Every person has a different love story to tell. All love stories are unique and truly amazing. But the question in each story is the same: Whom would you marry? Well, we usually marry the person we are madly in love with. We find that special someone who fulfils the qualities that we believe our life partner should have. Quite naturally, we want one that is good-looking. But invariably, as Christians, we want someone who loves God, who is godly, and who is of good and Christ-like character. Some 30-odd years ago, I found the love of my life. And I eventually married my best friend Lay Keng, “a woman of noble character”.
Grateful and greatly relieved that Ruth has handled the situation well and approached him in an honourable way despite the compromising setting, Boaz commends Ruth, “All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character” (Ruth 3:11). What attracts Boaz most is not Ruth’s physical beauty; the Bible does not tell us what she looks like. Instead, Boaz singles out her virtue and godly character. In her short three to four months in Bethlehem, Ruth has garnered herself an excellent reputation. All the townsfolk have good things to say about her.
Literally, Boaz calls Ruth a hah-yil woman. The basic meaning behind this Hebrew word is “moral strength, good quality, integrity, virtue, comprehensive excellence”. Hence, other English translations render hah-yil as “a woman of excellence” (NASB), “a worthy woman” (ESV), and “a virtuous woman” (NLT). This is the highest accolade anyone in the Jewish culture can give to a woman. This same Hebrew word is used to describe Boaz in Ruth 2:1 (see Day 8)—“a man of standing” (NIV) or “a worthy man” (ESV). Scriptures make clear that both Boaz and Ruth are godly people, thus making them a perfectly-matched couple for an exemplary marriage.
There are only two other occurrences of “a woman of noble character” in the Bible, and both are applied to the wife: “A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones” (Proverbs 12:4); and, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies” (31:10). In describing the ideal woman and wife (31:10–31), King Lemuel is reminding us that what really matters is not physical but inner beauty. He calls us to honour “a woman of noble character”, for “a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (31:30–31). My wife was such a woman. And so is Ruth.
Why are we more attracted to physical beauty than inner character? How can we learn to value inner beauty more than external appearance?
What kind of person is a “woman of noble character” (Proverbs 31:10–31)? What must you do to become a person of noble character?