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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Ruth 1–4]

IN the days when the Judges ruled in Israel there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, with his wife and two sons, went to sojourn in the land of Moab. His name was Elimelech and his wife’s Noemi. After having lived many years in Moab Elimelech died, and his two sons, who had taken wives from amongst the daughters of Moab, also died ten years after their father’s death.

Noemi being now left alone, and full of sorrow for the loss of her husband and two sons, arose to return to her own country. Her two daughters-in-law, Orpha and Ruth, went forth with her. As they journeyed on towards the land of Juda, Noemi spoke to Orpha and Ruth: “Go ye home to your mothers. The Lord deal mercifully with you as you have dealt with the dead and me.” And she kissed them. But they lifted up their voice and wept, and said: “We will go on with thee to thy people.”

Noemi answered: “Do not so, my daughters; for I am grieved the more for your distress; and the hand of the Lord is gone out against me.” Then Orpha kissed her mother-in-law and returned. Ruth, however, would not depart. Noemi spoke again: “Behold, thy kinswoman is returned to her people; go thou with her.”

Thereupon Ruth replied: “Be not against me, for whithersoever thou shalt go, I will go, and where thou shalt dwell, I also will dwell. Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God. The land that shall receive thee dying, in the same will I die, and there will I be buried.” Then Noemi, seeing that Ruth was steadfast, would not urge her any more to return to her friends.

So they journeyed on together, and came to Bethlehem, where the report was quickly spread, and the women said: “This is that Noemi.”

It was the beginning of the barley-harvest, and Ruth asked Noemi: “If thou wilt, I will go into the fields and glean the ears of corn that escape the hands of the reapers.” And Noemi said: “Go, my daughter.” Now it so happened that the field in which Ruth went to glean belonged to a kinsman of Elimelech, named Booz, who was very rich. And behold, Booz came out to see the reapers, and said: “The Lord be with you.” They answered: “The Lord bless thee.”

 

Fig. 40. So-called field of Booz near Bethlehem.

And having observed Ruth gleaning in the barley-field (Fig. 40), he asked the overseer: “Whose maid is this?” The overseer replied: “This is Ruth who came with Noemi from the land of Moab; and she desires leave to glean the ears of corn that remain, following the steps of the reapers. She hath been in the field from morning till now, and hath not gone home for a moment.”

Then Booz addressed Ruth very kindly, and said: “Hear me, daughter: Keep with my maids and follow where they reap. I have charged my young men not to molest thee, and if thou art thirsty, go to the vessels and drink of the waters whereof the servants drink, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar.” Full of gratitude for these kind words, Ruth bent down before Booz, and asked how it came that she, a woman of another country, should find favour in his sight.

Booz told her that all she had done for her mother-in-law since the death of her husband had been related to him. He prayed: “Mayest thou receive a full reward of the Lord, under whose wings thou art fled.” He then privately told the reapers: “Let fall some of your handfuls of purpose, that she may gather them without shame.” She gleaned therefore in the field till evening, and then beat out with a rod what she had gleaned, which was an ephi: that is three bushels. Grateful for the kindness shown her, she returned to her mother-in-law, carrying with her the barley she had threshed, and the leavings of the meal that had been given her. Noemi was astonished and asked: “Where hast thou gleaned to-day, and what hast thou wrought? Blessed be he that hath had pity on thee.” Ruth told the man’s name, that he was called Booz.

Next day she returned to the field of Booz and continued to glean after the reapers, till all the barley was laid up in the barns. Some time after Booz said to Ruth: “My daughter, all the people that dwell within the gates of my city know that thou art a virtuous woman.” So he married her. Then the ancients came and said to Booz: “May this woman be an example of virtue in Ephrata, and may she have a famous name in Bethlehem.” The Lord blessed their union and gave them a son whom they called Obed. Then Noemi, full of joy, taking the child, laid it in her bosom; and she carried it and was a nurse to it. Now Obed was the father of Isai, whose son was David, of whose race Christ was born.

Divine Providence. Was it by chance that Ruth went to the field of Booz? No, she went there by the guidance of a good and wise Providence. God ordained that Booz should get to know the virtuous Ruth, and should, though she was poor, take her as his wife. This was so ordained in order that Ruth and Noemi should be rewarded for their virtues. Noemi was now above want, and could serve God without anxiety about her maintenance. Nothing happens by chance.

Several beautiful examples of virtue are put before us in this story.

Noemi left her home only from necessity, and kept her faith untarnished in the midst of a heathen society; and as soon as the famine was over, she returned to her own country and fellow-believers. She unselfishly allowed her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab, and asked God to bless them: she did not wish them to share her poverty or help to support her. There is one point to which I wish to draw your attention, as it might not strike you of yourselves. By her living faith, her real piety and sincere love, in a word, by her good example, Noemi converted her daughter-in-law Ruth to the true faith, so that the latter was able to say: “Thy God is my God.” Oh, if only all Catholics would act as she did; if they would only act up to their holy faith and practise the virtues which it teaches, then the whole world would be convinced of the truth and excellence of the Catholic faith! Our Divine Lord said: “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Ruth left her home and friends both out of attachment to her mother-in-law and fidelity to her faith. Once she had got to know the true God, she wished to dwell with the people of God; and so firm was she in her resolution that neither the persuasions of Noemi nor the example of Orpha could move her from it. She was, therefore, steadfast in faith, and gave up everything rather than live with unbelievers, and place her soul in danger. She was, furthermore, distinguished for her humility, obedience, and diligence. She asked Noemi’s permission to glean; she was not ashamed of her poverty; she was indefatigable in her labour of gleaning, and saved some of her dinner for Noemi: thus she perfectly fulfilled the Fourth Commandment. Would that all children had as great a love for their own parents as Ruth had for her mother-in-law! You see how Holy Scripture praises Ruth’s diligence. Diligence is a virtue and does honour to those who practise it. Sloth is a vice and a capital sin, and brings shame and disgrace in its train. Ruth was also retiring, modest and pure; the whole town testified to her being a virtuous woman. God rewarded her virtue by giving her a good and wealthy husband, and by making her the great-grandmother of king David and (because Christ was of the family of David) one of the ancestors of the Divine Redeemer.

Booz loved his neighbour, and had compassion on the poor. He behaved very nobly in taking Ruth as his wife in spite of her poverty: he very rightly valued Ruth’s virtues more highly than gold and riches. God rewarded him, for He gave him a most virtuous wife, and blessed his marriage, so that he became one of the forefathers of the Messias.

Ruth is a type of the Church of the Gentiles. Though born a heathen she obtained by her conversion a share in the blessings of Israel, and was even chosen to be an ancestress of the Redeemer. By this God signified that the heathen, if they would believe and be converted, should have a share in the salvation which was to spring from Israel.

APPLICATION. Ruth brought joy and honour to her mother-in-law. Do you cause joy to your parents? Have you never brought shame on them or caused them grief?

Be kind and generous to the poor. Do not look down on poor children. Do you not give preference among your friends to the children of rich parents? A man’s worth does not consist in what he has, but in what he is. Virtues such as faith, charity, diligence, modesty, truth and humility are the greatest of riches: everything perishes except virtue. God looks to the heart, not to the outward appearance or wealth. He who is without faith is the poorest of men, never mind how much money he may possess. Are these your sentiments? Do you like associating with good children?

Are you diligent from morning till night, as Ruth was?








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