling that the Good News ultimately came to the Gentiles, as the book of Acts shows that few converts among the Gentiles occurred anywhere that a synagogue did not already exist. The Gentiles that did come to faith in Yeshua did so by fellowship with the Jews in their city. Indeed, we see that the first Gentile converts in Paul’s missions were always those who were already worshipping in the synagogues as God-fearers. Bread in Scripture is associated with the Word of God.
Ruth sets about gleaning bread (wheat) in the fields of Boaz, who sees her, inquires about her, and is taken by this Moabitess’ care of an Israelite woman. Because of her association with Naomi, he orders that extra wheat be dropped for her use. When Naomi hears of it, she instructs Ruth on what to do. In the same way, when the Gentiles were introduced to Yeshua through the Apostles’ teachings, it would be the faithful Jews in their city who would instruct them further.
On the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost), Ruth lay herself at Boaz’s feet to ask for his protection, just as we must lay at Messiah’s feet and receive His protection. Boaz gives her enough food to see her and Naomi through until he returns and goes away to make the arrangements to redeem them together, just as Yeshua gives us the Spirit and the Word to see us through while He is away making the arrangements for our redemption.
It turns out that there is a nearer kinsman who has first rights to the redemption, but who is unable to carry it out due to his own self-interest. Boaz secures from him the surrender of the redemption rights, just as Yeshua secures from us our own redemption rights.
In the end, Boaz returns, marries Ruth (which joins Naomi to him as well) and redeems Naomi’s land, just as Messiah shall return, marry His Bride, and redeem the Land–and not only the Land, but the whole earth! It is only through the marriage to Ruth that Naomi and her land are redeemed, just as there are numerous prophecies that only through the “cleaving” of the Gentiles to the Messiah will Israel be redeemed (Joseph’s story, Isa. 11:10ff, Amos 9:15f, etc.).
A final point: Ruth was a Moabitess, which are forbidden by the Torah to enter the assembly of the Holy One. Was her redemption in violation of the Torah then? Not at all. Rather, through her love of Naomi and marriage to Boaz, Ruth was adopted into Israel as a full citizen. In the same way, the great mystery of the Gospel to the Apostles was not that salvation is by grace (which is well-known in Judaism), but rather that the Gentiles were adopted, or grafted-in (Rom. 11) into Israel as full citizens and fellowheirs (Eph. 2). As Chuck often points out, every benefit that the Gentile Christian receives is through the Eternal One’s Covenant with Abraham–which makes the true Christian of the family of Abraham. This means that just as Ruth considered Naomi her mother and was so loyal to her that she refused to leave even at Naomi’s insistance, every Jew the true Christian meets should be considered a brother or a sister, whether or not they return the sentiment or try to deter you.