Chapter three seems to continue the narrative, but the context changes, indicating a later time. 1 Naomi was still concerned about Ruth’s long-term care, so she developed a plan that would hopefully lead Boaz to marry Ruth (Ruth 3:1-5). One night while Boaz was “winnowing barley” by himself, Noami told Ruth to clean herself, put on perfume, and get dressed up, then go to Boaz’ threshing floor after he had fallen asleep. Once there, she was to “uncover his legs and lie down beside him.” He would know what this meant and would give her further instructions. 2
As had become typical, Ruth obeyed Naomi “and did everything her mother-in-law instructed her to do” (Ruth 3:6-10). Boaz was asleep when Ruth approached him, and her actions startled him awake. Realizing a woman was with him and what she was doing, he demanded to know who she was. Discovering that it was Ruth, he knew her intentions and what Naomi wanted from him. However, there was a problem (Ruth 3:11-16). Another relative was actually closer than Boaz, and he had the first right of refusal by law. Nevertheless, Boaz promised to take care of it and to take care of Ruth and Naomi. Before dawn, Boaz sent Ruth back home with sixty more pounds of processed barley, to protect both of their reputations from any small-town rumor of sexual scandal. When Ruth reported everything to Naomi, she was satisfied that Boaz would do exactly as he promised (Ruth 3:17-18).
- Even though the Hebrew text does not specifically show it, a few English Bibles indicate this with an opening phrase: “At that time” (NET), “One day” (NLT, NIV). Others simply include “then” (NASB, ESV, KJV). ↩
- Many scholars admit that “uncover his legs” is probably a euphemism for his genitals here. Exactly what Ruth was to do is unclear, but there is no direct mention of sexual activity, which would have violated Mosaic Law until they were married. It is more likely that we should see this as only a symbolic expression of submission and request for marriage rather than improper sexual contact. ↩