Then Naomi her mother- in- law said to her, My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3 Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do. 5 And she replied, All that you say I will do. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother- in- law had commanded her. 7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! 9 He said, Who are you? And she answered, I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer. ESV
In the Bible we read of many actions of believing men and women that we are not to imitate, though we are to learn from them. Some of these are easy to discern. For example, Moses and the people of Israel sacrificed a lamb at Passover and sprinkled the blood on the doorposts of their houses. Clearly, we are not obligated to do that, because Jesus Christ is the better Passover Lamb. Many actions are controlled by the covenant under which they occur. Circumcision was mandatory under the old covenant, but now it is nothing (Gal 5:2-6). Other matters were plainly for one event, like walking around the city of Jericho to have its walls fall down. As tempting as it might sound to some, God is not calling you to walk around Congress in session until the walls come down.
On the other hand, the Holy Spirit does want us to see what faith in the living God can accomplish (cf. Heb 11; Rm 15:4; cf. 1 Cor 10:11). For this reason, we must read the Bible wisely, especially the narrative portions. When you read of someone doing something, pay attention to the historical and covenantal setting. The Lord may simply want you to learn from their faith.
In our text we read of a dangerous encounter. It was planned by Naomi for the good of her daughter-in-law Ruth, and I think that both were acting in faith at this point. However, the plan was very risky for many reasons, which we will consider. If parts of the Bible were rated like movies are, this passage would have an “R” rating for language and adult situations. Such accounts do not embarrass God, since he created us as sexual beings, and there are matters that he wants us to think about. So then, let us listen to God’s word.
I. A risky plan (3:1-4)
A. Understanding the culture
1. In that culture, parents were responsible for the marriage of their children (cf. Jdg 14:1-3). Ruth, as a widowed daughter-in-law had put herself under Naomi’s authority. For this reason, Naomi is seeking to “find rest” for Ruth; that is, a husband for her. At this point it is reasonable to ask why Naomi simply didn’t approach Boaz directly about marrying Ruth. The Bible provides no answer in this story. Given Israel’s history with Moabite women (Num 25: 1-3), some suggest that Boaz might have been reluctant to get involved with Ruth, but then we ask, how would a midnight rendezvous at a threshing floor have improved the situation? Simply, we must say that we don’t know.
2. In addition, Naomi seems to be approaching this marriage proposal under the concept of a kinsman redeemer (not levirate marriage, which concerned the responsibility of a brother-in-law toward his deceased brother’s wife, Deut 25:5-10.) Naomi is not asking Ruth to act like a hussy and throw herself at the first man she meets in a bar. No, Ruth is acting as a woman in need of redemption. She is seeking the liberation of herself and the land inheritance of her deceased father-in-law and deceased husband.
B. Naomi uses a daring method to bring Ruth and Boaz together.
1. Clearly, Naomi had been doing some feminine thinking about this first date! She knows where Boaz will be and that he will be happy from celebrating the threshing of grain—a full stomach and a full bank account! This was a perfect time to approach a man!
2. Naomi advises Ruth to make herself attractive, which is a good idea for any young woman who is thinking about marriage. Men usually aren’t that attracted to a woman who is dressed like Brett Favre in a blue jeans commercial. Appearing clean, feminine and sweet smelling is a better way to attract men. A woman needs to dress for the kind of man she wants to attract. It also seems that Naomi might have been telling Ruth to dress like a bride (cf. Est 2:12; Ezk 16:6-14).
3. However, Naomi sends Ruth into a dangerous situation. She had already spoken to Ruth of the danger of being out alone (2:22), but now she sends Ruth out alone at night to a threshing floor, which was a place of sexual encounter in that culture. (Think a cheap motel for current images in our culture.)
Apply: People tend to make plans that have a mixture of good and evil and of wisdom and folly. This is the reason we need counsel continually from God’s word and godly people. So then, what are you currently reading in the Scriptures? Are you part of a small group?
II. A risqué scene (3:5-7)
A. The account is filled with euphemisms and suggestive sexual innuendo.
1. Though there is no reason to suspect any immorality between Ruth and Boaz, the words used in the Hebrew text were used with sexual meaning. For “feet” compare Ex 4:25; and for “uncover” compare Lev 18, 20. And then there is the suggestive word “lie down” (Gen 19:32-35; Ex 22:16; etc.)
2. I think that these words were chosen to set forth the sexually dangerous situation that Naomi put Ruth and Boaz in. Ruth follows Naomi’s instructions and lies down next to Boaz, as a wife would next to her husband. Obviously, this puts tremendous stress upon Boaz to restrain himself and to act honorably.
Apply: In the family of God, we must maintain an atmosphere of absolute purity (1 Tm 5:1-2). We live in a culture that is increasingly sexually immoral and provocative, like the situation that existed in Corinth (cf. 1 Cor 6:12-20).
B. Ruth followed Naomi’s plan precisely.
1. She waited till Boaz had enjoyed a good supper and had stretched out near his pile of threshed grain. He probably did this to protect it and to get an early start the next morning.
2. She noticed the place where he was lying. This was important, since there might have been other men at the threshing floor!
Illustration: Tell the stories of BP at Seaside Heights and of LG at Rural Grove. Men, know where your place is!
3. She took a place beside him and waited for him to speak. Imagine the excitement in Ruth’s heart! “Okay Naomi, what happens next? Just what am I waiting for him to say?” She had reached the end of Naomi’s plan and needed the Lord to do something. It was a good time to pray.
Apply: There are times that you have done all that is humanly possible. Ruth, a stranger to Israelite customs and ways, has obeyed her mother-in-law and the outcome is in God’s hands. Then you must wait on the Lord about that matter.
III. A righteous outcome (3:8-9)
A. Something awoke Boaz in the middle of the night. The Hebrew can mean “to tremble with fear”, but it simply might mean that he shivered.
1. It seems that Boaz turned to reach for his cloak to cover himself and discovers Ruth lying beside him. You can imagine his surprise! Suddenly, he is fully awake.
2. Even in the darkness, he knows that it is a woman beside him (think perfume, etc.), and he naturally asks, “Who are you?” God alone now knows what went through his mind as he waited for her answer, but I can imagine it provided Boaz and Ruth with some humorous conversation years later. (“Dear, remember how we met that night at the threshing floor? What were you thinking?”)
B. Ruth’s bold request
1. She answers his question, but uses a different word for servant than at their first meeting. This one identifies her as a servant who would be eligible to become his wife or concubine. She also doesn’t mention being a foreigner, but simply gives her name.
2. She proposes marriage to Boaz, which is the meaning of spreading the corner of his garment over her (cf. Ezk 16:8). I am told that phrase is still used by some Arab tribes today. In addition, it is related to the phrase in 2:12 about taking refuge under his wings. “In essence, Ruth asked Boaz to answer his own prayer!” [Hubbard]
3. She asks Boaz to be her kinsman redeemer. She is asking him to pay the price to set her free, as well as to be her husband. This is very daring. She risks total rejection, but she needs a kinsman redeemer!
Apply: Last week we saw that Boaz is a type or shadow of the true kinsman redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of us is in bondage to sin and death by nature and our own evil choices. But the Lord Jesus died on the cross to pay the full penalty to set us free. So then, have you asked Jesus to be your kinsman redeemer? Consider this room to be your threshing floor. He is near to you in his word by the Spirit. In the quietness of this midday, boldly confess your need to be set free. Trust his shed blood to be your ransom, and confidently ask him to be your Redeemer. He will grant your request. Listen to his assuring words (Jn 6:37).
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.