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Ruth 3

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Ruth And Boaz At The Threshing Floor (ch. 3:1 - 16)

 

In verse 1 we see Naomi's concern for Ruth.  We've seen Ruth's concern for Naomi, now the table is turned.  Naomi is concerned that Ruth, a single young lady, needs her own home.  The word "home" here can also be translated as rest. The point is that Naomi wants to see Ruth settle down into a family that is her own.  She wants Ruth to have a husband and children.  Thus, this is key to what takes place here in chapter 3 and also in chapter 4.  All that Naomi suggests to Ruth from here on out is to place Ruth in a place of rest, where she can settle into adulthood.   That being said, it is important to understand that Naomi is also thinking of her late husband's lineage.  It would only be extended if Ruth could marry a kinsman redeemer.  I say that because of what Naomi says in verse 2.  She asks Ruth, "is not Boaz .. a kinsmen of ours"?  Note the word "ours".  Naomi doesn't say that Boaz is a kinsman of Ruth.  The word "ours" suggests to me that Naomi not only had Ruth's well being in mind, but her wellbeing as well.  I say that not disparagingly.  There would be nothing wrong with Naomi looking after herself as well. 

 

I'm convinced that Naomi had something in mind at this early stage that what Ruth might have not understood.  Naomi had the "kinsman redeemer" in mind for Ruth.  Ruth might have, or might not have totally understood what Naomi was getting at, but Naomi knew what she was getting at. 

 

At this point I will explain in brief again what a "kinsman redeemer" is.  The nearest kinsman to a widow would be approached to basically have total power of attorney in all matters for the widow, and that would even include being a husband to her.  The was all for the sake of keeping the family structure, or in a large since, the extended family in tact.  The kinsman redeemer would be able to buy or sell land, look after in all areas of life, as well as marry the widow.  The idea of a kinsman redeemer was not something that was written into the Law of Moses.  It was a Jewish tradition. It was also not what is called a Levirate Marriage, where a brother-in-law would marry his dead brother's widow.  One of the main points to the part a kinsman redeemer would play in the life of a widow and her family would be to care for her.  The word "care" is important.  Romance was not necessarily a main ingredient when it came the place a kinsman redeemer had in the life of the widow.    

 

In verses 2 through 4 Naomi tells Ruth the plan.  Boaz would be threshing barley on his threshing floor that evening.  He would stay there the night after eating and drinking, and, when I say drinking, I mean wine.  That would have been customary.  He would have spent the night in order to protect the barley he had just threshed. 

 

Ruth was to get all cleaned up, wear nice smelling perfume, and put on some nice clothes.  Some suggest that Naomi is asking Ruth to be "sexually suggestive" by this, and especially when Naomi tells Ruth uncover Boaz's feet after he falls asleep.  I can't say for sure that this was not a small part of the plan, but I don't believe we should take this thinking too far.  Both Naomi and Ruth were respectable, God fearing women.  Ruth was not acting as a seductive prostitute.  I don't even think she was being encouraged to flirt with Boaz.  Besides, both women knew Boaz was a well respected, God fearing man, and might not take such seduction kindly. 

 

At this point, we need to be reminded that Boaz was not a young man.  He was old enough to be Ruth's father.  Ruth might have been able to find herself a nice young Israeli man but she didn't.  She might have been too busy looking after Naomi to be concerned with finding an Israeli husband.  Naomi had the kinsman redeemer in mind at this point, not just any Israeli man.  She not only wanted a husband for Ruth, but a redeemer for the estate of her late husband, that would make her family stay in tact. 

 

At this point we need to stop and look at the word "feet" in verse 4 because there is some debate over this that is quite relevant to the events of this chapter. The Hebrew word translated as "feet" is only found five times in the Hebrew Old Testament.  There is another Hebrew word that is more commonly translated as "feet".  The meaning of old Hebrew words is sometimes hard to come by.  Some suggest the word could easily be translated as legs. Others go as far to say that it can be translated legs which include the penis.  If you interpret the Hebrew word as including the penis, then you have a much different event that what I believe took place.  Knowing what we know about all those involved in this event, I don't believe that Ruth uncovered Boaz's penis. 

 

Those who think the word "feet" here means legs or even penis, point to Judges 3:24 and 1 Samuel 24:3.  In both of these passages you see a man "relieving himself", as the NIV puts it.  Yet in the Hebrew the more common word for feet is used and suggests the act of relieving one's self is "covering his feet".  Thus the word feet is used in terms of the penis.  I suggest this is a week argument. 

 

Verses 5 and 6 simply says that Ruth did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.

 

Verse 7 says that after Boaz had finished eating and drinking he went to lie down at one end of the threshing floor.  We should understand that Boaz would have worked very hard all day.  In the evening he would have been exhausted, tired, and hungry.  He would have had a good meal prepared and brought to him which included wine to drink.  So when the text says that he both ate and drank, what he drank was wine, not water.  And, when the text says that he "was in good spirits", I believe this "good spirits" was due to the wine.  Was he drunk?  Maybe, maybe a bit, or, maybe not.  I guess it depends on your definition of drunk.  At least he was feeling the effects of the wine and that probably made him sleepy and ready to sleep through the night.

 

Also in verse 7 we see that Ruth approached Boaz very quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay beside him.  If she approached Boaz quietly that could suggest that she did not want to wake him.  If that was so, that could suggest that she did not have sex in mind.  On the other hand, approaching Boaz quietly might simply be a matter of respect, or even shyness on her part.  Still, that does not mean she had sex in mind.  That doesn't mean that she wasn't flirting a bit, or using her young femaleness to aid her in her cause.  I'm far from convinced that she was flirting.  I basically think Ruth was shy, and her shyness can be seen here in her quietness, and what I would call "timidity". 

 

We should note that Boaz didn't awake until the middle of the night.  This tells me that when Ruth quietly laid down beside him, she did not wake him.  It was probably not her intention to wake him at that time.  Again, I suggest that she might well have been a bit shy about what she was doing.

 

Verse 8 says that "something startled" Boaz in the middle of the night that caused him to wake from his sleep.  The text does not say what startled him.  There's been much debate on what startled him.  Some liberal scholars who put an emphasis on sexual activity here suggest that Ruth was touching Boaz and this startled him.  Whatever the case, he awoke, and as the text states, "saw a woman at his feet".  He saw "a woman".  It's pretty clear that he did not realize who the woman was when he first woke up. 

 

Again we see the word "feet" in this verse.  As I've already mentioned, there is a debate whether this Hebrew word that is translated as "feet" in the NIV should be translated as legs, or, even as genitals.  Obviously, if Ruth was touching his genitals, which I believe she wasn't, that would surely wake him up;  All this being said, to see a young woman lying beside you in the middle of the night, knowing the hormone replacement that takes affect in men during the night, Boaz might well have been a bit aroused, as many scholars suggest. That being said, we will see that Boaz did not do anything that was not proper, and I doubt that Ruth did anything that was not proper either.

 

We see in verse 9 that Boaz really didn't know the lady lying at his feet.  He asked, "who are you"?  I'm sure it was dark.  Boaz was tired, half asleep, and maybe still feeling the affects of the wine.  Ruth replied by saying that she was his servant.  This was certainly a response of respect.  She really wasn't his servant.  She was a poor gleaner in his fields who he had elevated to the same level as a servant by allowing her to harvest alongside the harvesters.  Ruth was probably beginning to make her plea at this time.  Women in those days would have been classified in one sense of the word as a servant to their husband.  They would often call their husband's master.  So, this might well be why Ruth called herself Boaz's servant.

 

Also in verse 9 we see the plea that Ruth makes to Boaz.  She says, "spread the corner of your garments over me because you are my kinsman redeemer".  So what is Ruth really saying here.  This has been debated for years and years.  I don't believe Ruth was asking for a sexual encounter.  Was she looking pretty?  Probably.  Was she using her female attractiveness as part of her plea.  I would say, "probably".  It's my thinking that Ruth was simply asking Boaz to be her kinsman redeemer.  The fact that she was asking him to cover her with his garment was a jester of desiring to come under his authority.  It's that simple. I don't believe this text comes close to suggesting that this couple had sex, or even wanted to have sex.

 

Concerning Ruth's request for Boaz to spread the corner of his garment over her in verse 9, we see in Ezekiel 16:8 that God figuratively spread the corner of His garment over Israel.  This actually helps support the reason why we can make the book of Ruth as a type of God, Israel, and the church.  Ruth was asking to come under the protection and authority of Boaz, a place where Israel should be with her God.  

 

Boaz responds in verse 10 by saying, "the Lord bless you my daughter".  There are a few things we learn about Boaz in what he says.  He calls Ruth "my daughter".  Obviously Ruth is not Boaz's daughter, but he is old enough to be her father.  I also see this to be a word of respect for Ruth.  By saying "the Lord bless you", I believe that Boaz must be viewing this offer as something positive. Maybe he feels good that Ruth would actually consider him to be a kinsman redeemer for her and her family.  Some suggest that Boaz was grateful that a young beautiful girl would want to give herself to him, being an old man.  That might have something to do with it, but still, I think the text makes it clear that Boaz's intentions are pure. That being said, I can't help but think that Boaz felt good about a young girl wanting him to be her husband.

 

Boaz continued to say, "this kindness that you have shown is greater than that which you had shown earlier".  It might be a matter of speculation about what kindness Ruth showed earlier.  The one thing we do know is that Boaz viewed Ruth's proposal as an act of kindness. Some suggest that Ruth's first act of kindness was to look after Naomi.  That appears to be the most common understanding.  Some do suggest that the first act of kindness that Boaz had in mind had something to do with kindness she showed to him.  I'm not sure what that would be.

 

He continued by saying, "you have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor".  This pretty well shows that he feels privileged that a young lady like Ruth would want an older man like him for a husband. 

 

In verse 11 Boaz says, "now my daughter, don't be afraid "  This proves what I said earlier when Ruth "quietly" laid beside Boaz when he was sleeping.  She was hesitant to wake him.  She was shy about asking Boaz to be her kinsman redeemer.  Boaz basically said, "don't be shy.  I will grant your request".  It is clear then that Ruth is being shy here, and, if she is being shy, she is certainly not coming on to Boaz in a sexual way, or even in a less sexual way by flirting. 

 

Boaz then says that everyone knows that Ruth is a woman "of noble character".  This should tell you that Ruth was not propositioning Boaz.  She wasn't trying to seduce him.  Yes, she was dressed nicely.  She smelled nice because of the perfume she put on, but this wasn't meant to be a sexual enticement.  More than anything, this was a plea for help based on an Israeli tradition. This was all about "redemption".

 

You wonder if what Boaz says in verse 12 scared Ruth a bit.  What Boaz said so far was encouraging from her perspective, but now a "but" is interjected into the discussion.  Boaz would be glad to be her kinsman redeemer, but, there is a closer kinsman then Boaz, and to be perfectly fair and just, he must be consulted with before Boaz can say "yes" to Ruth's proposal. Ruth probably didn't even know who this closer relative was.  If I were Ruth, I might be a bit afraid at this point.  He was preparing her for some news that she might fear.

 

I think verse 13 shows that there was no sexual encounter between Boaz and Ruth.  He simply told her "to lie here for the night".  Then, in the morning he would approach the other relative to see if he would be Ruth's kinsman redeemer.  If he said "yes", then Boaz would let him redeem Ruth.  I wonder if Ruth was thinking "I hope he says no".  This tells me that Boaz was willing not to take Ruth as his wife, and if that was the case, I doubt if he would have had sex with her that night.  He simply told Ruth to sleep on the threshing floor because the middle of the night was no time for a young girl to be walking home alone.  Also, it would not have looked good if someone saw her leaving Boaz's places in the middle of the night.

 

When verse 14 says that Ruth slept at Boaz's feet. We should understand that was all she did.  Liberal Bible teachers have it all wrong when they say something else happened that night.  She spent the night and left early enough for no one to have noticed that something had taken place through the night.  Boaz didn't want people talking when nothing sexual transpired that night.

 

We see the word "feet" here again as we saw earlier.  As I've said, some think the Hebrew word that is translated here in chapter 3 as "feet" can be translated as "genitals".  They thus say that Ruth uncovered Boaz's genitals.  I've said that I disagree with this, and this verse seems to support my thinking.  Did Ruth sleep at Boaz's feet or penis.  I think feet would make more sense here, so if it makes sense here, it would make sense  in chapter 2.   

 

Verse 15 simply says that Boaz gave Ruth six measures of barley to take home with her, something that Naomi would have interpreted as a positive jester that showed Boaz's commitment to Ruth.  I'm sure at this point that Naomi was quite happy, quite relieved.

 

The chapter ends in verse 18 by Naomi telling Ruth to hang tight, so to speak.  She knew that Boaz was a man of very good character.  He would take care of things that very day. He would not put it off for another day, and she was right.

 

In verse 16 the NIV states that Naomi asked Ruth, "how did it go"?  Some suggest that this phrase  should be translated as "who are you"?  Why the NIV translates this phrase as they do, I don't know.  It might well be that Naomi was asking, "are you still Ruth, or are your Mrs. Ruth Boaz"? 

 

 

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