Ruth 3

Wow this is a really delicate story that reflects beautifully on all in it, but requires quite a bit of cultural sensitivity to understand.

I gather underlying it is a social custom that a male relative would often marry a widow as a form of family welfare. Obviously it’s not usually a love match. Naomi may have been able to expect that. But she hasn’t sought it.

A genuine affection has grown up over the harvest between Boaz… Who is a close but not the closest relative… And Ruth, who is not the closest widow… I imagine them being decent, shy types who obviously belong together but would be agonisingly slow to act on it.

Naomi has a audacious plan to play on the custom, which has Ruth literally throwing herself at Boaz’ feet at the end of harvest celebration. There is a generosity in Naomi’s crazy plan, because by custom she could have herself tried to claim Boaz for a husband.

To the pure, all things are pure, and Ruth obeys Naomi clearly and quite uncharacteristically clearly signals her openness to marrying Boaz by lying down across his feet as he sleeps in a makeshift bed at the harvest feast barn. He wakes. Everyone aquits themselves with the utmost dignity and, and we get well within view of a happy ending by the end of the chapter.

Boaz is obviously delighted to discover that Ruth might be his wife, and touchingly refers to his insecurity about his age by thanking her for not going for younger men. He considers himself lucky!

Ruth is miserably poor and puts herself in a position where an trustworthy man could have taken advantage of her, ruined her reputation without recrimination. But the whole beautiful point is, he is not untrustworthy.

Such a tender story! It’s worthy of Jane Austen the way that commercial convenience and love conveniently intersect, and goodness has its reward as things turn romantic.

Matthew Henry made excellent point that we aren’t told ever that Ruth is beautiful or not. It’s not about her appearance. Her virtue is universally recognised in this book, and loved by Boaz.

The chapter even ends with a “path of love not straight” plot twist: there is another closer relative, who according to the custom would have first dibs on any available young widows going begging. How will it all end!

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