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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Ruth 3



Verse 1

1. Naomi… said — All through that memorable barley harvest, from the evening when Ruth showed her the results of her first day’s gleaning in the field of Boaz until the time of this utterance, had the now hopeful Naomi been planning that to which she here advises her daughter in law.

Seek rest — See note on Ruth 1:9.


Verse 2

2. He winnoweth barley to-night — The night was chosen for the purpose because of the breeze which usually set in with the cool of the day. “The winnowing was performed by throwing up the grain with a fork against the wind, by which the broken straw and chaff were dispersed, and the grain fell to the ground. The grain was afterwards passed through a sieve to separate the morsels of earth and other impurities, and it then underwent a final purification by being tossed up with wooden scoops or short-handled shovels, such as we see figured in the monuments of Egypt.” — Kitto.

The threshingfloor — This was a level plot of ground of a circular shape, generally about fifty feet in diameter, and beaten down to a hard, smooth surface. Upon this the sheaves of grain were thrown, and the threshing was usually performed by driving cattle over them: the Scriptural mode of “treading out the corn.”

Verse 3

3. Wash… anoint… raiment — Arrange and prepare thy person in the most attractive form, as a bride for her nuptials.

Verse 4

4. Uncover his feet, and lay thee down — Viewed in the light of our own age this act would be in the highest degree immodest and presumptuous, but not so according to the laws and manners of that ancient time. We have seen that according to the levirate law Ruth had a right to claim the favour of marriage from her deceased husband’s nearest unmarried kinsman, and therefore this act, instead of being a compromise of her virtue, was regarded by Boaz as prudent and worthy of praise. See Ruth 3:10-11. Doubtless the reason of Naomi’s advising this course to Ruth was, that she thought it would be more likely to succeed than any other form in which she could make known her desire to Boaz.

Verse 7

7. When Boaz had eaten — This was the evening meal, taken after the labours of the day were over.

His heart was merry — He was cheerful and happy over a bountiful harvest, and probably also with the drinking of wine.

At the end of the heap of corn — The winnowed grain was left over night lying in a heap, and this exposed the threshingfloors to the danger of being robbed. See 1 Samuel 23:1. “We have on various occasions,” says Thomson, “seen the summer threshingfloors in the open country, and the owners sleeping at them to prevent stealing.” And Captain Postans remarks: “Natives of the East [usually] care little for sleeping accommodations, but rest where weariness overcomes them, lying on the ground. They are, however, careful to cover the feet, and to do this they have a sheet of coarse cloth that they tuck under the feet, and, drawing it up over the body, suffer it to cover the face and head. An oriental seldom changes his position, and we are told that Boaz did so because he was afraid; the covering of the feet in ordinary cases is consequently not disturbed. I have frequently observed, when riding out in a native city before dawn, figures with their feet so covered, lying like monumental effigies in the pathway, and in the open verandahs of the houses.”

Verse 8

8. The man was afraid — Finding the covering of his feet removed, he feared that robbers might have entered his floor; but not knowing what was the matter he turned himself, that is, bent over or forward, to see and feel who or what the intruder was.

Verse 9

9. Spread… thy skirt over thine handmaid — Literally, spread thy wing. The meaning is, Take me into the protection and intimacy of the marriage relation. The figure, taken originally from birds that cover their young with their wings for protection, is appropriately used of the marriage state. Thus in Ezekiel 16:8, Jehovah represents himself as spreading his wing over Jerusalem in the time of love, and thus taking her to wife. Also in Deuteronomy 22:30; Deuteronomy 27:20, a man guilty of incest is represented as one that uncovereth his father’s wing, or skirt, because he meddles with that which is closed and legally sealed to all but the married pair.

Thou art a near kinsman — A goel, from whom I have a legal right to claim this relation.

Verse 10

10. More kindness in the latter end חסד, kindness, is often used in the sense of piety, moral and religious goodness. Such is the meaning here, and the passage should be read, Thou hast made thy latter act of piety better than the former. Her former act of piety was her devotion to the memory of her deceased husband and to her mother in law, and her forsaking of father and mother and native land to become a proselyte to the Hebrew faith. Her latter piety was shown, as Boaz proceeds to state, in her not following after young men to seek to win a youthful husband; but, in strict observance of the laws and customs of the Hebrew people, by coming and claiming him as her kinsman.

Verse 11

11. A virtuous woman — Literally, a woman of strength. It corresponds with the common expression, man of valour. Ruth was strong in all that constitutes female excellence and worth. She was not merely virtuous, in the sense of chaste, but she was full of virtues. “Boaz, no doubt, knew her general character, and knew also that in the present instance she acted in accordance with the advice of her mother in law, who had taught her that she not only had a right to claim Boaz for her husband, but that she was precluded by the law of God from forming any other reputable connexion. Boaz also remembered that he was old, and she young and attractive; and, though from the heathen Moabites, yet she preferred to walk in the sober path of honest married life rather than to associate with the young and the gay, by whom, it is intimated, she had been tempted. He was therefore fully justified in ascribing to this very act an honourable and virtuous principle, notwithstanding the apparent violation of modesty and propriety; and in this he judged correctly, for such was the fact.” — Thomson.

Verse 12

12. There is a kinsman nearer than I — From this it appears that Naomi had laboured under some mistake. Probably she was ignorant of the existence of a nearer kinsman than Boaz; or she may have known that nearer kinsman, and also that it would have marred his inheritance to have redeemed that of her husband, Elimelech. Compare Ruth 4:6.

Verse 13

13. Tarry this night — For it would have been dangerous for her to return alone to the city in the darkness of midnight; but in the early morning, before one can readily recognise another, women may be seen in the East going forth on some errand or work.

Verse 14

14. Let it not be known — Thus Boaz charged Ruth and whoever else might have known that she had been there, for both his reputation and hers would suffer if that fact at once became known.

Verse 15

15. Bring the veil — The long loose wrapper in which the eastern women envelope themselves when out of doors. Among the poorer classes its material is strong and coarse enough not to be at all damaged by the use here made of it.

Six measures — How large the measures were we have no means of ascertaining, and conjecture is vain. The Chaldee paraphrase has the following: “He measured six seahs (nearly two bushels!) of barley, and placed it upon her, and she received strength from the Lord to carry it, and immediately it was said in prophecy that there should come of her the six righteous ones of the world, each one of whom should be blessed with six benedictions — David, and Daniel and his companions, and King Messiah.”

She went into the city — Rather, He went, etc., for the form of the verb is masculine, and the meaning is, that he gave her the barley and sent her away, and then he also went into the city.

Verse 16

16. Who art thou, my daughter — That is, In what character dost thou return — as the espoused of Boaz, or only still a desolate widow?

Verse 18

18. Sit still — Stay quietly at home.

How the matter will fall — Whether that nearer kinsman will redeem thee, or yield his right to Boaz.

The man will not be in rest — His actions and his oath (Ruth 3:13) show that he will quickly bring the matter to an issue.


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 29th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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