In this post, we will work our way through Ruth 3:6-9. We will be utilizing the Complete Jewish Bible translation unless otherwise noted.

Ruth 3:6-9, “6 She went down to the threshing-floor and did everything as her mother-in-law had instructed her. 7 After Bo’az was through eating and drinking and was feeling good, he went to lie down at the end of the pile of grain. She stole in, uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 In the middle of the night the man was startled and turned over, and – there was a woman lying at his feet! 9 He asked, “Who are you?” and she answered, “I’m your handmaid Rut. Spread your robe over your handmaid, because you are a redeeming kinsman.”

Commentary:

We left off in the previous post with Na’omi playing out her plan for Ruth to engage if you will Bo’az on his threshing floor. Despite the inherent risks with such a proposal, Ruth affirmed her desire to do all that Na’omi had instructed. Ruth 3:6-9, while a short passage, reveals that Ruth followed Na’omi’s plan thus bringing the overall story to another exciting stage replete with yet more anticipation.

Ruth 3:6, “She went down to the threshing-floor and did everything as her mother-in-law had instructed her.”

Verse 6 simply notes that Ruth went down as Na’omi instructed to the threshing floor of Bo’az. As with other passages in this book that seem to be merely informational, there is something additional that can be gleaned (no pun intended) from this simple verse. F. B. Huey suggests “The kaph (k) in “did everything has been interpreted by some scholars…as a kap veritas, and thus the phrase would be translated as “did everything exactly as”[1] once again suggesting that Ruth actually did all that Na’omi had told her. However, the story reveals that was not the case, something we will note a bit later in our discussion.

Ruth 3:7, “After Bo’az was through eating and drinking and was feeling good, he went to lie down at the end of the pile of grain. She stole in, uncovered his feet and lay down.”

The story next reveals that after Bo’az had his fill of food and drink, he proceeded to lie down on a pile of grain. The text also notes that Ruth had followed Na’omi’s instructions to not “reveal your presence to the man until he’s finished eating and drinking” while at the same time taking “note of where he’s lying.” Once Ruth observed that Bo’az had fallen asleep, she followed the other instructions of Na’omi, namely the need to “uncover his feet, and lie down” while awaiting Bo’az to instruct her as to what to do next. Thus far Ruth has followed to the very letter everything Na’omi had instructed her to do.

An interesting element of this passage is the translation of the phrase “was in good spirits” noted by the text after Bo’az had completed eating and drinking. Daniel Block notes “The idiom yatab leb, literally “a heart is good,” describes a sense of euphoria and well-being. No doubt Boaz was satisfied with the work that was accomplished this day, but he probably also was feeling the effects of the wine.”[2] However, much unlike how Lot succumbed to the effects of drinking wine which led to him being seduced by his daughters into having sexual relations, Block also avers in the case of Bo’az “there is no reason to interpret this as a drunken stupor. The narrator paints an image of a contented man at peace within himself and in harmonious step with a world that is yielding its fruit as a result of Yahweh’s blessing and his hard work.”[3]

When we compare Lot with Bo’az, it is clear that Bo’az continues to reflect the attributes of a man worthy of being considered the kinsman redeemer, one who continually demonstrates righteous behavior.

Upon observing that Bo’az had laid down for the night, the text states Ruth “stole in,” uncovered his feet, and laid down awaiting what would happen next which according to the plan developed by Na’omi would involve further instructions from Bo’az. The word translated as “stole in” or “came in softly” in other translations is the Hebrew word lat, meaning in secrecy. So what we have taking place is Ruth hiding in the background awaiting that precise moment in which she could essentially sneak in, uncover the feet of Bo’az, and take her place on the threshing floor next to this potential kinsman redeemer.

Ruth 3:8-9, “In the middle of the night the man was startled and turned over, and – there was a woman lying at his feet! 9 He asked, “Who are you?” and she answered, “I’m your handmaid Rut. Spread your robe over your handmaid, because you are a redeeming kinsman.”

This periscope concludes with a rather interesting turn of events, one that the reader might have expected to take place but nevertheless presents a sense of drama and anticipation. In the middle of the night, as most do when they are sleeping, Bo’az turned over and was awake enough to be able to recognize Ruth laying there at his feet. If we return for a second to verse 7, we can make the assertion that the impact of the drink on Bo’az was such that when he fell asleep, he was in a deep enough sleep to be unaware of Ruth uncovering his legs and feet or Ruth sneaking in to the area of the threshing floor. As often happens when one falls into an immediate deep sleep, there is a point in which the individual will wake up, albeit not entirely.

Block suggests “At midnight he shivered (harad; NIV “something startled the man”), probably because of the chilling of the night air, and groping for his covers, he was surprised (hinneh, “behold,” left untranslated by the NIV) to find someone lying by his legs (margelot).”[4] Imagine the surprise on the face of Bo’az to find Ruth laying there at his feet in the middle of the night. It is not clear from the text if Bo’az immediately recognizes the woman lying at his feet as Ruth. This element of storytelling is noted by Robert Chisholm as something which “invites the audience to experience the scene through Boaz’s eyes. The audience knows the woman is Ruth because the narrator has informed us of that fact. But he heightens the drama by assuming Boaz’s limited perspective.”[5]

Understandably, Bo’az asks the simple yet very necessary question of “Who are you?” As the writer has often done throughout this book, the question posed by Bo’az reflects a movement forward in relationship and conversation between Bo’az and Ruth as reflected in his original question to Ruth in Ruth 2:5 of “To whom does she belong?” implying the servant status of Ruth. In this verse, there is no element of servitude implied in the question of “Who are you?’ with the question being one of quite simply “Who is lying at my feet in the middle of the night?”

The response given by Ruth is quite telling. She responds to Bo’az’s question with “I’m your handmaid Ruth. Spread your robe over your handmaid, because you are a redeeming kinsman.” The use of the Hebrew word amah translated as handmaid as opposed to the previous description by Ruth of herself in verses such as Ruth 2:13 as being a sipha or slavegirl is noted by Block as a clear indication of “Ruth’s growing self-confidence and the requirements of the context. After all, she is about to propose marriage to her superior, which would have been ruled out for a sipha.”[6]

Furthermore, Ruth asks Bo’az to “Spread your robe over your handmaid.” Scholars have debated whether the request by Ruth signifies a request for marriage with many proposing that idea since “the custom of placing the corner of a garment over a maiden as a symbol of marriage is known among the Arabs.”[7] It is also important to notice that at this juncture, Ruth diverted from the instructions given to her by Na’omi to wait for Bo’az to tell her what to do. Instead, Ruth asks Bo’az to cover her with his robe with the reason being that he is a kinsman redeemer, one who would provide her with protection. Iain Dugoid suggests “What Ruth was asking Boaz to do…was to act according to the spirit of the law of the kinsman redeemer, even though he was not under any legal obligation. She appealed to him to be the family member who, at his own cost, would act to rescue those whose future had been blighted, even though he didn’t have to do so.”[8]

Conclusion:

If we think about what Ruth was requesting of Bo’az, we can truly see a picture of what we ask Jesus to do as our Kinsman Redeemer. Just as the kinsman redeemer in the life of Ruth was under no obligation to pay the high price that would come with rescuing Ruth, especially given the fact she was a Moabite woman, so to Jesus was under no obligation to pay the price for our sins and to rescue us from certain death and eternal punishment. Yet He came on our behalf to rescue us. Thus, the picture being painted in Ruth as this moment of the story is a foreshadow of the perfect Kinsman Redeemer, the One who came to pay the penalty to save us with His very life.

In our next post, we will examine Ruth 3:10-18 to see how Bo’az responds to Ruth’s proposal.

References:

[1] 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, 536-537.
[2] Daniel Block, The New American Commentary: Judges-Ruth (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1999), 689.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.,689-690.
[5] Robert Chisholm, Jr., Kregel Exegetical Library: A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2013), 654.
[6] Block, 690.
[7] Huey, 537.
[8] Iain Duguid, Reformed Expository Commentary: Esther & Ruth (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2005), 172.