Ruth: 3:1-9; levirate marriage and a study on chesed.

Class Outline:

Ruth: 3:1-9; levirate marriage and a study on chesed.   


Tonight is our 50th message from the Book of Ruth.


RUT 3:1Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, "My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?


RUT 3:2 "And now is not Boaz our kinsman [moyda - relative], with whose maids you were? Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight.


RUT 3:3 Wash 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.


RUT 3:4 And it 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."


RUT 3:5 And she said to her, "All that you say I will do."


Notice Ruth’s obedience.


The obedient unto God will have eyes to see His chesed.


Though they can’t approach Boaz directly, in whatever they do, it must be Ruth who calls upon Boaz to redeem her. According to the Law of Moses, Naomi can’t ask Boaz to redeem Ruth.


DEU 25:5 "When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her.


DEU 25:6 And it shall be that the first-born whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out from Israel.


A childless widow's brother-in-law is obligated to marry her and father a son for her in order that his dead brother's name would continue.


DEU 25:7 But if the man does not desire to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.'


The widow must go to the elders. She cannot send a delegate. In the spirit of this law, Ruth must confront Boaz.


DEU 25:8 "Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, 'I do not desire to take her,'


DEU 25:9 then his brother's wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare,' Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.'


DEU 25:10 "And in Israel his name shall be called, 'The house of him whose sandal is removed.'


It is plain that what happens in the Book of Ruth does not follow the strict laws of levirate marriage, but we do see that the widow must do the talking, and that is Naomi’s plan.


RUT 3:6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law had commanded her.


RUT 3:7 When 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.


After years of famine, this is certainly a festive time. Boaz was happy, full, and having a goblet or two of wine, he came to lie down in his place and sleep peacefully.


The piles of grain were at the edge of the threshing floor. Boaz’s other men would have been sleeping at the other piles so that they would be guarded from theft. This would give Boaz and Ruth a bit of privacy.


RUT 3:8 And it happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet.


RUT 3:9 And he 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."


Ruth has lain down at his feet in the position of a servant, and now she asks him to spread his covering over her, “his maid.” She says to him, “you are a gaal” or redeemer. There is no question to what she is asking. Ruth is asking Boaz to redeem Naomi’s land and her.


Ruth lays in the position of a servant and asks him to be a gaal [redeemer] and cover her; imagery of protection and providence. It is a clear request for him to marry and redeem her.  


It is really quite tender. It has the feeling of a weak but humble person quivering in her speech as she requests the strong man to go all the way to mercy and do what she cannot do.


Ruth’s task is complete. The rest is all up to Boaz.


Rabbis have some explanations for Boaz fear, or what the NAS calls “startled” (vs. 8). The most likely explanation, being the simplest, is that he was startled or shivering from being cold, having his legs uncovered by Ruth, and that he bent forward to grope for his mantle and cover himself. It is then that he discovered another person lying at his feet.


“I am Ruth your maid.” She uses amah (maid) which is the kind that is eligible for concubinage. In 2:13 she identified herself as shiphah, the lowest of maids, which may not marry.


We might imagine Ruth, humble girl as she was, trembling in her voice as she says this. She is bold to call herself an amah, but then again, Boaz has been treating her as one of his best and highest maidens.


She requests that he throw the corner of his mantle over her. At the time, in this circumstance, she is clearly asking him to marry her.


The Hebrew word for “covering” is also translated skirt. It is directly related to marriage in DEU 22:30; EZE 16:8.  


DEU 22:30 A man shall not take his father's wife so that he shall not uncover his father's skirt [same Hebrew word translated “covering in RUT 3:9].


The word is also used of God spreading His skirt over Israel, and it is also in the context of marriage.


It should not be overlooked that Jesus has married His church, and that God has betrothed Israel. Chesed or lovingkindness involves devotion and our marriage to Christ is eternal devotion.


EZE 16:6 "When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you while you were in your blood, 'Live!' I said to you while you were in your blood, 'Live!'


EZE 16:7 "I made you numerous like plants of the field. Then you grew up, became tall, and reached the age for fine ornaments; your breasts were formed and your hair had grown. Yet you were naked and bare.


EZE 16:8 "Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine," declares the Lord God.”


The rabbis have some fun with the concept of covering a woman. They never tire of commentary. “God had not formed woman out of the head, lest she should become proud; nor out of the eye, lest she should lust; nor out of the ear, lest she should be curious; nor out of the mouth, lest she should be talkative; nor out of the heart, lest she should be jealous; nor out of the hand, lest she should be covetous; nor out of the foot, lest she be a busy-body; but out of the rib, which was always covered.” There is no scriptural basis for this.


Back to:

RUT 3:9 And he 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."


Naomi said that he was their modah (relative), while Ruth goes much farther and addresses him as gaal or kinsman-redeemer.


The use of this name is significant, since again it shows Ruth’s devotion to Naomi. Naomi only wanted to obtain a husband for Ruth, a concern of the older widow for the younger widow throughout the book. Ruth subordinates her own desire for happiness in which she might marry a younger man or another rich man of her own age, which Boaz is clear to show that she easily could have. But this is Ruth, a humble servant who will sacrifice for the wellbeing of those she loves. She shows herself to be worth of becoming a full member of the people of Israel, and in the time of the Judges, this foreigner is more of Israel than most Israelites.  


By invoking the gaal custom, Ruth subordinates her own plans and lifts up her family duty by providing Naomi with an heir, and thus embodying chesed, lovingkindness.


Checed, lovingkindness, at times, demands sacrifice and suffering on behalf of others. It is easy to always choose for self, but that will cause a person to miss out on the best of life. Ruth’s subordination is like the Lord’s. She could seek her own mate, young, rich, handsome, but she chooses Boaz for Naomi’s sake. Christ could have ruled the kingdoms of the world and obliterated hunger and disease, but He chose something far greater. He chose to save us from sin and death, which makes for 99.9% (with many more nines after that) of our existence to be without any suffering when we include eternity in heaven.