First Glance: Ruth 3

A community threshing wheat in Israel, June 2014. Photo by Olga Shaffer
A community threshing wheat in Israel, June 2014. Photo by Olga Shaffer

 Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer. (Ruth 3:9b)

Under cover of darkness, Ruth makes her way to the threshing floor where she’s been told, by her mother-in-law Naomi, that Boaz will be spending the night. After waiting for the man to fall asleep, she approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. Startled awake in the middle of the night, Boaz discovers a woman at his feet, Ruth. Her request: “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsmen-redeemer.”

Have you ever wondered what’s really going on here? Why the corner of his garment? Is this a marriage proposal? In our Western understanding this may not seem as important as it would have been to Boaz. The corner of a Jewish man’s garment held much significance to him. God gave the Israelites specific instructions about the corner of their garments.

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. (Numbers 15:38-40)

The corners of Boaz’s garment each held a tassel, placed there to help him remember and obey all of God’s commands. One of those commands said that if a man died without a son, his brother should marry his widow. Their first son would carry on the name of the dead brother, so that his line would be carried on (see Deut. 25:5-6). Ruth’s husband and brother-in-law had both died. Boaz, although not a brother, is a close relative. This responsibility could be passed on to him. By spreading the corner of his garment over Ruth, he would be accepting that responsibility.

There’s more to this story as well. Earlier in the story of Ruth we read:

May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (Ruth 2:12)

These words of Boaz are a beautiful picture of God’s love. The psalmist too picks up on this language.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalm 91:4)

The word translated “wing” in these two passages, is the same word translated “corner” in Ruth 3:9. Ruth is asking to take shelter under Boaz’s wings. She wishes to find refuge. Will Boaz continue to show Ruth God’s love by offering refuge to her and Naomi?

Boaz truly is a man after God’s own heart. He is flattered by Ruth’s kindness in seeking him out. He describes her kindness (ḥesed) as being “greater than that which [she] showed earlier” in not forsaking her mother-in-law Naomi. In trust she turned to him, rather than seeking a younger man. She saw in him a man who was honorable, one who loved the LORD deeply. Boaz would not rest until he has made certain Ruth is cared for. In this way, Boaz showed Ruth what God’s refuge looks like.

How have you experienced God’s refuge?

Are there people in your own life who have shown you God’s wings?

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