A custom is also called a tradition. It is any thing that lots of people do, and have done for a long time. Usually, the custom come from people of the same country, culture, time or religion. Customs are seen throughout the Bible. The Book of Ruth is permeated with ancient Israelite customs that seem strange to us. Some of the biblical customs in this short book have made their way into our culture as well.
In the Book of Ruth, Naomi told Ruth and Orpah that she had no other sons who could perform the duties of levirate husbands (Ruth 1:11). At that time, a brother-in-law was to take care of his dead brother’s widow.
Ruth clave unto Naomi (Ruth 1:14). Ruth was not keeping with the tradition of her day by breaking family ties and family religion. When Ruth went with Naomi back to Bethlehem from Moab, she turned her back on her family, custom and religion.
To help Naomi, Ruth asks her mother-in-law for her permission to, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor” (Ruth 2:2). Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. Today poor families still “glean” in the fields after harvest just like Ruth did.
It was not immoral when Ruth uncovered the feet of Boaz and laid crosswise and covered herself with his cloak (Ruth 3:9). She was only asking for the right to his protection. Later, Boaz spread his garment over her, which symbolized his willingness to be with her.
Boaz told Ruth “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and placed the bundle on her. Ruth veil or shawl in Ruth 3:15 was not a small piece of netting as we know it to be. In Ruth’s day a veil was a lightweight shawl, which was large enough to carry bundles. Many were six feet long and four feet wide. Only a part of it was used to veil her face; the rest of it covered her neck and shoulders. Because of its size and arrangement on Ruth’s body, Boaz could put much grain in her veil.
Boaz was a close relative who could buy Naomi’s husband’s property. Ruth was included in the bargain so that children would be raised up to preserve the name of the dead. When Boaz learned that someone else was a closer kin to Naomi than himself, he gathered a company of witnesses at the city gate to force this relative to purchase all Naomi’s property including Ruth, the eligible widow. When the near-kin learned that Ruth was part of the deal, he gave up his “right” to the property and gladly gave it to Boaz. He then took off his shoe and gave it to Boaz in the presence of the elders. That was the custom in Israel for anyone transferring a right of purchase to remove his sandal and hand it to the other party. This publicly validated the transaction (Ruth 4:7).
Today we receive an invoice or a receipt for our purchases. In biblical days, a shoe was given in the presence of witnesses, which signified the transaction of it from the nearest of kin to the next nearest of kin. Boaz now had the right not only to buy all the property but claim also to Ruth. He became her kinsman-redeemer.” This right brought Ruth, a Moabite, into God’s royal family.