Ruth spends night with Boaz
Naomi’s risqué scheme1 Naomi told Ruth, “Daughter, I’m going to help you make a home for yourself here. You need someone to take care of you. 2 Boaz is our relative. You’ve been working with the women on his harvesting crew for a while now. Well, they’re going to be working this evening at the threshing floor, to shake the grain loose from the stalks.
3 I want you to take a bath, put on some perfume, and dress in your best outfit. Then I want you to go to the threshing floor. Keep a low profile. Don’t engage Boaz. Wait until he’s done eating and drinking. 4 Keep an eye on him and see where he beds down for the night. Then I want you to slip under the covers at his feet. After that, it’s up to him. He’ll tell you what to do. 5 Ruth said, “Okay. I’ll do it.”
Ruth, undercover6 Ruth went down to the threshing floor and did what Naomi said.
7 Boaz was feeling good after he ate his fill and had some drinks. He bedded down beside a big pile of grain. Ruth quietly slipped over there. She lifted the covers by his feet. Then she tucked herself in there for the night.
8 Sometime in the middle of the night, Boaz woke up with a startle. And a woman.
9 In the darkness he asked, “Who are you?” Ruth said, “It’s me, Ruth. You are my relative and my family savior. Cover me.
10 Boaz said, “Oh my goodness. May the LORD bless you. I thought you showed remarkable loyalty to Naomi by leaving your people and coming here with her. But the loyalty you’re showing now to our family and to me is even more impressive. You could have chosen a younger man—anyone you wanted, poor or rich. But you chose me. 11 Don’t be afraid, child. I’ll do everything you ask. Everyone here knows your story and has great respect for you. They know you’re a good woman. 12 It’s true that I’m a close relative. But there’s one man who’s a closer relative.
13 Stay here tonight. In the morning I’ll meet with him. If he decides to become your family savior, then he’ll take care of you. If he doesn’t, as God is my witness, I’ve got you covered.
14 Ruth rested there at Boaz’s feet until just before dawn. She got up while it was still dark. Boaz had told her, “It’s important that no one sees that you spent the night here at the threshing floor.”
A gift for Naomi15 Before Ruth left, Boaz told her to spread out her shawl. Then he poured six scoops of barley grain onto the shawl and put it on her back. Ruth carried it back to town.
16 Naomi greeted her with, “Well, daughter, how did it go?” Ruth told her everything.
17 Ruth said, “He gave me six scoops of barley. He said, ‘I want you to go back with a gift for your mother-in-law.’”
18 Naomi said, “Well, daughter, we’re going to have to wait a bit to see how this turns out. But not long. He won’t let the sun go down on this. He’ll settle this today."
During harvest season, many farmers camped in their fields to protect their harvested crops from thieves and hungry animals.
On the one hand we’re talking about a Moabite; and people remembered the story of what Moabite women did. On the other hand, we’re talking about Boaz, and people knew what guys typically did with willing women. So, putting two and two together, Naomi may have figured she was putting the two together. On the other hand, perhaps Naomi simply intended this as an ice-breaking way for Ruth to say, “Will you please marry me? You’re not getting any younger. And wouldn’t you like to wake up to this every morning?” Scholars debate the various interpretations of key Hebrew words in this part of the story. But what remains obvious is that Ruth gets herself smelling good and looking good when it’s time to go to bed. Then she puts herself in pillow-talk distance to a man well fed and covered for the night. Naomi’s apparent hope—at the risk of losing Boaz’s patronage—is that he’ll go a little further. The patron will become the pater familias, the head of Ruth’s new family. It’s a risky and risqué move.
“Cover me” works two ways. Literally, “It’s cold, so cover me with the blanket.” Metaphorically, “Cover me with your protection, the way God covers his people under his wings.” “Those of you who live under God’s wings are safe in the shadow of the LORD…He will shield you, nestled in the feathers of his wings” (Psalm 91:1, 4).
The writer doesn’t tell us why Boaz sent the gift for Naomi. Scholars offer guesses. Maybe Ruth told Boaz that her nighttime visit was Naomi’s idea, so Boaz sent Naomi a gift of thanks. Or perhaps Boaz was sending the gift as an expression of his intention to take care of Ruth. Or maybe he was acknowledging that Naomi was his link to Ruth as a “family savior.” He was related to Naomi, not Ruth. If Boaz married Ruth, it would be because of Naomi. That’s certainly worth a few scoops of barley.
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