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Act Three - The Pivot
Verse 23 of chapter 2 presented the essential elements of the problem: Ruth gleaning in Boaz' fields, but living with her mother-in-law. This is where the storyline has got to so far. Ruth has met Boaz, but remains without husband. Naomi has Ruth, but no hope of a continuation for the "family-line".
If chapters one and two in some way present and dramatise the problem, and chapter four provides the solution, then in many ways chapter three must be the pivot on which the story hinges.
Cf. 2:8-9 where Boaz addressed two rhetorical questions, also expecting the answer yes, to Ruth. There he, also, called her "My daughter". This echo, and their similar style, reminds us that Boaz is of Naomi's generation, old enough to be Ruth's father.
It seems unlikely that Boaz would really be working at night, rather one winnowed using the evening breezes, and in fact halaylah (the word rendered "at night") can be translated "evening" (cf. Josh 2:2).
When she is properly prepared Ruth is to "go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down". Ruth is not, this time, to approach Boaz in public but to wait. Wait also till, having eaten and drunk in celebration of the harvest, he is in a good mood.
All in all, it is clear that the sexual sense possible within the words which are used is not intended to convey this meaning, but equally the author has chosen a remarkable conglomeration of such words. Sexual overtones echo in the ears of the hearer, but never on the surface of the text. Thus the text underlines the risks inherent in the situation Naomi proposes. Boaz and the young woman, Ruth, will be alone together for the night. If they do not act with integrity and faithfulness, though the required baby may be born Ruth will be unmarriageable and the story broken.
If she obeys Naomi, Ruth will put her future on the line, betting on Boaz' integrity.
3:5 The transition between the introduction which sets the scene in vv.1-4 and the action of the chapter is made in verses 5 & 6 here Ruth tells Naomi (and us) that she will follow the plan: "All that you tell me I will do". The narrator will effectively repeat this in v.6 introducing the new scene.
© Dr Tim Bulkeley, 2004.
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