Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?Ruth 3:1-2. Shall I not seek rest for thee? — A settlement in a house of thy own, and thereby rest in comfort and safety, under the care of a good husband. He winnoweth barley to-night — This, it is probable, was commonly done in the evening, when the heat of the day was over, and cool breezes began to rise; in the thrashing-floor — Which was in a place covered at the top, but open elsewhere, whither Ruth might easily come. And this work of winnowing corn was usually ended with a feast.
And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor.
Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking.Ruth 3:3. Put on thy raiment — Thy best raiment. Make not thyself known — In so familiar a way as thou mayest do hereafter. “It is not easy to tell,” says Dr. Dodd, “at this distance of time, and amid this difference of manners, why Naomi advised Ruth to this secret method of proceeding. One would have thought it better for her to have claimed publicly the right of redemption from Boaz; but, no doubt, Naomi, who was a pious woman, had sufficient reasons for her mode of proceeding; and being well satisfied of the honour of Boaz, as well as the modesty of Ruth, she had no apprehensions of any consequences which might impugn the reputation of either.” Two circumstances must be kept in mind in judging of this conduct of Naomi; the one is, that in taking this method, she intended to induce Boaz to perform that duty which the law required from him, namely, to marry his kinswoman. For the precept enjoining a man, whose brother died childless, to take his widow to wife, that he might raise up seed to his deceased brother, had been extended by custom to other near relations when there were no brethren. The other circumstance to be observed is, “the striking simplicity of the manners of those times, with a pleasing picture whereof every trait in this story presents us.”
And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do.Ruth 3:4. Uncover his feet — Remove the clothes which are upon his feet; thereby to awake him; and lay thee down — She was not to lie down by his side, for that would have been immodest, but at his feet, in the posture of an humble supplicant. Had Ruth acted in any respect that in those days was judged indecent or immodest, it is most likely she would have highly displeased such a grave person as Boaz appears to have been. What she did, however, seems to us indecent, and would certainly be a very improper conduct in any woman in our days; but the general character of both Naomi and Ruth forbids us to suppose that they had any sinful intentions. And yet, as Mr. Scott observes, “when all allowances are made, perhaps neither party can be entirely exculpated. At least, though their plan was graciously rendered successful, it was not recorded for imitation in the present state of society.”
And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do.
And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her.
And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down.Ruth 3:7. And his heart was merry — Hebrew, יישׂב לבו, iitab, libbo, his heart was good, that is, cheerful and thankful for the plenty which the Lord had sent. He went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn — In his clothes, doubtless; not going as usual to his house and bed, but reposing himself here, for the sake of taking a little temporary rest, probably on the straw in the floor where his corn had been winnowed, to secure it from thieves till it could be laid up in his garner. For such was the plain way of living in those ancient times, that the most wealthy persons looked after their own business, both in the field and at home. And she came softly —
So that none perceived her, and, when he was asleep, lay down at his feet, in her clothes, which we have no reason to think she put off, as her intention was only to put him in remembrance of what the law required of him.
And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet.Ruth 3:8-9. At midnight — He did not discover her sooner; the man was afraid — Feeling something unusual at his feet. Behold a woman lay at his feet — He perceived by her clothes, and, when she spake, by her voice, that it was a woman. Spread therefore thy skirt over thy handmaid — A kind of proverbial expression, signifying, Take me to be thy wife, and perform the duty of a husband to me. From this answer of Ruth, and from what Boaz says in the two following verses, it is plain that she had no design of any thing but what was honest and lawful.
And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.
And he said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich.Ruth 3:10. More kindness in the latter end than in the beginning — Both to thy deceased husband, the continuance of whose name and memory thou seekest, and to thy mother-in-law, whose commands thou hast punctually obeyed. The former kindness which Ruth had shown to the family of Boaz was in her love and fidelity to her husband, and her affectionate regard to her mother-in-law. But Boaz here commends her willingness to marry him, who was advanced in years, in order to raise up seed to her departed husband, as the greatest instance of love that she had given; inasmuch as she had not followed young men — Either among the Israelites, or in her own country, as he intimates she would have done if she had not preferred obedience to God’s command, before pleasing herself.
And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.Ruth 3:11-13. And now, my daughter, fear not — No words can more evidently express any thing than this and the following verse do, that Ruth did nothing immodest. Howbeit, there is a kinsman nearer than I — He does not absolutely refuse to grant her petition, but, influenced by a strict regard to the law of Moses, informs her that as there was a person nearer to her than himself, he could not properly take her to wife till that person had been consulted. If he will perform unto thee the kinsman’s part, &c. — Will take thee to wife to raise up seed to his brother. Bishop Hall thus sums up this matter in his Contemplations: — “Boaz, instead of touching her as a wanton, blesseth her as a father, encourages her as a friend, promises her as a kinsman, rewards her as a patron, and sends her away laden with hopes and gifts, no less chaste, but more happy, than she came. O admirable temperance, worthy the progenitor of Him in whose lips and heart there was no guile!”
And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I.
Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman's part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the LORD liveth: lie down until the morning.
And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor.Ruth 3:14. She lay at his feet till the morning — Having no other design but only to implore his justice and kindness unto her deceased husband. He said, Let it not be known — He takes care to preserve not only his conscience toward God, but his reputation and hers also among men.
Also he said, Bring the vail that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her: and she went into the city.
And when she came to her mother in law, she said, Who art thou, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her.Ruth 3:16-17. Who art thou, my daughter? — Or rather, Is it thou, my daughter? He said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother-in-law — There is no mention made before of Boaz thus speaking to her, but it is not unusual for the sacred writers, in the relation of a fact or event, to omit many little circumstances which they occasionally mention afterward. It is likely that Boaz intended this corn chiefly for Naomi, as he was that day either about to marry Ruth himself, or to provide her another husband.
And she said, These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother in law.
Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.