SynopsisI know it’s my 20th Century upbringing, but the NIV title for this passage sounds a lot more salacious than it really is.
Naomi decides that she needs to try and find a home for Ruth, where she can be provided for (verse 1). So, since Boaz is a close kinsman, she figures that he would be a good choice to marry Ruth. And Naomi knows that Boaz is going to be winnowing barley on a particular night, after which he’ll be eating and drinking, and then going to sleep on the threshing floor.
She advises Ruth to sneak in, wait until Boaz has fallen asleep, and then uncover and lie down at his feet. (There is obviously some kind of cultural thing going on here that I don’t understand; this is not how we do things in the 20th Century!)
So this is what Ruth does. In the middle of the night, something wakes Boaz up, and he discovers someone 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.”
Again, when Ruth asks Boaz to spread a corner of his garment over her, I think this is a cultural thing. (As an aside, I do not think that this is anything salacious; i.e. I don’t think this is a euphemism for anything, and I don’t think anything physical is going on between Ruth and Boaz.)
When Boaz hears this, he is overjoyed; he is apparently a fairly old man, and he is thrilled that Ruth would choose him, rather than running after a younger man (verse 10). However, there is one issue: although Boaz is a close relative to Naomi, there is another man who’s an even closer kinsman-redeemer. So Boaz has to give this other man the chance to marry Ruth first.
In the meantime, he tells Ruth to stay with him for the night, and she lays there at his feet until the morning. But the next morning she is sure to get up early, before she can be recognized, and sneak home, so that people won’t find out that a woman was at the threshing floor. (I assume to avoid a scandal.) Before she does, though, Boaz has her hold out her shawl, into which he pours “six measures” (verse 15) of barley for her to bring home.
So Ruth returns home to Naomi, and tells her everything that has happened. Naomi tells Ruth to wait and find out what happens, and tells her that she won’t have to wait long, because Boaz won’t let the matter rest until he’s settled it that very day.
ThoughtsIt’s not often that I get to use the word “salacious” in one of my posts—let alone use it twice!
Incidentally, when Ruth says to Boaz “I am your servant Ruth,” in the passage quoted above, don’t put too much weight on the word “servant.” In addition to literally meaning servant, in some instances, the word also seems to be used in a more general sense in the Old Testament. I don’t think I’ve been pointing that out every time I’ve come across the word “servant” on this blog, but I thought I’d mention it in this case; Ruth isn’t calling herself Boaz’ servant literally, as if she wants to be his concubine, it’s just a figure of speech.
It’s interesting that Boaz is so pleased, and seemingly thankful, that Ruth has chosen him. In the Old Testament, it’s usually the other way around; the women are powerless, and at the whims of men. But in this case, Ruth has chosen Boaz, and he is thankful to her for it.