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To the Threshing Floor and Back (2)
ii. THE PROPOSAL (Ruth 3:6-15)
Victor M Eskew
II. THE PROPOSAL (Ruth 3:6-15)
A. Ruth’s actions (Ruth 3:6-7)
1. Obedience of Ruth (Ruth 3:6)
And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her.
a. It is possible for one to say they are going to obey and not do it (Matt. 21:30).
b. Ruth’s words are now backed up by her actions.
c. There is a small word in the text that is extremely important. The word, “all.” She did not leave anything undone of all that Naomi told her to do.
d. What motivated Ruth’s obedience?
1) Her committed loyalty to Naomi
2) The fact that Boaz had treated her well while in the field
3) Perhaps the experience has shown Ruth the importance of a husband’s inheritance and of a male heir to the people of God in those times. “…she knows that she is now part of the covenant family of Yahweh, and she is willing to take her part in the levirate custom for Yahweh’s sake and for that of the inheritance of one of his people” (Atkinson, 101).
e. One wonders how difficult this was for Ruth.
1) She could have been rebuffed by Boaz
2) Or, he could accept the offer to take her hand in marriage
2. Order of events (Ruth 3:7)
And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down.
a. Let’s dispel a myth from the start. There are some who believe that Boaz was drunken on this occasion.
a) The word “drunk:
b) The phrase, “his heart was merry”
2) Let’s consider the word “drunk.”
a) There is no indication in the text that wine was the beverage of the night. Could it have been water or milk?
b) “Only the context can determine whether a person drunk enough wine to become intoxicated. In this case, Boaz’s coherent conversa-tion with Ruth testifies to his sobriety (3:9-13)” (Stewart, 114).
3) Let’s look at the phrase, “his heart was merry.”
a) The word in the Hebrew is the same as “to be well” in Ruth 3:1.
b) It has been translated elsewhere as “in good spirits” (NLT) and “felt at peace with the world” (NEB).
c) The phrase does not always refer to an intoxicated state (Judg. 18:20; 19:6, 9, 22; I Kings 8:66; 212:7; Eccl. 7:3; 9:7; See Prov. 14:13; 17:22).
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
d) The phrase reflects the happy mood of Boaz after enjoying the fruit of his labor. There was probably personal satisfaction combined with gratitude toward God. One has said that Naomi was right. This would probably be the most propitious moment that Ruth could have to approach Boaz.
b. He went to lie down at the end of a heap of corn.
1) The workers spent the night at the threshing floor to protect their harvest.
2) Most likely the workers scattered themselves about at various places in order to give full protection and also some privacy to each person.
3) Boaz may have used the corn to prop himself up as he slept, or, he may have slept on a mat.
4) After a full day’s work and a good meal, he probably fell asleep rather quickly.
c. She came softly
1) Some translations have “secretly, “quietly,” or “stealthily.”
2) She was determined not to be noticed by others and not to be detected by Boaz until after she was in her proper place at his feet.
d. Uncovered his feet and laid her down
1) Most Orientals slept in their clothing. Boaz probably used his robe as a cover for his feet.
2) She uncovered his feet. This would be used symbolically once Boaz noticed her presence.
3) Again, being at his feet indicated a place of humility and submission.
B. Boaz affrighted (Ruth 3:8)
And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet.
1. And it came to pass at midnight
a. This is the third time the phrase, “and it came to pass,” is found in the book (Ruth 1:1; 1:19; 3:8).
b. Midnight: literally, “at the half of the night”
2. That the man was afraid
a. The man
1) The term “the man” seems to be put in contrast with “a woman.”
2) “This language is probably used to demonstrate the sexual compatibility of the couple and the possibility of their marital union (Gen. 2:23-24)” (Stewart, 116).
b. Was afraid
a) Strong (2729): to shudder with terror; hence to fear
b) BDB: to tremble, quake, be afraid, be startled, be terrified
2) We are not told exactly what it was that brought the fear: a dream, a noise around the threshing floor, or possibly he bumped into Ruth with his feet.
3. He turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet
a. Behold: captures the surprise to have someone lying at his feet, especially a woman.
b. How did he know it was a woman? The moonlight may have revealed it, her clothing, her long hair, the smell of her perfume
C. Ruth’s Appeal (Ruth 3:9)
And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid: for thou art a near kinsman.
1. Boaz’s inquisition
a. There may have been many questions that were running through the mind of Boaz.
b. He innocently does not know who this woman could be. Therefore, he asks: “Who are you?”
2. Ruth’s identification: Ruth reveals two things about herself
a. Her name: Ruth
b. Her relationship to him: thine handmaid, indicating she was not a stranger to him.
3. Ruth’s invitation
a. Ruth tells Boaz to take the hem of his cloak that she has removed from his feet (3:7) and cover her with it – an ancient custom that symbolized a marriage proposal.
1) A few of the modern translations give similar dynamic equivalents: “So please marry me” (TEV), and “Make me your wife” (LB).
2) Two interesting comments:
a) Cooke: “The custom prevailed among the early Arabs; a good illustration is given in Tabari’s commentary on the Koran…’In the Jahiliya, when a man’s father or brother or son died and left a widow, the dead man’s heir, if he came at once and threw his garment over her, had the right to marry her under the dowry of (i.e. already paid by) her (deceased) lord, or to give her in marriage and take her dowry” (as quoted by Atkinson, 102).
b) Kruger refers to the Ancient Near Eastern texts where the stripping or cutting of garments dissolves marriage covenants. This symbolic act not only shamed the wife, but also brought the husband’s responsibilities to an end (see Ezek. 16:37; Hos. 2:10)” (Stewart, 119).
b. The fact that he is a near kinsman reveals the basis for her bold request.
D. Boaz’s Affirmation (Ruth 3:10-13)
1. Praise (Ruth 3:10)
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 rich or poor.
a. Blessed be thou
a) Strong (1288): to kneel, to bless…man (as a benefit)
b) BDB: to bless, to be blessed, be adored, to praise, salute
2) “Boaz’s blessing on Ruth indicates that she has done nothing scandalous in coming to the threshing floor to propose marriage” (Stewart, 120).
b. More kindness in the latter end that at the beginning
1) “At the beginning” refers to the kindness that Ruth showed unto Naomi by not leaving her side and pledging unto Naomi her love forever (Ruth 1:16-17).
2) Her kindness at the “latter end” is her proposal of marriage to Boaz.
a) She chose him for a husband, rather than seeking out younger men.
- Young men: These are men who are in the prime of life; “they are choice, handsome, strong, adventurous, and ready for marriage” (Stewart, 121).
- Whether rich or poor
+ She did not seek after poor men for love.
+ She did not seek after rich men for wealth.
b) This kindness extended both to the living and the dead.
- To Boaz in wanting to be his wife
- To Naomi in giving her security in her old age
- To Elimelech and Mahlon in preserving their land and their name in Israel
2. Promise (Ruth 3:11-13a)
a. Consent (Ruth 3:11)
And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.
1) Fear not
a) There is some irony here because it was Boaz who had been afraid when he saw a woman lying at his feet (Ruth 3:8).
b) “He assures here that everything will be alright. Her coming to the threshing floor was a courageous act and she will not be rejected, exploited, or shamed” (Stewart, 122).
2) He makes a promise to her: “I will do to thee all that thou requirest…”
3) There is a basis for his quick consent to her desires. It is summed up in the statement: “…for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.”
a) All the city of my people
- City means “an opening, that is, door or gate.”
- This would refer to the elders and noble of the court who met regularly at the gate of the city.
b) A virtuous woman
- This is the same word that describes Boaz as “a mighty man of wealth” (Ruth 2:1).
- The word refers to the strong character of Ruth. It is the same word found in Proverbs 31:10.
Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.
+ Many of the qualities of the “virtuous woman” can be applied to Ruth.
< She does good and not evil (Prov. 31:12).
< She works with her hands (Prov. 31:13).
< She gives food to her household (Prov. 31:15).
< Strength and dignity are her clothing (Prov. 31:25).
< The law of kindness is in her tongue (Prov. 31:26).
< She does not eat the bread of idleness (Prov. 31:27).
< She fears the Lord (Prov. 31:31).
+ “In some Hebrew manuscripts, the book of Ruth follows Proverbs 31. This arrangement may indicate that at least a few ancient scholars viewed Ruth as a model of excellence” (Stewart, 123, footnote).
c) It is interesting that Boaz was concerned about how his townspeople viewed Ruth. It seems that if they were to have had a negative view of her that he would not have considered her proposal.
b. Complication (Ruth 3:12-13a)
And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. Tarry this night, 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…
1) There was another man who was of nearer kin to Elimelech and Mahlon than Boaz. He would have the first option of marrying Ruth. We are never told the name of this individual.
2) “Perhaps Boaz had already considered the issue of the nearest kinsman carefully, and this was one of the reasons he had not taken steps to marrying Ruth” (Stewart, 124).
3) In the morning, that is, at the very break of day, he would address this matter.
4) If the other kinsman desired to marry Ruth, Boaz would acquiesce to his desires. “Boaz proves himself to be a pious man who keeps the law, sur-rendering his own personal wishes to the will God” (Stewart, 126).
5) Well: If the near kinsman married Ruth, it would be good. The situation would give both Ruth and Naomi the security they needed.
c. Commitment (Ruth 3:10b)
…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.
1) Boaz’s resolve to marry Ruth is found in the words: “…then I will…”
2) The term “redeemer” appears four times in this one verse.
a) “It means to fulfill the role of a near kinsman by rescuing one’s relative from danger and difficulty” (Stewart, 127).
b) Tull: “By marrying [Ruth], Boaz will redeem her and her mother-in-law from their social and economic vulnerability brought about by famine, widowhood, and childlessness, compounded by a social structure that circumscribed opportunities for women and foreigners” (as quoted by Stewart, 127).
3) “As the Lord liveth”
a. This is an oath Boaz used to confirm his promise to Ruth.
b. This type of an oath was taken seriously in the ancient world.
c. “The one who takes this oath swears to keep his promise based on the reality of the Lord’s existence” (Stewart, 127).
d. “Just as surely as Ruth could depend upon the fact that the Lord lives so too could she depend on Boaz to do the part of a kinsman” (Peipman, 236-237).
3. Permission (Ruth 3:13c)
…lie down until the morning.
a. This is the second time that he tells her to stay until the morning.
b. This was both out of necessity and for her protection.
1) At this hour of the night the gate of the city would be shut.
2) If Ruth wandered about as a lone woman, her safety would be threatened.
c. Tull: “Is this the first of a lifetime of nights together, or are these their final hours before she marries a stranger? Only the morning will tell” (as quoted by Stewart, p. 128).
d. NOTE: In Ruth 3:9, Ruth had requested that Boaz spread his skirt over her. We do not read of his doing this. Why? Boaz knew that he could not proper-ly propose to Ruth until he had first given the opportunity to the kinsman who was nearer than he was.
E. Early Morning Adieu (Ruth 3:14-15)
1. Privacy (Ruth 3:14)
And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor.
a. And she lay at his feet…
1) Some have suggested that some type of sexual activity happened between Boaz and Ruth that night.
2) Every time her lying down is mentioned, it is said that she lay at his feet (Ruth 3:7, 8, 14).
b. Until morning
1) It was the early morning hours before the sun broke over the horizon.
2) It was “before one could know another.” In essence, it was still dark.
c. Let it not be known…
1) We are not given the particulars as to why Boaz did not want this visit known.
2) Some assumptions:
a) Moral Reason: Boaz wanted no charge in impropriety.
b) Justice Reason: Boaz did not want someone to claim that he had manipulated the kinsman-redeemer process.
c) Social Reason: Boaz did not want rumors started that a wedding day had been planned.
2. Present (Ruth 3:15)
Also he said, Bring the vail that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her: and she went into the city.
a. The garment: vail
1) “Standard attire for women included a tunic, cloak (robe), and a full-length shawl. This last item was draped over the head and extended to the hem of the woman’s tunic” (Stewart, 130-131).
2) It has been translated as cloak, mantle, cape, veil, and shawl in other versions.
b. The gift
1) He measured six measures of barley.
a) The word “measures” has been supplied by the translators.
b) We do not know which unit of measurement he used.
c) The fact that he “laid it on her” indicates that it was a significant amount.
2) LESSON: We are again impressed with the generous spirit of Boaz. This would be a welcomed characteristic in a marriage.
c. The goodbye: and she came into the city
1) Again, we see that Ruth was a strong woman, carrying this generous portion of grain back to Bethlehem. “The Aramaic Targum portrays the Lord as giving her miraculous power to bear this burden, but this interpretation is unnecessary” (Stewart, 131).
2) Stewart suggests that the grain would provide Ruth with “a good diversion.”
a) Those who saw her would think that she had been to the threshing floor to buy grain.
b) A woman’s work often began before the daylight hours (Prov. 31:15).
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
3) NOTE: Some translations have “and he went into the city” (ASV, NIV< NRSV, NLT).
a) She makes a smoother transition to verse 16.
b) Ruth ascent to the city brackets her descent to the threshing floor.
c) This action parallels her actions of the previous day: “And she took it up, and went into the city…” (Ruth 2:18).
4) Can’t you imagine that Ruth was eager to return to Naomi? She had much to share, but one said: “…it could be summed up in five perfect words. HE WANTS TO MARRY ME!” (Peipman, 241).