Matthew Poole's Commentary
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?By Naomi’s advice, Ruth lieth at Boaz’s feet, Ruth 3:1-7. He awaking commendeth what she had done, and acknowledgeth the right of a kinsman; tells her there was a nearer kinsman, to whom he would offer her, who refusing, he would redeem her, Ruth 3:8-13. Sends her away with six measures of barley, Ruth 3:14-18.
Rest, i.e. a life of rest, and comfort, and safety, under the care of a good husband. The question supposeth an affirmative answer: I will seek it, as my duty binds me.
And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor.Which was in a place covered at the top, but open elsewhere, whither Ruth might easily come. And this work of winnowing corn was usually begun or ended with a feast, as may be gathered both from Ruth 3:7, and from other instances, wherein they used to do so upon like occasions; and this work was to begin this evening, and, as some think, was done only in the evenings, when the heat grew less, and the wind began to blow. See Genesis 3:8.
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.Thy raiment, to wit, thy best raiment. All this was done to render herself more amiable in the eyes of Boaz. Object. But Boaz could not see her, the whole business being to be transacted by night.
Answ. First, It was begun in the beginning of the night, as soon as Boaz had supped and composed himself to rest, as appears from Ruth 3:4,7, when there was so much light left as might discover her to him. Secondly, There being a solemn feast this evening, as is very probably thought, and the master of the feast having invited his labouring people to it, and Ruth among the rest, it is likely that both she and the rest did put themselves into their best dress upon that occasion, as the manner is even at this day; and so he had opportunity enough to see her.
Make not thyself known unto the man, to wit, not in so familiar a way, as she was appointed to do, so as he might know her, in the sense in which that word is sometimes used.
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.When he lieth down, to rest or sleep, as upon such occasions they used to do in those hot countries.
Thou shalt go in: though Naomi and Ruth seem to be virtuous and modest women, and their intent was lawful and honest; yet there seems to be a manifold irregularity in the manner of it. First, It seems to be against that modesty which should be eminent in that sex, and in unmarried persons. Secondly, Against honesty, both because it was an injury to another person, who was nearer akin, whose right this was; which Naomi could not be ignorant of; and because it was a preposterous and precipitant method, not agreeable either to the rules of Scripture, or the usage of well-mannered nations, or that decency which even nature requires. Thirdly, Against prudence; for it might have proved the occasion, as of many sins, so of great shame to all of them; and a means to alienate his affection from her, which she sought to engage. And though there be some circumstances which alleviate the fact, as the experience which Naomi had of the wisdom and sobriety both of Boaz and of Ruth, yet she knew not what the event would be; and that there was something of shamefulness in the thing, may be gathered both from Naomi’s choice of the night for it, as if it were a work of darkness, and from Boaz’s fear lest this should be known, Ruth 3:14. And it is an aggravation of it, that this course was unnecessary, and she had a plain and likely way, which was directly to address herself to Boaz, or the next kinsman, and to require the duty which by God’s law he was bound to perform, and this before witnesses, as Boaz did. And her clandestine proceeding seems to have arisen from a distrust of God’s providence to bring about what she desired in the ordinary way.
Uncover his feet; remove the clothes which were upon his feet; thereby to awaken him.
What thou shalt do; how thou shouldst carry thyself, or what course thou shalt take to obtain that marriage which belongs unto thee. Only there were some rites to be observed, and circumstances to be done, before they came to the conclusion of the marriage, about which Boaz would instruct her.
And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do.The confidence she had in Naomi’s wisdom and piety, and true love to her, made her ready to follow her advice, wherein she was the more excusable, because she did not understand the laws and customs of the country, as Naomi did.
And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Had eaten and drunk, to wit, liberally, as the manner was upon those occasions. See Judges 9:27 Psalm 4:7 Isaiah 9:3.
And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet.At midnight; he did not discover her sooner, though she did not uncover his feet, being it seems in a deep sleep, as is usual after feasts, and she doing no more that her mother commanded her, and using no words or gestures which might provoke his lust; wherein she showed her temperance and modesty, and that what she did was only by her mother’s instigation and advice, which plainly appeared from her desire expressed, Ruth 3:9, which he knew, she being a stranger, was unacquainted with. And this was the reason why Boaz was not in the least offended with her, but only commends her virtue, without any reflection upon her for this fact.
Turned himself; from the place where he lay, he raised and turned himself towards the feet, to learn who or what was there. Or, he was troubled, or afraid, or wondered; for the Hebrew word being but once used, is diversely rendered.
A woman lay at his feet; which he might understand, either by some glimmerings of light which were after midnight, which discovered her; or rather, by her voice, or out of her own mouth, who being asked, told him so much in general, before he made particular inquiry.
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.Spread thy skirt over thine hand-maid, i.e. take me to be thy wife, and perform the duty of an husband to me. This phrase is used in this sense Deu 22:30 27:20 Ezekiel 16:8. Either, first, Because the wife is admitted into the same bed with her husband, and both are covered with one and the same covering. Or, secondly, From an ancient ceremony of the husband’s throwing the skirt of his garment over her head, in token both of her subjection, 1 Corinthians 11:5,6,10, and appropriation to him, being hereby as it were hid from the eyes of others; see Genesis 20:16; and also of that protection which he oweth to her: see Ruth 2:12.
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.Thou hast showed more kindness; both to thy deceased husband, the continuance of whose name and memory thou preferrest before the satisfaction of thy own lust; and to thy mother-in-law, whose commands thou hast punctually obeyed, even with thy own hazard in so doubtful an enterprise.
Thou followedst not young men, to seek thy marriage either here, or in thy own country, as thou wouldst have done if thou hadst not preferred obedience to God’s command, before the pleasing of thyself.
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.Fear not; think not that I despise and reject thee, because I do not immediately comply with thy desire.
I will do to thee all that thou requirest, i.e. marry thee, upon the condition here following.
And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.If he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, i.e. take thee to wife, to raise up seed to his brother, as he ought to do.
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.Before one could know another, i.e. while it was yet so dark that one person could not discern another. Or, before one did know the other, i.e. before they were carnally known to one another.
Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor; he takes care to preserve not only his conscience towards God, but his reputation, and hers also, among men.
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.The veil, or, the apron, such as women ordinarily wear.
Six measures; known and usual measure: it is not determined how large those measures were, but this the nature of the thing shows, that they were no larger than one woman could carry in her veil, or apron.
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.Who art thou, my daughter? either, first, She did not distinctly know who she was, because it was dark, and so calls her daughter only in general, as elder women call the younger. But she could as easily have discerned who she was, as what her age was. Or, secondly, This is not a question of doubting, but of wonder, as if she had said, Art thou in very deed my daughter? I can hardly believe it. How comest thou hither in this manner, and thus early?
And she said, These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother in law.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.