And he said, Who are you? And she answered, I am Ruth your handmaid: spread therefore your skirt over your handmaid; for you are a near kinsman.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Skirt.—Literally wing; Heb. canaph, as in Ruth 2:12. The Targum treats this as in itself the claim to espousal on her part. The metaphor may be illustrated from Ezekiel 16:8, and more generally from Matthew 23:37.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 she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid; that had gleaned in his fields with his maidens, and with whom he had conversed there, and knew her by name:
spread therefore thy skirt over thy handmaid; which seems to account for the reason of her uncovering his feet, or turning up the skirt of his garment that was upon them; not through wantonness and immodesty, but to direct him, when opportunity offered, to spread it over her as a token of his taking her in marriage, and of her being under his care and protection, and of her subjection to him; so the Targum,"let thy name be called upon me to take me for a wife,''Whether the custom now used with the Jews at marriage, for a man to cast the skirt of his "talith", or outward garment, over the head of his spouse, and cover it, was in use so early, is questionable; and yet something like it seems to have been done, as this phrase intimates, and to which there is an allusion in Ezekiel 16:8. So Jarchi,"spread the skirt of thy garments to cover me with thy talith, and this is expressive of marriage;''and Aben Ezra says, it intimates taking her to him for wife; though as the word signifies a wing, the allusion may be to the wings of birds spread over their young, to cherish and protect them, which are acts to be done by a man to his wife:
for thou art a near kinsman; as she had been informed by Naomi, to whom the right of redemption of her husband's estate belonged, and in whom it lay to marry her, and raise up seed to his kinsman, her former husband.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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.Verse 9. - And he said, Who art thou? And she said, I am Ruth, thy handmaid; and thou hast spread thy wings over thy handmaid, for thou art kinsman. The Syriac translator spoils the question of Boaz by metamorphosing it from "Who art thou?" into "What is thy message?" Tremulous would be the voice of Ruth as she replied, "I am Ruth, thy handmaid." What she said in continuance has been very generally, and by Driver, among others ('Hebrew Tenses,' p. 135), misapprehended. Not by Raabe, however. It has been regarded as a petition presented to Boaz - "Spread thy wings (or, thy wing) over thy handmaid, for thou art kinsman." The literal translation, however, and far the more delicate idea, as also far the more effective representation, is, "And thou hast spread thy wings over thy handmaid, for thou art kinsman." Ruth explains her position under Boaz's coverlet as if it were his own deliberate act. Such is her felicitous way of putting the case. It is as if she had said, "The position in which thy handmaid actually is exhibits the true relation in which thou standest to thy handmaid. She is under thy wings. Thou hast benignantly spread them over her, for thou art kinsman." The Masorites have correctly regarded כנפ as a scriptio defectiva for the dual of the noun, and hence have punctuated it כְּנָפֶך, "thy wings." The majority of interpreters, however, have assumed that the word is singular, and have hence translated it as if it had been punctuated כְּנָפְך. The dual reading is to be preferred. Boaz himself had represented Ruth as having come trustfully under the wings of Yahveh (see Ruth 2:12). She accepted the representation. It was beautifully true. But, as she was well aware that God often works through human agency, she now recognized the Divine hand in the kindness of Boaz. "Thou hast spread thy wings over thine handmaid." She was under his wings because she had come under the wings of Yahveh. She felt like a little timid chicken; but she had found a refuge. It is the wings of tender, gentle, sheltering care that are referred to. There is only indirect allusion to the typical coverlet under which she lay. For thou art kinsman (see Ruth 2:20). The native modesty of Ruth led her to account for her position by a reference to the law of kinship. She had rights, and she stood upon them. She conceived that Boaz had correlative duties to discharge; but we may be sure that she would never have made the least reference to her rights, or to the correlative duties which she regarded as devolving on Boaz, had she not known that his heart was already hers.
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