[CF Devotionals] 2008-09-28 - Ruth: Ruth Takes Action

Installment 25 ~ Chapter 3, Part 3

Verses 1-5, continued

Now that Naomi knows a kinsman has taken interest in Ruth, she instructs the young widow to take action that will draw even further interest from Boaz. Keep in mind that the recommended actions were appropriate as well as modest. They were intended to give Boaz the opportunity to pursue Ruth with marriage in mind. Ruth gave her assent to Naomi’s instructions. Huey notes:

“Naomi instructed Ruth to beautify herself according to the custom of the times by washing (cf. Isa.1:16) and perfuming herself (“anoint,” NASB). Then after putting on her cn (NIV, RSV; however, it is unlikely that an impoverished Ruth would have had best clothes; the Hebrew means only a “garment” or “mantle” 1
“I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put leather sandals on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was fine flour, honey and olive oil. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen” (Ezekiel 16:9-13).

It must be noted that there is a view among a number of scholars that Naomi was suggesting Ruth become sexually involved with Boaz. While this may seem harsh, the Hebrew actually seems to support this view. The language in the balance of the chapter may even support this position. Keep in mind that even in scripture, we find the Law states where there has been sexual involvement then the couple must marry. The main problem I find with this position is, as we will see in Chapter 4, Boaz was not in a position to marry Ruth yet and therefore, based on his nature, would not want to take advantage of Ruth. And while Ruth wouldn’t understand this, one would assume Naomi would.

Warren Gage actually draws a parallel here between the actions of Ruth and those of Lot’s daughters, but he also notes a significant distinction which also speaks to the understanding of the tenor of the passage. So whatever is happening, it is consistent with God’s movement and Ruth’s purity.

“The artistry of the author of Ruth is demonstrated by the manner in which he literarily contrasts the account of Ruth upon the threshing floor with that of Lot’s daughter in the cave. Direct allusions are few and circumstantial, while the more consistent patterning is consciously contrastive.

First, while the Genesis account is contrary to the law (incest with father), Ruth is consistent with the law (levirate marriage). The circumstances of both accounts suggest moral jeopardy. Lot’s daughter conceives by her father (Gen 19:36). Boaz is Ruth’s “kinsman” (Ruth 3:2). By having Ruth “uncover” Boaz’s feet in the nighttime, the author invokes the word most commonly used in the proscription of incestuous relations in the law (But the idiom is carefully modified to preserve Ruth’s purity).

Second, the Genesis account emphasizes the passivity of Lot and the activity of Lot’s daughters. Lot “did not know when she lay down or when she arose” (Gen 19:35). Lot’s daughters made their father drunk (Gen 19:33). The story of Ruth, on the other hand, emphasizes the activity of Boaz and the passivity of Ruth. Boaz is the one who will tell Ruth “what you shall do” (Ruth 3:4; cf. 3:18), and Ruth simply follows the direction of Naomi (Ruth 3:5) and Boaz (Ruth 3:13).

Third, the posture of Ruth is deliberately contrasted to that of Lot’s daughter. Ruth lies at Boaz’s feet until he awakens to consciousness (Ruth 3:8-9). Nothing unseemly passes between them in the night. Lot’s daughter lies sexually with her father (Gen 19:33).

Finally, the author of Ruth contrasts the reception by Ruth of seed with the conception of Lot’s daughter. While Lot’s daughter receives“seed” from her father (Gen 19:34), Ruth accepts grain from Boaz, emblematically anticipating her later conception but without the moral taint attributed to her “Moabite” ancestress.” 2

Comments or Questions?

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1 Huey, F. B., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, “Ruth,” Zondervan I nteractive Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1990

2 Gage, Warren Austin, Westminster Theological Journal, “Ruth upon the Threshing Floor and the Sin of Gibeah: A Biblical-Theological Study,” 51.2, Fall 1989, p. 373-374.