(This is an excerpt from Verse by Verse, the Old Testament by D. Kelly Ogden, Andrew C. Skinner, and Ellis T. Rasmussen.)
Few passages in the Old Testament match the beauty and emotive power of Ruth’s profession of faith and commitment. Her virtue and strength of character are an example for the ages. But because Ruth had given up her former religion and her former life in order to unite with Israel, she had no place to turn. She strikingly exemplifies the truth, articulated by the Savior, that choosing to participate in the kingdom of God may separate individuals from their family, friends, and culture:
“For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. . . . He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:35–37). As Jesus teaches in this passage, he and his gospel require individuals to make choices, sometimes hard choices, and commitments to him over others. Membership in the Lord’s family is decided not by blood or birth but by choice and conformity to God’s will through the covenant. Accordingly, if anyone sacrifices all in order to follow God, God will not leave any of his covenant family members without help. “But now the Lord saith, . . . them that honour me I will honour” (1 Samuel 2:30). He did not leave Ruth destitute or helpless. He provided a redeemer for her and Naomi and fulfilled a promise of temporal and spiritual redemption. The name of Ruth’s and Naomi’s redeemer was Boaz, who is a type and similitude of Jesus Christ.
Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem at the time of the harvest. Perhaps under inspiration, Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz, who was a “mighty man of wealth” (Ruth 2:1) and a kinsman of Naomi’s deceased husband. The ancient law of gleaning was a kind of welfare system.
The Lord asked landowners to leave some produce in their fields to allow the needy, the fatherless, the widow, and the stranger the opportunity to harvest enough for their sustenance (Leviticus 19:9–10; 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19–22). Ruth found favor with Boaz, who wanted to marry her if the nearest kinsman, to whom the right belonged according to the law in Deuteronomy 25:5–10, declined. The kinsman did decline and set the stage for one greater. . . .
The Hebrew word used to describe Boaz . . . , which the King James Version translates as “kinsman,” is go’el. This word translates literally as “redeemer.”
The King James translators may not have completely recognized the deeper significance of the story nor the similitude of Christ inherent in the levirate law of Deuteronomy 25, because they translated go’el as “kinsman” or “next of kin.” The levirate law (so called from Latin, levir, “husband’s brother”) is itself a typifying of Christ in that it asks that a deceased man’s brother or kinsman stand in the place of the deceased to provide for the needs of the widow, to rescue the family from difficulty, and to raise up children in the name of the deceased brother. Thus, the deceased man’s brother or kinsman was performing a substitutionary, or proxy, act, a vicarious service that the deceased man could not do for himself. Is this not the essence of the Lord’s atonement? Boaz was a redeemer in that he returned the widow Ruth to her former status as wife. She was no longer a disenfranchised member of society or the family of Israel. She had been purchased with a price. Likewise, all humanity, especially members of the covenant family, have a redeemer who has purchased or “bought [us] with a price,” as Paul said, which price is his precious blood (1 Corinthians 6:20; Acts 20:28).
The great Redeemer is Jesus Christ. The words of the chief apostle, Peter, also come to mind: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Peter 1:18–20).
Moreover, when Boaz says he purchased Ruth in order that the name of the dead be raised up, do we not think of the resurrection made possible through the act of deliverance accomplished by Jesus Christ? Do we not appreciate the levirate law in a new light?
Ruth’s redemption had everlasting consequences for the whole human family. The son of Boaz and Ruth was Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, through whose lineage came the royal Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.
Truly, Boaz was a similitude of the Messiah, a truth which the story of Ruth may have been deliberately intended to portray. In a place called the House of Bread, at a time when there was no bread, came forth a convert who became the ancestress of the Bread of Life—the great go’el, or Redeemer.