R U T H
We found it very easy, in the former chapter, to applaud the decency of Ruth’s behaviour, and to show what good use we may make of the account given us of it; but in this chapter we shall have much ado to vindicate it from the imputation of indecency, and to save it from having an ill use made of it; but the goodness of those times was such as saved what is recorded here from being ill done, and yet the badness of these times is such as that it will not justify any now in doing the like. Here is, I. The directions Naomi gave to her daughter-in-law how to claim Boaz for her husband, ver. 1-5. II. Ruth’s punctual observance of those directions, ver. 6, 7. III. The kind and honourable treatment Boaz gave her, ver. 8-15. IV. Her return to her mother-in-law, ver. 16-18.
B. C. 1312.
1 Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? 2 And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshing floor. 3 Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. 4 And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do. 5 And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do.
Here is, I. Naomi’s care for her daughter’s comfort is without doubt very commendable, and is recorded for imitation. She had no thoughts of marrying herself, ch. i. 12. But, though she that was old had resolved upon a perpetual widowhood, yet she was far from the thoughts of confining her daughter-in-law to it, that was young. Age must not make itself a standard to youth. On the contrary, she is full of contrivance how to get her well married. Her wisdom projected that for her daughter which her daughter’s modesty forbade her to project for herself, v. 1. This she did
1. In justice to the dead, to raise up seed to those that were gone, and so to preserve the family from being extinct.
2. In kindness and gratitude to her daughter-in-law, who had conducted herself very dutifully and respectfully to her. “My daughter” (said she, looking upon her in all respects as her own), “shall I not seek rest for thee,” that is, a settlement in the married state; “shall I not get thee a good husband, that it may be well with thee,” that is, “that thou mayest live plentifully and pleasantly, and not spend all thy days in the mean and melancholy condition we now live in?” Note,
(1.) A married state is, or should be, a state of rest to young people. Wandering affections are then fixed, and the heart must be at rest. It is at rest in the house of a husband, and in his heart, ch. 1:9. Those are giddy indeed that marriage does not compose.
(2.) That which should be desired and designed by those that enter into the married state is that it may be well with them, in order to which it is necessary that they choose well; otherwise, instead of being a rest to them, it may prove the greatest uneasiness. Parents, in disposing of their children, must have this in their eye, that it may be well with them. And be it always remembered that is best for us which is best for our souls.
(3.) It is the duty of parents to seek this rest for their children, and to do all that is fit for them to do, in due time, in order to it. And the more dutiful and respectful they are to them, though they can the worse spare them, yet they should the rather prefer them, and the better.
II. The course she took in order to her daughter’s preferment was very extraordinary and looks suspicious. If there was any thing improper in it, the fault must lie upon Naomi, who put her daughter upon it, and who knew, or should know, the laws and usages of Israel better than Ruth.
1. It was true that Boaz, being near of kin to the deceased, and (for aught that Naomi knew to the contrary) the nearest of all now alive, was obliged by the divine law to marry the widow of Mahlon, who was the eldest son of Elimelech, and was dead without issue (v. 2): “Is not Boaz of our kindred, and therefore bound in conscience to take care of our affairs?” This may encourage us to lay ourselves by faith at the feet of Christ, that he is our near kinsman; having taken our nature upon him, he is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.
2. It was a convenient time to remind him of it, now that he had got so much acquaintance with Ruth by her constant attendance on his reapers during the whole harvest, which was now ended; and he also, by the kindness he had shown to Ruth in smaller matters, had encouraged Naomi to hope that he would not be unkind, much less unjust, in this greater. And she thought it was a good opportunity to apply to him when he made a winnowing-feast at his threshing-floor (v. 2), then and there completing the joy of the harvest, and treating his workmen like a kind master: He winnoweth barley to-night, that is, he makes his entertainment to-night. As Nabal and Absalom had feasts at their sheep-shearing, so Boaz at his winnowing.
3. Naomi thought Ruth the most proper person to do it herself; and perhaps it was the usage in that country that in this case the woman should make the demand; so much is intimated by the law, Deut. xxv. 7-9. Naomi therefore orders her daughter-in-law to make herself clean and neat, not to make herself fine (v. 3): “Wash thyself and anoint thee, not paint thee (as Jezebel), put on thy raiment, but not the attire of a harlot, and go down to the floor,” whither, it is probable, she was invited to the supper there made; but she must not make herself known, that it, not make her errand known (she herself could not but be very well known among Boaz’s reapers) till the company had dispersed and Boaz had retired. And upon this occasion she would have an easier access to him in private than she could have at his own house. And thus far was well enough. But,
4. Her coming to lie down at his feet, when he was asleep in his bed, had such an appearance of evil, was such an approach towards it, and might have been such an occasion of it, that we know not well how to justify it. Many expositors think it unjustifiable, particularly the excellent Mr. Poole. We must not to evil that good may come. It is dangerous to bring the spark and the tinder together; for how great a matter may a little fire kindle! All agree that it is not to be drawn into a precedent; neither our laws nor our times are the same that were then; yet I am willing to make the best of it. If Boaz was, as they presumed, the next kinsman, she was his wife before God (as we say), and there needed but little ceremony to complete the nuptials; and Naomi did not intend that Ruth should approach to him any otherwise than as his wife. She knew Boaz to be not only an old man (she would not have trusted to that alone in venturing her daughter-in-law so near him), but a grave sober man, a virtuous and religious man, and one that feared God. She knew Ruth to be a modest woman, chaste, and a keeper at home, Tit. 2:5. The Israelites had indeed been once debauched by the daughters of Moab (Num. 25:1), but this Moabitess was none of those daughters. Naomi herself designed nothing but what was honest and honourable, and her charity (which believeth all things and hopeth all things) banished and forbade all suspicion that either Boaz or Ruth would attempt any thing but what was likewise honest and honourable. If what she advised had been then as indecent and immodest (according to the usage of the country) as it seems now to us, we cannot think that if Naomi had had so little virtue (which yet we have no reason to suspect) she would also have had so little wisdom as to put her daughter upon it, since that alone might have marred the match, and have alienated the affections of so grave and good a man as Boaz from her. We must therefore think that the thing did not look so ill then as it does now. Naomi referred her daughter-in-law to Boaz for further directions. When she had thus made her claim, Boaz, who was more learned in the laws, would tell her what she must do. Thus must we lay ourselves at the feet of our Redeemer, to receive from him our doom. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Acts 9:6. We may be sure, if Ruth had apprehended any evil in that which her mother advised her to, she was a woman of too much virtue and too much sense to promise as she did (v. 5): All that thou sayest unto me I will do. Thus must the younger submit to the elder, and to their grave and prudent counsels, when they have nothing worth speaking of to object against it.
– Matthew Henry Commentary