If you search Scripture for examples of godly marriage, you may be surprised just how rare they are. Even couples that shine in some respects — Jacob and Rachel, Abraham and Sarah, David and Abigail — often have glaring indiscretions or outright failures.
The Bible gives us plenty of teaching about marriage, but very few actual marriages to imitate. That makes a love like the one between Boaz and Ruth all the more beautiful. Of all the marriages in the Bible, is any more commendable than the brief glimpse we get of this righteous son of Judah and his Moabite bride?
When Boaz found his future bride lying at his feet in the dark of night on the threshing-room floor, he said, “Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman” (Ruth 3:11). Through her fierce loyalty, her undaunted courage, her Godward dependence, and her submissive initiative, Ruth had proven herself a worthy woman — worthy of respect and admiration, and worthy of a husband’s devotion.
As we wander through the worthiness of Ruth, however, we meet a man of equal worth, the kind of man a woman like her could trust and follow.
Dating Oak Trees
Now, in holding up Ruth and Boaz as a model bride and groom, it should be said that we only get five verses describing their actual married life together (Ruth 4:13–17). This brevity may, however, strangely accentuate the lessons from their love for today — for marriage, yes, but all the more for the pursuit of marriage in dating. We can assume a great deal about who Boaz and Ruth were in marriage because of what see of them before they were married.
Scripture holds up Boaz and Ruth as a man and woman worthy of a lifelong covenant, as the kind of people a godly person should want to marry. Their love reminds us of a vital and unpopular piece of wisdom: Who our significant others are before marriage will be, in significant measure, who they are in marriage. Many foolishly marry unworthy men or women, hoping the altar will somehow make them worthy; the wise know that vows alone cannot alter anyone’s character.
“Who our significant others are before marriage will be, in significant measure, who they are in marriage.”
Oak trees grow from acorns, not thorns. None of us is as worthy when we marry as we will be years into marriage, and some unworthy spouses will be wholly transformed by God after getting married. But generally speaking, an unworthy boyfriend will prove to be an unworthy husband, and an unworthy girlfriend, an unworthy wife. While God may sometimes miraculously raise an oak tree out of thorny ground, we should not wed ourselves to thorns, but wait for God to bring an acorn — a worthy man or a worthy woman, a Ruth or a Boaz.
So, for any woman in search of her acorn, what made Boaz a man worthy of a woman like Ruth?
A Truly Worthy Man
The first time we meet Boaz, we’re prepared for the kind of man he will show himself to be:
Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. (Ruth 2:1)
Before Ruth and Boaz even see each other, we are told that this man is a worthy man — a man worthy of trust and respect who will act honorably in any circumstance, care for those entrusted to him, and protect the vulnerable, rather than take advantage of his wealth or power for selfish and sinful gain or pleasure.
For a truly worthy man is as worthy in secret as he is when others are watching — and Boaz was just such a man.
A Protecting Man
The worthiness of Boaz begins with how he cares for Ruth, a vulnerable widow far from home, even when there was no benefit in it for him. When he meets her in the field, he says to her,
Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? (Ruth 2:8–9)
Having only just met her, he immediately took responsibility for her well-being. He made sure, as far as it depended on him, that no one would harm her. And he didn’t wait for something to happen in the field, but went to the men first and charged them not to touch her. Good men are vigilant enough to foresee what threatens those under their care, and they are courageous enough to do what they can to thwart those threats.
So, do the men you want to date or marry protect the women around them? Do you see them making proactive efforts to guard women, especially single women, from danger or harm? One way a man can demonstrate this worthiness in dating is by clearly expressing his interest and intentions (or lack thereof), instead of indulging in ambiguity and flirtation. Does he leave a trail of confused and wounded hearts behind him?
A Providing Man
This commitment in Boaz to protect is welded to a lifestyle of provision. Men who will protect and provide for a wife well in marriage are men who protect and provide for others outside of marriage.
“Now, listen, my daughter,” he says to Ruth, “do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. . . . And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn” (Ruth 2:8–9). He saw a hungry woman, and made sure she had something to eat. He saw a thirsty woman, and made sure she had plenty to drink. He did not (like so many men would) ignore the need before him, or assume someone else would take care of it, or make excuses about not having enough for himself, but gladly and quickly stepped in to provide.
Now, most single women are not gleaning a neighbor’s field for their next meal, so does that make this quality in Boaz irrelevant for today? Certainly not. Worthy men are providing men in any context, and they notice and anticipate the needs of their particular context. As you watch the men you might marry, do you see them overflowing — time, money, work, attention — into the needs around them? Or do they seem to do just enough to provide for themselves?
Is this the kind of man that will not only make enough money to put food on the table (which is important), but will also consistently, even if not perfectly, provide for you and your family through prayer, through listening, through effective planning and communication, through teaching and discipline in parenting, through opening God’s word with you? Is he the kind of man who provides gladly, from a renewed heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion?
A Kind Man
The care and protection Boaz showed Ruth were both expressions of unusual kindness. When Naomi hears how Boaz received Ruth gleaning in his fields, she says, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” (Ruth 2:20).
“Good men are strong, courageous, and hard-working, but they are every bit as kind.”
And like today, his kindness stood in stark contrast with many of the men around him. People were not surprised when men were selfish, or harsh, or when they took advantage of women — why else would Boaz have to order his men not to touch her? But Boaz was not like those men. He was strong enough to provide, tough enough to protect, but also kind enough to care, to sacrifice, to love. Good men are strong, courageous, and hard-working, but they are every bit as kind.
“The Lord’s servant must be . . . kind to everyone,” Paul says (2 Timothy 2:24). They must be kind because God says so, yes, but also because they have been drawn under the waterfall of his kindness (Ephesians 2:7). Kindness is who men of God are, because they know where they would be without his kindness. Friends of ours wisely chose this verse for their wedding text: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Is the man you might marry capable, with God’s grace and help, of this kind of kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness? Has he been humbled and softened by the devastating kindness of God?
A Redeeming Man
The worthiness of Boaz, like the worthiness of any husband, is a worthiness of reflection. The glory of Boaz is a light reflected from the Son, the Christ who would one day redeem his bride.
When Ruth approached Boaz, she said, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer” (Ruth 3:9). At that time in Israel, a “kinsman-redeemer” was a relative who paid to redeem a family member from servitude or to buy back land that had been sold or forfeited because of poverty (see Leviticus 25:23, 47–49). Boaz was not the closest redeemer, but he was the closest one willing to marry the widow and perpetuate her husband’s line (Ruth 4:5–6).
And so Boaz declares, for all to hear, “Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife” (Ruth 4:10). He redeemed her from her grief and poverty as a picture of how Christ would eventually redeem sinners like us from a far worse fate. The worthy Boaz rose to fulfill the charge Paul would one day give every Christian husband:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25–27)
A Blessing Union
As is the case with any good marriage, the blessed union between Boaz and Ruth almost immediately spills over in blessing to others. First came their son, Obed: “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son” (Ruth 4:13). We don’t hear much of Obed’s story, but I can only imagine the immense blessing of being raised by such a father and mother.
We do see, however, how their marriage blessed Ruth’s mother-in-law: “The women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age’” (Ruth 4:14–15). When Naomi arrived in Bethlehem, she said, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20). But through Ruth and Boaz, her mourning was turned to dancing. Death and despair had given way to new life and hope. What the Lord had taken, he had returned and far more through a healthy, overflowing marriage.
Most important of all, though, the fruit and blessing of their love would spread much farther and wider. “They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4:13–17) — and through David, we now know, the Christ. A redeemer fathered the Redeemer, whose wings would shelter the nations. Their union (eventually) produced the seed that would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). And while our faithful marriages will not bear another messiah, they can breed and spread the redemption, healing, and love our Redeemer bought for us.
So, as you pursue marriage, look for a spouse that will help you build a blessing marriage — a marriage so happy in God that it spills over to meet the needs of others.