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May you receive the full amount of your wages from Yahweh, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.
Home is where the heart is, as the saying goes. Material space and social space are intertwined. Our sense of identity, the network of our relationships, our sense of belonging, and our formative experiences are attached to a sense of place.
A home is what Naomi wants for Ruth, and undoubtedly for herself. At the beginning of the story, she tells Ruth to find a home with her people back in Moab (1:9). Yet after Ruth gleans in the field of Boaz, Naomi is determined to find Ruth a home in Israel. (3:1). What has changed Naomi's perspective?
When Ruth enters the field of Boaz (2:1-23), she also enters Bethlehem's social space and the web of relationships that defines it. She makes the decision driven by necessity but without a connection to the community she enters. She is the proverbial sore thumb. Have you ever been in a space or among a group of people where realized you didn't fit in at all, where you felt uncomfortably conspicuous? Because she is a Moabite, Ruth is particularly vulnerable. This becomes apparent later, when Boaz commands his workers not to harass or demean Ruth (2:9, 16) and Naomi tells Ruth that she might be abused if she goes to another field (2:22; modern translations tend to soften the force of the Hebrew verbs).
My attention, however, is drawn to Boaz, the owner of the field and a person of prestige and influence. Boaz is the narrator’s vehicle for demonstrating how God’s people are to respond to the outsider and the immigrant. This is apparent when Boaz first appears in the field and asks about the woman who has entered the field. The field hand whom he asks sees only "the Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from Moab."
Boaz, however, addresses Ruth with a term of endearment: "my daughter." Then he tells her not to go to another field but to stay with his people in his field. It is a powerful declaration: you belong here with us.
In what follows, Boaz uses his position to draw Ruth into Bethlehem's social space, from its outer rung ("join my young women" [v. 8]) and to a place beside all the workers (v. 14). Then he goes farther by giving her special treatment that responds to the need she has but has not expressed (a gift of grain and a command that his workers leave stalks of grain in the field for her). He also takes measures to ensure her safety and see that she has more than enough to eat. Boaz, in short, does not merely tolerate or give permission for the Moabite to work in his space. He takes active steps to provide protection, provision, and a sense of belonging.
I see a vision of hospitality and a type of the Church reflected in the person of Boaz. Boaz speaks words of blessing to the immigrant who arrives with little more than the clothes on her back and works hard in the field to get enough to eat (v. 7). Boaz uses his position in the community to help her feel at ease in her new home, connect her to the community, and take the steps necessary help find security, stability, and a place to work.
Boaz recognizes the refugee and welcomes her. He does not just allow her to be in his space or communicate acceptance. He becomes the advocate she needs to become a part of a new community.