Ruth and Boaz at the Threshing Floor, 1-18

Ruth 3:1 One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for?

Ru 3:2 Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.

“Winnowing barley on the threshing floor” – ‘In this process grain was separated from the husks by being trodden out by aminals. Then the mixture was thrown into the air against a stiff breeze, so that the wind blew the chaff away while the heavier grain fell more or less straight down. Threshing-floors were usually situated in exposed positions, so that they could catch the breeze (it was the measure of Gideon’s fear and desperation that he chose to beat out his wheat in a winepress, a most unsuitable location, Jud 6:11). It seems curious that Boaz should engage in this work at night. Perhaps there were unusual weather conditions with a stiff night breeze. More probably we should understand “hallaylah” as “the evening” rather than “the night”…After work ceased the grain must be guarded. Perhaps Boaz did not do this in person every night, and this may be the force of Naomi’s “tonight”.’ (Leon Morris)

Ruth 3:3 Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking.

Ru 3:4 “When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”

‘Naomi’s advice seems strange, but she was not suggesting a seductive act. In reality, Naomi was telling Ruth to act in accordance with Israelite custom and law. It was common for a servant to lie at the feet of his master and even share a part of his covering. By observing this custom, Ruth would inform Boaz that he could be her kinsman-redeemer – that he could find someone to marry her or marry her himself. It was family business, nothing romantic. But the story later became beautifully romantic as Ruth and Boaz developed an unselfish love and deep respect for each other.’ (Life Application Bible)

Ru 3:5 “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered.

‘As a foreigner, Ruth may have thought that Naomi’s advice was odd. But Ruth followed the advice because she knew Naomi was kind, trustworthy, and filled with moral integrity. Each of us knows a parent, older friend, or relative who is always looking out for our best interests. Be willing to listen to the advice of those older and wiser than you are. The experience and knowledge of such a person can be invaluable. Imagine what Ruth’s life would have been like if she ignored her mother-in-law.’ (Life Application Bible)

Ruth 3:6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.

Ru 3:7 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down.

Under the Levirate law (referred to by Naomi in 1:11-13), when a man died childless his brother was bound to raise an heir to him by the widow. This law extended to the next of kin, hence Naomi’s plan. Ruth, by her action in verse 7, was claiming this right. It is complicated by the fact that Boaz is not in fact Elimelech’s closest kinsman, but he promises to take up her case.

Ru 3:8 In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet.

Ru 3:9 “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.”

This is a beautifully expressive request for marriage. ‘The spreading of the skirt over a widow as a way of claiming her as a wife is attested among Arabs of early days, and Jouon says it still exists among some modern Arabs.’ (Leon Morris). Cf Deut 27:20 Eze 16:8. See also Ruth 2:12.

Modern readers (and commentators) often assume that Ruth seduced Boaz.  But the text itself does not support this inference.  For one thing, biblical writers are not shy of saying when such seduction does take place (such as in the case of David and Bathsheba).  For another thing, the text says that Boaz was surprised to wake up in the middle of the night to find Ruth lying at his feet: this is not the reaction of a man who has just had sexual intercourse with a woman!  Finally, the integrity of both Ruth (v10) and Boaz (v12) is attested.

Ru 3:10 “The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: you have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.”

The ‘kindness’ Boaz refers to contains the notion of ‘faithfulness’. She could have married one of the younger men, but instead is demonstrating loyalty to her family by seeking her ‘one-who-acts-as-a-kinsman’ as her marriage partner.

Ru 3:11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.

’Noble character’ covers a wide range of attributes, a ‘comprehensive excellence’ (Leon Morris). Cf Pr 12:4 31:10.

‘Much more than is recorded had clearly happened during the months the two widows had been at Bethlehem.’ (Leon Morris)

’Fellow townsmen’ = lit. ‘all the gate’. The gate in Palestinian towns was the usual place of assembly. ‘Boaz may have had in mind the legal proceedings he was about to initiate.’ (Leon Morris)

Ru 3:12 Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I

‘It is implied, but not actually said, that in the case of a childless widow the next of kin had the prior right to marry the woman and raise up seed to the deceased…and only if he declined was it possible (and necessary) for another member of the family to take his place.’ (Leon Morris)

Ruth 3:13 Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”

Ruth 3:14 So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “Don’t let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.”

Ruth 3:15 He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her. Then he went back to town.

Ruth 3:16 When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?” Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her

Ruth 3:17 and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”

Ru 3:18 Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”

‘Naomi implied that Boaz would follow through with his promise at once. He obviously had a reputation for keeping his word and would not rest until his task was completed. Such reliable people stand out in any age and culture. Do others regard you as one who will do what you say? Keeping your word and following through on commitments should be high on anyone’s priority list. Building a reputation for integrity, however, must be done one brick, one act, at a time.’ (Life Application Bible)