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Ruth 3

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Naomi Instructs Ruth

3:1 At that time, 1  Naomi, her mother-in-law, said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you so you will be secure. 2  3:2 Now Boaz, with whose female servants you worked, is our close relative. 3  Look, tonight he is winnowing barley at the threshing floor. 4  3:3 So bathe yourself, 5  rub on some perfumed oil, 6  and get dressed up. 7  Then go down 8  to the threshing floor. But don’t let the man know you’re there until he finishes his meal. 9  3:4 When he gets ready to go to sleep, 10  take careful notice of the place where he lies down. Then go, uncover his legs, 11  and lie down 12  beside him. 13  He will tell 14  you what you should do.” 3:5 Ruth replied to Naomi, 15  “I will do everything you have told 16  me 17  to do.” 18 

Ruth Visits Boaz

3:6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law had instructed her to do. 19  3:7 When Boaz had finished his meal and was feeling satisfied, he lay down to sleep at the far end of the grain heap. 20  Then Ruth 21  crept up quietly, 22  uncovered his legs, 23  and lay down beside him. 24  3:8 In the middle of the night he was startled 25  and turned over. 26  Now 27  he saw a woman 28  lying beside him! 29  3:9 He said, “Who are you?” 30  She replied, “I am Ruth, your servant. 31  Marry your servant, 32  for you are a guardian of the family interests.” 33  3:10 He said, “May you be rewarded 34  by the Lord, my dear! 35  This act of devotion 36  is greater than what you did before. 37  For you have not sought to marry 38  one of the young men, whether rich or poor. 39  3:11 Now, my dear, don’t worry! 40  I intend to do for you everything you propose, 41  for everyone in the village 42  knows that you are a worthy woman. 43  3:12 Now yes, it is true that 44  I am a guardian, 45  but there is another guardian who is a closer relative than I am. 3:13 Remain here tonight. Then in the morning, if he agrees to marry you, 46  fine, 47  let him do so. 48  But if he does not want to do so, I promise, as surely as the Lord lives, to marry you. 49  Sleep here until morning.” 50  3:14 So she slept beside him 51  until morning. She woke up while it was still dark. 52  Boaz thought, 53  “No one must know that a woman visited the threshing floor.” 54  3:15 Then he said, “Hold out the shawl 55  you are wearing 56  and grip it tightly.” As she held it tightly, he measured out about sixty pounds 57  of barley into the shawl and put it on her shoulders. Then he 58  went into town, 3:16 and she returned to her mother-in-law.

Ruth Returns to Naomi

When Ruth returned to her mother-in-law, Naomi 59  asked, 60  “How did things turn out for you, 61  my daughter?” Ruth 62  told her about all the man had done for her. 63  3:17 She said, “He gave me these sixty pounds of barley, for he said to me, 64  ‘Do not go to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” 65  3:18 Then Naomi 66  said, “Stay put, 67  my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out. For the man will not rest until he has taken care of the matter today.”

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1 tn The phrase “sometime later” does not appear in Hebrew but is supplied to mark the implicit shift in time from the events in chapter 2.

2 tn Heb “My daughter, should I not seek for you a resting place so that it may go well for you [or which will be good for you]?” The idiomatic, negated rhetorical question is equivalent to an affirmation (see 2:8-9) and has thus been translated in the affirmative (so also NAB, NCV, NRSV, TEV, CEV, NLT).

3 tn Heb “Is not Boaz our close relative, with whose female servants you were?” The idiomatic, negated rhetorical question is equivalent to an affirmation (see Ruth 2:8-9; 3:1) and has thus been translated in the affirmative (so also NCV, NRSV, TEV, CEV, NLT).

4 tn Heb “look, he is winnowing the barley threshing floor tonight.”

sn Winnowing the threshed grain involved separating the kernels of grain from the straw and chaff. The grain would be thrown into the air, allowing the wind to separate the kernels (see O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel, 65-66). The threshing floor itself was usually located outside town in a place where the prevailing west wind could be used to advantage (Borowski, 62-63).

5 tn The perfect with prefixed vav (ו) consecutive here introduces a series of instructions. See GKC 335 §112.aa for other examples of this construction.

6 tn For the meaning of the verb סוּךְ (sukh), see HALOT 745-46 s.v. II סוך, and F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 150. Cf. NAB, NRSV “anoint yourself”; NIV “perfume yourself”; NLT “put on perfume.”

7 tc The consonantal text (Kethib) has the singular שִׂמְלֹתֵךְ (simlotekh, “your outer garment”), while the marginal reading (Qere) has the plural שִׂמְלֹתַיִךְ (simlotayikh) which might function as a plural of number (“your outer garments”) or a plural of composition (“your outer garment [composed of several parts]).”

tn Heb “and put your outer garment on yourself”; NAB “put on your best attire.” The noun שִׂמְלָה (simlah) may refer to clothes in general (see R. L. Hubbard, Jr., Ruth [NICOT], 197, n. 7) or a long outer garment (see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 150-51). Mourners often wore mourning clothes and refrained from washing or using cosmetics (Gen 38:14, 19; 2 Sam 12:20; 14:2), so Ruth’s attire and appearance would signal that her period of mourning was over and she was now available for remarriage (see Bush, 152).

8 tc The consonantal text (Kethib) has וְיָרַדְתִּי (vÿyaradtiy, “then I will go down”; Qal perfect 1st person common singular), while the marginal reading (Qere) is וְיָרַדְתְּ (vÿyaradt, “then you go down”; Qal perfect 2nd person feminine singular) which makes more much sense in context. It is possible that the Kethib preserves an archaic spelling of the 2nd person feminine singular form (see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 144-45).

9 tn Heb “until he finishes eating and drinking”; NASB, NIV, NRSV, TEV, CEV “until he has finished.”

10 tn Heb “and let it be when he lies down”; NAB “But when he lies down.”

11 tn Some define the noun מַרְגְּלוֹת (margÿlot) as “the place for the feet” (see HALOT 631 s.v.; cf. KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT), but in Dan 10:6 the word refers to the legs, or “region of the legs.” For this reason “legs” or “lower body” is the preferred translation (see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 152). Because “foot” is sometimes used euphemistically for the genitals, some feel that Ruth uncovered Boaz’s genitals. For a critique of this view see Bush, 153. While Ruth and Boaz did not actually have a sexual encounter at the threshing floor, there is no doubt that Ruth’s actions are symbolic and constitute a marriage proposal.

12 tc The consonantal text (Kethib) has וְשָׁכָבְתִּי (vÿshakhavtiy, “then I will lie down”; Qal perfect 1st person common singular), while the marginal reading (Qere) is וְשָׁכָבְתְּ (vÿshakhavt, “then you lie down”; Qal perfect 2nd person feminine singular) which makes more sense. It is possible that the Kethib preserves an archaic spelling of the 2nd person feminine singular form (see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 144-45).

13 tn The words “beside him” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons; cf. NLT “lie down there.”

14 tn The disjunctive clause structure (vav [ו] + subject + verb) highlights this final word of instruction or signals the conclusion of the instructions.

15 tn Heb “she said to her.” The referents (Ruth and Naomi) have been specified in the translation for clarity.

16 tn The Hebrew imperfect is used, even though Naomi’s instructions appear to be concluded. The imperfect can sometimes express actions which although (strictly speaking) are already finished, yet are regarded as still lasting into the present, or continuing to operate in it (GKC 316 §107.h).

17 tc The MT (Kethib) lacks the preposition אֵלַי (’elay, “to me”) which is attested in the marginal reading (Qere). Many medieval Hebrew mss agree with the marginal reading (Qere) by including the phrase.

18 tn Heb “everything which you are saying I will do.” The Hebrew word order emphasizes Ruth’s intention to follow Naomi’s instructions to the letter.

19 tn Heb “and she did according to all which her mother-in-law commanded her” (NASB similar). Verse 6 is a summary statement, while the following verses (vv. 7-15) give the particulars.

20 tn Heb “and Boaz ate and drank and his heart was well and he went to lie down at the end of the heap”; NAB “at the edge of the sheaves.”

21 tn Heb “she”; the referent (Ruth) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

22 sn Ruth must have waited until Boaz fell asleep, for he does not notice when she uncovers his legs and lies down beside him.

23 tn See the note on the word “legs” in v. 4.

24 tn The words “beside him” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. Cf. TEV “at his feet”; CEV “near his feet.”

25 tn Heb “trembled, shuddered”; CEV, NLT “suddenly woke up.” Perhaps he shivered because he was chilled.

26 tn The verb לָפַת (lafat) occurs only here, Job 6:18, and Judg 16:29 (where it seems to mean “grab hold of”). Here the verb seems to carry the meaning “bend, twist, turn,” like its Arabic cognate (see HALOT 533 s.v. לפת, and F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 163).

27 tn Heb “and behold” (so KJV, NASB). The narrator invites the reader to view the situation through Boaz’s eyes.

28 sn Now he saw a woman. The narrator writes from Boaz’s perspective. Both the narrator and the reader know the night visitor is Ruth, but from Boaz’s perspective she is simply “a woman.”

29 tn Heb “[at] his legs.” See the note on the word “legs” in v. 4.

30 tn When Boaz speaks, he uses the feminine form of the pronoun, indicating that he knows she is a woman.

31 tn Here Ruth uses אָמָה (’amah), a more elevated term for a female servant than שִׁפְחָה (shifkhah), the word used in 2:13. In Ruth 2, where Ruth has just arrived from Moab and is very much aware of her position as a foreigner (v. 10), she acknowledges Boaz’s kindness and emphasizes her own humility by using the term שִׁפְחָה, though she admits that she does not even occupy that lowly position on the social scale. However, here in chap. 3, where Naomi sends her to Boaz to seek marriage, she uses the more elevated term אָמָה to describe herself because she is now aware of Boaz’s responsibility as a close relative of her deceased husband and she wants to challenge him to fulfill his obligation. In her new social context she is dependent on Boaz (hence the use of אָמָה), but she is no mere שִׁפְחָה.

32 tn Heb “and spread your wing [or skirt] over your servant.” Many medieval Hebrew mss have the plural/dual “your wings” rather than the singular “your wing, skirt.” The latter is more likely here in the context of Ruth’s marriage proposal. In the metaphorical account in Ezek 16:8, God spreads his skirt over naked Jerusalem as an act of protection and as a precursor to marriage. Thus Ruth’s words can be taken, in effect, as a marriage proposal (and are so translated here; cf. TEV “So please marry me”). See F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 164-65.

33 tn Heb “for you are a גֹאֵל [goel],” sometimes translated “redeemer” (cf. NIV “a kinsman-redeemer”; NLT “my family redeemer”). In this context Boaz, as a “redeemer,” functions as a guardian of the family interests who has responsibility for caring for the widows of his deceased kinsmen. For a discussion of the legal background, see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 166-69.

sn By proposing marriage, Ruth goes beyond the letter of Naomi’s instructions (see v. 4, where Naomi told Ruth that Boaz would tell her what to do). Though she is more aggressive than Naomi told her to be, she is still carrying out the intent of Naomi’s instructions, which were designed to lead to marriage.

34 tn Or “blessed” (so NASB, NRSV).

35 tn Heb “my daughter.” This form of address is a mild form of endearment, perhaps merely rhetorical. A few English versions omit it entirely (e.g., TEV, CEV). The same expression occurs in v. 11.

36 tn Heb “latter [act of] devotion”; NRSV “this last instance of your loyalty.”

37 tn Heb “you have made the latter act of devotion better than the former”; NIV “than that which you showed earlier.”

sn Greater than what you did before. Ruth’s former act of devotion was her decision to remain and help Naomi. The latter act of devotion is her decision to marry Boaz to provide a child to carry on her deceased husband’s (and Elimelech’s) line and to provide for Naomi in her old age (see Ruth 4:5, 10, 15).

38 tn Heb “by not going after the young men” (NASB similar); TEV “You might have gone looking for a young man.”

39 tn Heb “whether poor or rich” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV); the more common English idiom reverses the order (“rich or poor”; cf. NIV, NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT).

sn Whether rich or poor. This statement seems to indicate that Ruth could have married anyone. However, only by marrying a גֹּאֵל (goel, “family guardian”; traditionally “redeemer”) could she carry on her dead husband’s line and make provision for Naomi.

40 tn Heb “do not fear” (so NASB); NRSV “do not be afraid.”

41 tn Heb “everything which you are saying I will do for you.” The Hebrew word order emphasizes Boaz’s intention to fulfill Ruth’s request. As in v. 5, the Hebrew imperfect is used (note “you are saying”), even though Ruth’s request appears to be concluded. According to GKC 316 §107.h, the imperfect can sometimes “express actions, etc., which although, strictly speaking, they are already finished, are regarded as still lasting on into the present time, or continuing to operate in it.” The imperfect אֶעֱשֶׂה (’eeseh) could be translated “I will do” (so NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT), but since there are legal complications which must first be resolved, it is better to take the form as indicating Boaz’s desire or intention, if the legal matters can be worked out.

42 tn Heb “all the gate of the town,” which by metonymy could refer to everyone in town (NIV “All my fellow townsmen”; NLT “everyone in town”), or only to the leaders and prominent citizens of the community (Boaz’s peers) who transacted business and made legal decisions at the town gate (NRSV “all the assembly of my people”).

43 tn Or “woman of strong character” (cf. NIV “woman of noble character”). The same phrase is used in Prov 31:10 to describe the ideal wife. Prov 31 emphasizes the ideal wife’s industry, her devotion to her family, and her concern for others, characteristics which Ruth had demonstrated.

44 tc The sequence כִּי אָמְנָם כִּי אִם (kiomnam kiim; Kethib) occurs only here in the OT, as does the sequence כִּי אָמְנָם כִּי (Qere). It is likely that כִּי אִם is dittographic (note the preceding sequence כִּי אָמְנָם). The translation assumes that the original text was simply the otherwise unattested וְעַתָּה כִּי אָמְנָם, with אָמְנָם and כִּי both having an asseverative (or emphatic) function.

45 tn Sometimes translated “redeemer” (also later in this verse). See the note on the phrase “guardian of the family interests” in v. 9.

46 tn Heb “if he redeems you”; NIV “if he wants to redeem”; NRSV “if he will act as next-of-kin for you.” The verb גֹּאֵל (goel) here refers generally to fulfilling his responsibilities as a guardian of the family interests. In this case it specifically entails marrying Ruth.

47 tn Or “good” (so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); TEV “well and good.”

48 tn Heb “let him redeem” (so NIV); NLT “then let him marry you.”

49 tn Heb “but if he does not want to redeem you, then I will redeem you, I, [as] the Lord lives” (NASB similar).

50 sn Sleep here. Perhaps Boaz tells her to remain at the threshing floor because he is afraid she might be hurt wandering back home in the dark. See Song 5:7 and R. L. Hubbard, Jr., Ruth (NICOT), 218.

51 tc The consonantal text (Kethib) has the singular מַרְגְּלָתַו (margÿlatav, “his leg”), while the marginal reading (Qere) has the plural מַרְגְּלוֹתָיו (margÿlotayv, “his legs”).

tn Heb “[at] his legs.” See the note on the word “legs” in v. 4.

52 tn Heb “and she arose before a man could recognize his companion”; NRSV “before one person could recognize another”; CEV “before daylight.”

53 tn Heb “and he said” (so KJV, NASB, NIV). Some translate “he thought [to himself]” (cf. NCV).

54 tn Heb “let it not be known that the woman came [to] the threshing floor” (NASB similar). The article on הָאִשָּׁה (haishah, “the woman”) is probably dittographic (note the final he on the preceding verb בָאָה [vaah, “she came”]).

55 tn Or “cloak” (so NAB, NRSV, NLT); CEV “cape.” The Hebrew noun occurs only here and in Isa 3:22.

56 tn Heb “which [is] upon you”; NIV, NRSV “you are wearing.”

57 tn Heb “and she gripped it tightly and he measured out six of barley and placed upon her.” The unit of measure is not indicated in the Hebrew text, although it would probably have been clear to the original hearers of the account. Six ephahs, the equivalent of 180-300 pounds, is clearly too heavy, especially if carried in a garment. Six omers (an omer being a tenth of an ephah) seems too little, since this would have amounted to six-tenths of an ephah, less than Ruth had gleaned in a single day (cf. 2:17). Thus a seah (one third of an ephah) may be in view here; six seahs would amount to two ephahs, about 60 pounds (27 kg). See R. L. Hubbard, Jr., Ruth (NICOT), 222, and F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 178.

58 tc The MT preserves the 3rd person masculine singular form וַיָּבֹא (vayyavo’, “then he went”; cf. ASV, NAB, NIV, NCV, NRSV, NLT), while many medieval mss (supported by the Syriac and Vulgate) have the 3rd person feminine singular form וַתָּבֹא (vattavo’, “then she went”; cf. KJV, NASB, TEV).

59 tn Heb “she”; the referent (Naomi) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

60 tn Heb “said.” Since what follows is a question, the present translation uses “asked” here.

61 tn Heb “Who are you?” In this context Naomi is clearly not asking for Ruth’s identity. Here the question has the semantic force “Are you his wife?” See R. L. Hubbard, Jr., Ruth (NICOT), 223-24, and F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 184-85.

62 tn Heb “she”; the referent (Ruth) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

63 sn All that the man had done. This would have included his promise to marry her and his gift of barley.

64 tc The MT (Kethib) lacks the preposition אֵלַי (’elay, “to me”) which is attested in the marginal reading (Qere).

65 sn ‘Do not go to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’ In addition to being a further gesture of kindness on Boaz’s part, the gift of barley served as a token of his intention to fulfill his responsibility as family guardian. See R. L. Hubbard, Jr., Ruth (NICOT), 225-26, and F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 187.

66 tn Heb “she”; the referent (Naomi) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

67 tn Heb “sit”; KJV “Sit still”; NAB “Wait here”; NLT “Just be patient.”



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