God Works Through Human Ingenuity (Ruth 3:1-18)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project
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In instigating the courtship between Boaz and Ruth, necessity once again leads Naomi to move beyond the bounds of convention. She sends Ruth to Boaz’s threshing floor in the middle of the night to “uncover his feet and lie down” (Ruth 3:4). Regardless of the meaning of “feet” in Ruth 3:4, 7, 8, 14—which may be a sexual euphemism[1]— the scheme Naomi concocts is suspicious from the standpoint of custom and morality, and it is fraught with danger. Ruth’s preparations and the choice of location for the encounter suggest the actions of a prostitute. Under normal circumstances, if a self-respecting and morally noble man like Boaz, sleeping at the threshing floor, should wake up in the middle of the night and discover a woman beside him he would surely send her off, protesting that he had nothing to do with women like her. Ruth’s request that Boaz marry her is similarly bold from the perspective of custom: a foreigner propositioning an Israelite; a woman propositioning a man; a young person propositioning an older person; a destitute field worker propositioning a rich landowner. But instead of taking offense at Ruth’s forwardness, Boaz blessed her, praised her for her commitment to the well-being of her family, called her “my daughter,” reassured her by telling her not to fear, promised to do whatever she asked, and pronounced her a noble woman (Ruth 3:10-13). This extraordinary reaction is best attributed to the inspiration of God filling his heart and his tongue when he awoke.