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Ruth 3:4, 5: Naomi's Plan, Part 3

Verse 4:[1] 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 (or, lift up the clothes that are on his feet[2]), and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do.

[Mark the place in which he lies] It belonged to the custom of the time, that heads-of-household, even the rich, especially with agricultural work pressing, would take their rest even on the threshingfloor: as that in Ovid’s Fasti 1 will be able to be employed, It was no shame to take peaceful rest upon straw, nor to place hay under one’s head (Menochius out of Serarius).

When he lieth down, to rest or sleep, as upon such occasions they used to do in those hot countries.

[Thou shalt remove the coverlet, etc., וְגִלִּ֥ית מַרְגְּלֹתָ֖יו] And thou shalt uncover, or lay bare, his feet (Montanus, Piscator). At, or near, his feet; that is, the lower part of the bed (Vatablus). Those at his feet (Septuagint); from the direction of his feet (Pagnine); the place of his feet (Tigurinus, Munster); the coverings of his feet (Junius and Tremellius). I prefer, feet. מַרְגְּלוֹת in Daniel 10:6 manifestly signifies this,[3] and it does not occur elsewhere. And to uncover the feet is the proper expression; not so, to uncover the coverings of the feet; for these are not uncovered, but drawn back; with which drawn back, it does indeed happen that the body is uncovered (Piscator). Moreover, it is to be observed that these threshingfloors were open, and that these were easily accessed by whomever even at night, with only a tent to protect the men and crops from rain and dew (Mayer[4]). Question: Whether this was rightly done? Response: [Interpreters do not judge in the same way. Some find fault:] The advice of Naomi was imprudent; and, if Boaz, as a result of this action of the young woman, had rejected her as lustful and unchaste, then Ruth would have been cut off from all hope of marriage (Osiander). This method of seeking marriage was not good, that is, seeking it in secret; and so Boaz said to Ruth that she should conceal the deed (Lyra). [Others defend the deed:] By this deed Ruth sought nothing other than to ask Boaz, as a near relative, to take her as wife in accordance with the law (Estius). That expression, verse 9, spread thy skirt over thine handmaid, expresses marriage (Bonfrerius, Mayer). At that time secret marriage was not forbidden; hence marriage was contracted by mutual consent, whether expressed in words, or indicated by carnal copulation (Bonfrerius, Lapide). If Ruth asked for intercourse, she asked it only as conjugal debt, and by that asked for marriage: and she did that, both so that she might make provision for her poverty and that of her mother-in-law; and so that she might look after the name of memory of her husband, etc., according to the law of God; which was an act of obedience and religion (Lapide). Therefore, the thing that she was seeking was lawful, and owed by law. By all this pomp and allurement they either intended or asked for nothing other than legitimate marriage. But it was lawful by apt indications of words, gestures, and other sorts, honestly to invite to enter into marriage; as Thomas says in his Summa 2:2:15:4:a:4; 169:a:2; and Cajetan in that very place (Tirinus out of Serarius). Moreover, her end in this place was good. For offspring was sought, and the observation of the Divine Law (Serarius). Objection: But there was another closer than Boaz, verse 12. Response: Perhaps the women did not know, or did not attend to that, or despaired of turning his heart toward marriage: but they thought that Boaz was to be asked first, either by inspiration of God, or because they would committ to his prudence and charity this whole business of the afflicted widows and the dead (Bonfrerius). Naomi wanted Ruth to depend completely on wise counsel of Boaz, so that the matter might be transacted solely according to the precept of laws (Tirinus). Moreover, Ruth did not do this by her own will, but as commanded and instructed by her mother-in-law. And Boaz did not interpret the deed in any other way, without also highly commending the deed (Estius). This counsel of Naomi was legitimate in substance, shameful in appearance: but, confident in the piety of both and the old age of Boaz, she proposed that to her daughter-in-law, in such a way that she might avoid the offense of the nearest relative by the circumstances of time and place (Junius, Piscator). The manner could appear somewhat unusual and hazardous, to have the woman, dressed up, creep in secretly in darkness, alone, and to him alone, lying down, and gladdened with his evening meal, etc. But God, who was perhaps inspiring this, was able to avert all the danger (Bonfrerius). The chastity and virtue of Boaz and Ruth were searched and tested. Ruth conducted herself modestly: making use of no enticements of words or touch, she places herself transversely to his feet, not at the side of the sleeping man, as those women did in Genesis 19. She lies quiet the whole night, and does not disturb the sleeping man: when he awakes, she asks marriage of him, even indeed in a modest and honest manner of speech (Serarius). She was not naked, but clothed (Bonfrerius). Nevertheless, this deed in appearance was not honest enough, neither is it to be imitated during holidays at this time (Drusius).

Thou shalt go in: though Naomi and Ruth seem to be virtuous and modest women, and their intent was lawful and honest; yet there seems to be a manifold irregularity in the manner of it. First, It seems to be against that modesty which should be eminent in that sex, and in unmarried persons. Secondly, Against honesty, both because it was an injury to another person, who was nearer akin, whose right this was; which Naomi could not be ignorant of; and because it was a preposterous and precipitant method, not agreeable either to the rules of Scripture, or the usage of well-mannered nations, or that decency which even nature requires. Thirdly, Against prudence; for it might have proved the occasion, as of many sins, so of great shame to all of them; and a means to alienate his affection from her, which she sought to engage. And though there be some circumstances which alleviate the fact, as the experience which Naomi had of the wisdom and sobriety both of Boaz and of Ruth, yet she knew not what the event would be; and that there was something of shamefulness in the thing, may be gathered both from Naomi’s choice of the night for it, as if it were a work of darkness, and from Boaz’s fear lest this should be known, verse 14. And it is an aggravation of it, that this course was unnecessary, and she had a plain and likely way, which was directly to address herself to Boaz, or the next kinsman, and to require the duty which by God’s law he was bound to perform, and this before witnesses, as Boaz did. And her clandestine proceeding seems to have arisen from a distrust of God’s providence to bring about what she desired in the ordinary way. Uncover his feet; remove the clothes which were upon his feet; thereby to awaken him.

[He will tell thee what thou shalt do] That is, when he, having been awakened, will have sensed the covering garment to have been removed from his feet; and thereupon he, looking about for who had done this, and seeing thee, will ask who thou art, or what thou desirest for thyself. Βραχυλογία/ brachylogy[5] (Piscator). He will indicate what thou shouldst do, that is, oughtest to do, so that the marriage that thou art soliciting might be legitimate, that is, agreeable to the law that addressed this matter. For some certain rites were to be observed before the wife of one deceased could be taken legally, as what follows shows (Drusius).

What thou shalt do; how thou shouldst carry thyself, or what course thou shalt take to obtain that marriage which belongs unto thee. Only there were some rites to be observed, and circumstances to be done, before they came to the conclusion of the marriage, about which Boaz would instruct her.

Verse 5:[6] And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do.

[Whatever thou prescribest] It is written in Hebrew, whatever thou sayest;[7] it is read, whatever thou sayest to me, with the pronoun added from the notes of the Massoretes[8] (Drusius).

All that thou sayest unto me I will do: The confidence she had in Naomi’s wisdom and piety, and true love to her, made her ready to follow her advice, wherein she was the more excusable, because she did not understand the laws and customs of the country, as Naomi did.

[1] Hebrew: וִיהִ֣י בְשָׁכְב֗וֹ וְיָדַ֙עַתְּ֙ אֶת־הַמָּקוֹם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִשְׁכַּב־שָׁ֔ם וּבָ֛את וְגִלִּ֥ית מַרְגְּלֹתָ֖יו וְשָׁכָ֑בְתִּי וְהוּא֙ יַגִּ֣יד לָ֔ךְ אֵ֖ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר תַּעַשִֽׂין׃

[2] Hebrew: וְגִלִּ֥ית מַרְגְּלֹתָ֖יו.

[3] Daniel 10:6: “His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet (וּמַרְגְּלֹתָיו) like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.”

[4] Little is known of the life of John Mayer. He was an Anglican churchman and scholar, but ill health appears to have kept him from public functions. He wrote a seven-volume commentary on the Bible, digesting the commentators that preceded him. Mayer completed his work on the commentary in 1653.

[5] That is, brevity of speech.

[6] Hebrew: וַתֹּ֖אמֶר אֵלֶ֑יהָ כֹּ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־תֹּאמְרִ֥י אֶֽעֱשֶֽׂה׃

[7] Hebrew: כֹּ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־תֹּאמְרִ֥י.

[8] The Qere, אֵלַי, to me, has no corresponding Kethib.

36 views3 comments


My comment upon these versus would be that it was obvious for Boaz to have some kind of feelings for Ruth since he was the nearest kin to her husband and for Ruth to expect him to marry her. In conclusion, Naomi paying attention and knowing how the two felt about each other, decided to have Ruth go lay at his feet for an offering of marriage.


Thank you for this great post: there is a lot in this verse. I am excited to get back into Poole and studying Hebrew!


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Sep 26, 2019

Matthew Henry: '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 o…

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