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(MT versing)
Boaz Will Redeem Ruth Ruth's Redemption Assured Naomi's Instructions Ruth Finds A Husband Boaz Sleeps
3:1-5 3:1-5 3:1-5 3:1-4 3:1-5
3:6-13 3:6-7 3:6-13 3:6-9a 3:6-15
3:14-18 3:14-18 3:14-18 3:14-16a

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


1Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, "My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? 2Now is not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maids you were? Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight. 3Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4It shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do." 5She said to her, "All that you say I will do."

TEV  "Sometime later"
REB  "One day"

It is uncertain how much time passes between chapter 2 and chapter 3. The harvest is concluded and the winnowing was in process.

It was obvious that these two widows could not continue supporting themselves by gleaning.

▣ "My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you" The implication here is that Naomi is acting as the matchmaker for Ruth. She really cares about Ruth's happiness. The Moffatt translation has "I must see you settled in life," which accurately reflects the Hebrew of this verse.

NASB, NKJV, NRSV  "security"
TEV  "have a home of our own"
NJB, REB  "happily settled"
JPSOA  "where you may be happy"
LXX, Peshitta  "rest"

The MT has the MASCULINE NOUN, "resting-place" (BDB 629 I), which here implies a "condition of rest and security attained by marriage." This connotation is unique to this text. For other usages see Gen. 8:9; Deut. 28:65; Ps. 116:7; Isa. 34:14; Lam. 1:3. The FEMININE NOUN is far more common. It is the form used in Ruth 1:9.

3:2 This is the FEMININE form "kinsman" (BDB 396, found only here). The MASCULINE form of the same root is in Ruth 2:1. It denotes a blood relative who had some cultural/legal responsibility for the welfare of the extended family.

The usual term for this person is go'el (BDB 145 I, cf. Lev. 25:25-26; Num. 5:8; Ruth 2:20; 3:9, 12; 4:1, 3, 6, 8, 14; 1 Kgs. 16:11).


▣ "he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight" The emphasis on the word "tonight" may mean that she had inside information that he would be there that particular night or that the owners usually went to the threshing floor to sleep in order to protect their grain. Winnowing was basically a two part process where animals would walk over the grain to separate the grain from the husks. Then the husks and chaff would be thrown into the air with a pitchfork and the wind would blow the chaff away.

3:3 There seems to be a series of suggestions (not IMPERATIVES but Qal PERFECTS with the waw) here of what Ruth should do. These are all very common sense suggestions but it is important that Ruth follow them explicitly. The idea of anointing oneself was a common Semitic way of preparing for a festival. It simply meant to smear one's face (and hands) with olive oil to make it glisten.

The translation "put on your best clothes" is somewhat dubious because I am sure Ruth, in her poverty, did not have many sets of clothes. Maybe it simply means "clean the clothes you have." It is possible these suggestions by Naomi would make Ruth look and smell like a bride. This would add to the marriage imagery.

The phrase "until he has finished eating and drinking" implies these harvest festivals were rather risque, party times. This can be seen from Isa. 9:3; 16:9-10; and Jer. 48:33. Ruth 3:7-8 also seems to imply that Boaz was intoxicated.


3:4 "when he lies down" The owner would stay close to his stack of grain to protect it from thieves.

3:4, 7, 8, 14 "uncover his feet" This word has been interpreted in two literally different ways.

  1. The Syrian translation and the NEB simply imply that this means that she lay down at his feet, as a symbol of submission and lowliness.

  2. Because of several passages in other parts of the OT, many believe that "feet" may be a euphemistic way of speaking of the male genitalia (cf. Exod. 4:25; Deut. 28:57; Jdgs. 3:24; 1 Sam. 24:3; and possibly Isa. 6:2; 7:20; see NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 1049, #6).

The Moffatt Translation seems to follow this line of interpretation by translating it as "uncover his waist."

6So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law had commanded her. 7When Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came secretly, and uncovered his feet and lay down. 8It happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet. 9He said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative." 10Then he said, "May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. 11Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence. 12Now it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. 13Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the Lord lives. Lie down until morning."

3:6 "threshing floor" This was a flat area on a hilltop which the entire village used to winnow grain. See NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 893-894.

NASB, Peshitta  "secretly"
NKJV  "softly"
NRSV, JPSOA, LXX  "stealthily"
TEV, NJB  "quietly"

The MT has a NOUN (BDB 532) which can mean (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 794)

  1. secretly (i.e., so no one else will see her since there were surely other servants of Boaz close by)
  2. quietly (i.e., so as not to wake Boaz)

3:8 "in the middle of the night" This is an idiom for the middle of the night (cf. Jdgs. 16:3). It is literally the word "divide" or "half" (BDB 345). This is not meant to be a precise time designation, but after everyone had gone to sleep (i.e., Boaz, his servants, and other winnowers).

▣ "the man was startled" This Hebrew word (BDB 353) has the implication of "afraid." However, in this context, "surprised" or "startled" is the thought. He either had a dream or in rolling over he touched another warm body and was afraid it was an animal or a burglar, we are just not certain.

3:9 "spread your covering over your maid" Literally this is the word "wing" (BDB 489, cf. LXX). There seems to be some connection between the "wing" of Boaz's garment and the "wing of the Lord," mentioned in Ruth 2:12. Ruth had come under the wing of YHWH by coming to Bethlehem; now she wanted to come under the wing of the protection of Boaz. The covering with his skirt (wing, outer garment) was an idiom for a marriage proposal (cf. Deut. 22:30; 27:20; Ezra 16:8).

▣ "for you are a close relative" This is again the term go'el (BDB 145 I, cf. Ruth 2:22). This reflects something of the Levirate marriage spoken of in Deut. 25:5-10. In Boaz's family, Levirate marriage was involved between Judah and his ancestor, Tamar, cf. Genesis 38. It is spelled out very specifically in Ruth 4:5 and 12.

The use of the terms in Ruth 3:12, "acquire" and "in order that," show the legal relationship that will be involved in this marriage proposal. Really, it should have been that Boaz married Naomi; they were both the same age and this was the relationship spoken of in Deuteronomy 25, but Naomi was too old to have more children (cf. Ruth 1:11).

3:10 "You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first" Boaz's praise is because Ruth was willing not to go after the younger, eligible men of the community, but to have more of the family concern not only for her mother-in-law, Naomi, but for an heir for her dead husband. Her kindness to her husband and his mother has now clearly demonstrated her respect for their family.

3:11 "do not fear" In this chapter there are several IMPERFECTS used in a JUSSIVE sense.

  1. Ruth 3:3 ‒ "do not make yourself known"
  2. Ruth 3:11 ‒ "do not fear"
  3. Ruth 3:13 ‒ "let him redeem you"
  4. Ruth 3:14 ‒ "let it not be known"
  5. Ruth 3:17 ‒ "do not go to. . ."

▣ "for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence" This is the same word used to describe Elimelech earlier (cf. Ruth 2:1). It also shows the character of Ruth, that everyone knew from her loving, faithful acts (Ruth 4:11; Pro. 12:4; 31:10). This must have been shocking to an ancient Israelite who condemned Moabites as heathens (i.e., Deut. 23:3).

3:12 "There is a relative closer than I" This could mean that simply everybody in a small town knew who everyone's relatives were or it may be that Boaz had already been checking on this very thing!


3:13 "as the Lord lives" Here we have Boaz taking an oath in YHWH's name. This oath seems to be the root idea of the word YHWH, which comes from the Hebrew VERB "to be," Exod. 3:14, and I think it means the ever-living, only-living God.


14So she lay at his feet until morning and rose before one could recognize another; and he said, "Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor." 15Again he said, "Give me the cloak that is on you and hold it." So she held it, and he measured six measures of barley and laid it on her. Then she went into the city. 16When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, "How did it go, my daughter?" And she told her all that the man had done for her. 17She said, "These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said, 'Do not go to your mother-in-law empty-handed.'" 18Then she said, "Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today."

3:14 "and rose before one could recognize another" Apparently Boaz realized it would be better if this encounter was kept as a private matter and, therefore, he sent her home well before dawn.

One possible reason for his giving her this large measure of grain in Ruth 3:15 is not to show his kindness to her and Naomi but also to give her an excuse for being out in the street so early in the morning.

NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB, REB  "cloak"
NKJV, JPSOA  "shawl"
LXX  "apron"
Peshitta  "mantle"

This FEMININE NOUN (BDB 381) is found only here, and the PLURAL in Isa. 3:22. It is uncertain exactly to which garment of clothing it referred.

  1. head covering
  2. bridal shawl
  3. outer cloak

Obviously, it is something Ruth had brought with her at Naomi's instruction (i.e., Ruth 3:3).

The rare VERBAL form means "to extend" or "to spread" (i.e., Isa. 48:13; Lam. 2:22).

▣ "he measured six measures of barley and laid it on her" It is characteristic of Hebrew to leave out the specific measure, which would have been understood. However, it is uncertain what measure is spoken of here. If it was an "ephah," it would be almost 150 pounds; if a "seah," which is 1/3 ephah, it would be about 88 pounds, but it seems that the phrase, "laid it on her" implies it was an extra amount of weight and this would be enough for Naomi and Ruth to eat going for a long time. It was also a gesture of his kindness.


▣ "Then she went into the city" The Hebrew Masoretic text has "he went into the city." It is obviously an inappropriate scribal error because he will not go into the city until Ruth 4:1, and this refers to Ruth in this context.

3:16 "How did it go, my daughter" The Hebrew literally has "who are you" (cf. Ruth 3:9), as a question, but this seems somewhat out of context unless it was so early in the morning and was so dark that Naomi did not recognize Ruth at the door, especially with the large amount of grain on her shoulder.

3:17 There is an implication from the amount of grain that possibly there is an underlying implication of "seed" as descendants. Ruth will have surrogate children for Naomi and blood descendants of her dead husband. This family tree is the theological purpose of the book.

3:18 "for the man will not rest until he has settled it today" This either means that Naomi knew the personality of Boaz quite well or she recognized his intense feelings by the amount of grain and knew that he would settle the marriage/redemption issue quickly.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. What does "security" mean in Ruth 3:1?
  2. Explain the difference in "kinsman" in Ruth 3:2 and "close relative" in Ruth 3:9.
  3. What do Ruth's preparations in Ruth 3:3 imply?
  4. What does it mean to uncover someone's feet?
  5. Explain the cultural implications of Ruth 3:9.
  6. For what is Boaz praising Ruth in Ruth 3:10?
  7. Why did Boaz give Ruth so much grain?

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