Notes on Ruth chapter 3
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Ruth 3:1, KJV Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?
Naomi was no doubt grateful for all Ruth had done, and for God’s blessings after she and Ruth had returned to Bethlehem. Now she realizes that Ruth would benefit from a God-honoring husband. Naomi wanted the very best for Ruth, which was no doubt more than she could provide.
2 And now (is) not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor.
Now Naomi reminds Ruth of the family relationship between Naomi and Boaz, mentioning also that she had been working with his maidens. How much Ruth knew about the concept of kinsman is uncertain at this time. It is clear, though, that this took place near the end of the barley harvest. Before, the reapers had only reaped and perhaps had arranged the grain in sheaves (2:7). By now it was time to winnow the grain at the threshing floor.
3 Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: (but) make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking.
Naomi is simply suggesting that Ruth present herself in the most attractive way. The Law prescribed, if not commanded, people to wash themselves after various events or occurrences but how often people actually took baths is nowhere specified.
“Raiment” may mean something better than Ruth’s work clothes or whatever she wore when she gleaned. As mentioned in verse 7, this was a festive time, perhaps a party or celebration.
And Naomi also warns Ruth to be discreet and to wait for the proper time before she “(made) herself known unto (Boaz)”.
4 And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do.
Naomi’s instructions also include waiting until Boaz would lie down, and then wait—perhaps until he was asleep. To “uncover his feet” meant exactly that, and nothing more.
5 And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do.
Ruth agrees to follow Naomi’s instructions.
6 And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her.
This was the threshing floor, as Naomi had mentioned in verse 2. Ruth did exactly as Naomi suggested.
7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down.
Notice that Boaz was lying down close to the heap of grain. Perhaps he was going to stay close to it in order to guard it, but we are never told why. Per Naomi’s instructions, Ruth came to where he was lying down—softly, perhaps not to draw any attention to herself—and uncovered his feet, then lay down.
8 And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet.
Something happened during the middle of the night that startled Boaz. When he woke up, he found a woman at his feet. It was probably dark so he had no idea who it was—no wonder he was afraid!. Incredibly, some, over the years, have attempted to suggest Ruth did not stay at his feet but came much closer. This verse proves she was still at his feet, where she had been ever since she came to the floor.
One might well do a study on things that happened at midnight—a topic beyond the scope of these notes.
9 And he said, Who (art) thou? And she answered, I (am) Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou (art) a near kinsman.
Now “the woman . . . at his feet” identified herself as Ruth, his own “handmaid”. This was true, as she had called herself a handmaid in 2:13. But now, she asks Boaz to “spread (his) skirt” over her. He knew exactly what she was asking: she was not only asking him to marry her, but also to perform the duties of the near kinsman. How she had come to this knowledge is nowhere specified but either she had heard of it, or learned of it, from Naomi; otherwise the Spirit of God may have given her these words to say. One may wonder why, since Boaz was the near kinsman, he had not done this sooner but there was another reason, as Boaz will explain shortly.
10 And he said, Blessed (be) thou of the LORD, my daughter: (for) thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich.
Again, Boaz hints at
an age difference between him and Ruth. He was the son of Salmon and Rahab, the former harlot of Jericho who had become a believer in the God of Israel. He also commends Ruth for not “follow(ing) after young men”, regardless of their financial status. We do not know who the “young men” were, specifically: they may have been those whom Boaz had warned, “don’t mess with Ruth,” in so many words in chapter 2, or there could have been other unknown young men in the area near Bethlehem. 11 And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou (art) a virtuous woman.
Boaz mentions he will do anything Ruth needed and adds his recognition of Ruth’s high moral standards.
An interesting item: Ruth is the only woman in the Old Testament called “virtuous”. Perhaps Solomon had her in mind when he wrote in Proverbs 12:4 and 31:10 about the “virtuous woman”,12 And now it is true that I (am thy) near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I.
This explains why Boaz could not be the kinsman Naomi had hoped for. There was another, unnamed, kinsman who was a closer relation than Boaz. 13 Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, (that) if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman's part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, (as) the LORD liveth: lie down until the morning.
Boaz is realistic enough to be truthful with Ruth. The other kinsman had the right to perform the duty and Boaz was not going to interfere with the Law being fulfilled. But he also promised to perform these duties if the other kinsman did not.
Note also that he tells her to lie down until the morning, He is still protecting her by not sending her back to Naomi’s house in the middle of the night and he is protecting her honor by not taking advantage of what may have become a temptation. How many others, if any, were there with Boaz? Or was he there at the floor by himself?14 And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor.
This may mean Ruth left while it was still dark enough to not recognize anyone else. We do not know the person or persons Boaz was addressing when he said, “don’t let anyone else know a woman was here during the night (paraphrased)."15 Also he said, Bring the vail that (thou hast) upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six (measures) of barley, and laid (it) on her: and she went into the city.
Now Boaz tells Ruth to bring her vail to him and to hold it. He then gives her six somethings of barley and lays it on her. Note that the word “measures” is in italics, meaning it was not part of the original text. Although the amount is not specified, it was not too heavy for Ruth to carry from the floor to the city.16 And when she came to her mother in law, she said, Who (art) thou, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her.
Note the contrast between the words of Boaz, when he asked “who are you?” in verse 9. This was at or after midnight so he would have had a hard time figuring out who it was near him, lying down at his feet! Here, Naomi asks “Who are you?” but she clearly knew it was Ruth, calling her “my daughter”, Naomi couldn’t see very well in the semi-darkness of the morning.
Another thought is that her greeting could be rendered “how did it go?” because she had sent Ruth to find Boaz and Ruth hadn’t had time yet to tell her the whole story.17 And she said, These six (measures) of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother in law.
Ruth seems to have shown Naomi the six portions of barley (size and volume are not given) which Boaz had given to her.
The words of Boaz, quoted by Ruth here, are not in the other verses but it is possible he said them to her before he sent her on her way.18 Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.
This was good advice. Ruth had done as Naomi requested. Naomi had also assured Ruth that Boaz would get the matter settled that day.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)