November 11, 2012
Ruth 31-5; 4:13-17
Gleaners are poor people who come into the fields behind the harvesters of grain. They pick up from the ground the grains left behind, which they can keep for their own sustenance. Boaz, a wealthy young man of Bethlehem, has been charmed by the lovely foreigner who gleans in the fields where he and his men are harvesting barley. Naomi, knowing that Boaz was a close relative of her son, Ruth’s late husband, sends Ruth on a risky and sexy adventure to cause Boaz to fall in love with her. It works. Boaz falls in love, but being a true gentleman, does not take advantage of Ruth. Instead, he uses the Levirate law to clear the way so that he can marry her.
By the laws of levirate marriage, if a man dies without a son for an heir, his closest unmarried male relative, the “next-of-kin,” must marry his widow. Though the next-of-kin will take possession of the dead man’s estate, the coup0le’s first son, if they have one, will be named for the dead man and will be heir to the estate. See the story of Tamar in Genesis chapter 9 and the statement in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.
Some ancient editor or compiler of Scripture added the last paragraph. Very clever of him, for it solved a puzzle. Why had the great David been so trusting of the Moabites? Ah ha. This wonderful Moabite woman, Ruth, was his great-grandmother.
In our reading of last week, the author of Hebrews explained that Christ’s holy place is not a tent in a field, but the tabernacle of Heaven, the offering, not the blood of animals but the blood of Christ. In the instructions for sacrificial rituals in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, the victim must be an animal “without blemish.” The same requirement holds in the divine ritual where Jesus, the victim, is without blemish. If the Book of Hebrews did not give rise to the doctrine that Jesus went to his death without having sinned, it certainly supported it.