She went; she came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers; and it was her
lot to happen upon the portion of field belonging to Boaz, who was of the
family of Elimelech.
“went” from her mother-in-law’s house and “came” to the field of Elimelech, which
was now leased and later (v. 4:9) sold to Boaz because he was “of the family of
else, she “went” looking for the field of Elimelech, but “came” upon the
adjacent field of his kinsman Boaz.
to another interpretation, Ruth set out for the field of Boaz, who had welcomed
them upon their arrival, and God led her directly there.
familiarize herself with the new place, Ruth “went” and “came” many times. And
she marked the road so that she would not lose her way and have to ask directions
of passers-by, who might engage her in lengthy conversations for the wrong
Eleazar said: She came and went until she found righteous people to go with.
to be self-supporting rather than dependent on charity, she came and went the
entire harvest season, toiling tirelessly six days a week, as hinted by the
extra letter vav (u) in tuc,u “she came” (u is numerically
equivalent to 6). She would go to the field, pick all she could carry,
take it home, and return to pick more. To avoid carrying her heavy load a long
distance, she would first go to the end of the field (“she went”) and then pick
on her way back (“she came”).
to another interpretation, Ruth “went” and “came” from one field to another
until she happened upon the field of Boaz, where she remained. For there, her
heart told her, lay her destiny.
after coming to the field of Boaz, she inspected other fields to ascertain
where the people were the most worthy. She found no place to compare with the
field of Boaz, where everyone was righteous.
Talmud says that it was because Boaz’s reapers were righteous that God
arranged for Ruth to come to his field; so beautiful was she, that anyone of
lesser virtue came to sinful thought at the sight of her.
welcomed Ruth and instructed his reapers deliberately to “forget” many
sheaves—even forget “for her from the heaps” (v. 16). So it was that
after going (“she went”) through the field once, on her way back (“she came”),
she found still more to pick.
directed Ruth to the field of Boaz, where she was able to pick enough to
sustain both herself and Naomi, and was treated with dignity and respect. This
was only the beginning of His kindness to her, for God does not withhold good
from those who walk in perfect faith. He now began to uplift Ruth and Naomi
from poverty and hunger to kingship.
is a lesson to all later generations, to place their trust in God in times of
Abraham Ibn Ezra
went. The Prophet relates that she had scarcely gone a short distance when,
she [went and] gathered in the
field. Boaz's field was close
to her house and she arrived there very soon. Although it was still early
morning when pe'ah was normally made available (see Mishnah Pe'ah 4:5),
she did not go to collect pe'ah which was at the end of the field. She
came and she gleaned immediately from the leket. Therefore, she was behind
the harvesters, and not after other poor people who were gathering [pe'ah]
By chance. Chance, or "fate," is something which does not come about in
routine circumstances. In spite of the fact that Ruth's arrival at Boaz's field
was completely by chance, the verse tells us: it happened to her that the
section of the field belonged to Boaz, who was from the family of Elimelech. In
truth it was a "happening" but, particularly for Ruth's sake.
According to this, it was a providential "happening." In matters in
which God wants to bring a comprehensive change for the betterment of the
penetrates into the realm of apparent "chance." As Eliezer, the
servant of Abraham, said, HaShem, God of Abraham, arrange (hakrei) it for me
today Eliezer intended that God should not wait for the "coming into
being" of all the normal circumstances and causes necessary for his
mission to be accomplished. So, too, this occurrence is described as a
providential "happening" in which God arranged that the first field
that she would come to and choose to glean in would belong to Boaz. This was
because he was from the family of Elimelech -who was eligible to be her
redeemer and perform the act of levirate marriage from
which the Davidic dynasty would descend.
She went and she came and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And it so
happened that she found herself
the section of field that belonged to Boaz from the family of Elimelech.
first few words in this verse She went and she came seem to make little
sense. The order of words should be changed to read tc,u
yek,u lk,u, She went and gleaned and then she came
Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 4:6) interprets these words to mean that Ruth marked the
roads leading to the fields so that she would not lose her way home. But even
if this is the case, the word tc,u, and she came, makes little
is also apparent that the field where she went to glean belonged to Boaz (see
verse 7 where it is clear that she was in Boaz’s field from the morning). In
verse 19 she testifies to the fact that she was working in Boaz’s field all
day. If so, the clause ;ufu vren rehu And it happened that she
found herself... should precede the clause and gleaned in the field...
is also important to note the masculine gender of the word rehu.
Since we are dealing with Ruth, the word should be re,u
appears to be redundant, but our Sages (Ruth Rabbah 4:4) explain that it refers
to the consequences of meeting with Ruth. Since she was so beautiful, anyone
seeing her would inevitably experience an emission of semen (cf: vkhk
“a nocturnal occurrence”; Deuteronomy 23:11). This is how they rendered vren
“One who would meet her (rehu) would have an ‘occurrence’ (vren).”
phrase from the family of Elimelech presents further difficulty. It
seems totally redundant as we are well aware of this fact (see verse 1).
The Field — a Place Fraught with Danger
we will explain these verses in detail. Ruth was afraid that anyone overhearing
her speaking to Na’omi would suspect her of deceiving her mother-in-law, as
they knew the fields were crowded with young men whom she would find hard to
avoid. Besides, there were sure to be a number of other poor people gleaning in
the field, and the majority of them would be men. It was not exactly the place
for a modest Jewish girl to be.
though there was little chance that she would be assaulted in the fields, since
there were so many people around, there was always the possibility that she
would be accosted by some unscrupulous individual while traversing the valley
between one field and another. In fact, it is known that evil-minded people
would deliberately follow the girls and wait for an opportunity to assault them
when no one else was around.
the fields, there always existed the slight chance that she might go to pick in
a corner which the workers had already left, and another pauper, noticing how
vulnerable she was, would attempt to attack her. Alternatively, she might pick
up some gleanings that had been forgotten but be challenged by the reapers
themselves, who would claim that these bundles were not left behind and she had
stolen them, thus publicly disgracing her. Or, one of the workers might have
his eye on her, and, since she was so attractive, would be aroused and come to
sin. Even if she were righteous and modest, she might easily be seduced, as
owing to human nature, it is extremely difficult for even the most pious of
women to restrain themselves.
as to prevent any of the above-mentioned possibilities from occurring, Ruth
took a number of precautions. First, she told Na’omi tb vfkt I
will go now, as if to say: “I wish to go now, at the beginning of the
barley harvest when hardly any men are around in the fields. In addition, the
poor people usually wait until the more profitable wheat harvest is under way.
Moreover, in celebration of the onset of the harvest season, the owners of the
fields and their families are commonly to be found in the fields, and I would
not be afraid to wander among so many people.”
is likely that Ruth would have declined to continue going to the fields throughout the season had
not Boaz instructed his maidservants to accompany her until the end of the
harvest, as we shall see later.
the problem of going from one field to the next, she said, “There is no need to
fear, for I will not wander from one field to the other.” She emphasized vsav,
the field, in the singular, to indicate that she would stay in one field
also told Na’omi that she was interested only in yek gleanings, and
not in vjfa, forgotten bundles, or vtp, corners. As
was explained earlier, hidden dangers awaited those who collected forgotten
bundles or gleaned the corners.
she made it known that she would pick only single stalks and not search among
the bundles, as the latter would be condemned as illegal by the workers. We
derive this from the words ohkfac vyektu, So that I can glean from
the ears of grain (verse 2).
she added, after the one in whose eyes I will find favor. She meant to
say as follows: “If I see a man with whom I will find favor, I will
follow him, but I will make sure that he cannot gaze at me because I will be
is common in large fields, that one reaper works at the head of the field and
another in the center of it. The meaning of Ruth’s comment is that if she had
found favor in the eyes of the midfield worker, she would not have followed
behind the one at the head of the field, as this would have left her in full
vew of the midfield reaper. Neither would she glean parallel to him; she would
glean only behind him so that he could not come to sin by staring at her.
these words she intended to convey the following idea: “Even if he be one with
whom I will find favor, it does not follow that he will find favor in my eyes.
I am not so reckless as to take the path of sinners, God forbid.”
Na’omi’s Motherly Attention
reply to Ruth’s request can be understood in two ways. Her answer could be
explained to mean, “Go, my daughter. You have assured me that you will be
extremely careful about where you go and how you will behave there. I am
positive that you will come to no harm and no evil will come your way.
Na’omi’s reply meant: “Don’t think I am allowing you to go because I don’t care
what you do. You are
dear to me as a daughter, but still, I know your intentions and I allow you to
Ruth is still given the title of ‘Moabitess.’ This is for two reasons. A closer
look at the text will reveal that there is a significant difference between the
way Ruth described her upcoming visit to the fields and the way she acted when
she was actually there.
verse 2, she promised Na’omi that she would follow behind the one, etc. In
verse 3 we are informed that she walked after the reapers, seemingly in
accordance with her promise. However, while the Hebrew word rjt,
behind, appears in verse 2 the word hrjt is used in
verse 3. These two words have vastly different connotations, as we shall see.
intention, as implied in verse 2, was to stay close behind the reapers. This,
of course, was immodest and wrong of her. Na’omi reprimanded her by telling
her, “Go, but behave modestly as if you were my daughter, and stay away
from the workers.” As we see, Ruth listened to her mother-in-law and
followed ohrmuev hrjt, at a distance behind the reapers. However,
because she initially intended to stay close to them, she is branded a
Moabitess. Na’omi warned her that she was now a Jewess and had to behave
accordingly, as her own daughter would.
The Field Trip
went and she came. It has been suggested that since Ruth did not want to
overburden herself by carrying bundles back and forth, she did not gather any
gleanings on the way in, but she picked up everything she had gathered on her
way back home.
approach would be feasible if Ruth walked through several fields. However, as
we explained, she went to only a single field to pick. The word tc,u,
and she came, implies that she arrived back in the town and only then did
she begin gleaning!
is, however, a deeper meaning to the verse than meets the eye. The
prophet is attempting to teach us something about Ruth and her past. Ruth, as
we shall see later (verse 4), was a reincarnated form of Lot’s elder daughter. Hence the verse reads as follows: She
went, originally to her eternal world, but, she came back, i.e., she
was reincarnated as Ruth, to glean her reward for the good deed she had done by
having intercourse with her father only for the sake of Heaven.
course, this is only the hidden meaning embodied in the words with the Divine
intuition of the prophet. The simple meaning of the text still requires
Ruth Learns the Way
was afraid that she might tarry in the fields until sundown, and, being in
unfamiliar surroundings, would lose her way back to town. Alone, she would be a
target for assault. Even during the daylight hours, a girl wandering about in
the fields would be asking for trouble. What did she do to avoid this danger?
She went to the first field she saw and then returned to the town so as to get
herself accustomed to the way. Only then did she go back to gather gleanings.
It was the third time she was making the journey and she felt sure of the way
is possible that this is what the Sages of the Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 4:4)
intended when they said that she marked out the way. The Scriptures do not
state explicitly that she returned to the field, for it is obvious that after
she arrived back in town she would have to return to the field to gather. The
main emphasis is on the fact thatshe only gleaned from the field after she
had gone to and from the town to learn the way. It is possible that she
mistakenly told Na’omi that she was going now to the field, which could
imply that she would go straight to the field to gather ‘before’ she knew the way
back. She also told her that she would follow behind the ‘one’ with whom she
would find favor when it is preferable to be in the company of a group of
people. Who knows what might have happened to her had she been left alone with
a single man? Of course, she realized, in fact, that she had spoken without
thinking and found a way to remedy the situation. She first learned the way
back, and only then did she aflow herself to pick in the field. She did not
follow behind a single reaper, but she kept her distance and made sure that
there was a group of reapers rather than a lone man (see verse 3 ohrmuev
hrjt behind the reapers, in the plural).
also informed Na’omi that she was going now, at the beginning of the
barley harvest, and as soon as her mother-in-law gave her permission to go, she
went —immediately. She promised to visit only one field, and indeed
that is what she did. Furthermore, she kept her promise to take only gleanings
and not forgotten bundles or corners. The Scripture testifies to her honesty:
So she gleaned in the field behind the reapers. Two facts stand out. She
she did not take from the corners or from what was forgotten behind, and she
only gathered from that which had fallen from the reapers.
Ruth Meets Boaz — No Mere Coincidence
happened that she found herself... This is an allusion to the fact that
Ruth was destined to meet Boaz and marry him, even though she was not his
predestined mate in life, for indeed, in every levirate marriage the union
between a widow and her brother-in-law comes as a result of Biblical law.
Furthermore, Ruth was not from the people of Israel; she had been a Moabitess
who had chosen to convert to Judaism. Hence, a union between these two could be
classified as a rare ‘occurrence.’ That future event which was destined to
happen retroactively caused her to ‘chance’ to glean in the field of Boaz so
that she could meet him and eventually marry him. This, then, is the meaning of
the double expression ufu vren rehu. A ‘happening’ caused her
to ‘chance’ upon the field of Boaz. It was no accident, but part of the
Divine plan which brought her to a special destiny.
the family of Elimelech. It was from the family of Elimelech that she would
find her mate for a levirate marriage. Though the Hebrew rehu
is in the masculine, there is no irregularity, as the reference is to the
‘event’ and not to Ruth herself.
see proof of God’s arranging for Ruth to find herself in Boaz’s field so
that she could meet and become acquainted with him, in the following verse: Behold!
Boaz came. The Hebrew vbvu is an expression used to denote
something that came about through design and not mere accident. Thus, it was
the future levirate marriage between the two that brought about this meeting in
the field of Boaz. It was not pure chance that brought Ruth there; rather,
Boaz’s arrival on the scene was ordained to coincide with Ruth’s presence.
we can understand the juxtaposition of clauses in verse 3. Earlier we
questioned their order: the second half of the verse should precede the first
half. In fact, the prophet deliberately arranged that the phrase, And it so
happened that she found herself, would be followed immediately by the
announcement: Behold! Boaz came, to indicate that these two events were
possible meaning of these words is as follows. As we said, the spirit of
Machlon rested within Ruth until it could be redeemed by way of marriage to a
‘redeemer’ — and that was Boaz. Thus, that which had happened to her,
i.e., that Machlon’s spirit had rested within her, was by special design, since
in normal circumstances, a Jewish spirit cannot enter a gentile’s body. That
unusual developement caused it ‘to happen’ that she should find herself in the
field of Boaz —from the family of Elimelech — who had the responsibility
of redeeming her so that the name of the deceased could be perpetuated over his
this explanation is alluded to in the numerical value of the words. vren
equals 345. Add to this the number of letters in the words (4) and we have a
total of 349. The numerical value of iukjn jur (the spirit of Machlon) (348)
together with the phrase itself (1) is likewise 349.
Daughter Became Ruth!
is yet a further way of understanding this phrase. As we have said earlier (and
we shall speak more of later), Ruth was the one who was destined to be the
progenitress of the Davidic dynasty as a reward for the courageous act of Lot’s
elder daughter, who lay with her father only for the sake of Heaven. Ruth herself
was Lot’s daughter incarnate. An indication of
this fact is, again, through numerical values. The lower numerical value of the
ot yuk ,c (the daughter of Lot, mother of Moab) equals 42, which is precisely the value of
,ur thv (she is Ruth the
Moabitess), indicating that the mother of Moab and Ruth were one and the same
event, which took place when Lot
unknowingly took part in a forbidden relationship with his daughter, caused
Ruth to be found in the portion of the field that belonged to Boaz. Due to
Divine guidance, the end result of that union was finally on the way to being
realized. Hence, immediately following is the announcement: Behold! Boaz
come. The words are not zguc tchu So Boaz came, which would
imply that he just happened to walk into his field.