Week 5: The Night at the Threshing Floor – Ruth Chapter 3, verses 6 to 18
Week 5: The Night at the Threshing Floor – Ruth Chapter 3:6-18
Read Ruth Chapter 3: 6-18. Take turns in your group reading through this passage. After you have done the reading, look over the discussions below and decide which ones to have in your group (you can discuss them all if you have time).
Discussion 1. When Boaz wakes up, he is startled to find a woman laying at his feet. He responds by asking “Who are you?” of Ruth. How is this question posed differently from Boaz’ question upon his first introduction to Ruth? See Ruth 2: 5.
Think of the contrasting situations; the first meeting between Ruth and Boaz takes place in the day, in his fields, surrounded by his workers and servants. The disparity in power between Ruth and Boaz is clear to all. How is this situation different from the circumstances of the meeting at night on the threshing floor?
Discussion 2. In verse 9, does Ruth follow Naomi’s instructions exactly? After identifying herself to Boaz, she does not wait for his directions, but takes the initiative and boldly says, “Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” What is Ruth asking of Boaz here? The word for “wings” can also refer to the corner of a garment; it is a gesture of protection for one to spread a garment over someone.
Look back at Boaz’ blessing upon Ruth in 2: 12 and compare this with her words in 3: 9. Boaz has blessed Ruth for entering into the covenant with God; taking refuge under God’s wings. Do you think Ruth is telling Boaz that God will fulfill Boaz’ own blessing upon her by Boaz entering into the covenant of marriage with her?
Discussion 3. How does Boaz respond to Ruth’s marriage proposal? Boaz calls this kindness (hesed) of Ruth’s even greater than the first. Why does he say this?
Read Deuteronomy 25: 5-10. This is the law of levirate marriage. According to this law, the blood brother of a man who dies without a male heir is required to marry his widow. The first-born son of this union takes the place of the dead man on the family tree, including his inheritance. However, the law concerning levirate marriage only applies to brothers, not other relatives – so Boaz would be under no legal compulsion to accept the proposal.
In proposing marriage to Boaz, Ruth’s love for Naomi surpasses the desires she may reasonably be expected to have for herself. She gives up having a family of her own with a younger man in order to have an heir for Naomi that would take the place of Mahlon on Elimelech’s family tree. In her marriage proposal to Boaz, she creatively combines the two laws of the kinsman-redeemer and levirate marriage to redeem Naomi’s family and inheritance, going beyond what is literally prescribed in the law to meet Naomi’s need.
Boaz is so moved by Ruth’s act of hesed that he agrees to her proposal, in which he displays his own hesed. As kinsman-redeemer, Boaz would be purchasing Elimelech’s land from Naomi to keep the land in Elimelech’s clan, of which he is a member. However, by redeeming the land according to the terms of the levirate marriage proposal, the property Boaz redeemed would go to his son with Ruth as Elimelech’s heir, not his own.
How does this cast Boaz’ acceptance of the marriage proposal in a new light? How does Ruth’s act of self-sacrifice again inspire a sacrifice on his own part?
Discussion 4. In verse 11, Boaz calls Ruth a “worthy (hayil) woman”. This is the same term used to describe Boaz in chapter 2, verse 1. Although the word could be applied to Boaz according to the social standards and values of the time, according to whose values is Boaz applying the word to Ruth? The values of the world or of God? Read 1 Corinthians 1: 27-29. How does Ruth’s story exemplify this passage?
Discussion 5. In verse 12, Boaz mentions that there is another kinsman-redeemer that is closer to Naomi than himself, who must first be presented with the offer of Elimelech’s land. The order of relations that is followed in a situation like this is:
4. Close clan relative
Why does Boaz send the six measures of barley back with Ruth for her and Naomi (see verse 17)? What is the significance of Ruth not coming back empty to Naomi? Refer back to Ruth 1: 21. How does Naomi’s future once again hold the promise of fullness?
Discussion 6. The spirit behind the gleaning law is that the poor may have enough to eat. The spirit of the kinsman-redeemer and levirate marriage laws is that a family, its persons, and its inheritance may not disappear from creation. If interpreted literally, Ruth understands that these laws will not be enough to provide for the needs of herself and Naomi. How does Ruth see God’s hesed at the heart of the law?
Read these passages from the Gospel of Mark: 2: 23-28; 3: 1-5; 10: 1-9.
How does Jesus interpret the law when it’s application (or lack thereof) is not meeting people’s needs? How is Ruth’s understanding of the law similar to that of Jesus?