Ruth: Chapter 3
1. What would Naomi seek for Ruth?
Whereas previously Naomi had desired and prayed that Ruth would find rest with a new husband (Ruth 1:9), presently Naomi would proactively seek out her daughter-in-law’s security with a new husband. “Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?’”(Ruth 3:1). Ruth had pledged her loyalty to Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17), so now Naomi would return the kindness.
2. Whom did Naomi have in mind to fulfill her question on Ruth's behalf?
Naomi specifically had her late husband’s wealthy kinsman (Ruth 2:1) in mind to provide security for her daughter-in-law, saying, “Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor” (Ruth 3:2). Naomi aimed high. She chose someone apparently out of her daughter-in-law’s league, a man both wealthy and aged, yet eligible. Before she spoke with Ruth of her intentions, she already planned the encounter, knowing where he would be that night.
3. How was Ruth to prepare herself to meet Boaz?
Naomi instructed her, “Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go…” (Ruth 3:3). In other words: take a bath, put on some perfume, and get dressed. Ruth was encouraged to make herself physically attractive. Although a godly woman’s genuine appeal should be her internal, spiritual attributes (I Peter 3:3-4), neither is it inappropriate to appeal to a man’s senses of sight and smell. And, even though she was of severely limited financial resources, the costs involved in preparing herself in this way were not to be regarded as either wasteful or extravagant. The pursuit of an honorable marriage to a righteous individual is worthwhile.
4. When was Ruth to meet Boaz?
Ruth was directly advised, “Do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking” (Ruth 3:3). Boaz was a busy, hardworking man who did not need to be distracted or disturbed, so she was not to approach him until his day was over. This was not only considerate of the man but also improved her opportunity to be dealt with carefully and thoroughly. Furthermore, Naomi told her, “Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in…” (Ruth 3:4). Ruth was specifically to seek out this opportunity for privacy. A marriage proposal is not only an intensely personal moment but a potentially awkward one for any person; how much more so in the case of a poor foreign woman proposing to a rich man?! All the words that would be exchanged between Boaz and Ruth on this occasion needed to be guarded, not exposed for all to know and gossip about. If he were to turn her down, this privacy would at least spare her the embarrassment of public rejection.
5. What did Naomi tell Ruth to do in the presence of Boaz?
She was to “go in, uncover his feet, and lie down,” then wait for his response (Ruth 3:4). There was a certain symbolism to this action that will be revealed shortly, but here take notice of the significant risk Ruth would be undertaking in this endeavor. Although there was nothing at all untoward about her actual behavior and nothing unchaste in her conduct, it could appear that way to one who might happen upon them: a man and a woman, not married to one another, lying down in the same place at night, without chaperones. It is a mistake to interpret the command to “Abstain from every appearance of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:22 KJV) to mean that a Christian must avoid doing anything that may look bad to someone who did not know better. The real meaning is that evil is to be abstained from whenever it appears, or as other versions translate it: “Abstain from every form of evil” (NKJV), or: “Abstain from every kind of evil” (NIV). Ruth would commit no sin on this occasion, but even in her efforts to be discreet, she could expose herself to shame. It would require courage to be so bold.
6. Was Ruth compliant with her mother-in-law's instructions?
True to her loyalty toward Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17), “she said to her, ‘All that you say to me I will do.’ So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her” (Ruth 3:5-6).
7. How did Ruth approach Boaz?
“She came softly, uncovered his feet and lay down” (Ruth 3:7). While some readers may suspect a breach of chastity on this occasion, her approach was so tip-toed the man didn’t even notice her. She did not slip in under the covers with him; she uncovered his feet. She did not caress, grope, nor fondle the man; she lay down at his feet.
8. When did Boaz address Ruth?
“Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet. And he said, ‘Who are you?’” (Ruth 3:8-9). Ruth had come in softly (Ruth 3:7) and was waiting for him to tell her what to do (Ruth 3:4). She was probably so nervous that she dared not disturb him at all. It just so happened that during the night, possibly hours after she had come in, he woke up on his own and found her there, not knowing who she was.
9. What request did she make of him?
After identifying herself to him, Ruth asked, “Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative” (Ruth 3:9). “Wing” is the most accurate translation here, as opposed to “skirt” as it is rendered in some versions, a rendering which is both confusing and potentially misleading. Boaz had earlier commended Ruth for taking shelter under the “wings” of the God of Israel, Jehovah (Ruth 2:12). Jesus used the analogy Himself once (Matthew 23:37). Now, Ruth asked to take shelter under Boaz’s wing, as his wife. The phraseology is employed in one instance by God toward His people in a marriage analogy: “’I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed, your hair grew, but you were naked and bare. When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,’ says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 16:7-8). This was clearly a marriage proposal. As unusual as it is today for a woman to propose to a man, consider how strange it would have been then. Evidently, such a breach in custom is not wrong for Ruth was virtuous in every way, yet this stands out as an exceptional occurrence. This is not how it would normally be done.
10. What did she call herself and what did he call her?
She humbly identified herself twice as his “maidservant” (Ruth 3:9), but he affectionately called her his “daughter” twice (Ruth 3:10-11). Her submissive demeanor is reminiscent of Sarah calling Abraham “Lord” (I Peter 3:1-2, 6). His term of endearment toward her reminds us that he was significantly older than she was, by at least a generation. It may not be practical on multiple levels, but there is nothing inherently wrong with a vast age difference in marriage.
11. Why did he bless her?
He blessed her for her kindness because she did not pursue a young man (Ruth 3:10). He regarded it as a compliment that she would choose him over other, more youthful suitors.
12. Why was he willing to comply with her request?
He would marry her because she was an honorable person. Boaz said, “And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:11). Virtuous women have always been in short supply and should always be regarded as valuable in the sight of decent men (Proverbs 31:10-31). Boaz was honored to have the interest of a young woman, but he would not marry her for her beauty or youth. He returned interest in her because of her godly qualities.
13. What news did he inform her of?
He said, “Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I” (Ruth 3:12). It is uncertain whether Ruth would have been aware of this or if her mother-in-law had considered it. Perhaps Naomi bypassed everyone else for the choicest of all possible suitors; perhaps Ruth’s established interaction with Boaz and his evident fondness toward her put him at the top of her list; perhaps Naomi was unaware of the status of the other kinsman – whether married, buried, or relocated; or perhaps she simply had not thought of him. Regardless, Boaz would seek out that man and give him the opportunity to redeem Ruth (Ruth 3:13), even though he would prefer to have her himself.
14. What did he instruct her to do?
He told her, “Stay this night” and “Lie down until morning” (Ruth 3:13). He could not walk her home for he was guarding his harvest at the threshing floor, which is why he was sleeping with a “heap of grain” (Ruth 3:7). Nor could any decent man allow a woman to walk home alone in the dark. Thus, she would need to stay there overnight. Nevertheless, this was not an invitation to behave immorally. She was simply told to lie down, nothing else.
15. When did she depart?
“She lay at his feet until morning, and she arose before one could recognize another. Then he said, ‘Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor’” (Ruth 3:14). She left before dawn when she could do so without being known. Boaz was concerned that if she left after sunrise that their encounter might appear to others as something it was not. He protected his and her reputations.
16. What did she bring to Naomi?
She brought six measures, possibly ephahs, of barley that she carried in her shawl because Boaz would not allow her to go to Naomi empty-handed (Ruth 3:15-17). Whether or not Boaz would be the one to marry Ruth, he wanted to provide for her and Naomi.
17. After Ruth relayed to her the events of the previous night, what did Naomi tell her?
“Then she said, ‘Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day’” (Ruth 3:18). Naomi knew Boaz to be a man of diligence. He would tend to the matter at hand promptly. Ruth could only be patient, so Naomi advised her accordingly.