A Risky Proposal
“May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman” (Ruth 3:10–11).
- Ruth 3
Ruth returns home with an ephah of barley (almost fifty pounds) after Boaz treats her better than the most literal reading of the Law required (Lev. 19:9–10; Ruth 2:17–18). Boaz is a potential redeemer, and Naomi declares the Lord’s kindness at once when she learns her daughter-in-law has been gleaning in his fields (vv. 19–20).
Consider the concept of the kinsman-redeemer, which lies behind Ruth 3–4. The brother of a man who died childless in ancient Israel had to marry the widow left behind and father a son to carry on the dead man’s name and care for his family (Gen. 38; Deut. 25:5–10). This passage implies other male relatives could raise up an heir for a dead man who had no brother. A related law said relatives must buy back (redeem) the property of a kinsman who lost his land (Lev. 25:47–55). Naomi is about to lose Elimelech’s land and has no son to care for her and Ruth (Ruth 4:1–4), and so she asks Ruth to pursue Boaz in 3:1–5 in order to keep the property and produce an heir.
One night Boaz lies next to the heap of threshed barley to guard it from thieves. Ruth approaches him in the dark with what many commentators believe is a sexual overture. Boaz kindly offers to ensure that she and Naomi are redeemed. Moreover, though he could do so, Boaz does not embarrass this young widow who is acting out of covenant love for her mother-in-law (vv. 6–15;Matt. 1:18–19). Even so, Boaz’s praise of her kindness is not an approval of Ruth’s methods.
Boaz has prayed for Ruth to be rewarded for finding shelter under the Lord’s wings (Ruth 2:12), and now she asks him to be the Almighty’s wings of protection over her (3:9). Ultimately, Ruth is asking Boaz to be her husband, redeemer, and to give her a child. This was risky because it was then unheard of for women to propose marriage. Furthermore, her life would be in danger if she were to be found with a man at night and charged with adultery (Lev. 20:10). Ruth could have sought a younger man, but instead she looked to Boaz because she loved Naomi selflessly and desired her family to be redeemed. That is why Boaz praises her (Ruth 3:10).
Ruth 3 demonstrates that God’s holy people not only pray, they are also willing to be the answer of their prayers. Boaz did not just pray for Ruth to be covered, he moved to shelter her in the Lord’s name when the opportunity presented itself. Prayer is vitally important, but we must be willing to be the answer to prayer as well. We must pray for another’s salvation and preach the Gospel to that person. We must pray for the poor and give to the poor.
Passages for Further Study
- Gen. 24
- Ezek. 16:6–14
- Joel 3:16
- James 2:14–26
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