Ruth Chapter 3

Engagements vary from culture to culture. While normally a man proposes marriage to a woman, Ruth asked Boaz to fulfill the responsibilities of the kinsman-redeemer in what strikes us as a very unusual proposal. This engagement was based on doing what was right rather than following one’s heart. Emotions were not the driving force; obedience to God’s instructions were. 

1. Naomi’s Instructions (Ruth 3:1-4)

By the time the barley and wheat harvests were ended (2:23), Naomi knew what to do. She knew what God had said regarding widows who had provided no heir: that the closest male relative was (1) to repurchase the land, (2) provide legal help and (3) marry the widow to provide a legal heir as directed in Deuteronomy 25: 5 & 6.  And who better than Boaz to be that relative? He had already shown mercy and kindness to Ruth and Naomi as illustrated in chapter two. He was a wealthy land owner who loved God and wanted to be obedient to God’s Word. He would provide for Ruth (and Naomi as well). 

Naomi told her plan to Ruth. Ruth3:1-4 say, 

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

2. Ruth’s Proposal (3:5-15)

While these instructions may seem quite strange to us, and even seductive, it was the custom and Ruth didn’t hesitate. She washed and perfumed herself. She likely didn’t have a large wardrobe from which to select her best clothes. Perhaps she simply replaced her widow’s clothing, no longer wanting to be perceived as a grieving widow. If so, her change in attire would signal she was ready to resume a normal life. She went down to the threshing floor (normally located outside of town where men would usually stay all night to guard the threshed grain). 

Ruth waited until Boaz finished eating and drinking and lay down. “In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet” (v. 8). What a surprise! Here was a lone, unmarried woman lying at his feet in the middle of the night! 

We might wonder if this approach seemed a little too bold and therefore risky. What if Boaz turned Ruth down? What if he cut off his provision of food because he was offended? Perhaps he would see Ruth as forcing the issue of marriage. They had only known each other for a couple of months! What if he saw her as a social climber (the poor foreign widow marrying the rich landowner)? What if he had taken advantage of Ruth and molested her that night? Who would protect and provide for her then? Both Ruth and Naomi were taking some risks, but they were counting on the integrity and kindness of Boaz. Ruled by principle, not passion, Naomi and Ruth were both trusting and obeying God’s instructions and they believed God would protect them. There are times when we, too, need to step out and take risks for God. 

We can only imagine what it was like for Boaz to wake up, startled to find a woman lying at his feet! “‘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’” (v. 9). Instantly, he was wide awake!

This idiom “spread the corner of your garment over me” also appears in Ezekiel 16:8 “…and when I [God] looked at you [speaking of Jerusalem who is used as an illustration of an unfaithful woman] and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you ….” Ruth was asking to be placed under Boaz’s protection (also translated “wings” as in 2:12). Already under God’s protection, now she was asking to be also placed under the protection of Boaz.

How did Boaz respond to Ruth’s proposal? Because he had become informed about Ruth, he was both kind and impressed. He commended her for her kindness (to Naomi), that she had not run after younger men, rich or poor (we can assume from these words that Boaz was older than Ruth). And he said, “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” (v. 11)

Think about this for a moment. Ruth had earned such an excellent reputation in the village that Boaz had heard she was a woman of noble character. He had likely asked about her and everything he heard proved her to be a woman of excellence. And here she was risking her reputation by obediently coming to him in the middle of the night to ask for his provision and protection even though he was an older man. This was some woman! And even though she was a foreigner, she had proved herself to be a godly woman.

But one big problem stood in the way. There was another kinsman closer in relation to Ruth than Boaz!  “Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. 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” (vv. 12-13)So Ruth remained where she was until morning, but (just to be extra careful in case there were less godly, nosy neighbors about) she got up early before anyone would see her and recognize her. Boaz was sensibly cautious, but before he sent her back, he filled her shawl up with six measures of barley. By so doing, Boaz was saying to Ruth, I will continue to provide for you and Naomi.

3. Ruth’s Report (vv. 16-18)

After Ruth reported everything to the anxious Naomi, the older woman expressed confidence in God and in Boaz when she said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today” (v. 18). She knew Boaz. She knew he was a man of faithfulness and of action. He would not rest until the matter was settled. Do you remember another man from the Old Testament who had a sterling reputation? Yes, Job. Job 1:1, 8 and 2:3 describe Job as “blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil.” And this commendation was spoken by God Himself! Our reputation is our most important asset.  We are only as good to other people as our word.  Do we keep our word? What is our reputation?  What are we known for?  And be assured, people do watch us! What are they seeing in us?

Take Home Truth:  We need to obey God even when the instructions seem unusual.