“There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, ‘Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I might find favor.’ And she said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech” (Ruth 2:1-3).
The second chapter begins by introducing Boaz, a wealthy man who was related to Elimelech’s family. Ruth desired to go find food for them via gleaning (i.e., by gathering that which was left or missed by the reapers). The law of Moses restricted the owners of the fields from having their own lands gleaned. Instead, that right was reserved for the poor (Lev. 19:9; Deut. 24:19). By chance, or–more likely–by God’s providence, Ruth ended up gleaning in Boaz’s field. The text indicates that Ruth came to the field as one ready to work. She was not sitting, waiting for someone to do the work for her. Nor was she too proud to submit herself to the task of menial labor. She was not concerned about what others might think of her if she got her hands dirty in honest toil, nor was she seeking sympathy or attention. She was there for one purpose–to gather food for her mother-in-law and herself.
“Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, ‘The LORD be with you!’ And they answered him, ‘The LORD bless you!’ Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘Whose young woman is this?’ So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, ‘It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, “Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.” So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house'” (Ruth 2:4-7).
Boaz obviously cared about his workers and shared a good relationship with them. He wished them well when he arrived and they returned the favor. Boaz also took notice of Ruth and inquired about her. The man in charge of the reapers told Boaz all about Ruth. She was the Moabite woman who had come back with Naomi, and she was also a hard worker.
“Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field when they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.’ So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’ And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.’ Then she said, ‘Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants'” (Ruth 2:8-13).
Boaz’s kindness toward Ruth is commendable. He gave her protection, drink, and food (cf. 2:14). She asked why he gave her these favors. He told her that he was aware of her circumstances and current condition. He pronounced a blessing upon her for the loyalty she demonstrated to Naomi and Jehovah. It is likely that Boaz was attracted to Ruth romantically at that time. However, he was probably reluctant to pursue her for a reason explained later. She overflowed with gratitude toward him for his compassionate help.