19 September 2014

Ruth 3:1-5

“‘I will do everything you say,’ Ruth answered.” (v. 5)


Two months have past since yesterday's passage - that's how long it took to harvest the barley and the wheat. Food was plentiful during that time,  especially as Ruth could glean (pick the dropped corn) behind the servant girls of Boaz, but this would not last forever (Ruth 2:23).

Determined to secure a future for herself and her daughter-in-law Ruth, Naomi comes up with a plan. Although she says it is for Ruth's own good (verse 1), it is obvious that Naomi will benefit too. Ruth is told to clean herself up and get dressed, then go to the threshing room and lay down with Boaz on the floor. Then Boaz will tell her what to do.

These are the preparations that a bride would make (Ezekiel 16:9-12) and the sexual innuenedo cannot be ignored. When Boaz is lying down, Ruth is instructed to "go and uncover his feet" (v. 4). Commentators offer different explanations for this - some say that revealing his feet to the cold will wake him up and Ruth will have his attention without the distraction of others; others suggest that Ruth's position is one of humility in preparation to the request she is making, and some suggest that feet is a euphemism for sexual organs. Whatever is the intended meaning or meaning(s), we will never know. But what is clear to Boaz is that Ruth is proposing marriage as a part of his duties as a kinsman (Ruth 3:10-13).

Reading on in chapter 3, we discover that Ruth is true to her word, doing everything Naomi said. But as with many Bible stories, there's always more. When Boaz wakes in the middle of the night, Ruth doesn't wait to be told what to do. She takes the initiative, and tells Boaz what he should do (verse 9). Spreading the corner of a garment over a woman is part of a wedding ritual (Ezekiel 16:8), so this is a request for marriage.

Reading this passage again, the question arises - to what extent do we have to be obedient, just as Ruth was to Naomi. And then to what extent do we have to take the initiative (as Ruth did to Boaz). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says "Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you" (Matthew 7:7). It is up to each individual to take some initiative - asking, searching, knocking. And then in the next verse Jesus gives the reassurance that "everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches will find, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened". And if you read to the end of the book of Ruth, you will discover that these words hold true.

To Ponder

  • What part does obedience play in your relationship with God?
  • To what extent do you have to take the initiative in your relationship with God? Or in responding to the love and care of God?

Bible notes author

Ken Kingston

Ken Kingston preaches in the High Wycombe Circuit. He has worked for the Connexional Team since 1992 in a variety of roles and has been involved in 'Called by Name' and 'Time to Talk of God' amongst others.