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Ruth 3:1-18 -

Naomi's maternal solicitude.

This is one of those paragraphs of Scripture which require delicate handling, but which, for that very reason, are full of suggestiveness that comes home to the bosom. Under strange, old-fashioned forms of things there was often much real virtue and true nobility of character.

1. It may be regarded as certain that while the harvest lasted Boaz and Ruth would be coming daily into contact with each other.

2. It may likewise be assumed as certain that their minds would from day to day grow into one another, in interest and esteem. As intimacy increased, it would reveal, on either side, points of character that were fitted to evoke admiration and sincere respect.

3. It is reasonable to suppose that Naomi's humble home in Bethlehem would be again and again visited by Boaz. There would be various attractions. Naomi herself, as an old and now a far-traveled friend, would be able to tell much that would be interesting to the kinsman of Elimelech.

4. The Palestinian harvest season would that year, as well as on other years, be a lively time. The harvest-home, in particular, would be a joy and a rural triumph. It may well be so in all countries. The golden grain is more precious by far than grains of gold. It is emphatically the "staff" on which terrestrial life has to lean. One of the chief uses of gold is to buy from the agriculturist, directly or Circuitously, for the use of those who live in towns and cities, the superfluity of cereals raised in the harvest-fields. Harvesting operations are thus always interesting and stirring. Ruth would feel an interest; and, in consequence of the hearty Sympathy and favor of Boaz, her whole nature would be stirred.

5. But it is far from being improbable that when the gleaning season was ended, so that Ruth had to exchange out-of-door for indoor activities, she may have acquired, to the eye of her solicitous mother-in-law, an unusually pensive appearance.

6. Naomi would no doubt make Ruth a constant study. Every mother, every father, should make every individual child in the family circle an individual study. It is not every child, it is not every young man, or young woman, whose whole heart can be read off at a sitting. Many a mind is many-volumed. Naomi did her best day by day to understand her devoted and deeply affectionate daughter-in-law, and seems to have felt increasingly solicitous as she noticed her unwonted thoughtfulness and reticence.

7. Then we must bear in mind that in such a state of, society as then prevailed in Bethlehem and Judah, there must have been extremely little scope for female energy and industry in business directions. Happily in our time there is, so far as Great Britain is concerned, considerable interest taken by philanthropic minds in the subject of female education, literary and technical. There are, moreover, even already many spheres in which females, not otherwise provided for, can find, in affairs congenial to their tastes and idiosyncrasies, remuneration and employment. In many government offices, and in other spheres of activity, females now occupy important positions. Not only do they excel in works of taste: whatever requires careful attention, combined with delicate manipulation, can be entrusted to their hands. There is still, it is true, much to be done to promote the employment and independence of single females; but a beginning has been made, and a point or two beyond that beginning have been reached. In the time and sphere of Naomi, however, there were no open doors of this kind. And hence, when she was looking out for the settlement of her daughter-in-law, she naturally thought only of a 'rest' for her in a home of her own. In reference to such a 'rest,' it is the duty of all mothers and mothers-in-law to be solicitous, though never obtrusive, in behalf of their children. Advice may be tendered, caution may be suggested; but there must be true sympathy on the one hand, and true delicacy of feeling on the other.

To turn now more particularly to Boaz—

1. It is reasonable to suppose that Naomi had noticed that he looked on Ruth with longing eyes.

2. It is also reasonable to suppose that, fro n some cause or other, Boaz felt himself under an unconquerable spell of reticence. The cause seems to be revealed in his use again and again of the fatherly expression, My daughter , as applied to Ruth. He was evidently well advanced in years. This seems to have been the soil on which his insuperable diffidence grew. How to get this diffidence plucked up by the roots was the problem which the solicitous Naomi set herself to solve.

3. There was only one way, as it appeared to her, in which Boaz's mind could be set free from the spell which put a seal on his lips. That was to bring Ruth into such relationship to him that he would learn her true sentiments on the one hand, and feel put upon his honor on the other. Naomi, to effect this consummation, took advantage of a time-honored custom, which had come down from very remote and primitive times, and was still in full force among the Hebrews. She thought of the Levitate law . This was a law that gave a widow, if an heiress, the right to claim, from the nearest of kin to her deceased husband, conjugal assistance in the management of her estate. The nearest of kin, if thus appealed to for the purpose indicated, had a right to refuse the widow's claim, provided he was willing to submit to certain indignities and unpleasant formalities, such as being stripped of one of his shoes, and then twitted and hooted as Barefoot ( Deuteronomy 25:5-10 ). But if it should happen to be the case that his feelings were the reverse of repugnance, then the act of compliance would be at once the highest mead of respect which could be paid to the memory of the deceased, and the greatest gratification that could be enjoyed by the living. In the case of Ruth and Boaz, two just conclusions had been arrived at by Naomi. One had reference to Ruth, and was to the effect that, while it would be impossible for her to initiate action that might be regarded as terminating on herself, it would yet be both possible for and becoming in her to undertake the initiation of action that had for its aim what was due to the name and honor of her deceased husband. The other had reference to Boaz, and was to the effect that his diffidence, otherwise unconquerable, would be conquered if he were put upon his honor, and saw his way clear to discharge a duty to a deceased kinsman.

4. We must, in addition, suppose that Naomi, in making arrangement for the midnight interview, had unfaltering confidence in the incorruptible innocence of Ruth, and in the incontaminable purity of Boaz.

5. We are likewise entitled to assume that the method of claiming a kinsman's interposition, which she laid down for her daughter-in-law's guidance, was no gratuitous invention of her own. It is natural to regard it as having been the normal and accredited formula of procedure that was in use in "society," for the initiation of such measures as were requisite in the application of the Levirate law.

6. It is on this assumption alone that we can account for the fact that no apology was made by Ruth, and that no surprise was expressed by Boaz. Instead of surprise, there was only devout admiration of Ruth's entire demeanor in relation to her deceased husband. He said, "Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter; thou hast made thy latter kindness better than the former, in not going after any young man, whether poor or rich." It is her kindness to the deceased, not her kindness to himself, of which he speaks. The kindness she was showing after her husband's decease was, in Boaz's estimation, still greater than the kindness she had showed him, or had been able to show him, during his life. A woman, so attractive and so capable as she, might have readily found among the young men many open doors to rest, and ease, and affluence. But she did not for one moment wish to avail herself of any of these openings. She wished to do honor to the name and memory of her lamented Machlon, more especially in her capacity as the prospective heiress of his property.

7. We may be sure, however, that Naomi would never have availed herself of the customs that had got fixed by "use and wont" in relation to the Levirate law, unless she had been certain that it would be in accordance with the deepest desires of both her friends that they should get together in life. In the light of these remarks we may now re-read the entire chapter, interposing, as we go along the successive verses, whatever expository or practical remark may seem to he called for.

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