Ruth 2:3




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Ruth 2:3 kai; ejporeuvqh kai; sunevlexen ejn tw'/ ajgrw'/ katovpisqen tw'n qerizovntwn kai; perievpesen periptwvmati

th'/ merivdi tou' ajgrou' Boo" tou' ejk suggeneiva" Abimelec


Ruth 2:3 And she went, and upon arriving she gleaned in the field after the reapers; and by chance she came upon the part of the field belonging to Boöz, who was of the family of Elimelech. 









and she left




and she went




and she gleaned




in the field








the harvesters



« r3e±Ðœ•u

and he happened




her happening




section of




the field




to Boaz








from clan of










2:3 So Ruth went to glean ears of wheat after the reapers; and it happened that she came upon a portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimeleck.



Stone’s Translation


2:3 So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the harvesters, and her fate made her happen upon a parcel of land belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.




2:3 And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field [belonging] unto Boaz, who [was] of the kindred of Elimelech.



Peshat Level:




2:3 So she departed and went up and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and she chanced upon the part [Lit. "the possession" or "the inheritance."] of the field that belonged to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.




2:3 And she went and came and gleaned in the field  We find in Midrash Ruth (the following discourse): (The Midrash asks Before she had even gone (to the field), she returned?  For it states, “And she came (back to Naomi),” and afterwards (it states), “And she gleaned (in the field)”. Rather, (the explanation is) that she would mark the roads before she entered the field, and she went and came and returned to the city in order to make markings and signs so that she should not err on the paths and she should know (how) to return.


And her lot happened  To come upon the portion of the field that belonged to Boaz.



Gemarah Level:


Talmud Babli


Shabbath 113b  And she went and came and gleaned in the field. R. Eleazar said: She repeatedly went and came until she found decent men whom to accompany.



Midrash Level:


Midrash Rabbah


Ruth IV:4 AND SHE WENT AND CAME (II, 3). She had not yet gone, yet you say, AND CAME? R. Judah b. R. Simon answered: She began to mark out the ways. AND HER HAP WAS (II, 3). R. Johanan said: Whoever saw her was sexually excited. THE PORTION OF THE FIELD BELONCING UNTO BOAZ WHO WAS OF THE FAMILY OF ELIMELECH (ib.). I.e. it was given to her from what was due to be her portion [i.e. heritage].



Zohar Level:



Other Commentaries:


Me’am Lo’ez


2:3 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.


Ruth “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 Elimelech.”


Or else, she “went” looking for the field of Elimelech, but “came” upon the adjacent field of his kinsman Boaz.

According to another interpretation, Ruth set out for the field of Boaz, who had welcomed them upon their arrival, and God led her directly there.


To 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 reasons.


Rabbi Eleazar said: She came and went until she found righteous people to go with.


Eager 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”).


According 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.


Even 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.


The 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.


Boaz 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.


God 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.

This is a lesson to all later generations, to place their trust in God in times of distress.


Abraham Ibn Ezra





3. She 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] for themselves.


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 nation, Providence 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[1] and perform the act of levirate marriage from which the Davidic dynasty would descend.




(3) She went and she came and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And it so happened that she found herself

in the section of field that belonged to Boaz from the family of Elimelech.


The 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 (back).


The 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 sense here.


It 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...


It is also important to note the masculine gender of the word rehu. Since we are dealing with Ruth, the word should be re,u


The word vren 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 vren, “a nocturnal occurrence”; Deuteronomy 23:11). This is how they rendered vren rehu: “One who would meet her (rehu) would have an ‘occurrence’ (vren).”


The 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


Now 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.


Furthermore, 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.


In 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.


Preventive Measures

So 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.”          


It 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.      


Concerning 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 only.


She 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.


Furthermore, 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).


Finally, 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 behind him.”


It 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.


With 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


Naomi’s 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.


Alternatively, Na’omi’s reply meant: “Don’t think I am allowing you to go because I don’t care what you do. You are

as dear to me as a daughter, but still, I know your intentions and I allow you to go.”


Nevertheless, 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.


In 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.


Ruth’s 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


She 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.


This 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!


There 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.


Of 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 explanation.


Ruth Learns the Way


Ruth 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 back.


It 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).


Ruth 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 gleaned

— 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


It 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.


From 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.


We 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.


Now 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 closely related.


Another 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 inheritance.


Interestingly, 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.


Lot’s Daughter Became Ruth!


This 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 words ctun ot yuk ,c (the daughter of Lot, mother of Moab) equals 42, which is precisely the value of vhctunv ,ur thv (she is Ruth the Moabitess), indicating that the mother of Moab and Ruth were one and the same person.


That vren, 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.





[1] See Devarim 25:4-10, "When brothers dwell together and one of them dies, and he has no child, the wife of the deceased shall not marry outside to a strange man; her brother-in-law shall come to her, and take her to himself as a wife, and perform levirate marriage..." A "redeemer" was the close relative who actually performed the levirate marriage.