Ruth 3:9: Ruth's Proposal on the Threshingfloor

Verse 9:[1] And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: (Ezek. 16:8) spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art (Ruth 2:20; 3:12) a near kinsman (or, one that hath right to redeem[2]).



[Spread thy covering over thine handmaid, וּפָרַשְׂתָּ֤ כְנָפֶ֙ךָ֙ וגו״] And thou shalt spread (or, so that thou mightest spread [Junius and Tremellius]) thy wing, etc. (Montanus, Piscator, Junius and Tremellius, Tigurinus), that is, the wing of thy garment: Metonymy of subject (Piscator). Spread the border of thy cloak (Pagnine). Cover over (cover up [Arabic]) thine handmaid with the wing, or extremity, of thy garment (Syriac, Arabic). The border of the cloak, or the very cloak itself, she calls the wing, κατὰ συνεκδοχὴν, synecdochically (Drusius). And let thy name be called upon thine handmaid to take me to wife (Jonathan). The sense: Contract marriage with me, and betroth me to thyself (Vatablus, Drusius, Grotius, Ibn Ezra in Munster, Lyra, Menochius, Tirinus, Serarius, Lapide, Bonfrerius, Junius, Piscator). Thus the expression is taken in Deuteronomy 22:30, Let not a man uncover the wing of his father,[3] that is, let him not have an affair with the wife of his father: and in Deuteronomy 27:20, Cursed be he that lieth with his father’s wife, since he hath uncovered (or, because he uncovered) the wing of his father[4] (Drusius). See concerning this expression on Genesis 20:16 (Junius, Malvenda). Veil me (I pray); take me as thy wife. See Isaiah 4:1. Euripides in Peliades concerning a virgin, ὅταν δ᾽ ὑπ᾽ ἀνδρὸς χλαῖναν εὐγενοῦς πέσῃς, that is, when she is taken under the garment of a man of good stock. Now, the origin of this proverb, or form of speech, was (Serarius), either, 1. That the Jews were then wont (and are also now wont) in their marriages, when the bridegroom pledges his faith to his bride, to put a part of his garment on the bride (Tirinus out of Serarius, similarly Lyra); so that by this gesture he might signify that he receives her under his authority and protection (Lapide). Spread thy garment after the manner of those that were betrothing a bride (Vatablus). Or, 2. It is a Metaphor taken from birds, which cover their young with their wings (Piscator, Munster, certain interpreters in Vatablus): that is, Taking me unto wife, undertake my protection. See Ruth 2:12 (Junius). Take me under thy protection, as a husband would do (Grotius). But the protection that is signified by the wing signifies of itself marital protection no more than any other sort of protection (Vatablus). Response: By a synecdoche of genus here is signified the protection wherewith a husband protects his wife (Piscator). Or, 3. from conjugal right, to one sharing the same bed; that is to say, Spread thy covering (that is, that wherewith Boaz was covered), so that it might cover me, and thou mightest receive me with thee into the same bed. Thus it is a direct request for matrimony, while that prior explication of the expression follows upon I do not know what uncertainties. Moreover, כָּנָף in Hebrew, and πτερύγιον in the Septuagint, does not signify the wing of a man, metaphorically so called, but the border of a cloak or covering (Bonfrerius). Some maintain that by these words she asked Boaz for sexual intercourse (thus the Rabbis and Tostatus in Bonfrerius), with a contract of marriage sent before, of course, which was able to be entered upon in that very place (Bonfrerius).


Spread thy skirt over thine handmaid, that is, take me to be thy wife, and perform the duty of an husband to me. This phrase is used in this sense Deuteronomy 22:30; 27:20; Ezekiel 16:8. Either, first, Because the wife is admitted into the same bed with her husband, and both are covered with one and the same covering. Or, secondly, From an ancient ceremony of the husband’s throwing the skirt of his garment over her head, in token both of her subjection, 1 Corinthians 11:5, 6, 10, and appropriation to him, being hereby as it were hid from the eyes of others; see Genesis 20:16; and also of that protection which he oweth to her: see Ruth 2:12.


[Thou art a near kinsman] A protector (Junius and Tremellius, Drusius); one of the protectors (Drusius). See Ruth 2:20 (Piscator).

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֖אמֶר מִי־אָ֑תּ וַתֹּ֗אמֶר אָנֹכִי֙ ר֣וּת אֲמָתֶ֔ךָ וּפָרַשְׂתָּ֤ כְנָפֶ֙ךָ֙ עַל־אֲמָ֣תְךָ֔ כִּ֥י גֹאֵ֖ל אָֽתָּה׃


[2] Hebrew: גֹאֵל.


[3] Deuteronomy 22:30: “A man shall not take his father’s wife, nor discover his father’s skirt (וְלֹ֥א יְגַלֶּ֖ה כְּנַ֥ף אָבִֽיו׃).”


[4] Hebrew: אָר֗וּר שֹׁכֵב֙ עִם־אֵ֣שֶׁת אָבִ֔יו כִּ֥י גִלָּ֖ה כְּנַ֣ף אָבִ֑יו.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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