And it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall mark the place where he shall lie, and you shall go in, and uncover his feet, and lay you down; and he will tell you what you shall do.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Uncover his feet.—More literally, as the margin, lift up the clothes that are on his feet; so LXX. and the Vulgate. We are told that the custom still prevails in Palestine of owners of crops sleeping on their threshing-floors, lying with their clothes on, but with their feet covered with a mantle.Ruth 3:4. Uncover his feet — Remove the clothes which are upon his feet; thereby to awake him; and lay thee down — She was not to lie down by his side, for that would have been immodest, but at his feet, in the posture of an humble supplicant. Had Ruth acted in any respect that in those days was judged indecent or immodest, it is most likely she would have highly displeased such a grave person as Boaz appears to have been. What she did, however, seems to us indecent, and would certainly be a very improper conduct in any woman in our days; but the general character of both Naomi and Ruth forbids us to suppose that they had any sinful intentions. And yet, as Mr. Scott observes, “when all allowances are made, perhaps neither party can be entirely exculpated. At least, though their plan was graciously rendered successful, it was not recorded for imitation in the present state of society.”Ruth 3:7-8. 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.
that thou shall mark the place where he shall lie; the spot he shall lie on, and the direction in which he shall lie, whether east, west, &c. that when the light shall be taken away, and the darkness of the night come on, she might pretty easily find the place where he lay:
and thou shall go in and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; go into the threshingfloor, or to the place where he lay down and gently lay aside the covering upon his feet, whether a blanket, or rug, or his own long clothes, with which his feet were wrapped, and then lay herself down at his feet; this seems to be advised to, in order to give him a hint that there was somebody at his feet. This may seem to us to be strange advice, and not consistent with the character of pious and virtuous women, which they both bore, and with that modesty they otherwise seem to be possessed of; to clear this, let it be observed, that this man was, as Naomi thought, the next kinsman, and so in right of the law in Deuteronomy 25:5, was the husband of Ruth, and therefore might take such a freedom with him as she did; and it seems by the same law as if the woman was to make the demand of marriage, which may serve to reconcile the carriage of Ruth to her character: besides, what things in one age, and in one nation, are reckoned immodest, are not so accounted in another age, and in another nation; add to this the age and gravity of Boaz, and the well known virtue of Ruth to Naomi, she might think herself quite safe in the advice she gave: and yet after all, it must be owned, it is somewhat difficult to account for her simplicity and wisdom in it; since she could not be sure that sin and folly would not be committed, considering the infirmity of human nature; or that such a behaviour in Ruth would not alienate the affection of Boaz from her, and cause him to consider her as a light and loose woman, and unfit to be his wife:
and he will tell thee what thou shall do; being a judge of Israel, and expert in the law, he would inform her whether he was the next kinsman, and had the right of redemption or not, and what methods must be taken, and what rites used, in order to her marriage with him, or another person.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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.Verse 4. - And let it be, when he lies down, that thou take note of the place where he lies; and go, and uncover the parts about his feet, and lay thee down; and he shall declare to thee what thou shalt do. The denominative word מַרְגְּלֺלתָיו - freely rendered in King James's version "his feet" - we have rendered "the parts about his feet." It is the exact opposite of מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו, which never means "his head," but is always translated correctly either "his pillows" or "his bolster." It denotes "the supports on which the head was laid in lying;" and מַרְגְּלות, having reference to members of the body which do not need such supports as the head, simply means "the places occupied by the feet." Naomi ventured, on a bold expedient to bring speedy rest to her daughter-in-law. But we assume that, with unmistaking feminine intuition, she saw, on the one hand, that Boaz was already deeply attached to Ruth, and, on the other, that Ruth reciprocated his attachment with pure intensity. Most probably we should also assume that she detected in Boaz a peculiar diffidence that caused him to shrink from making decisive advances in the way of declaring his affection. He had, however, unconsciously revealed himself, and made it clear to Naomi that he wished to divulge in words the depth of his honorable feelings. But again and again, as we may suppose, his sensitiveness overcame his resolutions. Hence Naomi's scheme to bring him to the point of declaration. It would have been reprehensible in the extreme had she not been absolutely certain of his wishes, on the one hand, and of his perfect honor and un-contaminable purity on the other. And even with that qualification, the scheme would have been imprudent and improper, and utterly unfeminine, had it not been the case that, in virtue of an ancient and much-prized Hebrew law, Ruth was entitled to call upon her nearest of kin to fulfill the various duties of a responsible kinsman. Still, notwithstanding the existence of this law, we may rest assured that the sensitive gleaner would never have summoned up courage to ask Boaz to discharge to her the duties of kinship, unless she had been sure that the thrills that vibrated within her own heart were responsive to subtle touches, on his part, of spirit with spirit. Ruth 2:8, Ruth 2:22, Ruth 2:23, is quite in place as the more comprehensive gender, as a designation of the reapers generally, both male and female; and the expression לי אשׁר in this connection in the sense of my is more exact than the possessive pronoun: the people who belong to my house, as distinguished from the people of other masters.
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