From a Jewish perspective, Ruth wasn’t a good candidate for adoption into the nation of Israel. An impoverished widow from the pagan nation of Moab was likely seen as someone to avoid or perhaps even deport. But the providence of God isn’t bound by human logic or perception.
As a matter of survival in Israel, Ruth gathered leftover grain from the fields of a man—Boaz—who turned out to be a close relative of her deceased Israelite husband. Moreover, Boaz looked on Ruth’s plight with compassion and kindness.
Boaz seemed smitten with Ruth from the moment they met. He invited her to eat with his workers at mealtime and personally ensured that she had enough to be satisfied (Ruth 2:14–16). He instructed his workers to permit her to glean among his sheaves, and he even encouraged them to let grain fall purposely from the bundles for her sake. Thus he lightened the load of her labor and increased its reward.
Ruth nonetheless continued to work hard all day. “She gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley” (Ruth 2:17). That was a full half bushel, approximately enough to sustain Ruth and Naomi for five days or more–about four times as much as a gleaner could hope to gather on a typical good day. Ruth took the grain, as well as some leftover food from lunch, and gave it to Naomi.