One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a homefor you, where you will be well provided for. Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.” “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. Ruth 3, verses 1-6.
Poor Boaz doesn’t know what’s coming. Let’s be honest: only a man could say that; I’m a man, and I did. Admit it: from a superficial glance (meaning my comment is also somewhat superficial) it looks like Naomi and Ruth are conspiring to put a whammy on poor Boaz. They’re going to seduce him, wait on him, and make him feel good because they’re husband hunting.
Um, not really. Some context please. Keep in mind that they’re going on faith, that Ruth and Naomi are living out their faith and trusting God to provide a way for them. They were in desperate straits and needed help, and there weren’t SNAP payments or Medicaid and they couldn’t save a bunch of money by switching to Geico. It was Bronze Age Judea and they needed help.
So Naomi urged Ruth to turn to family, to go to Boaz and signal her interest, to confide in him that she desired to become his wife if he would be willing to have her. Ruth put on her best clothes, cleaned and made herself as pretty as she could, and followed Naomi’s directions. To us, the customs seem odd, antiquated, out of place. Lie down on the ground where the men have been separating grain, stay at a distance, uncover Boaz’s feet? Strange. Yet not really. It’s almost poetic, if you read the story again. Ruth made herself submissive in a public yet dignified and intimate way. She uncovered Boaz’s feet and lay there so that he would notice her when he woke up.
Sure, our courting rituals are different today. But I’m not so old now to forget how it matters or how wonderful it can be when young couples dress up, be humble to each other, and signify their intentions. Relationships are so much more than cheap flirting or sex. Today’s hook-up culture is demeaning and undignified. How beautiful would it be, instead, to court someone with the intention of submitting, humbling, and devoting yourself to them the way Ruth and Boaz did.
Lord, thank You for the beauty of this story, for the courtship of couples falling in love.
Read Ruth 3.