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Conclusion: Chapter 3 - In Secret

This scene brings the tension of the story to its climax. In what follows we have simply the working out of the resolution:
in the first scene the problem was posed, 
in the second a possible solution was presented, 
but here all is at risk

The scene is also dominated by the motif of secrecy

In the other scenes there are other actors on stage: the women of Bethlehem, Boaz' servants, the elders and even "all Bethlehem". Here there are never more than two players "on stage" at once. 

The choice of words too reinforces this sense of secrets and mystery: 
"at night" - when all is dark and one does not see clearly - 3:2 cf. 3:14;
  "do not make yourself known to the man" 3:3; 
"he will tell you what to do" 3:4; 
"she came secretly") 3:7; 
"behold, a woman... who are you?" 3:8-9; 
"Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor." 3:14.

As Campbell recognises this motif of secrecy serves to reinforce the doubts created by the sexual ambiguity which is also present in the choice of wording. The circumstances are compromising - but have Boaz and Ruth been compromised? 

Campbell is also right to underline that here, as at 1:8ff. and 4:1ff. the actors are presented with a choice. In each case the action characterises the person. Orphah is a somewhat obedient daughter-in-law much like any other, the first redeemer thinks inevitably of his own heritage before that of Elimelek. Ruth and Boaz stand out from these "ordinary" people as worthy of Naomi's confidence and therefore of God's trust and blessing.

Though in many ways it is true to say that the question is only open for Boaz, for Ruth's faithfulness has been proclaimed so often it would be unthinkable to doubt her.

Though evidently Naomi has no doubts, for if she had, she would surely never have placed Ruth at risk in such a way. In 1:9 Naomi prayed for a home and a husband for Ruth and therefore she leaves the events of this night of secrets in God's hands.

© Dr Tim Bulkeley, 2004.

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Tim teaches Hebrew Bible (First or Old Testament) at the University of Auckland, New Zealand and at Carey Baptist College his other sites include:
Amos - Postmodern Bible commentary
Study Notes on Jonah
Images of Archaeological Sites in Israel (Focusing on the Iron Age)