God Assures Rest through Relentless Kindness
December 11, 2016 Speaker: Bret Rogers Series: Ruth: From Emptiness to Fullness
Topic: Advent Passage: Ruth 3
We have the most unsettling chapter in the book of Ruth today. Ruth and Boaz at the threshing floor raises eyebrows, causes others to blush. Were the book turned into a movie, some would say chapter three excludes it from a G rating and requires serious parental guidance.[i] But that all depends on how you interpret the details. Before we get there, though, I want you to imagine what life was like for Naomi and Ruth.
The Question of Rest Still Lingers from 1:9
As the story goes so far, Naomi and Ruth lost their husbands and were now widows in the Promised Land. The Lord had once again provided food, but without a husband both Naomi and Ruth lacked economic support. In order to eat, Ruth found herself gleaning scraps alongside the poor (cf. Lev 19:9-10; Deut 24:19). They lacked the protection of a male figure. They had nobody to perpetuate their name in the Promised Land; they had nobody to preserve their inheritance in the Promised Land.[ii]
In short, we might say that Ruth and Naomi lacked rest in the land, rest in a husband and a home and an inheritance that came with life in the Promised Land. Naomi even hints at the desire for rest in 1:9, “The LORD grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Would the Lord answer this prayer for rest?
Making our way through chapter two last week, we got a glimmer of hope that maybe he will.[iii] Boaz, the worthy man from the clan of Elimelech showed up (Ruth 2:1). He protected Ruth. He showed her incredible grace. He provided more than enough food for Ruth and Naomi. And wouldn’t you know it, he’s even one of their relatives, one of their redeemers. Could Boaz be the one to bring them rest?
Chapter three opens with this question lingering in the air. Ruth gleaned until the end of both the barley and the wheat harvests, 2:23 tells us. So roughly two months have passed, but without any further advances by Boaz. That’s not a negative reflection on Boaz, as we’ll soon find out; it’s only to say that we as readers wonder, “How far will Boaz’s kindness go? Will he sacrifice anything further? He’s acted so graciously to Ruth, will he also provide her and Naomi rest?”
Scene 1: Naomi Wants Rest for Ruth
As we enter the first scene of chapter three, Naomi seems to be wondering the same thing. She still wants rest for Ruth, but would Boaz provide it? Verse 1…
1Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well [or, good] with you? 2Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3Wash 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. 4But 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.” 5And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”
So Naomi wants rest for Ruth (Ruth 3:1). The rest she has in mind is a husband and a home (Ruth 1:9). Boaz has entered the picture. He’s a worthy man. He shows them favor (Ruth 2:10, 13). He happens to be a close relative, one of their redeemers, a go’el (Ruth 2:20). And if you recall, one way among others that a go’el could redeem a relative was by marrying the deceased relative’s widow (cf. Deut 25:5-10). Remember, during this stage in Israel’s history, marriage and procreation were crucial aspects to the covenant. There was importance to the family line.
So Naomi starts putting the two together—rest for Ruth in a husband and a home; Boaz is one of our kinsmen-redeemers. Lights go on; Naomi has a plan. But we’re left wondering what kind of plan this really is! Anoint and dress yourself and under the cover of night go “uncover his feet and lie down”?! Really Naomi?! “Uncover his feet and lie down”—those words sometimes carry strong sexual overtones in Scripture.[iv]
Naomi’s instructions cause us to sit upright in our chair and start wondering what she’s suggesting. Excuse me? Does she know the risks involved here for Ruth? Does she know the temptation she’s forcing upon Boaz? Is this another “What-are-you-doing-Naomi?” kind of moment (cf. Ruth 1:11, 15)? But before jumping to too many conclusions, let’s give the details a closer look.
True, the language can carry sexual overtones. But none of these words have to be taken in that way; and there’s good reason to believe that we shouldn’t take them in that way at least in what Naomi intends for Ruth to communicate to Boaz.[v]
First of all, the exact Hebrew word form behind “feet” appears in only one other place, Daniel 10:6, where it clearly refers to the legs as opposed to the arms.[vi] Also, others have also shown that more specifically, the Hebrew behind “feet” refers to the place where his feet laid.[vii] Ruth was to uncover that place, where his feet lay, and nothing more. Verse 8 also says that Boaz finds her literally lying near the place of his feet. To assume they’re cuddling under the covers reads more into the text than what is actually present in the text.
Second, to this point nothing in the story implies that Ruth would give-in so easily to Naomi’s plan if it involved throwing herself at Boaz like a prostitute. Rather, Ruth is presented as a woman who remains firm in following the Lord even when Naomi doesn’t seem to be (cf. Ruth 1:16-17). Third, Boaz—who’s a “worthy man”—ends up praising Ruth for her actions in verse 10, even calling her a “worthy woman” in verse 11.
And finally, Naomi doesn’t seem to be asking Ruth to pretty herself in order to seduce Boaz. Putting on her cloak doesn’t mean putting on her best evening wear.[viii] Besides, what’s Boaz going to see in the dark? Also, the same series of words—washing, anointing, and changing clothes—appears in 2 Samuel 12:20. David is mourning for his son. But once he finds out his son died, he washes, anoints himself, and changes his clothes. And that act signals that his time of mourning has ended. In this culture, widows wore “garments of widowhood” while they mourned the loss of their husband. We see this with Tamar in Genesis 38:14, 19. If 2 Samuel 12 is analogous to this situation, Naomi wants Ruth to show Boaz that her time of mourning has ended.
So, I don’t take Naomi to be encouraging Ruth into a sexual act. She wants Ruth to make it abundantly clear to Boaz that she’s ready for marriage. Perhaps this is why Boaz hasn’t made any further advances. He’s giving Ruth the time she needs to mourn the loss of her husband.
That doesn’t mean that Naomi isn’t taking a huge risk with this plan, as well as possibly jeopardizing Ruth’s reputation. It’s happening at night instead of during broad day. Not only would a woman be approaching a man about marriage, but a servant would be approaching her master, a foreigner would be approaching an Israelite. The odds of this going over well aren’t in Ruth’s favor.
More than that, Naomi wants to communicate one, innocent message: “Boaz, you marry this girl; she’s ready.” But that still depends on Boaz receiving her message that way? He could misunderstand Ruth’s actions; and he could take advantage of Ruth—after all, isn’t this happening during the spiritually dark days of the judges. Knowing Boaz from earlier, that’s not likely. More likely is that he could take Ruth to be seeking some kind of favor and run her off. After all, weren’t Moabite women known for this in Numbers 25? So there’s still plenty of tension with the ambiguity here.
And the tension is worse than you think. We’ve been here before in the Bible. In Genesis 19:34-37, Lot’s daughters get their dad drunk, so they can each go to him at night to continue the family line. A very shameful situation; and it’s out of that incestuous ordeal that the Moabites come about. Ruth is a Moabite. Any reader of Scripture is going, “Oh crud. Is this going to be another one of those? Come on, Ruth, we’re counting on you to make a better ending to this story.”
In Genesis 38, Judah refuses to give Tamar his son to continue the family line. So Tamar changes out of her “garments of widowhood” and puts on the clothes of a prostitute, in order to seduce Judah to continue the family line. Again, shameful. If you’re in tune with the rest of Scripture, you’re freaking out right now in the book of Ruth: “No, no, no! This cannot go that way! Boaz, I expect a better ending to this story!”
We’re meant to feel the tension, the awkwardness of it all, because this story turns out differently than those did. This story shows us how a worthy man and a worthy woman full of the Lord’s kindness respond in a situation like this one that has “Risk!” written all over it, that has temptation written all over it. The story is meant to contrast previous stories in Israel that weren’t so full of kindness, that weren’t so full of loyalty, that weren’t so full of purity. So in contrast to those stories, this story should encourage the covenant community to emulate the strong, loyal character of Ruth and Boaz.
Scene 2: Ruth Proposes that Boaz Marry Her; He Accepts
To our great relief comes scene number two, where Ruth basically just tells Boaz, “Marry me.” She follows through with Naomi’s plan in verses 6-9, but she makes sure that Boaz gets the message right. Verse 6…
6So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. 7And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry [meaning in a good state; doesn’t mean he’s in a drunken stupor], he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. 8At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! 9He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”
Here’s where we find the significance of everything that just happened. Here we find the whole point of uncovering Boaz’s legs. Ruth’s words tell us the point: “spread your wings over your servant.” Two really important things here.
One is that Boaz used very similar words in 2:12—“The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings [same word] you have come to take refuge!” That was Boaz’s blessing to Ruth. Ruth is basically telling Boaz, “Alright, time to put your money where your mouth is. You exemplify Yahweh’s protecting care by spreading your wings over me.” So the focus is on Boaz to see whether he will exemplify Yahweh, who comes to help the helpless and commits himself to her well-being.
Two, there’s a play on words here, a double meaning. The word behind “wings” can also refer to the edges of one’s garment—like a cloak that Boaz would cover his legs with at night. For a man to cast the edge of his garment over a woman was not just signaling a desire to protect her, but a desire to commit himself to her in marriage. So what’s Ruth saying? “Marry me; you’re our redeemer!”
Later on in Scripture, in Ezekiel 16:8, we see this between Yahweh and Israel: “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine.” The whole point of uncovering Boaz’s legs was to create the symbolic gesture for marriage, and in a way that we would see Boaz exemplify the Lord himself. How does he respond? Let’s keep reading to find out in verse 10…
10And he said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. [In other words, she wasn’t chasing after attractiveness, romance, or money.] 11And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. 12And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. 13Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the LORD lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.” 14So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city.
What a relief! Both Boaz and Ruth remain loyal to the Lord and kind to each other. Boaz even calls Ruth’s action a “kindness,” a hesed. It’s not just something she’s doing for herself but something she’s doing both for her dead husband and for Naomi. That’s why Ruth gives the reason she does in her marriage proposal: “for you are a redeemer.” You’re the man to preserve the inheritance and perpetuate my husband’s name in the Promised Land. You’re the one who could provide Elimelech and Mahlon an heir. For Ruth, marriage is for the Lord’s kingdom of kindness advancing, not just fulfilling personal dreams and satisfying romantic desires. Oh that our marriages and families and friendships would be full of this kind of resolve and strategy: how can we advance the Lord’s kingdom of kindness in this city?!
Ruth exemplifies the Lord’s kindness working in his people
Ruth is again exemplifying the Lord’s hesed. His kindness, his committed love, is in her and moving her to act. We know this sort of kindness is ultimately the Lord’s doing. What we see in Ruth is the Lord fulfilling his purpose through the kindness and covenant loyalty his people show to one another. In his book Five Festal Garments, Barry Webb writes the following…
…[the book of Ruth] shows us that those whom God saves by signs and wonders, as at the exodus, he continues to save by his providential workings in their day-to-day lives, and that his kindness (hesed), by which Israel is built up, is to be found not only in great national deliverances, but in the way his covenant people treat one another on a daily basis.[ix]
The same is true for you and I, brothers and sisters. The Lord’s kindness that builds us up, is to be found not only in the great and the miraculous, but in the way you and I treat one another on a daily basis. It was the Lord’s kindness that saved us. Romans 11:22 teaches that it was God’s kindness that grafted us into the promise. Galatians 5:22 lists “kindness” among the fruit of the Spirit. If we’re not kind people, we have to question whether the Spirit is truly in us. If he’s in us, the Bible says we’ll show to others the sort of kindness that God shows us.
How are you showing the Lord’s kindness to one another on a daily basis? Husbands, how is the Lord’s kindness leading you to sacrifice and serve your wife? Wives, how does your husband get to witness the Lord’s kindness working through you on a daily basis? Brothers, does your kindness display itself in self-control and sexual purity and respect for women like we see in Boaz? Is your loyalty to the Lord at a place where you would honor the woman if you found yourself in a situation like this? Or would the cover of darkness and aloneness give way to something perverted. If you think it would, come out of the darkness and bring the matter into the light. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The church is here to walk with you in repentance.
Sisters, is your kindness willing to take the necessary risks to see your sisters in Christ provided for? Are we willing to make strategic choices on a day-to-day basis so that the Lord’s kingdom of kindness advances? What do those strategic choices look like? What will they look like this Christmas as you gather with family members and friends? Some of you will likely be tested in this area, especially since family gatherings can be emotionally charged. What impact might it have on somebody’s life if you sought to exemplify the Lord’s hesed, his kindness, his extravagant grace?
Ruth’s concern is for Naomi at all costs. Boaz’s concern is for Ruth and Naomi at all costs. We can learn from the relentless kindness manifested here between two worthy individuals in God’s covenant people.
Boaz is the Servant who willingly redeems Ruth
But we also learn something remarkable through this whole situation with Boaz. Boaz is the redeemer of the story. But what kind of redeemer? A few qualities carry over from chapter two. Boaz continues to show compassion to a foreigner. He extends the Lord’s blessing to her even though she once was not part of Israel (Ruth 3:10). Boaz also continues to protect Ruth. He says, “Do not fear,” in verse 11. In verse 14 he protects Ruth from shame. Boaz got the message right, but that doesn’t mean others would. So he says, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”
Boaz also continues his generous provision. In verse 15 he has Ruth hold out her garment—again, this is no fancy evening attire. It’s big enough for him to stuff it with six measures of barley. In 2:18 Ruth picked up the fifty pound sack, but this one weighs so much that Boaz has to put it on her himself. Later we discover that this was Boaz’s way of telling Naomi, “Hey, I got the message! Loud and clear.”
But we also see a few new things we didn’t see as clearly before. One of them rises out of the fact that there’s a redeemer who’s even closer than Boaz. There’s another relative on deck before Boaz can step up to the plate. This shows us that Boaz is a man of integrity. He wants to marry Ruth, but not in a way that would compromise the Lord’s word. But even more, it shows us that Boaz was not obligated to redeem Ruth in the first place. He willingly obligates himself to redeem Ruth.
That willingness to redeem her, then manifests itself in what he does next. He so commits himself to her, that he becomes her servant. Remember who Boaz is: Boaz is her lord; Ruth is his servant. But in verse 11, Boaz so commits himself to her that he says, “I will do for you all that you ask.” And the rest of the story shows Boaz doing just that: he serves and does all that’s necessary to ensure Ruth is redeemed. Even if others in Israel won’t fulfill their obligation to the covenant, he will for Ruth’s sake, for Naomi’s sake. In fact, he refuses to rest until Ruth and Naomi are redeemed.
Scene 3: Boaz Refuses to Rest until Ruth & Naomi are Redeemed
Which brings us to the final scene three: Boaz refuses to rest until Ruth and Naomi are redeemed. Chapter two ended with Ruth bringing good news to Naomi. Chapter three ends with Ruth bringing good news to Naomi. Verse 16…
16And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’”
Take note of that. That’s why I titled this series, From Emptiness to Fullness. Chapter one ended with Naomi saying, “The Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:21). Boaz is signaling to Naomi that the Lord is about to make her more full than she ever was before. “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back to your mother-in-law empty.’”
Something to consider: in the Bible, seven is the number of completeness. It grows out of the Lord creating the world in six days and then resting on the seventh. Is Boaz saying more to Ruth and Naomi than what’s on the surface? Is he saying, “Here’s six measures of barley in anticipation for the greater seventh blessing of rest—the rest she prayed for, the rest in him becoming Ruth’s husband and home?”[x]
Verse 18, “She replied, ‘Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.’” Notice the correlation with how the chapter began and how the chapter ends. “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you…?” and now “My daughter, wait…for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”[xi] The idea is that Boaz is the type of servant-redeemer who willingly refuses to rest until he brings his people rest in their redemption. What is Ruth to do? Wait upon him to accomplish all that’s necessary to redeem her and bring her rest.
So Boaz isn’t obligated to redeem Ruth, but he willingly chooses to redeem Ruth. Boaz is Ruth’s lord, but he chooses the path of a servant. As that servant, Boaz refuses to rest until he brings Ruth and Naomi rest. Is this not another pointer to what we find in Jesus Christ? Again, I take Boaz to be a type of Christ. He’s a figure who points forward to the realities bound up with Jesus but in a far superior way.
To begin, God’s Son was not obligated to redeem us. There was nothing about us or in us—something we did—that obligated Christ to come to our rescue. Ephesians 2:1-3 says we were dead in trespasses and sins; we followed the course of this world; we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, and were by nature children of wrath. We were God’s enemies. We couldn’t participate in God’s rest, because we rebelled against him. There’s nothing that obligates God to rescue rebels. If anything, God’s holiness and his love for his glory obligated him to condemn us. But in his love God then chooses to redeem us in Christ. Christ willingly chooses to redeem us because of his great love and kindness, not because we were so loveable. Christ willingly obligates himself to us.
Furthermore, in choosing to become our redeemer, our sovereign Lord took the form of a servant. His coming as a child in a manger speaks volumes to the lowly state he chose to take. He was Lord of the universe, but he shed his garments, wrapped himself in a towel and washed the disciples’ feet. Philippians 2:6-8 says that “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus obeyed his Father even to the point of death on a cross.
Luke’s Gospel tells us that when his time came, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). His kindness toward us led to absolute resolve to overcome every obstacle until the work of redemption was finished. He not only face temptations in the flesh, he not only endured the sufferings we face, he not only bore the shame we wear, he did it all without sin. That qualified him to then stand in our place under the wrath of God until he cried, “It is finished!” Jesus’ love obligated himself to us whatever it would cost him. And by so doing, he accomplished all that’s necessary to redeem us.
Through that relentless kindness that gives everything for our sake, Jesus also brings us rest—rest in a husband and a home. Christ is the church’s covenant husband, Ephesians 5:32 tells us. Not too long ago, we had a memory verse from John 14:2-3, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
In Christ, we find true marriage, a true home, a true and lasting inheritance. In other words, in Christ we find our true rest. He brings rest not just temporarily in the Promised Land, but eternally in a new heaven and new earth. He is our true security, our only hope for deliverance, blessing, relief from the curse, relief from our enemies. His cross secured our rest (cf. Heb 4), the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our rest (Eph 1:14), and Jesus’ future coming will complete our rest. Revelation 14:13 says this for those in Christ: “‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’”
Or, similarly in Revelation 7:15-16, “…they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” That’s true rest.
That’s the kind of rest we need. This world is so wrought full of pain and unrest. The holiday season is a time of cheer for some. But for many people, it’s a reminder of pain, sorrow. It’s a reminder of what things are supposed to be like but aren’t. We’re around all kinds of brokenness in our families and friends. We gather at the table, and some of us are just looking for excuses to leave. Others of us gather at the table and don’t see the faces of loved ones we want to see. It’s not a restful time for many. It doesn’t feel like home. And this season is just one among others where our rest seems altogether undone.
But Christ, brothers and sisters, has come. He is the ultimate Redeemer. Christ willingly became our redeemer when not obligated to. Christ did so by taking the role of a servant when he is our Lord. And, he refused to rest in his earthly mission until he accomplished our redemption and rest in that redemption. Our worst problem threatening rest is behind us. Now we have nothing but promise to look forward to. Boaz gave Noami six measures of barley to signal, “Hey, more is coming.” Jesus has given the Holy Spirit as a down payment to say more is coming. Eternal rest is coming. Be patient. Wait for me.
What, then, is our response? Like Ruth, we must seek the Lord’s refuge through his appointed redeemer. We cannot just sit here unresponsive to the word of God; we must respond by giving every loyalty we have over to Christ. We must do everything we can to make him our Redeemer. We cannot just know him to be the Redeemer, we must make him our Redeemer if we want true and lasting rest. That comes with trusting in him.
To resist him will be to find yourself without rest for eternity. Revelation 14:10-11 says, “he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night.” So trust in him. Escape the wrath to come. Keep running to him. He’s the only Redeemer who is able to save us.
We must also act in hesed toward others. The Lord’s kindness and committed love should become part of the rhythm of our lives. Kindness should extend to everything. There should be an aura of kindness about God’s people. Because we’ve been shown so much kindness in Christ, we can willingly love and serve those our flesh may be less inclined to love and serve. We can willingly choose to show kindness to our enemies and seek to do them good. We can be a community of people who so obligates themselves to each other, that we’ll give whatever it costs to see somebody made whole in Christ. We can embrace other people’s problems and make them our own until they too are resting in Christ.
And finally, we must wait for Christ to finish the good work he began and bring us that final rest. Jesus’ first coming in humility set in motion an age that cannot be reversed. His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave further sealed that the final days of God’s kingdom are upon us. Soon, he will come again in glory to complete the work he began. Until then, we must faithfully wait.
Waiting doesn’t mean inactivity. Quite the opposite: it means devoting ourselves to his will and his kingdom until it arrives in all its fullness. It means working harder at the things he loves, knowing that the rest he is bringing is better than any rest that we could manufacture ourselves. It means resting in his sovereignty over all things and resting in his omnipotent ability to bring his purposes to pass, even through imperfect people and sinful situations. Pray for the kingdom of kindness to come. Trust that the Lord’s work will finally be complete on earth as it is in heaven. In the same way he was working for Ruth and Naomi’s good, he is working for our good.
[i]Dean Ulrich, From Famine to Fullness: The Gospel according to Ruth (Philipsburg: P&R, 2007), 87.
[ii]Marrying and having children was the way to maintain inheritance and to perpetuate your name (cf. Exod 32:13; Num 27:1-11). For further explanation, see the work by Barry Danylak, Redeeming Singleness (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 55-83.
[iii]For the sermon on Ruth 2, visit the following link here.
[iv]The Hebrew behind our English “uncover” is often used in contexts of uncovering someone’s nakedness (e.g., Gen 9:21; Lev 18:6; Deut 22:30). The same is true for “lying down” with someone (e.g., Gen 19:32; 39:7; Exod 22:18; Lev 15:18). Others have argued that the word translated “feet” in the ESV derives from the Hebrew root regel, which can refer to genital area (e.g., Exod 4:25; Ezek 16:25). However, according to HALOT, this is a rarer usage of regel.
[v]It seems to me that there are multiple layers to understanding the narrative. (1) There is the actual intent of Naomi. Naomi’s intent is admittedly more difficult to determine. Naomi may intend for Ruth to give herself to Boaz in sexual promiscuity, and then Ruth takes her counsel but then acts in a way that’s faithful to the Lord (and Boaz). Such a reading views Naomi continuing to act as faithless Israel was acting during the days of the judges (cf. Ruth 1:1), and makes her one who follows in the footsteps of Lot’s daughters and Tamar. However, there is also good reason to believe that, following the hope awakened in Naomi in Ruth 2:20, that Naomi intends something more innocent with the plan even if she fails to devise a plan in the wisest manner. (2) There is also the narrator’s intent. By the unique (and fairly ambiguous) expressions selected over others that were available, the narrator seems to have an intent that extends beyond the story of Ruth. It seems that the narrator wants the reader to connect the present story with others in Israel’s history that involved similar actions to preserve the family line (e.g., Gen 19; 39). However, this story ends up finishing differently than those did for the purpose of provoking covenant faithfulness in Israel.
[vi]So also Daniel I. Block, Judges, Ruth, NAC (Nashville: B&H, 1999), 686.
[vii]See esp. Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., The Book of Ruth, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 203n30.
[viii]That they were Ruth’s “best clothes” as the NIV has it seems to be stating too much. Block’s comments seem reasonable in Block, Judges, Ruth, 283: “On the contrary, there seems to be little point in dressing up to go out in the dark. According to Exodus 22:5-6, poor people used this garment for a blanket at night. Since Ruth was a poor person going out to spend the night in the field, she will have needed this blanket to keep warm.”
[ix]Barry G. Webb, Five Festal Garments: Christian Reflections on the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, NSBT 10 (Downers Grove: IVP, 2000), 53.
[x]Regarding the symbolism behind the “six” measures of barley, see Ian M. Duguid, Esther & Ruth, REC (Philipsburg: P&R, 2005), 175.
[xi]So also Webb, Five Festal Garments, 46.
More in Ruth: From Emptiness to Fullness
December 18, 2016God Keeps Promise to the Royal Line
December 4, 2016God Awakens Hope through a Gracious Redeemer
November 27, 2016God Brings Bread to Bethlehem