Ruth - 3:1-18

Ruth and the Law of the Kinsman Redeemer

      1 Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, "My daughter, shall I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Now isn't Boaz our kinsman, with whose maidens you were? Behold, he winnows barley tonight in the threshing floor. 3 Therefore wash yourself, anoint yourself, get dressed, and go down to the threshing floor, but don't make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 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 down; then he will tell you what you shall do." 5 She said to her, "All that you say I will do." 6 She went down to the threshing floor, and did according to all that her mother-in-law told her. 7 When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. She came softly, uncovered his feet, and laid her down. 8 It happened at midnight, that the man was startled and turned himself; and behold, a woman lay at his feet. 9 He said, "Who are you?" She answered, "I am Ruth your handmaid. Therefore spread your skirt over your handmaid; for you are a near kinsman." 10 He said, "Blessed are you by Yahweh, my daughter. You have shown more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as you didn't follow young men, whether poor or rich. 11 Now, my daughter, don't be afraid; I will do to you all that you say; for all the city of my people does know that you are a worthy woman. 12 Now it is true that I am a near kinsman; however there is a kinsman nearer than I. 13 Stay this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform for you the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman's part. But if he will not do the part of a kinsman for you, then will I do the part of a kinsman for you, as Yahweh lives. Lie down until the morning." 14 She lay at his feet until the morning. She rose up before one could discern another. For he said, "Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor." 15 He said, "Bring the mantle that is on you, and hold it." She held it; and he measured six (measures) of barley, and laid it on her; and he went into the city. 16 When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, "How did it go, my daughter?" She told her all that the man had done to her. 17 She said, "He gave me these six (measures) of barley; for he said, 'Don't go empty to your mother-in-law.'" 18 Then she said, "Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will fall; for the man will not rest, until he has finished the thing this day."

Chapter In-Depth

Explanation and meaning of Ruth 3.

Historical Commentaries

Scholarly Analysis and Interpretation.

Naomi's advice to Ruth, how to procure herself a marriage with Boaz, Ruth 3:1-5. She acts according to her mother-in-law's direction, and is kindly received by Boaz, who promises to marry her, should her nearer kinsman refuse, Ruth 3:6-13. He gives her six measures of barley, and sends her away privately to her mother-in-law, who augurs favorably of the issue of the plan she had laid, Ruth 3:14-18.

In this chapter we have a proposal of Naomi to Ruth, with advice and directions to get Boaz for her husband, Ruth 2:1. Ruth's obedience to the instructions she gave her, Ruth 2:5, the notice Boaz took of her, and the conversation that passed between them, Ruth 2:8 the dismission of her in the morning to her mother-in-law with a gift, to whom she returned, and acquainted her with what had passed, Ruth 2:14.

(Ruth 3:1-5) The directions given to Ruth by Naomi.
(Ruth 3:6-13) Boaz acknowledges the duty of a kinsman.
(Ruth 3:14-18) Ruth's return to her mother-in-law.

Ruth Seeks for Marriage with Boaz - Ruth 3
After the harvest Naomi advised Ruth to visit Boaz on a certain night, and ask him to marry her as redeemer (Ruth 3:1-5). Ruth followed this advice, and Boaz promised to fulfil her request, provided the nearer redeemer who was still living would not perform this duty (Ruth 3:6-13), and sent her away in the morning with a present of wheat, that she might not return empty to her mother-in-law (Ruth 3:14-18). To understand the advice which Naomi gave to Ruth, and which Ruth carried out, and in fact to form a correct idea of the further course of the history generally, we must bear in mind the legal relations which came into consideration here. According to the theocratical rights, Jehovah was the actual owner of the land which He had given to His people for an inheritance; and the Israelites themselves had merely the usufruct of the land which they received by lot for their inheritance, so that the existing possessor could not part with the family portion or sell it at his will, but it was to remain for ever in his family. When any one therefore was obliged to sell his inheritance on account of poverty, and actually did sell it, it was the duty of the nearest relation to redeem it as gol. But if it should not be redeemed, it came back, in the next year of jubilee, to its original owner or his heirs without compensation. Consequently no actual sale took place in our sense of the word, but simply a sale of the yearly produce till the year of jubilee (see Leviticus 25:10, Leviticus 25:13-16, Leviticus 25:24-28). There was also an old customary right, which had received the sanction of God, with certain limitations, through the Mosaic law-namely, the custom of Levirate marriage, or the marriage of a brother-in-law, which we meet with as early as Genesis 38, viz., that if an Israelite who had been married died without children, it was the duty of his brother to marry the widow, that is to say, his sister-in-law, that he might establish his brother's name in Israel, by begetting a son through his sister-in-law, who should take the name of the deceased brother, that his name might not become extinct in Israel. This son was then the legal heir of the landed property of the deceased uncle (cf. Deuteronomy 25:5.). These two institutions are not connected together in the Mosaic law; nevertheless it was a very natural thing to place the Levirate duty in connection with the right of redemption. And this had become the traditional custom. Whereas the law merely imposed the obligation of marrying the childless widow upon the brother, and even allowed him to renounce the obligation if he would take upon himself the disgrace connected with such a refusal (see Deuteronomy 25:7-10); according to Ruth 4:5 of this book it had become a traditional custom to require the Levirate marriage of the redeemer of the portion of the deceased relative, not only that the landed possession might be permanently retained in the family, but also that the family itself might not be suffered to die out.
In the case before us Elimelech had possessed a portion at Bethlehem, which Naomi had sold from poverty (Ruth 4:3); and Boaz, a relation of Elimelech, was the redeemer of whom Naomi hoped that he would fulfil the duty of a redeemer - namely, that he would not only ransom the purchased field, but marry her daughter-in-law Ruth, the widow of the rightful heir of the landed possession of Elimelech, and thus through this marriage establish the name of her deceased husband or son (Elimelech or Mahlon) upon his inheritance. Led on by this hope, she advised Ruth to visit Boaz, who had shown himself so kind and well-disposed towards her, during the night, and by a species of bold artifice, which she assumed that he would not resist, to induce him as redeemer to grant to Ruth this Levirate marriage. The reason why she adopted this plan for the accomplishment of her wishes, and did not appeal to Boaz directly, or ask him to perform this duty of affection to her deceased husband, was probably that she was afraid lest she should fail to attain her end in this way, partly because the duty of a Levirate marriage was not legally binding upon the redeemer, and partly because Boaz was not so closely related to her husband that she could justly require this of him, whilst there was actually a nearer redeemer than he (Ruth 3:12). According to our customs, indeed, this act of Naomi and Ruth appears a very objectionable one from a moral point of view, but it was not so when judged by the customs of the people of Israel at that time. Boaz, who was an honourable man, and, according to Ruth 3:10, no doubt somewhat advanced in years, praised Ruth for having taken refuge with him, and promised to fulfil her wishes when he had satisfied himself that the nearer redeemer would renounce his right and duty (Ruth 3:10-11). As he acknowledge by this very declaration, that under certain circumstances it would be his duty as redeemer to marry Ruth, he took no offence at the manner in which she had approached him and proposed to become his wife. On the contrary, he regarded it as a proof of feminine virtue and modesty, that she had not gone after young men, but offered herself as a wife to an old man like him. This conduct on the part of Boaz is a sufficient proof that women might have confidence in him that he would do nothing unseemly. And he justified such confidence. "The modest man," as Bertheau observes, "even in the middle of the night did not hesitate for a moment what it was his duty to do with regard to the young maiden (or rather woman) towards whom he felt already so strongly attached; he made his own personal inclinations subordinate to the traditional custom, and only when this permitted him to marry Ruth was he ready to do so. And not knowing whether she might not have to become the wife of the nearer gol, he was careful for her and her reputation, in order that he might hand her over unblemished to the man who had the undoubted right to claim her as his wife."

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