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(1) Rest.—Although Naomi had already (Ruth 1:12) repudiated any thought of marriage for herself, still she felt it her duty to do what she could to provide a home for the daughter-in-law who had so loyally followed her, lest her own death should leave her young companion specially unprotected and friendless. But there is clearly a second thought. The marriage of Boaz and Ruth will not only ensure rest for the latter, but will also raise up the seed of her dead son and preserve the family name.
That it may be well with thee.—The object of the marriage is for Ruth’s good, and thus should it be with every marriage; it must be for the good, and comfort, and abiding peace, not of the body only, but of the soul.
(3-5) The plan suggested by Naomi seems peculiar, yet some thoughts may give a certain colouring to it. (1) Naomi seems to have believed that Boaz was the nearest kinsman, being ignorant of the yet nearer one (Ruth 3:12). Consequently, according to Israelite law (Deuteronomy 25:5 sqq.), it would be the duty of Boaz to marry Ruth to raise up seed to the dead. (2) The general tone of Naomi’s character is clearly shown in this book to be that of a God-fearing woman, so that it is certain that, however curious in its external form, there can be nothing counselled here which really is repugnant to God’s law, or shocking to a virtuous man such as Boaz, otherwise Naomi would simply have been most completely frustrating her own purpose. (3) Her knowledge by long intimacy of Ruth’s character, and doubtless also of that of Boaz by report, would enable her to feel sure that no ill effects could accrue.
(4) Uncover his feet.—More literally, as the margin, lift up the clothes that are on his feet; so LXX. and the Vulgate. We are told that the custom still prevails in Palestine of owners of crops sleeping on their threshing-floors, lying with their clothes on, but with their feet covered with a mantle.
(5) I will do.—Ruth’s obedience here is an intelligent obedience. She knew in what relation Boaz stood for her family, and the duties attaching to the relationship (Ruth 2:20; Ruth 3:9). Thus with obedient trust, implicitly but not blindly, she follows her mother-in-law’s orders; strong in conscious innocence she risks the obloquy that may attend her duty.
(8) Was afraid.—Was startled. See the use of the word in Genesis 27:33.
Turned.—Literally, bent himself. (Comp. Judges 16:29.) He wakes with a start, and in turning sees a woman at his feet.
(9) Skirt.—Literally wing; Heb. canaph, as in Ruth 2:12. The Targum treats this as in itself the claim to espousal on her part. The metaphor may be illustrated from Ezekiel 16:8, and more generally from Matthew 23:37.
(10) Blessed be thou of the Lord.—This answer of Boaz’s is in itself a sufficient proof of the view he took of her conduct, and of the integrity of his own. We note, too, that this blessing follows immediately on the avowal of her name. His own feelings had already been attuned to due honour and respect for Ruth; he is prepared not only to discharge the duty of next of kin, but to do it in no perfunctory spirit, but with a sincere loyal affection. The Targum on Ruth 3:15 supposes that to Ruth, the distant ancestress of the Saviour, was vouchsafed the knowledge, as in its fulness to the Virgin hereafter, of the birth of the Messiah through her. Origen compares Ruth to the Gentile Church, the engrafted wild olive.
Thou hast shewed . . . .—Literally, thou hast done well thy latter kindness above the former.
(11) City.—Literally, gate: the constant meeting-place of persons going in and out. (See Genesis 19:1; Genesis 34:20; Genesis 34:24; Deuteronomy 16:18; Deuteronomy 21:19, &c.)
(13) Until the morning.—You have made clear the object of your plea, and I fully assent to it; but do not run the risk of going now, in the dead of night, back to your home.
(14) One could know another.—Literally, a man could recognise his friend; i.e., before daylight, in the early dusk.
A woman.—Literally, the woman—i.e., this woman. Thus it is of Ruth, not of himself, that Boaz is here thinking. A sensible man like Boaz knows “that we must not only keep a good conscience, but keep a good name; we must avoid not only sin but scandal.” (Henry.)
(15) Vail—Rather a mantle, so in Isaiah 3:22.
She went.—This should be, if we follow the current Hebrew text, he went. The verb is masculine (yabho), and the distinction is shewn in the Targum, which inserts the name Boaz as the nominative. It must be allowed that a fair number of Hebrew MSS., as well as the Peshito and Vulgate, take the verb in the feminine. The LXX. is from the nature of the Greek language unable to mark the distinction. The clause. if we accept the current reading, will mean that Boaz went to the city to find the kinsman whose claim lay before his own, while Ruth, laden with six measures of barley, goes to her mother-in-law.
(16) who art thou?—We can hardly view this as a simple question as to Ruth’s identity, but rather as meaning, how hast thou fared?
(18) Will not be in rest.—i.e., will not keep quiet.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ruth 3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany