By Jamie Harms
Ruth chapter 3 perplexes me, leaving me with more questions than answers.
“If Ruth was a woman of character as demonstrated in previous chapters, why does she willing go in the middle of the night to make an inquiry of a man merry with wine?”
“Why would Naomi instruct Ruth to do such a thing, knowing very well that Ruth might be taken advantage of physically and emotionally?”
“Was there another way for Ruth to have informed Boaz of her legal right as a widow with him as a possible kinsman redeemer?”
“If this was the normal way of approaching a kinsman redeemer, why did Boaz want her to leave without others seeing her in the morning?”
Many of these questions we will never have answers to, and we can only speculate from the text. If this is the case, then how do we read a passage like Ruth chapter 3 and learn from it?
First, we read it in context. From the beginning of the book, we see that Ruth is a woman of character. She demonstrates faithfulness to her God and to Naomi as she moves from Moab to Israel (1:16-18). She is a hard-worker evidenced by how she gleans (2:7). She is respectful of Boaz (2:10). Unlike what her people are known for, she is hospitable and kind to Naomi (2:11). She honors her mother-in-law’s request and follows her guidance as she navigates a new culture (3:5). Ruth’s virtuous character was known through the town as demonstrated by her actions (3:11). Thus, she acts according to her character when she finds herself in a potentially compromising situation here in chapter 3.
Similarly, we see that Boaz was also a man of character. From the way he treated his employees and received respect from them (2:4) to how he listened to his workers (2:5-7) and how he honored and protected the marginalized (2:18), Boaz showed he was not proud or selfish but generous and kind. When we see him in chapter 3, we realize Boaz could have acted very differently toward Ruth, yet he chose to honor and respect her. He followed through with his word the very next morning to make sure she would not be left without a kinsman redeemer.
Thus, when we look at Ruth 3, what we can take from this awkward scenario comes from the responses of Ruth and Boaz in the midst of the situation. Many of us find ourselves in less than ideal situations, and it is a natural tendency to blame someone else for why we are there. Ruth did not even mention Naomi, though she very well could have. Instead of forcing herself on Boaz to trap him in a situation where he would have to become her husband, she merely made a request aligned with her rights given in Leviticus. In turn, Boaz followed suit in living up to his character as he woke up in complete darkness to a young woman at his feet. He praised her for her boldness, protected her reputation by sending her home before light, and provided for her in the short term with grain and in the long term as her redeemer.
Boaz and Ruth do end up getting married and having a son – and eventually a great-grandson named King David – but the point of the book is not to tell their love story. Instead, it is actually a different kind of love story – a love story between a woman and her God. From the beginning of the story, we see Ruth in a foreign land, where God pursues her and provides a way for her to know Him. She declares Him to be her God as she leaves everything behind to go to a land that is home to God’s people and His laws, where she can get to know Him more deeply. He provides and protects Ruth as she cares for Naomi even though they would be considered low on the totem pole socially. According to His law, God provides for her a way to find rest and provision through marriage. He indeed redeems her situation positionally as she becomes a married woman and a mother. I do sincerely hope that Ruth and Boaz loved each other and lived happily ever after, but the real love story is one of Ruth’s God loving her, pursuing her, protecting her, providing for her, and blessing her as her redeemer.
God writes a similar story for each of us. We find ourselves pursued by God (John 3:16). He has made Himself known to us through the gift of His Son Jesus and His Word (Heb 1:2). As we understand more about who He is and what He has done for us, we realize that He provides a way of redemption for us through the blood of Christ on the cross. We then experience the blessings of being positionally God’s child in a relationship with Him where we become healed and whole.
Maybe Ruth 3 isn’t so perplexing after all.