The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Sep 27, 2013

"Under Your Wing"--Ruth Tosses Boaz's Words Right Back at Him!

Teaching a particular book of the Bible is the best way to learn it! The past few weeks I’ve had the privilege of teaching the book of Ruth to the youth at my local church (a very intelligent group of kids, I might add!) While my Hebrew is very rusty, I’ve read through the book in Hebrew while making use of some top-notch commentaries (Daniel Block’s NAC commentary is, in particular, outstanding. And that’s not just my opinion, either).

Studying Ruth for myself has been immensely rewarding. I’d like to share just one quick observation that brings out both the master-storytelling in this book and how our view of God should impact our actions towards each other. In Ruth 2:12, Boaz blesses Ruth, admonishing the Lord to pay her back for all her kindness and faithfulness towards her mother-in-law. He then describes her as having taken refuge literally under the wings [plural form of knph] of the Lord (ESV: “. . . under whose wings you have taken refuge” I think Block best describes Ruth’s relief in response to Boaz’s words: “Like a young chick frightened by the pouring rain, she has come out of her fears and found comfort and security under the wings of God. Those wings are embodied in the person of Boaz” (Block, Judges, Ruth, [NAC; Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman&Holman, 1999], 665).

Now, keep the word “wing” in mind. Fast-forward to Ruth 3:9. This Moabite widow is putting into action her mother-in-law’s plan. When Boaz wakes up, shivering, Ruth identifies herself, and then asks him to “spread your wing [Heb. knph, again!] over your servant”! (ESV) This was, of course, a marriage proposal (“knph” could also mean “robe/skirt,” and “to spread one’s skirt over” a woman meant to marry her; cf. Ezekiel 16:8). Yet certainly Ruth’s bold choice of words is significant! Had not Boaz wished upon her that the Lord himself would spread his wing over her? And now, Ruth herself asks that Boaz spread his wing over her, in essence throwing his own words right back at him, and demanding that he himself become the emissary of Yahweh in this matter!

It is to Boaz’s credit that he was willing to seize this role and act as the go-el, kinsman-redeemer, towards Ruth and Naomi. Yet what about us? Not that we should go out and find widows to marry, necessarily! Yet do we wish the Lord’s blessing on others and put little thought into how we ourselves might act as his representative in that regard? Are we willing to “cover others with our wings,” to shelter them, just as the Lord has done for us?  May we beware the sinfulness of blessing others with words but not actions, of wishing the Lord’s blessing on others and not lifting a finger to help bring about that blessing! As James says, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, 2:16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? 2:17 So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself” (2:15-17, NET).

Truly, both Boaz and the Moabitess widow exemplified the Chessed of the Lord in the book of Ruth, and their actions have transformative results for the entire nation. Ruth, then, is not a modern “fairy tale” romance with knights in shining armor and damsels in distress, glamorous gowns and evocative emotions! Rather, it shows us that true love is action—taking others and sheltering them under our wings from the harshness of life. Only when we live to the standard of Boaz and Ruth can we truly claim to be the Lord’s servants.