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).