“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.” Rut 2:12
I love the story of Ruth! It is a picture of all who are foreigners to Israel, as we were, coming out from our father’s houses and our pagan and worldly ways that we learned in our father’s houses, and hearing of the LORD God, that He is the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and clinging to Him for His sake! He welcomes us with open arms, as Naomi welcomed Ruth and Boaz welcomed Ruth, even though she was a foreigner.
About the customs in the history: if a man dies a leaves a widow childless, his brother is to go in to his widow and take her as a wife, and raise up children to his brother (Deu 25:5). This is why Naomi said, “Do I have any more sons in my womb? Return to your father’s house.”
When they arrived in Bethlehem, it was the beginning of the barley harvest. The barley harvest begins at the Feast of Firstfruits. This feast always falls on a Sunday (the day after the Sabbath) during the week of Unleavened Bread following Passover. It was the day that Jesus rose from the dead!
The first sheaf of the new barley is taken to Jerusalem and offered to the LORD in thanksgiving and acknowledgement that He has provided His people with bread. Then the barley is harvested. The LORD commands to not go over your fields and your vineyards twice, gathering every last grain and every last grape, but to leave what remains and has fallen for the poor, the widow, and the stranger (Deu 24:19-21).
So Ruth, fulfilling all three, poor, widowed, and a stranger, was following after the reapers and picking up what was left over, so that she and Naomi would have grain for bread. Since they had no husbands, they had no income, and no way of buying anything to feed themselves.
Boaz took notice of her, and began providing for her, but not overtly. It would not be seemly for an unmarried Israelite man to begin providing for an unmarried foreign woman. But he was providing for her, because he was a righteous man, and he recognized in Ruth’s refusal to leave the elderly Naomi to fend for herself, a likewise righteous soul.
During the time of the judges, when this history took place, at Bethlehem of Judah, the Bethlehemites worshiped the LORD and followed His ways. At least the family of Boaz did. That there was a famine in the land, which caused Naomi and family to leave Israel in the first place for Moab, must have been because the people had forgotten the LORD. As long as the people served the LORD and walked in His ways, He had promised them that there would never be a famine (Deu 28:1-14). So perhaps while Naomi was in Moab, Israel repented and returned to the LORD, and the famine ended. In any case, Ruth, like us, had come to the LORD God of Israel to find shelter under His wings!