Ruth 3

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Verse 1: One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for? (NIV)

  • The warm tone of this section indicates that Naomi was over her bitterness at this point, or at least able to look beyond herself to Ruth's needs.
  • Naomi does not call Ruth her daughter-in-law or by name, but claims her as her own (Block 680).
  • Literally, this is not “home” but “rest”, the implication is the same, however.
  • Naomi is here taking the role of a parent to Ruth, finding her a home (Hubbard 198).
  • Naomi significantly does not mention anything about continuing her family line.
  • This verse signifies the theological point that Naomi is her working to accomplish what she had prayed would happen for Naomi in chapter 1. She is working to carry out her own prayer (Hubbard 199).

Verse 2: Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. (NIV)

  • The word for “kinsman” here is not that of a kinsman redeemer, but just a relative.
  • This indicates that the harvest was over, and that their only source of food would be disappearing soon. There is a note of desperation in the following plan.
  • The winnowing floor was generally on a hilltop or rock outcrop, so probably a ways away from town (Block 682).
  • This winnowing was the height of the harvest, and often had a very festival attitude (Hubbard 200).
  • Apparently, Boaz winnowed at in the evening or at night, which means that when he finally lay down after finishing it would have been very late indeed.
  • Naomi is not mentioning marriage, perhaps because she didn't think it would happen, but perhaps because she is carefully arranging things so Ruth would do what she needed to do.

Verse 3: Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don't let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. (NIV)

  • The word translated here as “best clothes” just means “outer garments” and carries no connotations of excellence (Block 683).
    • That connotation comes from the apparent desire to look and smell nice with washing and bathing. This cleansing could be a ceremonial thing, however, instead of a desire to get clean.
    • Perhaps merely an outer garment is mentioned because they had nothing else.
    • This attire was also used to keep poor people, like Ruth, warm at night so might just be a practical consideration (Block 683).
  • There is a connection here between Lot's daughters getting their father drunk and what Naomi is telling Ruth to do. However, that appears to be simply to build suspense in the reader as to whether Ruth will be true to her new heritage or her old one.
  • As Boaz's actions show later in the story, it was dangerous for a woman to be out at night alone, so she came early.

Verse 4: When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.” (NIV)

  • That Ruth needed to note where he lay down might indicate he was sleeping somewhere he normally wouldn't. While drunkenness is not mentioned, it is a possibility.
  • ”Feet” is often a euphemism for genitalia in the Old Testament.
    • Not only is ”uncover” also used both as a general term and for uncovering sexual organs, but so is “lie down” (Block 685).
    • While it is clear Ruth does not do anything improper, Naomi or the author seems to be leaving open the possibility.
  • Cultures do not change too much. As today, a pretty girl waking up a drunk single man in the middle of the night and asking him to tell her what to do is a recipe for trouble, “feet” euphemism or not.
  • Prostitutes would apparently often ply their trade at winnowing floors (Block 685).
  • Even though Naomi had mentioned earlier that Boaz is a kinsman, she does not tell Ruth to ask him to be a kinsman redeemer. This is possibly because with Ruth as an outsider the laws did not apply.
  • Naomi does not predict what will happen, and especially does not mention marriage.
    • Here she is showing her own doubt about what will happen.
    • If anything other than marriage occurred, Naomi would not be taken care of, so Naomi is here directing Ruth to act to save herself, not as a long-range plan for security.
    • This seems to be a play on words that the author is using to help build tension in the story.
      • The author wants us to wonder at these women's actions, and at Boaz's strength of character, until finally revealing that all is well.
      • By using words with double meanings, the author is allowing us to see how badly Boaz might interpret her actions, how much could go wrong.
    • Regardless, this is a huge gamble for the women, but one they have to take.

Verse 5: “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. (NIV)

  • Ruth is not placing her trust in Boaz here, but in Naomi.
  • Most of this first scene is filled with Naomi's discussion. The contrast between all that Naomi says and the shortness of Ruth's answer is striking, 55 words versus 4 (Block 680).

Verse 6: So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. (NIV)

  • She did everything, but that is not the same as doing only what her mother-in-law said. This is a great example of following authority without violating integrity.

Verse 7: When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. (NIV)

  • This is a polite way of saying that Boaz had probably been partying as celebration. No drunkenness is mentioned, however. Like much of the rest of the story, it is simply left open until his actions disprove the possibility.
  • The wording here follows exactly what Naomi said to do, reinforcing the previous verse that Ruth followed perfectly (Hubbard 208).
  • This is designed to be a tense situation for the reader., where there is a lot of fear about what is going to happen.

Verse 8: In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet. (NIV)

  • Around midnight, when the air would be coldest.
  • The word translated here as “something startled” can also take the meaning of “shivered,” probably because of the cold and his exposed legs (Block 689).
  • The verb translated as “turned” is a rarely used one that can mean to grope about, i.e. for his blanket, or roll over (Hubbard 210).
  • By not using Ruth's name, it conveys the surprise that Boaz must have felt, and confusion as well. After all, he did just wake up from a sound sleep to find a woman lying near him in the dark.

Verse 9: “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” (NIV)

  • Unlike some other times when Ruth is introduced, she does not mention she is a Moabite (Block 690). Her only designation of herself is “servant.”
    • The word for “servant” used here is not the same as used earlier by Ruth in chapter two. This is “maid-servant,” but there seems to be no distinction between the two terms in Ruth, despite the technical raise in standing of the term used here (Campbell 123).
    • Perhaps this is to avoid the possibility that a foreigner does not fall within kinsmen-redeemer laws.
    • The use of “servant” does indicate her submission to Boaz, and keeps in mind the dangerous possibilities that Ruth being here represents if anything goes wrong.
  • Ruth did not wait to be told what to do, she took the initiative, and clearly retains her honor.
  • ”Garment” is more literally “wings” and brings up images of God shadowing Israel like a bird with his chicks (Block 691).
    • But this word is also ambiguous and can mean a piece of clothing.
    • Ruth is playing off this double meaning. It is cold, she could use the blanket for warmth, but she is also asking to be sheltered by him, a proposal of marriage.
    • The language is reminiscent of Ruth 2:12 where Boaz blesses her and says that she has come to take shelter under God's wings. Again, someone is fulfilling their own prayer for someone else.
  • Neither spreading the garment over her or the kinsmen redeemer request were part of what Naomi said to do.
  • It might be important that Ruth says that Boaz is “a” redeemer instead of “the” or “my” redeemer. She might be indicating that she had knowledge of other redeemers, but wanted Boaz (Campbell 123).

Verse 10: “The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. (NIV)

  • Again, Ruth is called “my daughter” as a sign of affection, just like by Naomi in verse one.
  • ”Kindness” is the translation here of “hesed” and probably here is about family loyalty and bravery in coming to the field to ask him this on behalf of her deceased family (Block 693).
    • After all, she is a foreigner appealing to a Jewish custom to bring heirs to her mother-in-law.
    • However, this also has an additional meaning because we know what Naomi had said to Ruth. Naomi was thinking marriage, Ruth was thinking redemption. She had not abandoned Naomi even when she had another chance to do so, even when it risked her own future.
    • Ruth is determined to get justice for both widows, herself and Naomi, and that is “hesed” (Campbell 137).
  • Here is the climactic part of the passage. After building up double meanings and the possibility of disaster, Boaz does not chase off Ruth, or think she's a prostitute.
    • Instead, he understands what she is after and accepts his role as protector.
    • This is a moment of choice, one of many in this story, where the people could choose the right way or the wrong, and righteousness is consistently chosen (Campbell 132).
  • Ruth apparently could have married almost anyone. That she didn't shows that this wasn't just about marriage but about redemption for her family.
  • Most of the uses of God's name in this book comes from Boaz's mouth. Boaz is portrayed as a very godly man who goes above and beyond the requirements of the law.

Verse 11: And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. (NIV)

  • This is a role reversal. Here Boaz is doing whatever Ruth asks, instead of Ruth doing everything Boaz says like Naomi said to do in verse 4 (Block 694).
  • There is no reason to mention Ruth's character here unless her actions could be taken as questionable by others.

Verse 12: Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. (NIV)

  • In Hebrew there are a lot more introductory words to begin this verse than needed (Campbell 125). Perhaps Boaz is hemming a little bit with not wanting to break the news to Ruth that there was one more obstacle.
  • Right when everything was looking perfect, better than anyone could have hoped for, a twist enters the picture again. We now know that someone will take care of Ruth and Naomi, but will it be Boaz, the man of God, or someone who has apparently shirked his duties the entire time they were back in Bethlehem?
  • This verse also gives an explanation as to why a man of God, devoted to doing what is right, would have not fulfilled his duties to Ruth by now. It wasn't his place.
  • Boaz also shows true integrity by submitting to the custom of the land and working with it, instead of around it (Hubbard 217).

Verse 13: Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.” (NIV)

  • ”Stay here” is literally “lodge” and has no sexual connotations (Hubbard 218). This is very clear that despite all the questions and innuendo, nothing happened.
  • The desire to stay the rest of the night should not be taken as anything dirty, but as keeping Ruth safe from harm. It was after midnight, after all.
  • Boaz moves on this almost instantly, which goes to show the importance of this for him.
  • This is a powerful oath, one that Boaz would not have made lightly and shows his resolve to take care of this for Ruth.
  • The law is completely unclear as to whether Ruth even has a cause for claiming a redeemer, but Boaz is not concerned with the law but with what is right.

Verse 14: So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “Don't let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.” (NIV)

  • That this visit was something to be hidden illustrates its' potential to be construed as an illicit encounter. Boaz might have understood why she did this, but most other people would not.
  • There is nothing here to indicate that Boaz did symbolically cover her, or get formally engaged this night (Hubbard 219). His desire to seek out the rightful redeemer was not merely words, he would not commit to her until it was settled.

Verse 15: He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her. Then he went back to town. (NIV)

  • It is unclear as to why he gave her this food. Perhaps as proof of his intentions, or as an excuse for why she was there. The less charitable might suggest payment for services, but there is no hint of that in the text.

Verse 16: When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?” (NIV)

  • Naomi does not seem troubled that Ruth is returning in the morning, in fact she seems to have expected it.

Verse 17: and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, 'Don't go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.' ” (NIV)

  • We have no mention of Boaz saying anything about Ruth's mother-in-law when he gave her the barley.
  • This is really the last time that Ruth takes center stage in this story. Boaz and Naomi dominate from now on.

Verse 18: Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.” (NIV)

  • This verse is the best evidence that Naomi only had good intentions, as she knows about Boaz acting as a kinsmen redeemer without Ruth apparently saying anything.

Message Ideas/Scripts/Liturgy That Use This Chapter

Redeeming Ruth10-18Boaz wanted to redeeem Ruth, God wants to redeem usRedeemerGeneralGeneralMessage Idea