"THE BOOK OF RUTH" Ruth's Tender Plea: "Take Your Maidservant" (3:1-18) INTRODUCTION 1. So far our study in the book of Ruth has revealed... a. Ruth's noble choice: "I will go..." - Ru 1:1-22 1) Expressing great love for her mother-in-law, Naomi 2) Willing to forego home and religion, and adopt Israel and the true God b. Ruth's lowly service: "Let me glean..." - Ru 2:1-23 1) Exercising her right as a widow to glean after the reapers during the harvest 2) Providing sustenance for herself and her mother-in-law 2. Our previous study reviewed how Ruth came to meet Boaz... a. Ruth "happened" to be gleaning in the field of Boaz - Ru 2:1-3 b. Boaz inquired of his workers about the strange woman - Ru 2:4-5 c. Learning Ruth's identity, Boaz encouraged her to continue - Ru 2:8-9 d. Ruth was permitted to glean in the fields of Boaz throughout the harvest - Ru 2:21 e. Naomi was thrilled, because Boaz was a close relative - Ru 2:20 [With advice from her mother-in-law, Ruth will make a "tender plea" that will prompt Boaz to fulfill an obligation that was due the family of Elimelech. Thus chapter three begins with...] I. NAOMI'S ADVICE TO RUTH A. MOTIVATED BY MOTHERLY CONCERN... 1. Naomi loves her daughter-in-law as a daughter - Ru 3:1 2. Naomi is concerned for Ruth's security and well-being - Ru 3:1 a. Security (rest, KJV) implies benefits found in marriage - cf. Ru 1:9 b. It was customary for parents to arrange marriages - cf. Judg 14:1-2 B. PROMPTED BY PROVIDENTIAL CIRCUMSTANCES... 1. Boaz, with whose women Ruth gleaned in the fields, was a relative - Ru 3:2 a. He could fulfill the levirate law of marriage - cf. Deut 25:5-10 b. Perhaps Naomi had interpreted his kindness as interest in Ruth 2. Boaz would be winnowing barley at the threshing floor - Ru 3:2 a. Threshing floors were located on a hill; this one outside the city - cf. Ru 3:15 b. Naomi knew that Boaz would spend the night there - cf. Ru 3:4 C. DEVISED TO PROMPT A RESPONSE... 1. Ruth is told to wash, anoint herself, and put on her best garment - Ru 3:3 2. Ruth is told to wait until Boaz has eaten and fallen asleep - Ru 3:-4 3. Ruth is told to uncover Boaz' feet and lie down, and await his response - Ru 3:4 a. Some interpret "uncover his feet" and "lie down" as euphemisms for sexual activity - cf. Eze 16:25 (KJV); Gen 19:32-35 b. Yet for Naomi to encourage Ruth to commit such an act of boldness and immorality is completely counter to what we know of Ruth - cf. Ru 3:11 c. The actual text suggests that nothing indecent happened - cf. Ru 3:7-8 [Ruth consents to follow the advice given by Naomi (Ru 3:5), and so we read of...] II. RUTH AT THE FEET OF BOAZ A. RUTH FOLLOWS NAOMI'S ADVICE... 1. Ruth goes down to the threshing floor - Ru 3:6 2. Ruth does according to her mother-in-law's instructions - Ru 3:6 a. She waits until Boaz had eaten and gone to sleep - Ru 3:7 b. She softly uncovers his feet and lies down - Ru 3:7 B. BOAZ STARTLED BY RUTH'S PRESENCE... 1. At midnight Boaz is startled by a woman lying at his feet - Ru 3:8 2. Upon inquiry, Ruth identifies herself and makes her plea - Ru 3:9 a. "Take your maidservant under your wing" 1) Or "spread your cloak over your maid" (NRSV) 2) In that region, a symbolic action denoting protection, marriage (JFB) b. "For you are a close relative (near kinsman)" 1) He could fulfill the levirate law of marriage - cf. Deut 25:5-6 2) But he was not the nearest of kin - cf. Ru 3:12 C. BOAZ RESPONDS WITH GRATITUDE, HONOR AND KINDNESS... 1. Boaz is grateful for her kindness - Ru 3:10 a. She showed more kindness at the end than at the beginning b. In that she did not just go after any young man (implying that Boaz was older) 2. Boaz is concerned about preserving her honor - Ru 3:11-14 a. He would fulfill her request, for everyone knows of her virtue b. Yet there was a kinsman nearer to her than he 1) Boaz must give him the opportunity to do his duty 2) Boaz swears to perform the duty, if the other person does not c. Boaz preserves her reputation 1) By having her stay until morning, rather than leaving during the night 2) By instructing his workers to tell no one 3. Boaz gives Ruth six ephahs of barley - Ruth 3:15 a. So she might not go empty-handed to her mother-in-law - cf. Ru 3:17 b. The significance of this gift is uncertain 1) A gift of grain as the bridal price? 2) A message intended for Naomi, recognizing her part or to secure her consent? 3) A "cover" for Ruth, should anyone see her, implying that she had been at work gathering grain? 4) Simply a gift from a man for the woman he hoped to marry? [With such a large gift in hand...] III. RUTH RETURNS TO NAOMI A. RUTH REPORTS TO NAOMI... 1. Ruth tells all that Boaz had done for her - Ru 3:16 2. Ruth explains the six ephahs of barley - Ru 3:17 B. NAOMI ADVISES RUTH... 1. To wait to see how things turn out - Ru 3:18 2. Confident that Boaz will act immediately - Ru 3:18 CONCLUSION 1. It is tempting to caricature Naomi as a "matchmaker"... a. She certainly had given her plan some thought b. She correctly anticipated Boaz' response -- But it was definitely "a risky proposition" that could have easily gone awry! 2. Scholars debate whether anything improper took place between Ruth and Boaz; I appreciate the following observation: "Those who interpret a sexual relation in the events reflect their twentieth-century cultural conditioning of sexual permissiveness. They fail to appreciate the element of Ruth's trust that Boaz would not dishonor her whom he wanted for his wife. They fail to appreciate the cultural taboos of Ruth's time that would have prevented a man of Boaz's position from taking advantage of Ruth, thereby destroying her reputation and perhaps endangering his own. Biblical writers were not squeamish about describing sexual encounters, but the writer of Ruth has deliberately refrained from saying there was a liaison between Ruth and Boaz. If read carefully and with sensitivity, it becomes clear that he was saying just the opposite. Both Ruth and Boaz acted virtuously in a situation they knew could have turned out otherwise. Chastity was not an unknown virtue in the ancient world." - F. B. Huey, Jr. (Expositor's Bible Commentary) 3. Again we are struck by the noble character of Boaz... a. We saw his kindness and sense of propriety in the previous chapter b. We see his kindness and concern for duty and reputation in this chapter The integrity of Boaz made it possible for Naomi to plan her "risky proposition" with a strong likelihood that he would respond in the proper manner. The benefit of having integrity is that people know how we will respond in a given situation. Would we have responded like Boaz...?