One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”
“I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered.
Naomi! Really? What are you thinking?
How could you put Ruth in this position after she has been so loyal to you? For that matter, how can you put Boaz in this position? Seriously??
Well, that’s my knee-jerk reaction anyway…
Over the years, there have been commentators who have suggested that Naomi was interested in trapping Boaz into marriage, but to be quite fair, there is no evidence in the text to support that. Others suggest that this is how the Law says a claim should be made by a dead brother’s wife to a kinsman-redeemer and they cite Deuteronomy 25:7-9, but that isn’t quite what it says there, for the Law was quite a bit more conventional. However, we can infer from the Deuteronomy passage that a claim was to be made by the widow… but Ruth was not the wife of Boaz’ brother, he was a relation, and as we will see soon, Boaz was not the closest relation.
It might be that the custom of the time was that a claim be made in this way, with a widow throwing herself at the kinsman’s feet, but if that were so then the evidence of this would seem to be lost. Yes, there is some theological significance to this act of humble submission, but neither Naomi nor Ruth could have known it at the time, and we will discuss the theological significance of this story in due course, but they certainly do not involve any literal reenactments of this scene.
To be sure, I do not know what Naomi was thinking. We can all have our theories, but as always in cases like this, my best advice to you, dear reader, is to beware of a preacher, teacher or commentator who claims to know for certain.
In any case, it is valuable to note Ruth’s reaction to this unusual motherly advice. Bearing in mind that Ruth was not likely to have been fully acquainted with Jewish Law or custom, all of her actions up to this point would seem to indicate that she was neither immoral nor stupid, yet she submitted herself willingly and with the utmost humility; she was willing to trust both Naomi and Boaz.
The question we are left with is this: How will Boaz react? Will he succumb to temptation and take advantage of the situation, will he be angry, or will he be honorable?