Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?Ch. 3. Ruth appeals to Boaz to do the kinsman’s part
1. seek rest] a resting place marg.; see on Ruth 1:9. All arrangements for a marriage were made by the parents (cf. Jdg 14:2 f.); hence it was Naomi’s duty to provide for Ruth’s future. How this was done is told with fine simplicity.
And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor.2. our kinsman] See on Ruth 2:1, a different word from near kinsman (go’el) in Ruth 3:9. His relationship to Elimelech, and the friendly disposition which he had shewn, led Naomi to think of Boaz in considering ‘a resting place’ for Ruth. He might be willing to do the kinsman’s part; at any rate, she made up her mind to act courageously and in a spirit of faith. In her plan for a next of kin marriage Naomi’s only concern is for Ruth’s future; the perpetuation of the name of her dead childless son is left for Boaz to mention (Ruth 4:5; Ruth 4:10).
to-night] when the wind blows (Targ.), and the weather is cool. In Palestine a wind rises from the sea at about four o’clock in the afternoon, and lasts till half an hour before sunset. For the threshing-floor an exposed, open spot was chosen on the side or summit of a hill; here it must have lain outside the village, and to reach it Ruth had to go down the hills on which Beth-lehem stands.
Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking.3. Wash thyself … and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee] as a bride prepares herself for marriage; see Ezekiel 16:9 ff.
And it shall be, when he lieth 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.4. And it shall be] More accurately, and let it be … that thou mark; cf. 1 Samuel 10:5, 2 Samuel 5:24 in Hebr.
his feet] lit. the place of his feet, where they were covered against the cold of night. Outside this chapter the word occurs only in Daniel 10:6; cf. 1 Samuel 19:13 etc., lit. the place of his head.
And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do.
And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her.
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.7. at the end of the heap of corn] To this day peasants are accustomed to sleep on the threshing-floor in the open air.
And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet.8. and turned himself] A reflexive from of the verb, which means ‘to grasp with a twisting motion’; the verb occurs again only in Jdg 16:29 (‘took hold of’), Job 6:18 (‘are turned aside’ mg.).
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.9. spread therefore thy skirt over thy handmaid] This symbolic act denoted that the kinsman claimed the widow as his wife. Cf. Ezekiel 16:8. The custom prevailed among the early Arabs; a good illustration is given in Ṭabarî’s commentary on the Koran (Sura 4:23, forbidding men to ‘inherit women against their will’): ‘In the Jâhilîya, 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. But if she anticipated him and went off to her own people, then the disposal of her hand belonged to herself’; Robertson Smith, Kinship etc., p. 87. See also Sale’s translation of the Koran (Warne & Co.), p. 56 and note.
a near kinsman] The primary meaning of the Hebr. go’el is ‘one who enforces a claim’ which has lapsed; so ‘one who re-claims’ or ‘re-vindicates.’ Hence the verb is used of redeeming a house or field after it has been sold, or an Israelite who has been obliged to sell himself as a slave (Leviticus 25:25 ff., Leviticus 25:47 ff.), or something which has been vowed to Jehovah; in the expression go’el had-dâm, ‘the avenger of blood,’ Deuteronomy 19:6; Deuteronomy 19:12 etc., it denotes ‘one who vindicates the rights of the murdered man;’ see Driver in loc. But since a man was not as a rule able himself to redeem a right which had lapsed, the duty fell upon his family and more particularly upon his nearest relative; in this way go’el came to mean ‘the next of kin.’ Boaz, however, was not the nearest relative (Ruth 3:12), so he could not act unless the next of kin declined; nor did the Pentatenchal law require the go’el to marry the widow of the deceased in addition to redeeming his property, though custom sanctioned the marriage. Hence Ruth’s appeal to the generosity of Boaz.
And he said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich.10. thou hast shewed more kindness] At the outset Ruth had shewn her piety towards her mother in law (Ruth 2:11); now she shews it towards her husband’s family. She has declined to seek a second marriage outside, and by her action the dead will come by his rights.
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.11. I will do to thee all that thou sayest] Note Ruth 3:4 ‘he will tell thee what thou shalt do’; but Ruth herself suggested what Boaz was to tell. The coincidence was guided by Jehovah’s good providence.
all the city, lit. gate] In ancient times the gate was a place of resort for conversation and business and the administration of justice; cf. Ruth 4:1; Ruth 4:11, Genesis 23:10; Genesis 34:20, Job 29:7, Proverbs 31:23.
a virtuous woman] See Ruth 2:1 n. and Proverbs 31:10. There was no unbecoming forwardness in Ruth’s conduct; it is to be judged in accordance with the customs of the time.
And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I.12. there is a kinsman nearer than I] with a better right to do the kinsman’s part. Boaz displays a nice sense of honour, and a desire to adhere strictly to the rules of social usage.
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: 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: lie down until the morning.13. Tarry this night] as a precaution against chance perils; see Song of Solomon 5:7.
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.14. For he said] i.e. to himself, he thought; ‘if I should say’ in Ruth 1:12 has the same meaning. His thought shewed consideration and good sense.
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.15. the mantle] Only again in Isaiah 3:22; apparently a large wrap worn over the ordinary clothes.
six measures of barley] The measure to be supplied is uncertain: six seahs=two ephahs (i.e. bushels), which the Targ. gives, or six ephahs, would be too heavy to carry; hence it is suggested that six omers are meant = 3/6 of an ephah, Exodus 16:36. The gift is intended for Naomi, who would have to consent to the marriage, as standing in the relation of parent to Ruth. Mr S. A. Cook points out a parallel in a Babylonian tablet (KB. iv. P. 187, xi. lines 1–6), where the widowed mother is approached by the intending bridegroom; The Laws of Moses and the Code of H̬ammurabi, p. 75 n.
And when she came to her mother in law, she said, Who art thou, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her.16. Who art thou] i.e. how art thou? how hast thou fared? Cf. Genesis 27:18.
And she said, These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother in law.
Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.