RUTH 3: The Proposal
No immorality occurred between Boaz and Ruth, as some falsely allege.
Andre Resner, faculty member of Abilene Christian University, in his article ‘Christmas at Matthew’s House’ (Wineskins, Nov. 1992), accused Ruth and Boaz of committing fornication on this occasion.
Concerning “dear, sweet Ruth,” Resner asked, “Well, just what was she doing out there at the threshing floor at Boaz’s feet? And why did he want her to stay there all night, yet leave before daylight, and not let anybody see her? Hmmm.”
This wicked and false accusation is easily refuted from the text of the book of Ruth.
From the time that Naomi lost her sons, she had hope that her daughters-in-law would be able to find husbands (Ruth 1:8-9).
Naomi’s plan in Ruth 3:1-4 was designed to bring about an honorable marriage between Ruth and Boaz.
Naomi and Ruth did not pursue a scheme by which Boaz would be enticed into immorality and then become entrapped so that he would have to marry Ruth.
Naomi, Ruth and Boaz were all faithful servants of God and would not do evil that good may come (Rom. 3:8).
Naomi instructed Ruth to uncover Boaz’s feet and to lie down there at his feet, not beside him (Ruth 3:4).
The purpose was for Ruth to engage in a verbal conversation with Boaz, not for her to engage in immoral behavior with him.
Naomi said to Ruth, “And it shall be, when he lies down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do” (Ruth 3:4).
Ruth agreed to do exactly what Naomi said (Ruth 3:5), and then she “did according to all that her mother-in-law bade her” (Ruth 3:6).
Ruth did nothing more than what Naomi suggested.
The wording of Ruth 3:6 does not allow for the possibility that any fornication took place between Ruth and Boaz that night.
“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” (Ruth 3:7).
Ruth uncovered Boaz’s feet, nothing else.
And she lay down at his feet, nowhere else.
It should also be noted that Boaz had a “merry heart” from his evening meal in Ruth 3:7, not due to drunkenness as some others falsely allege. (See also Gen. 43:34; Judges 19:21-22; 1 Kings 21:7).
This lying down at a person’s feet was undoubtedly an accepted custom of that day.
The fact that nothing immoral occurred is plainly revealed by the fact that Boaz did not even know that anyone was there, let alone that it was Ruth.
“And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet” (Ruth 3:8).
Ruth obviously had not even touched Boaz to wake him.
Boaz was awakened by something other than Ruth’s presence, and it was only when he awoke that he discovered that a woman was there, and he had to ask her who she was (Ruth 3:9).
Ruth replied, “I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman” (Ruth 3:9).
Ruth’s request here was absolutely not for Boaz to do something immoral.
This word “skirt” (Strong’s #3671, kanaph) literally means “an edge or extremity” and can refer to the border of a garment (Num. 15:38; 1 Sam. 24:4, 5, 11; Hag. 2:12), but is also the word commonly used for a bird’s wing (See Gen. 1:21; Lev. 1:17; Deut. 32:11; Job 39:13; Psa. 78:27; 148:10; Pro. 23:5; Eccl. 10:20).
This word is frequently used as a figure for protective care (See Exod. 19:4; Psa. 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4; Mal. 4:2; and Jesus used the same analogy though in a different language in Matt. 23:37 and Luke 13:34).
In fact, this is the precise context in which Boaz had used this very same word in speaking with Ruth in Ruth 2:12: “The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.”
Ruth was now using the same analogy to request Boaz to bring her under his protective wing as her husband, making her meaning unmistakable as she pointed out his rights and duties as a “near kinsman.”
Boaz clearly understood this to be the meaning of Ruth’s words, because his response was to promise her to do everything legally and morally possible to make Ruth his wife (Ruth 3:10-13).
Boaz was delighted that Ruth wanted him for a husband instead of a younger man (Ruth 3:10), and he further emphasized his appreciation for her honorable conduct by stating that “all the city of my people does know that thou art a virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:11).
This description leaves no room whatsoever for any hint of impropriety in Ruth’s behavior that night with Boaz.
The fact that Boaz told Ruth to lie down where she was until the morning (Ruth 3:13) was not an invitation for her to do something evil, but was for Ruth’s physical protection.
It was the middle of the night and she did not need to attempt to walk home alone at that hour.
That nothing improper took place between Ruth and Boaz is revealed in the fact that Ruth “lay at his feet until the morning” (Ruth 3:14).
She did not budge from Boaz’s feet, so nothing immoral occurred.
The fact that Boaz told Ruth in the morning not to make it known that she had been there (Ruth 3:14) was simply the wise way to prevent any unnecessary and false rumors from getting started (Pro. 29:11; Eph. 4:27).
It should also be noted that if Boaz and Ruth had been involved in an illicit relationship, Boaz would have been obligated to marry Ruth on those grounds (Deut. 22:28-29), and the “nearer kinsman” would not have been given the opportunity to marry Ruth as he was given in Ruth 4:1-10.
Finally, God blessed Boaz, Ruth and Naomi for what was done and all the people recognized that God looked favorably upon all of them for this marriage (Ruth 4:11-17).
God looked upon this matter so favorably that he brought David and ultimately His Son Jesus Christ through the lineage of Obed, the child that was born to Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 4:17-22; Matt. 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38).
It is preposterous and totally unreasonable to suggest that God would look so favorably upon this relationship if it were the product of willful transgression of His law (See Heb. 10:26-27).
The manner in which God views intentionally planned wickedness is clearly portrayed in Acts 5:1-11 when He struck Ananias and Sapphira dead (See also His treatment of Balaam and Barak, Num. 22-25; 31:1-8; Rev. 2:14).
No, there was nothing immoral or indecent at all in the behavior of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
- Ruth showed that she had faith in God and not in her own understanding when she was willing to marry Boaz instead of finding her own husband. Applying Proverbs 12:15, how was she wise?
- What was Naomi wishing for Ruth (Ruth 3:1)
- What did Naomi tell Ruth to do after Boaz had gone to sleep in the threshing floor (Ruth 3:2-4)?
- How did Ruth respond to Naomi’s instructions (Ruth 3:5?
- What did Ruth do after Boaz went to sleep (Ruth 3:7)?
- At midnight when Boaz woke up afraid, saw Ruth, and asked her what she wanted, what did she call herself (Ruth 3:9)?
- What did she ask him to do (Ruth 3:9)?
- What reason did she give for asking Boaz to do this?
- According to the Law of Moses, who had to marry a young widow (Deut. 25:5-10)? Why?
- What way did Boaz Ruth showed more kindness in the end than at the beginning (Ruth 3:10)?
- Why could Boaz not immediately do what Ruth asked (Ruth 3:13)?
- Judging from his answer to her, what kind of man do you understand Boaz to be?
- Ruth didn’t try to make up excuses to marry someone different, or invent her own rules. She obeyed God’s law for the Israelites, and submitted herself to Naomi.
- What quality of heart did this show? Philippians 2:3-13