Commentary on Ruth 3

Within the framework of the book of Ruth, chapter three acts as a pivotal moment in the story because although Naomi and Ruth, with all the best intentions, develop a plan for marriage and security for Ruth, the outcome of the story depends on Boaz’s response to Ruth’s proposal. The following outline details the suspenseful moments of chapter three.

Outline of Chapter 3

I. Naomi and Ruth create a plan for security through marriage of Ruth to Boaz (3:1-5)

II. Ruth approaches Boaz at the Threshing floor with a marriage proposal (3:6-9)

III. Boaz responds (3:10-15)

  1. He blesses and commends Ruth (10)
  2. He positively responds to Ruth’s proposal (11)
  3. He mentions another kinsman-redeemer more closely related (12)
  4. He protects Ruth overnight and gifts barely in the morning (14-15)

IV. Ruth returns home to Naomi, and they debrief (16-18)

Kinsman-Redeemer

In order to understand chapter three, the concept of a kinsman-redeemer should first be explored. The Hebrew word used in 3:9,12 is גֹאֵל (gōēl) (2:20  מִגֹּאֲלֵנוּ miggōălēnû) and is derived from the Hebrew verb גָאַל (gāal) which may be defined as “1) act as a kinsman, do the part of next of kin a) in taking a kinsman’s widow b) in redeeming from bondage c) in redeeming a field d) claim as kinsman e) the avenger of blood.”[1] Thus, a kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who had the responsibility, right or benefit to step up or intercede on behalf of a relative who was destitute, at risk, facing crisis or in need of vindication.[2]  The concept of the kinsman-redeemer is established and described in the pentateuch of the Hebrew scriptures in the form of covenant obligations to redeem land (Lev 25:25), to redeem the enslaved (Lev 25:47-55), to provide an heir (Gen 38:8-10; Deut 25:5-10), to avenge a death (Num 35:16-21) and to be a trustee (Num 5:5-8). The Kinsman-redeemer reflects God’s concern for the poor, widow and oppressed (Ps 68:5-6; 72:2-4; Prov 23:10-11).

Commentary on Ruth 3

1-5  Naomi shows parental responsibility and duty towards Ruth, her daughter in law, by seeking a secure and permanent home for Ruth. Moreover, she wants to see Ruth experience all the blessing of marriage.  Naomi understood that she would one day die, and she could not fathom the idea of Ruth (a Moabite) being a widow in a foreign land.[3] This was her concern in 1:8-9 where she said to Ruth and Orpah, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband” (NIV).  With the prospect of a kinsman, Naomi develops a plan becoming the answer to her own prayer for Ruth.  This is a theological theme throughout the book of Ruth in that God and humans work together.  God providentially orchestrates circumstances and humans are to recognize and seize the opportunities.[4]

6-9   Ruth follows the Naomi’s plan and goes to the threshing floor where Boaz is lying at his assigned traditional area for winnowing.  It may have been a custom for individuals to sleep by their barely piles after festivities in order to guard them until the next morning when it would be carted and taken away.[5] After arriving at the threshing floor, events unfold according to Naomi’s plan; however, Ruth breaks from the script that Naomi had laid out for her to say.  Naomi’s main concern was to find a husband for Ruth, but when Ruth invokes the kinsman-redeemer custom to Boaz, she reveals her continued loyalty and commitment to Naomi since the results of the custom would benefit Naomi significantly by eventually receiving an heir and through the redeeming of her land.[6]

10-15   Boaz’s response is filled with blessing and commendation towards Ruth, and he grants her request due to her honorable reputation. Boaz considers Ruth as a peer and certainly views her as a good match for marriage. However, while Boaz acknowledges that he was a kinsman-redeemer, he mentions another kinsman-redeemer more closely related.  With this notification, Boaz shows that he is a man of integrity.  By being cautious regarding the custom, Boaz is further protecting Ruth and her legal claims in Israel.  He wants to make sure that whatever benefits Ruth receives in the future will be seen as legal rather than as a scandal. Boaz instructs Ruth on the following steps in the process, and then he continues to reveal his protective and kind nature by keeping Ruth close throughout the night away from the drunken festival attenders and by gifting her with barely in the morning.[7]

16-18   Ruth returns home to Naomi and gives an account of the night.  Ruth explains all the things that Boaz did for her and shows Naomi the generous gift given by Boaz which may have been a hopeful sign for the future⎯ “Naomi’s emptiness (1:21) may yet be filled.”[8]  Naomi instructs Ruth to wait which is a stark reversal of her prior instructions to act. As farmers wait for their crops, so Ruth is awaits the fruit of her efforts.  This is similar to waiting on the Lord for him to bless his people.  The matter is in the hands of the Lord, and in the next chapter he will work through Boaz.[9]

Summary

Ruth chapter 3 is teaching that in the ordinary circumstances and events in life, people can witness and experience God’s action and provision. Individuals should have faith in God and when opportunities arise that are divinely orchestrated, they should move to action because God works through their actions. Ultimately, God is sovereign and after individuals have done all they can do, they should wait on the Lord and trust in his faithfulness and loyalty.


[1] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and Charles Briggs, “גָאַל”  BDB 145. [2] Stephen J. Bramer, “Kinsman-Redeemer,” in EDBT 456-456. [3] Hubbard, Ruth, I. The Proposal Itself “a. Naomi’s Clever Plan” [4] Hubbard, Ruth, I. The Proposal Itself “a. Naomi’s Clever Plan” [5]John H.Walton, Victor H. Matthews and Mark W. Chavalas. The IVP Bible Background Commentary : Old Testament (Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 2000), 279. [6]Hubbard, Ruth,  I. The Proposal Itself “b. Report of Ruth’s Compliance” [7] Hubbard, Ruth, I. The Proposal Itself “b. Report of Ruth’s Compliance” [8]Gerald West, “Ruth” in Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, eds. James D. G. Dunn, and J. W. Rogerson (Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans,  2004), 211. [9] Hubbard, Ruth, 2. Interlude: Ruth Reports to Naomi “b. Naomi’s Response”