RUTH CHAPTER 3.
Naomi Arranges for Ruth's Marriage.
ruth lays the matter of redemption before boaz. — V. 1. Then Naomi, her mother-in-law, said unto her. My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, a resting-place in the home of a husband, happily married, that it may be well with thee? Naomi's former hopeless sorrow had given way to the joyful hope that Boaz, as a near relative, having taken an obvious interest in Ruth, would be willing to take upon himself the duty of redeeming her property, which she had been obliged to sell and at the same time, as the levir in the case, to enter into marriage with Ruth, Deut. 25, 5. For it was a custom in Israel that, if the dead husband had no brethren to undertake this duty, the nearest male relative would do so, thus keeping the inheritance in the family through the children of such a union. It was the woman's right to ask this duty of the relative concerned, and, far from being considered indelicate, she had a right openly to put him to shame in case of his refusal. These facts must be borne in mind in order to understand the mission of Ruth in this chapter, for otherwise her behavior may seem rather strange to modern ways of thinking. V. 2. And now, so Naomi continues, is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? It was in favor of Naomi's scheme that Boaz had not slighted her on account of her nationality, but placed her on an equality with his Israelitish workpeople. Behold, he winnoweth barley tonight in the threshing-floor, this work being done in the evening, after the threshing had been done by the oxen during the day, by stepping out the kernels from the husks, as the stalks of grain were scattered upon the threshing-floor. V. 3. Wash thyself, therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, paying special attention to the adornment of her person, which she had probably neglected during her widowhood, and get thee down to the floor; but make not thyself known unto the man until he shall have done eating and drinking, she was not to let herself be seen until he had partaken of his late supper, which would probably put him into a humor to give more favorable attention to her proposition. V. 4. And it shall be when he lieth down, for it was the custom for the master to remain on the threshing-floor all night, that thou shall mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shall go in, and uncover his feet, removing the clothes or blankets lying at his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shall do. V. 5. And she said unto her, with the same respectful submission which had always characterized her relation toward her mother-in-law, All that thou sayest unto me I will do. V. 6. And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother-in-law bade her, especially as to keeping out of sight as long as there were other people near, lest they suspect both Boaz and her of unpermitted relations, of a clandestine meeting with impure purposes. V. 7. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, cheerful at the prospect of a rich return for his labor, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn, of the barley stacked in sheaves at the end of the threshing-floor; and she came softly, so quietly, in fact, as not to disturb the deep slumber into which he had immediately fallen, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down. V. 8. And it came to pass at midnight, when the first phase of deepest slumber was past, that the man was afraid, startled out of his sleep, perhaps by having his foot come in contact with the person of Ruth, and turned himself, bending forward in order to see what he was touching; and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. V. 9. And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth, thine handmaid; spread, therefore, thy skirt over thine handmaid, a proverbial expression by which she reminded him of the duty of marriage, in case he would consider the proposition, Deut. 23, 1; for thou art a near kinsman, one of those in the near relationship that had the right to redeem, namely, by repurchasing the field sold by Naomi, which included the marrying of Ruth, the widow of the rightful heir of Elimelech. Ruth did not deviate in the least from the strict path of virtue, and she had faith in Boaz, as a man of nobility and honor, that he would not take advantage of the situation.
boaz promises favorable action. — V. 10. And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter; for thou hast showed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich. She had at first, when she might have stayed in her own country and married among her own people, preferred to accompany her mother-in-law into a strange land, with no other prospect than that of sharing poverty, misery, and humiliation with her. And she had now, instead of setting her cap for some attractive young man, as would have been natural for a woman of her age, shown her obedient disposition toward Naomi in proposing marriage to him, as the levir relative, although he was advanced in life. V. 11. And now, my daughter, fear not, she was to lay aside all anxiety and worry, which probably showed itself in the tremulous tones with which she made her request; I will do to thee all that thou requirest; for all the city of my people, "literally, the whole gate," standing for all the inhabitants of Bethlehem and the surrounding country, doth know that thou art a virtuous woman, she had proved to all that she was a good woman, with no loose morals such as were ascribed to the women of Moab. V. 12. And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman; howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I, this restriction being added by Boaz on account of possible legal complications. V. 13. Tarry this night, he would not think of sending her away in the dense darkness, and it shall be in the morning that, if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman's part, in redeeming the land and marrying Ruth; but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the Lord liveth, he would cheerfully perform the duty, as he confirmed with a solemn oath. Lie down until the morning. There is not an unseemly hint in the entire passage, only naturalness and simplicity and virtue. V. 14. And she lay at his feet until the morning; and she rose up before one could know another, before the light made it possible to recognize people clearly. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor. He wanted to protect, not only his own good name, but that of Ruth as well, particularly since there was still a possibility that the nearer relative might claim her as his wife, and scandalous rumors might have resulted most unpleasantly. V. 15. Also he said, Bring the veil, the cloak or shawl which she had about her, that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, a large quantity, and laid it on her, as a gift showing his good will. And she went into the city. V. 16. And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, Who art thou, my daughter? It was an inquiry concerning the success which she had had, whether her claim had been acknowledged or otherwise. And she told her all that the man had done to her, the gift, of course, being a strong hint to Naomi of the result of Ruth's application. V. 17. And she said, These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother-in-law, visitors usually being dismissed with gifts for their families. V. 18. Then said she, Naomi, Sit still, my daughter, she was to remain quietly at home, until thou know how the matter will fall, what the outcome of the business would be; for the man, Boaz, will not be in rest until he have finished the thing this day. He was an energetic man, who always went forward toward the goal with open directness. All the virtues which we here find in him and in Ruth, purity, chastity, openness, generosity, a strict regard for the rights of the neighbor, are fruits of faith.