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... and [Ruth] happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz... (Ruth 2:3)

Why did Boaz only own part of the field? And was it really just coincidence that Ruth ended up there?

5

When Israel took over the "promised" land, it was divided between the tribes, clans and families (Josh 13, 14, 15, 16). Boaz was the head of the main clan of Judah and had been allocated (by inheritance) a certain section of land. The population understood how these divisions worked as boundary stones were installed to mark such boundaries (Josh 15:6, Deut 19:14, 27:17, Prov 22:28, 23:10).

That is, there were no fences but boundary indicated by stones (possibly at the corners?). A person could wander throughout the country (as some did including animals, see 1 Sam 9 and the story of Saul) without encountering fences but still crossing numerous boundaries.

Clearly, when Ruth went into the fields to glean, she began gleaning in that part of the land marked out for Boaz and his family and thus belonged to Boaz.

Was this an accident or pure happenstance? In the story it appears so; but I cannot escape the conclusion that this was the unseen hand of providence "guiding her steps" (Prov 3:6, 16:9) so that she ended up in the best possible situation.

  • What did "field" mean in this context? How large of an area would it have referred to? – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Mar 17 at 22:04
  • We are not told precisely but an idea can be gained from the record in Josh 15 - probably some thousands of acres, not all of which was available at the time because the Jebusites had not yet been dislodged (Josh 15:63) - this was done later by David. – user25930 Mar 17 at 22:08
  • So it could have referred to a very large area? – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Mar 17 at 22:11
  • The total area allocated to the tribe of Judah was about 10,000 square km. Not all of this was arable as some was desert and some was too hilly and some was taken up by cities. This area was divided amongst the clans and families in a way that is not recorded. – user25930 Mar 17 at 22:12
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    The Hebrew word has a broader meaning: שָׂדֶה (śā·ḏě(h)): n.masc.; …1. … field, i.e., a cultivated area for growing things …; 2. … open field, open country, countryside, i.e., areas which are relatively sparsely inhabited, in contrast to uninhabited forests …; 3. … environs, pastureland, i.e., an open area just outside a walled city or village (…); 4. … territory, region, i.e., an administrative district (…); 5. … mainland, i.e., an area which is in contrast to an island or peninsula (…); … Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) – Perry Webb Mar 17 at 23:13

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