We see a change in Naomi. Instead of being beat down and bitter, there is now new life. The prospect of Ruth and Boaz brings her hope. It was the parent's job to set up marriages in that day and in that culture. Naomi feels the responsibility to set Ruth in front of Boaz. Boaz was their relative; it was his responsibility to act as the goel, or kinsman redeemer. If Ruth named him as the goel, he was to step in, marry Ruth and continue the blood line of Elimelech.
David Guzick lists these four responsibilities of the goel:
- The kinsman-redeemer was responsible to buy a fellow Israelite out of slavery (Leviticus 25:48).
- He was responsible to be the "avenger of blood" to make sure the murderer of a family member answered to the crime (Numbers 35:19).
- He was responsible to buy back family land that had been forfeited (Leviticus 25:25).
- He was responsible to carry on the family name by marrying a childless widow (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).
Naomi sought security for Ruth. The word translated 'security' means 'a place of rest' or 'a condition of rest'. To have Boaz as her goel would change Ruth's life and hope of a future and a family. In addition it would change Naomi's life.
Now we need to remember that Ruth is a Moabite so she didn't necessarily know how this all worked. it was going to be up to Naomi to guide her through the process. This wasn't anything sneaky; or as if Naomi were matchmaking. This was fitting and proper; accepted and expected. It's interesting to note that Boaz wasn't aware that he was in the bloodline of Christ. He didn't know that the child of the wife he took would turn out to be King David's grandfather.
Harvest time was an event for the community. While we focus on Boaz and Ruth we should remember that much of the community would be present there. The threshing floor was on a hill top where it could catch the wind. The stalks of grain were threshed there on the floor. Then with winnowing forks, it was tossed into the air where the grain would fall to the floor and the chaff would blow away.
The threshing floor was usually shared by the community. Many of the folks would harvest and thresh one mans field and then move on to do another's field. They would stay at the threshing floor, like camping out. This was to protect the harvest until the process was complete.
So Naomi knew they were on the threshing floor winnowing barley. So she coached Ruth to prepare herself for this evening. She was to wash. As we remember the place and the time, we note that washing wasn't necessarily a daily occurrence like it is for us. This was a special event and this special preparation was required. After she washed, she was to anoint herself. In those days they had perfumed oils used for different purposes. After washing and perfuming she was to put on her best dress. Then Naomi advises her to not interfere while he was eating. She was just to pay attention to where he lay down for the night. Then she was to lay down at his feet. This was the place of a humble servant. Now Ruth had every right to claim Boaz as her goel and put pressure on him to fulfill his responsibility. She could have come as a victim claiming rights, but instead she is coming to him as a humble servant trusting him.
Again, this isn't anything sneaky or underhanded. It's not sexual in any way. This is Ruth presenting her self to Boaz with the heart of a servant.
She identified her self as Ruth, the maidservant; not the Moabite, not the step daughter of Elimelech. She is asking Boaz to take her as his wife. The phrase 'take your maidservant under you wing' can also be translated 'spread the corner of your garment over me'. When a man spread his garment over a woman, he was taking her under his love, care and protection as a wife. Ruth uses the word goel here; translated 'close relative'.
10 Then he said, "Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman. 12 Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. 13 Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you-good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the Lord lives! Lie down until morning."
There must have been a difference in age here. Boaz may have ruled himself out as a possible husband for Ruth. Boaz is accepting and says he will fulfill this role, all that she asks, he will do. Ruth had a reputation of being virtuous. She was moral, had integrity and character. She was also marked with courage. These ideas are all in the word 'virtuous'.
Boaz breaks the bad news; there is another close relative. Talk about deflating the moment!! This must have been news to Ruth. But Boaz is playing this by the book and the other man is a closer relative. He gets first choice in fulfilling this role.
I wonder if Ruth slept at all that night.
She got up while it was still dark and no one could see what had happened or what was going on. They weren't trying to avoid a scandal since there was nothing scandalous going on. This was likely so that Boaz could confront the other relative and get a decision.
The word ephahs is added and likely incorrect since that would be about 30 gallons of barley. She was given six handfuls or six measures of some kind as Boaz continues to show this incredible kindness toward her.
Jewish traditions says that this six measures given to Ruth was a sign of the six pious men with six spiritual gifts would descend from her. These men were David, Daniel, Hannaniah, Mishael, Azariah and the Messiah.
Ruth need not do anything but rest and wait. I'm just guessing that Ruth didn't think this resting and waiting was all that easy. After all, her future, her life and her hope were at stake. But Ruth trust God, she trusted Boaz and the process. Naomi said he wouldn't rest until the matter was decided. This wasn't something Boaz was willing to let drag out.
Genesis 38 is the story of Judah. He was to act as the kinsman redeemer for his daughter in law since his sons wouldn't.
©2015 Doug Ford