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1. Naomi’s plan to secure rest for Ruth 3:1-5

Naomi had expressed a desire back in Moab that each of her daughters-in-law might find "rest" (Ruth 1:9). The Hebrew word reads "security" in the NASB and "a home" in the NIV, but its meaning in other parts of the Old Testament is a place or condition of rest. [Note: See my note on 1:9.] Naomi’s concern for Ruth extended beyond her physical needs of food and safety to Ruth’s deeper need for a husband and, hopefully, a son. God had promised to bless His people with many descendants (Genesis 12:1-3), and the hope of every Jewish woman was that God would so bless her. If Ruth was able to marry Boaz and have a son, Naomi likewise would enjoy blessing since Ruth’s son would perpetuate Elimelech’s branch of the family. Yet Naomi’s concern appears to have been primarily for Ruth’s welfare in marriage because Ruth had proved to be such a blessing to her.

Bush argued repeatedly that there is no indication in the text that part of the hope of Naomi and Ruth was that Ruth would bear a child who would perpetuate the line of her first husband. [Note: Bush, p. 147, et al.] But it seems likely that children played a part in the hope that these women entertained in view of how ancient Near Easterners regarded children, even though the writer made no mention of this hope. It was common for Hebrew parents to arrange marriages for their children (cf. Judges 14:1-10). [Note: Reed, p. 424.] One writer suggested that Naomi was telling Ruth to act like a bride preparing for her wedding (cf. Ezekiel 16:9-12). [Note: Wiersbe, p. 191.]

"A significant theological point emerges here. Earlier Naomi had wished for these same things (Ruth 1:8-9). Here human means (i.e., Naomi’s plan) carry out something previously understood to be in Yahweh’s province. In response to providentially given opportunity, Naomi began to answer her own prayer! Thus she models one way in which divine and human actions work together: believers are not to wait passively for events to happen; rather, they must seize the initiative when an opportunity presents itself. They assume that God presents the opportunity." [Note: Hubbard, p. 199.]

The plan Naomi proposed was in harmony with Israel’s laws and social conventions. She was not suggesting anything improper much less immoral. [Note: See Allen P. Ross, "The Daughters of Lot and the Daughter-In-Law of Judah: Hubris or Faith in the Struggle for Women’s Rights," Exegesis and Exposition 2:1 (Summer 1987):79; and Block, pp. 685-86.] While it is true that in the phrase "uncover his feet" (Ruth 3:4) the "feet" may be a euphemism for the sexual organs, Naomi was not suggesting that Ruth should remove Boaz’s trousers. [Note: For an advocate of the sexual view, see P. Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality, pp. 182, 198, n. 23. For a feminist interpretation of the Book of Ruth that sees quite a bit of self-interest and sexual preoccupation in the main characters, see Danna Nolan Fewell and David Miller Gunn, Compromising Redemption.] She was probably telling Ruth to remove the blanket or cloak (Ruth 3:15) that would be covering Boaz’s legs and feet as he slept at the threshing floor. She would then ask him to cover her with it (Ruth 3:10). This was a symbolic way of requesting Boaz’s protection as her husband (cf. Deuteronomy 22:30; Deuteronomy 27:20; Ezekiel 16:8; Malachi 2:16). [Note: P. A. Kruger, "The Hem of the Garment in Marriage: The Meaning of the Symbolic Gesture in Ruth 3:9 and Ezekiel 16:8," Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 12 (1984):86. See also John Gray, Joshua, Judges and Ruth, p. 395; and Block, p. 691.] It was an encouragement to pursue the possibility of marriage.

Why did Naomi suggest this method of encouraging Boaz? Evidently other methods were not possible or preferable.

"But why it should be done in this way we do not know. Nor do we know whether this was a widely practiced custom or not. It is not attested other than here." [Note: Morris, p. 287.]

Ruth again submitted to the counsel of her mother-in-law under whose authority she had placed herself (Ruth 3:5; cf. Ruth 2:2). Throughout the Book of Ruth the heroine is submissive to the authority of the Israelites. This reflects her commitment to following Yahweh and His chosen people.

It may appear that Ruth was inappropriately aggressive. However, Boaz had previously indicated his strong affection for her (Ruth 2:11-17). She was only encouraging him to pursue his interest in her.

"Here is a servant demanding that the boss marry her, a Moabite making the demand of an Israelite, a woman making the demand of a man, a poor person making the demand of a rich man. Was this an act of foreigner naïveté, or a daughter-in-law’s devotion to her mother-in-law, or another sign of the hidden hand of God? From a natural perspective the scheme was doomed from the beginning as a hopeless gamble, and the responsibility Naomi placed on Ruth was quite unreasonable. But it worked!" [Note: Block, p. 692.]

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