After a couple of months of harvesting grain along with the servants of Boaz, Naomi gets to thinking about her dear daughter-in-law Ruth. Things may be going well now, but Naomi knows only too well what sudden tragedy looks like—especially for a widowed foreigner, so she advises Ruth what to do next.
Reading the 3rd chapter of Ruth looks really bizarre to our modern eyes. Naomi tells Ruth: “Tonight Boaz will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.” Even Bible scholars are confused by this ancient practice. Did she uncover his feet to wake him up? Did she lie at his feet to show her humility and submission as his future wife? We don’t know, but Boaz’ response is very favorable for Ruth.
Ruth does just what her mother-in-law tells her to do. And when he wakes up, she tells Boaz that he’s their family’s kinsman redeemer and asks that he cover her with the corner of his blanket. Again, we don’t know what this is about, but it’s a beautiful metaphor for protection and rest. Earlier in the story in chapter 2, Boaz had told Ruth that in his barley fields she had found safety like in the protection of God’s mighty wings. And this corner of Boaz’ blanket is similar to the comforting shelter of a mama bird’s wing for her vulnerable babies.
So what is a kinsman redeemer anyway? Thousands of years ago, women didn’t have the rights and privileges we American women have now. Laws were written to protect them from starving to death or being defenseless against the designs of evil men. One of these laws said that if a man died without any heirs, someone should step up and marry his widow. Then together they could have children and keep the family name going. This may not sound very romantic to us, but it was a matter of survival. So since Ruth had been left childless when her husband died, and Boaz was a part of that side of the family, he was in a position to help.
Boaz was ready and willing to step up and do his duty, but he knew of a closer relative who needed to be asked first. That unnamed kinsman redeemer declined, and Ruth and Boaz got married. Then we get our happy ending at the end of chapter 4:
So Boaz married Ruth, and when he slept with her, the Lord gave her a son. And the women of the city said to Naomi, “Bless the Lord who has given you this little grandson; may he be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and take care of you in your old age; for he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you so much, and who has been kinder to you than seven sons!” Naomi took care of the baby…And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse and grandfather of King David.
We see a thread of redemption running throughout this story. Over and over, God delivers the women in the Book of Ruth, because this is what God does. He produces something magnificent with what we see as a complete mess, he “bestows on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.” And, when we read to the very end of this story and see the genealogy of Boaz and Ruth which leads to David and ultimately to Christ, we see our redeeming Heavenly Father who took a widowed woman from Moab and made her the great-grandmother of a king. We see that in so many ways, all the characters are on the road to Bethlehem: Ruth and Naomi, King David’s hometown…then Mary and Joseph are sent there for the census and that’s where Jesus is born. Don’t let the world tell you these things happen by accident! This was God’s marvelous plan to redeem the world!