1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3 Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” 5 And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”
6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. 7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! 9 He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” 10 And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. 13 Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”
14 So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” 18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”Ruth 3:1-18
Perhaps it is the fact that my day job is an English teacher or maybe I am just a romantic at heart, but I am loving studying the book of Ruth. I have enjoyed getting to write and help others study the Bible, but looking at this narrative – this story – in God’s Word checks all the boxes for me to thoroughly enjoy (what I already enjoy immensely) even more!
Getting to look at how God moved in the lives of these ordinary people is romantic in and of itself. There is something touching about seeing the way that the King of kings – the almighty God of the universe – stoops from the lofty heights of His heaven and intervenes in the mundane. There is a romance to His redemption: a King leaving His throne to rescue His beloved Bride. And if He cared to do such things so many years ago, we can rest assured that our God, Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and is still redeeming and rescuing.
As I said, this reads like a story and flows like a film. It is engaging. The narrator draws our attention to certain things. The focus has already been on Naomi and Ruth’s close relative – and “worthy man” (ch 2:1) – Boaz. He had heard of Ruth’s devotion to Naomi and engaged himself in their story by protecting Ruth and ensuring that she was able to gather more than enough to support her little family. Because of these events surrounding Boaz, those two ladies who viewed themselves as empty began to be filled with hesed – the loving-kindness of God through the actions of His people, namely Boaz.
I love the way that Tony Merida lays out Ruth 3:
“We read these events like a movie in which time slows down in view of the risk and the possible consequences of Ruth’s actions…the plan, proposal, promise, and provision….”
We will use the way he framed this chapter to launch our look at Naomi’s plan for Ruth and Boaz, Ruth’s proposal in the threshing floor, and how God had a plan for redeeming Ruth and Naomi – and has a plan to redeem people even today.
Before we dive too far into Naomi’s plan, I want to say as the father of a daughter that I would not recommend such a course of action. This is a good time to mention that just because we find events in the Bible does not mean that we should live them out in our own lives. There are parts of the Bible that are prescriptive – that tell us what to do and how to live (or how not to do or live). This ain’t that. The book of Ruth is descriptive. It describes. And what a description it gives of Naomi’s plan for redemption – thank God He knows what is best when it comes to redemption and does not rely on the plans of hurried humans!
In the beginning of chapter 3, Naomi assesses the way that Boaz has come into their lives and recognizes the potential that such a “worthy man” could have in giving Ruth the “rest” that she had prayed for. I think we see a bit of the “when the Judges ruled” mentality from chapter 1 because Naomi seems to be taking things into her own hands again. Remember during this time Israel “did what was right in [their] own eyes” (Judges 21:25), which led to the deaths of Naomi’s husband and sons in the land of Moab. Here again, she hatches a very risky plan, and the risk falls on Ruth and could have very well outweighed the reward of redemption.
She told Ruth to go out under the cover of night to the threshing floor where Boaz would be working late (v. 2). Before she left, she was to take a bath and put on perfume (“anoint yourself” – v. 3). However, she was not supposed to approach Boaz until he had finished his supper, drank his wine, and laid down to sleep. Once he had fallen asleep, she told Ruth to “go and uncover his feet and lie down”; after that, she said that Boaz would tell her what to do (v. 4).
What a risk! She told her beautiful daughter to go lay down by a sleeping man and that said man would then tell her what to do next…. My dad-heart shudders. We have already seen in chapter 2 that there was risk of Ruth being assaulted as a single foreigner, even in the fields owned by Boaz!
Now, I want to lay things out as honestly as I possibly can here. There are those who try to take this whole “uncover his feet” business and chalk it up to some obscure cultural custom. If it is, it does not appear anywhere else in Scripture or in Jewish history/customs. So, that seems to be a cop out. Also, there are those who would like to sensualize it. The Bible does not shy away from showing people in their true light. If they sin sexually (like Boaz’s great-grandson David and great-great-grandson Solomon or the head of the Moabite tribe Lot), they are portrayed as such without making obscure remarks like “uncover his feet” (even though the word translated “feet” here is translated as “legs” in Daniel 10:6 and threshing floors were known to harbor prostitution from time to time as in Hosea 9:1).
While this situation had a risk of turning into sex outside of marriage – fornication (which would never be God’s plan), God had greater plans than Naomi and had already done a work in Boaz. We should also note the danger in making our own plans that flirt with dangerous territory since we are more likely to walk with God in integrity when we “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22 KJV) and reserve threshing floor situations for the “marriage bed” (Hebrews 13:4).
Ruth trusted Naomi and promised her: “All that you say I will do” (v. 5). What faith and trust she had for Naomi! She bathed, perfumed, and left for the threshing floor. She waited until Boaz’s “heart was merry” (v. 7) after eating a hearty meal and drinking wine following his long day and evening. Then, when he had fallen asleep, she crept forward undetected, and – sure enough – she “uncovered his feet and lay down” (v. 7).
The scene is not too hard to imagine. We have all woken from sleep with a shiver and sought to re-cover ourselves in bed. But, imagine the shock that Boaz must have felt when he realized he was not alone – that “a woman lay at his feet” (v. 8)! Rather than things taking the most likely path – the path of least resistance when a man and a woman find themselves alone together in the cover of darkness where they should not be, Ruth does not proposition him but proposes. She tells him who she was (because it was that dark). She identifies herself as his servant (as opposed to how foreign she was to him in chapter 2). Then she deviates from the plan and makes an odd request: “Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer” (v. 9).
A man outside the providence of the Lord could have taken a different path in this situation. The Hebrew words that Ruth spoke meant both “spread your wings” and “spread your garment”. There was nuance and history that gave context, but there was also the context of an obviously beautiful woman wearing alluring perfume laying down near him (and no one in the world knew they were there alone together…). Yet the nuance of a comment that Boaz made about Ruth’s relationship with God in the previous chapter won out: “The Lord repay you for what you have done [all she did for Naomi and her coming to faith in God], and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge” (ch 2:12). She reminded Boaz of his prayer for her and let him know that she sought him as an answer to that prayer for her redemption – that God’s protective wings would cover her via Boaz!
It would have been easy to respond as the world would by Boaz wrapping her in his blanket, especially in a time so similar to our own when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. Yet his prayers for her redemption overcame, and God spread His wings of protection on both of them that night.
Boaz went on to let her know how flattered he was that she would seek to marry him. He calls her a “worthy woman” (v. 11) which is translated “excellent wife” in Proverbs 12:4 and 31:10, showing how pleased he would be to get to redeem her. He was honorable to the customs of his people and let her know that there was “a redeemer nearer than” him (v. 12). But, then, he does something odd. He makes a redemptive promise whether or not he is the one to redeem them.
He tells her that he will talk with the redeemer for them and make sure both Ruth and Naomi were redeemed and cared for (if this other redeemer would not, then he would himself). He gives her enough grain to let Naomi know that he is caring for them and not taking advantage of Ruth. And he sends Ruth away to ensure that her reputation – and his – was left intact. He even tagged on a message to let Naomi know that he knew who had orchestrated the whole thing (v. 17).
God’s Provision Then & Now
Naomi recognized that they were on their way to being redeemed, but she had no idea how good God’s plan of redemption was for them – and for us! Boaz’s integrity in an extremely dangerous and tempting situation shows us how serious our God takes redemption. Now, there are those who would argue and question Boaz’s integrity, but I think that 2 Chronicles 3:17 and 1 Kings 7:21 speak for themselves. When Boaz’s great-great-grandson Solomon was building God’s temple in Jerusalem, he named one of two giant bronze pillars “Boaz”. The son of a Jerichoan prostitute and husband of a Moabitess was viewed as a pillar. Why? Because the Lord was a pillar in the life of Boaz!
We can see today that God still takes redemption seriously. When we find ourselves far from Him in lands where people (even us) do what is right in their own eyes, He still seeks to redeem people – to save people. We can look at Boaz and Ruth and think of Christ and His Bride, the Church. Jesus seeks us out “while we [are] still sinners” (Romans 5:8) and sacrifices Himself on our behalf because He loves us (Galatians 2:20). He sees that we are alone, without hope, without Him (Ephesians 2:12), and shows that there is indeed a redeemer closer than Boaz – God Himself. He redeems us by His own blood and does something that no other romantic hero could ever do – He lives after He dies for His beloved! And in that Him – in His resurrection life – there is hope.
To find Him, you do not have to clean yourself up like Ruth did. She had been mourning her late-husband and needed bathing and anointing to pursue Boaz (2 Samuel 14:2). We do not need to clean ourselves up to come to Christ because, in fact, we cannot clean ourselves (Romans 3:10-23). No, we come to Him for redemption and find cleansing and grace and mercy and love in such abundance that there are not words adequate to describe. We need only come to Him in belief and faith. He calls us to “confess with [our] mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in [our] hearts that God raised Him from the dead” to be saved (Romans 10:9). And, as sure as Ruth and Naomi found redemption – as sure as they found their emptiness filled with joy, we too can find a redeemer – “our blessed hope…our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify [to cleanse] for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:13-14).
Once that happens, we can look toward eternity with Him, forsake our worldly home, and lift up a cry similar to Ruth’s to our beloved Redeemer: “Your people shall be my people, and you, God, are my God!”
Hallelujah, and Amen!
 Tony Merida, Ruth for You, ed. Carl Laferton, God’s Word for You (The Good Book Company, 2020), 94. ***Special Note: These four P’s are borrowed from Tony Merida’s layout of this “scene” in the Biblical narrative. This is not meant to replicate his study but to pay homage to the gifting God has given him in laying out a Bible study schema while making it my own.
 Here’s an interesting tidbit for you. In the order that Jewish people put the Old Testament, the book of Ruth immediately follows the book of Proverbs. So, Proverbs ends with chapter 31, talking about the “worthy woman”/ “excellent wife”, and the very next page would be Ruth 1:1!