I’m intrigued by a subtle comparison or contrast between Elimelech and Boaz in the first two chapters of Ruth.
Note the opening verse of the book of Ruth:
In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech… (1:1-2a).
Elimelech was not a hero. He’s the faithless husband to Naomi, father to Mahlon and Chilion and the man who destroyed his family by leaving his God, his land, his culture and his home town of Bethlehem (which means “the house of bread”) in search of bread and life in pagan Moab. Of course, given the theological reasons (Lev. 26) for the famine in the “house of bread” it seems clear that a better course of action would have been for him to remain in the land, remain faithful to God. Elimelech took the road of panic and faithless wandering.
Now, note the opening verse of Ruth 2:
Now Naomi had a relative of her husband's, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz (2:1).
Boaz was a “worthy man.” But he was from “the clan of Elimelech.” This creates a bit of a shadow over him and raises the question about his faithfulness; will Boaz follow Elimelech in faithless wandering? Boaz is introduced as “a worthy man” – that phrase in Hebrew is commonly associated with warfare and has to do with the strength and vitality of a successful warrior. Although Boaz was not a warrior (at least not in the book of Ruth), he still was a powerful, strong and upright, and a brave man. He was a man of such character when he walked into the room, everyone noticed. Boaz was a worthy man, but he was from the clan of Elimelech. But he did not let that define him. Boaz did not follow in the path of “Elimelech” – he took the road of faith.
Boaz was “a worthy man” and had power that came from his character and his kindness, and he used that power to bless others, like Naomi and Ruth.
Naaman, like Boaz, was also described with the same Hebrew phrase; as “a worthy man” – but it’s translated as “a mighty man of valor.”
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper (2 Kings 5:1).
Naaman is “a mighty man”, but he was a leper.
Naaman used his power to manipulate the King of Israel to cure him. But because of his power and pride, when his expectations were not met and he freaked out.
Naaman had power coupled with pride.
Jephthah, like Boaz, was also described with the same Hebrew phrase; as “a worthy man” – but it’s translated as “a mighty warrior.”
Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah (Judges 11:1).
Jephthah was a “mighty warrior” but he’s the son of a prostitute.
Jephthah selfishly valued power, position and recognition over the lives of others, even his own daughter (whom he sacrificed).
Jephthah used his power to promote himself and to advance his position, at the expense of those near to him.
Although all three overcame some deficient and became “worthy” or a “mighty warrior”, only one (Boaz) is worthy of emulation.
Boaz had experienced the kindness of God in his family history – his father, Salmon, had extended life-saving kindness to his mother, Rahab (the prostitute of Joshua 2). Boaz knew God, and he remained faithful to God and His ways during the famine and chaos of days of the Judges (when very few were living according to God’s ways).
So, key questions to ask:
Where does our power come from? Does it come from a deep abiding walk with God?
How will we use our power? Will we use our power to offer kindness to others? Or will we use our power to fuel our pride and position?