In this post, we will work our way through Ruth 3:10-18. We will be utilizing the Complete Jewish Bible translation unless otherwise noted.

Ruth 3:10-18, “10 He said, “May ADONAI bless you, my daughter. Your latest kindness is even greater than your first, in that you didn’t go after the young men, neither the rich ones nor the poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you everything you say, for all the city leaders among my people know that you are a woman of good character. 12 Now, it is true that I am a redeeming kinsman; but there is a redeemer who is a closer relative than I am. 13 Stay tonight. If, in the morning, he will redeem you, fine! – let him redeem you. But if he doesn’t want to redeem you, then, as ADONAI lives, I will redeem you. Now, lie down until morning.” 14 She lay at his feet until morning; then, before [it was light enough that] people could recognize each other, she got up; because he said, “No one should know that the woman came to the threshing-floor.” 15 He also said, “Bring the shawl you are wearing, and take hold of it.” She held it while he put six measures of barley into it; then he went into the city. 16 When she came to her mother-in-law, she asked, “Who are you? My daughter?” She told her everything the man had done for her. 17 Then she added, “He gave me these six measures of barley; because he said to me, “You shouldn’t return to your mother-in-law with nothing.” 18 Na’omi said, “My daughter, just stay where you are, until you learn how the matter comes out; for the man won’t rest unless he resolves the matter today.”

Commentary:

We left off in the previous post with Ruth executing Na’omi’s daring plan almost to the last detail with one minor exception. The text left the reader with yet another edge of your seat situation as the response by Bo’az to the proposition outlined by Ruth is the next piece of the puzzle. Will the risky plan work as Na’omi had planned or will Bo’az take offense to Ruth sneaking in on him during the middle of the night and then asking him to be her kinsman redeemer? Let’s take a look at the remainder of Ruth 3 to see what happens paying special attention yet again to the underlying themes of redemption, restoration, and God’s hesed that factor so strongly throughout the book of Ruth.

Ruth 3:10-13, “He said, “May ADONAI bless you, my daughter. Your latest kindness is even greater than your first, in that you didn’t go after the young men, neither the rich ones nor the poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you everything you say, for all the city leaders among my people know that you are a woman of good character. 12 Now, it is true that I am a redeeming kinsman; but there is a redeemer who is a closer relative than I am. 13 Stay tonight. If, in the morning, he will redeem you, fine! – let him redeem you. But if he doesn’t want to redeem you, then, as ADONAI lives, I will redeem you. Now, lie down until morning.”

Verses 10-18 contain the response of Bo’az to Ruth’s proposition. While Bo’az would have been well within his right to reprove Ruth for sneaking in on him in the middle of the night, it was not how he responded at all. Instead of reproof, Bo’az prays a blessing from God on Ruth. In fact, we find Bo’az describing Ruth as “my daughter”, the Hebrew word bath. Daniel Block notes regarding the blessing bestowed by Bo’az that:

The form of the blessing he pronounces is identical to that which Naomi had pronounced upon him in 2:20 in response to his kindness to Ruth. These opening words are extremely important, for they break the tension in the drama. Now the reader as witness to the drama may relax, knowing that Ruth’s brazen acts and extraordinary proposition have received a sympathetic response.”[1]

Bo’az also states yet another interesting statement, namely his recognition of the hesed demonstrated by Ruth along with the reality that she did not pursue a young man, either rich or poor. Instead of searching out a younger richer or perhaps a younger poor man, Ruth instead focused on something far more important than riches or lack thereof and that important element is character of heart, an individual who seeks after God. Certainly Bo’az was a wealthy man as most landowners were during that period of history. However, we have seen time and again the godly character of Bo’az. Being a man of great character, Bo’az recognized the plan that was unfolding before him, the daring plan Na’omi had instituted. Iain Dugoid comments that “Boaz rightly saw Ruth’s adoption of Naomi’s plan as yet another act of covenant faithfulness on Ruth’s part. Just as she had left her own household and her own family to be with Naomi, so now when Naomi asked her to follow this dangerous plan she did it, even though it was at great personal risk. She was indeed a woman of character”[2], something we shall see Bo’az commenting on specifically in the next verse.

After praising Ruth for her own level of hesed, Bo’az provides his response to Ruth’s proposition. Yes he will do as she has asked. The reason he gives for responding in the affirmative is again quite telling and speaks to the reputation that Ruth has garnered amongst the townspeople of Bethlehem. Bo’az states “I will do for you everything you say, for all the city leaders among my people know that you are a woman of good character.” Think about that for a minute. All of the city leaders knew Ruth to be a woman of good character. The word used for character is also translated at times as excellence. It is the Hebrew word chayil meaning as it is used in Ruth 3:11 “ability.” Chayil is also used in Proverbs 31:10, a verse which states “Who can find a capable wife? Her value is far beyond that of pearls.” Clearly Bo’az recognized that Ruth’s value was far beyond that of pearls. Ruth was a woman who had repeatedly demonstrated her ability to work hard and she certainly had proved her character as a trustworthy and faithful woman, characteristics which Proverbs 31 describes are essential to a godly woman.

Next we find that while Bo’az acknowledges he is a kinsman redeemer, there exists someone in the family who is a closer relative to Na’omi than he is thus throwing what at first glance appears to be a proverbial monkey wrench in the works. Just when wedded bliss and the finality of redemption and restoration seemed within reach, there is another issue to work through. F. B. Huey comments in regards to this closer kinsman redeemer that “Ruth could not have been unaware of the other kinsman, though Ruth probably may not have known of his existence. Why Naomi sent Ruth to Boaz instead of to the other man can only be surmised.”[3] E. F. Campbell suggests, “From a story-telling point of view, this has the marvelous effect of creating one more suspenseful moment, in which Boaz is given his opportunity to show his worthiness; for it is one feature of Boaz’s valor that he will not even usurp another man’s right to act responsibly!”[4]

Bo’az instructs Ruth to spend the night as in the morning he will immediately contact this other potential kinsman redeemer to see if this individual desires to carry out his right and responsibilities. If that individual chooses to be the go’el for Na’omi and Ruth then that will be what will transpire in keeping with the laws and traditions. If that individual expresses no desire to be the go’el, Bo’az promises Ruth that as long as Yĕhovah lives, basically an oath with an everlasting element to it, that Bo’az would serve as the kinsman redeemer. Huey aptly notes “As the Lord surely lives” is “the most solemn and binding oath a Hebrew could take on himself”[5] suggesting the magnitude of the commitment Bo’az was expressing to Ruth.

Ruth 3:14-18, “She lay at his feet until morning; then, before [it was light enough that] people could recognize each other, she got up; because he said, “No one should know that the woman came to the threshing-floor.” 15 He also said, “Bring the shawl you are wearing, and take hold of it.” She held it while he put six measures of barley into it; then he went into the city. 16 When she came to her mother-in-law, she asked, “Who are you? My daughter? “She told her everything the man had done for her. 17 Then she added, “He gave me these six measures of barley; because he said to me, “You shouldn’t return to your mother-in-law with nothing.” 18 Na’omi said, “My daughter, just stay where you are, until you learn how the matter comes out; for the man won’t rest unless he resolves the matter today.”

In verse 14 we find that Ruth obeyed Bo’az and remained at the threshing floor until morning, at least until the time of day she could depart from the threshing floor so that no one would notice her comings and goings. Her departure at this particular time of day is said in this verse to be in relation to Bo’az desiring that none of the townspeople become aware that Ruth had come to him at the threshing floor. This is yet another demonstration of the character of Bo’az. He had refrained from taking advantage of Ruth when he awoke to find her at his feet in the middle of the night. Furthermore, he shows here an explicit desire to protect the reputation she had worked so hard to develop. We also find Bo’az extending even further kindness to Ruth by providing her with six measures of barley to take back home with her. After her departure, Bo’az departed himself, going into the city to seek out this other potential kinsman redeemer.

As has taken place in other parts of this story, Ruth returns home to Na’omi to provide a report of what had just transpired. One can imagine the anxious expectation bubbling up within Na’omi as she waited to hear back from Ruth the response by Bo’az to their daring proposition. While the translation of the initial part of what Na’omi says is often stated to read “Who are you my daughter”, the actual verbiage and construction of the sentence is noted by Block to be “an accusative of condition, that is, “In what condition or state are you?” which is equivalent to “How are you?” or “How did it go for you?”[6] In response to Na’omi’s question, Ruth relayed what had transpired.

Interestingly, the author does not depict Ruth sharing any of the details of the night’s events other than Ruth mentioning the fact that Bo’az had provided to her the six measures of barley with the reason given that Ruth should not return to Na’omi empty handed. Of further interest, this statement by Ruth is the last recorded words by her in this book. Perhaps the most telling part of verse 17 is the expression “empty handed” which hearkens back to the sorrow Na’omi expressed in Ruth 1:21 of coming back home to Bethlehem empty handed. The statement by Bo’az provides a clear tie in to the underlying theme of restoration found in Ruth. The movement of the story has taken the reader from a place of great sorrow in the life of Na’omi and Ruth to a place of great hope and possibility, specifically in relation to restoration. Robert Chisholm suggests that “From the perspective of the narrator, who includes both quotations, Boaz’s response to Ruth’s request assured the “empty handed” one that her circumstances were about to change”[7] by the grace of God.

Ruth 3 concludes with N’aomi instructing Ruth to patiently wait for Bo’az, noting “the man won’t rest unless he resolves the matter today.” The long wait was about to come to an end for Na’omi and Ruth resulting in either a gloriously happy conclusion to the story or yet another twist and turn. The instruction by Na’omi to Ruth for her to sit and wait is not some mindless hope nor was it throwing chance to the wind. Block rightly states the reader should recognize “a note of confidence in the hidden hand of God, who will direct affairs to the proper conclusion.”[8] Whatever transpires will have taken place because that was the will of God.

Conclusion:

This passage presents a number of key repeating elements found in the book of Ruth. Concepts such as hesed present themselves yet again along with the godly character of both Ruth and Bo’az. We have also noticed yet another movement of the story forward from a place of emptiness and sorrow to a place of potential redemption and happiness. The rest so longed for by Na’omi and Ruth appears to be on the cusp of taking place. Despite everything seemingly falling into place, there remains the aspect of anticipation. Dugoid avers in relation to the six measures of barley provided by Bo’az to Na’omi and Ruth that such a gift signals that just as the six days of creation were incomplete without the seventh day of rest, “the fact that even this generous gift of seed is, by itself, similarly incomplete. Ruth is still looking forward to receiving the final installment of “seed” that will accomplish her rest!”[9]

In our next post, we will begin to dig into the final chapter of Ruth with an examination of 4:1-15.

References:

[1] Daniel Block, The New American Commentary: Judges-Ruth (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1999), 692.
[2] Iain Duguid, Reformed Expository Commentary: Esther & Ruth (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2005), 173.
[3] F. B. Huey, Jr. “Commentary on Ruth” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol.3: Deuteronomy through 1&2 Samuel. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 536-538.
[4] E. F. Campbell, Ruth (Garden City: Doubleday, 1975), 137.
[5] Huey, 538.
[6] Block, 699.
[7] Robert Chisholm, Jr., Kregel Exegetical Library: A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2013), 661-662.
[8] Block, 701.
[9] Dugoid, 175.