BECAUSE OUR REDEEMER IS NOT ONLY WILLING AND ABLE BUT RIGHTEOUS, WE SHOULD BE BOLD IN APPROACHING HIM FOR REST AND SECURITY
This is a surprising and perplexing passage to say the least. For those mothers who long with Naomi to see their single daughters find that husband who will provide companionship and security and provision and protection … this is definitely not a “Matchmaker Manual.” I would not recommend Naomi’s scheme to anybody. However, as we have already seen in Chapter 2 there are many lessons about God’s Kind Providence that have direct application to how God makes provision for our needs. So that begs the question of what are we to make of this tale?
I think we need to start at the basic, core level and that would be the integrity of Boaz and of Ruth. Any interpretation that compromises their character would seem to be out of bounds for me. This is important because much of the language and conduct in chapter 3 has at least strong hints of an illicit sexual relationship there in the dark night on the threshing floor. When we met Ruth in chapter 1, we were struck with her loving devotion and high level of commitment to both Naomi and the God of Israel whom she came to embrace as her own God. In just a short time she gained an impeccable reputation among the people of Bethlehem. Boaz himself praised her in chapter 2 and took great pains to see that both her person and reputation would be protected. In Chapter 3 Boaz characterizes Ruth as an “excellent woman” using the language of Proverbs 31. He even is concerned that the closer relative have the first opportunity to fulfill the kinsman redeemer obligation – so he would never have taken advantage of Ruth in this awkward situation. He has a heart to obey God’s law and do everything properly in a righteous fashion. So I think we are safe on the grounds that nothing illicit happened in this encounter.
However, when it comes to the motives and methodology of Naomi I don’t think we see the same track record. She came back to her homeland as a broken woman – bitter in spirit without any testimony of repentance or reference to the abundant lovingkindness of her God. She seems to be in the process of being impacted by the godly character and conduct of her daughter-in-law. But it is safe to say that she has a long road to go on the pathway to spiritual maturity. To read this account as if it is a normal sequence of events in light of Israelite customs of the day seems incredible to me. [I have to say I was greatly impacted by the commentary of Bob Deffinbaugh of bible.org on this passage. He had some very helpful insights in this regard that I have incorporated.]
Deffinbaugh: I take the text at face value. I do not believe that there is some unique cultural interpretation here. Folks, when a woman bathes, puts on perfume and dons her best dress, and then secretively climbs under the covers with a man who has had his fill of food and wine, I don’t think anyone in any culture would read this in any way but what we all assume.
I think we can agree that Naomi was not above resorting to expediency to try to achieve her good intentions for Ruth. She might have wanted to speed up the process of waiting upon the working of the Providence of God. That makes it difficult for us to know how to make application of what we read here. In one sense, we could make a lot out of her example of Boldness in approaching the Redeemer. Never forget the legitimate typology of Boaz = the kinsman redeemer and Ruth = the Gentile church that God so graciously grafts in to the family of faith. Naomi came up with a Bold Plan (the Redeemer is accessible and we should search Him out); Ruth faithfully Executed that Plan (the Redeemer is kind and accessible to our approach so we should ask to be delivered); and we see the blessing of God in the Results of that Plan (the Redeemer takes care of everything so we should wait to be delivered). That was my first read on the passage. But once I became convinced that Naomi’s intentions and proposed scheme were somewhat suspect, I had to re-orient my thinking in terms of application.
Remember the dark moral and religious backdrop of the times of the judges – when there was no righteous king reigning and every man did that which was right in his own eyes. We saw the depths of that depravity in the last few chapters of judges. But here by contrast we see the righteous character of Boaz the Redeemer highlighted. He is going to protect and provide for Ruth in the most difficult of circumstances.
BECAUSE OUR REDEEMER IS NOT ONLY WILLING AND ABLE BUT RIGHTEOUS, WE SHOULD BE BOLD IN APPROACHING HIM FOR REST AND SECURITY
I. (:1-5) HUMAN WISDOM CAN LEAD TO COMPROMISING SITUATIONS WHEN THE PATHWAY OF EXPEDIENCY TRUMPS THE WALK OF FAITH
A. (:1) Well-Intentioned Goal – Rhetorical Question #1
“Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?’”
Ruth has been gleaning in the fields of Boaz who has been treating her with kindness. But as the harvest season draws to a close, there still has been no permanent solution for the plight of Ruth and Naomi. Once again a sense of desperation is creeping into their outlook on the future.
Block: place of rest; speaks of the security and tranquility that a woman in Israel longed for and expected to find in the home of a loving husband
Part of the longing to have a husband was for the blessing of children – a major unspoken thread in this book that establishes the line that produced the Messiah – remember how the book ends – tracing the generations that lead up to King David – the Righteous Branch who typifies the ultimate Righteous King.
Ruth had already been married but had not been blessed with children. Her womb had not been opened by the Lord. So the hope of Naomi “that it may be well” involves both finding an appropriate husband and being blessed with offspring to continue the family line
Paul wrote that he wanted “younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach.” (1Ti 5:14)
Ultimately we need to come to the Redeemer for our rest: Matt. 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
B. (:2) Questionable Opportunity – Rhetorical Question #2
“And now is not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maids you were? Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight.”
How long can we wait for Boaz to take action and initiate something here?? There are other maids in the picture as well – speaks to the competition for his affections. Naomi’s patience has worn thin. She has come up with a plan.
The picture of redemption in the Scriptures always starts with the initiative of God … not that we can get every detail to mesh when we speak in terms of spiritual analogies, etc. – but we at least have some reason to suspect that Naomi may be jumping the gun here.
Block: The best threshing floors involved rock outcrops on hilltops. The hard surface was needed to keep the grain free of dirt and to facilitate sweeping up the grains at the end of the day. The hilltop location was required to take advantage of the wind that would blow away the chaff when the threshed grain was tossed in the air with a fork, allowing the separated heavier kernels of grain to fall to the floor. . . Boaz chose to do his winnowing at night, presumably because the night breezes were more desirable than the gusty winds of the daytime.
PreceptAustin.org: The responsibilities of the kinsman redeemer or go’el mentioned in Scripture are…
1). Avenging the death of a murdered relative (Nu 35:19)
2). Marrying a childless widow of a deceased brother (Dt 25:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10),
3). Buying back family land that had been sold (Lv 25:25),
4). Buying a family member who had been sold as a slave (Lv 25:47, 48, 49),
5). Looking after needy and helpless members of the family (Lv 25:35).
C. (:3-4) Risky Counsel
“Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. And it shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do.”
These actions on the part of Ruth could be interpreted in a number of ways by a man waking up in the middle of the night in a groggy state – required a lot of courage and faith to trust in God’s providence for a good outcome here
Puts her at risk on so many levels – were there not other contexts that would not have been so perilous where Boaz could have been approached on this matter of assuming the role of a kinsman redeemer??
Was Naomi hoping that Boaz would have had too much to drink and his judgment would be clouded?
Was she hoping for some type of sexual relationship on the threshing floor that would seal the deal and help there to be no point of return other than continuing on in marriage?
On the other hand, Naomi seems to express confidence in the judgment of Boaz who at this point after the encounter has been joined will then take the lead in directing what steps should be taken next.
The words used here parallel those used in Ezek. 16:8-14 where God speaks of Israel as His bride
PreceptAustin.org: Apart from legal texts sakab is used in narrative sections that describe incidents of inappropriate behavior.
– The daughters of Lot made their father drunk and then ‘slept’ with him (Gen 19:32, 33).
– One of Abimelech’s subjects almost inadvertently committed adultery with Rebekah (Gen 26:10).
– The verb is used to describe the rape of Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, by Shechem (Gen 34:2, 7).
– Reuben “slept” with his father’s concubine Bilhah while Jacob was absent (Gen 35:22).
– The sons of Eli engaged in amorous pursuits in their free time (1Sa 2:22).
– Amnon violated his half-sister Tamar (2Sa 13:11, 14), emulating, no doubt, the activities
of his own father with Bathsheba (2Sa 11:4).
D. (:5) Submissive Spirit
“And she said to her, ‘All that you say I will do.’”
This statement presents the greatest difficulty to the path of interpretation I have chosen. It seems as if Ruth is subscribing completely to the motives and methodology of Naomi. However, one could argue that she already has the godly insight to understand that she can follow through on the external actions of approaching Boaz while still trusting in Boaz’s integrity to protect her in the situation and not take advantage of her.
II. (:6-13) COMPROMISING SITUATIONS CAN BE SUCCESSFULLY NAVIGATED BY GODLY MEN AND WOMEN OF INTEGRITY
A. (:6) Faithful Follow Through
“So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-lawhad commanded her.”
B. (:7-9) Forward Proposal
“When Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came secretly, and uncovered his feet and lay down. And it happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet. And he said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.’”
She does this at great risk to her own well-being:
– her personal safety
– her personal reputation
Deffinbaugh: Let us not forget Noah’s nakedness after his consumption of wine in Genesis 9, or the way in which Lot’s daughters employed wine to seduce their father so that he would impregnate them.4 Then there was Absalom’s use of wine in 2 Samuel 13:28 to dull Amnon’s senses so that he could be assassinated. No wonder King Lemuel was warned about the dangers of wine: Prov. 31:3-9
Wiersbe: To spread one’s mantle over a person meant to claim that person for yourself (Ezek. 16:8; 1 Kings 19:19), particularly in marriage. The word translated “skirt” also means “wing.” Ruth had come under the wings of Jehovah God (Ruth 2:12); and now she would be under the wings of Boaz, her beloved husband. What a beautiful picture of marriage!
Constable: Why did Boaz not initiate a proposal of marriage? Evidently for two reasons: he assumed Ruth wanted to marry a younger man, someone closer to her own age (v. 10), and he was not the closest eligible male relative (v. 12).
Deffinbaugh: I must admit that I am puzzled why so many of the translations would render the same Hebrew word “wings” in Ruth 2:12 and something different in 3:9. I believe that when Boaz commended Ruth for seeking God’s protection (under His wings) in chapter 2, Ruth seized on his words when seeking his protection in chapter 3. In other words, Ruth is asking Boaz to be God’s answer to her prayers by redeeming her. I believe this was the noblest request ever made of Boaz, and he immediately regarded it as such.
C. (:10-13) Favorable Response from the Righteous Redeemer
1. The Commendation
“Then he said, ‘May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich.”
2. The Compliance
“And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.”
Prov. 31:10 – this is the highest praise you could give a woman
3. The Complication
“And now it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I.”
4. The Commitment
“Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the LORD lives. Lie down until morning.”
Deffinbaugh: Naomi’s proposition (as she coached Ruth to carry out her plan) did not appeal to one’s moral high ground. It did not encourage Boaz to do the right thing in the right way. It urged Ruth to seek a husband in a questionable and compromising manner. Fortunately, Boaz was committed to doing the right thing the right way. And this is why he refuses to become intimate with Ruth that night, and why he gave the nearest kin the opportunity to do the right thing the next day.
III. (:14-18) FAITH IN THE KIND PROVIDENCE OF GOD MEANS WAITING ON THE LORD INSTEAD OF RASHLY PURSUING THE PATH OF EXPEDIENCY
A. (:14) Boaz Respecting Ruth’s Reputation
“So she lay at his feet until morning and rose before one could recognize another; and he said, ‘Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.’”
B. (:15) Ruth Receiving A Generous Gift from Boaz
“Again he said, ‘Give me the cloak that is on you and hold it.’ So she held it, and he measured six measures of barley and laid it on her.”
Maybe about 60 pounds; a very generous gift – intended for both Ruth and Naomi; symbolic of the abundant provision that comes from the gracious hand of the Redeemer
C. (:16-17) Ruth Reporting the Details to Naomi
“Then she went into the city. And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, ‘How did it go, my daughter?’ And she told her all that the man had done for her. And she said, ‘These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said, Do not go to your mother-in- law empty-handed.’”
Wiersbe: Hebrew text reads “Who are you, my daughter?” In other words, “Are you still Ruth the Moabitess, or are you the prospective Mrs. Boaz?
D. (:18) Ruth and Naomi Resting in God’s Providence
“Then she said, ‘Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today.’”
Block: With this statement the curtain falls on Act 3. All the characters have played their roles perfectly. Naomi has taken the initiative and gotten the ball rolling. Ruth has carried out her delicate and daring scheme, and Boaz has responded right on cue. The reader as witness to the drama waits with Ruth to see “how the matter will fall.”
Dr Joel Beeke: Sitting Still (3:18)
We live in a busy age with all of our modern conveniences; we are a society that consumes and produces and is active – even on vacations we keep busy from morning till night; we don’t know how to sit still and meditate on our direction; life of dependency on God; Ruth had to wait for someone else to save her from her misery
I. Sitting Still is Needed
Constable: Likewise, Christians wait now until our Redeemer brings our redemption to completion when we shall rest finally and fully in His presence. Many writers have noted the parallels between Ruth and the church, the bride of Christ, and Boaz and Christ.
This is how I feel about Online Matchmaking Services – yes, God can work through them and you can find all sorts of examples of good Christian unions that have resulted. But is this really the way the kind Providence of God should operate? Isn’t this much closer to adopting the expedient methodology of the world instead of a pathway of faith where we put our focus on serving the Lord in our situation? I don’t want to be dogmatic here – more of a personal preference than a solid biblical conviction – but this is a passage that I think plays into that discussion.
Through Boaz’s words and actions God is showing us, his people, that all who come to Christ seeking refuge under his wings will not be turned away. Any who come in hope and faith to boldly claim what God offers through our redeemer will be received and become the bride of Christ. Our Redeemer is the Righteous One who alone is able to offer us the Righteousness we so desperately need to stand in right relationship with a holy God.
Remember the message of the book of Romans – where the Apostle Paul lays out for us the message of the Righteousness of God.
Rom. 1:17 – in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed
Rom. 3 – the sad condemnation of all men – because “there is none righteous, not even one”
Rom. 3:21-26 God’s righteousness only comes to us through faith in the Redeemer
Rom. 10:4 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes”