Why did Ruth lay at Boaz’ feet?

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld: Ruth in Boaz's ...

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Question: What was the significance of Ruth laying at the feet of Boaz and why was he so impressed by it?

Answer: In the book of Ruth we are told that a Bethlehem family left their town and country of Israel to go to Moab during a famine. The sons married Moabite women but they and their father died in Moab. Naomi, the widow, and her two daughters-in-law, were parting but Ruth refused to leave Naomi and returned with her to Bethlehem. To take care of her mother-in-law she went to work in the fields. She so impressed Boaz, one of the owners of fields, that he encouraged her to work for him only and rewarded her for her devotion to her mother-in-law, a near relative of his. Naomi instructed Ruth at harvest time to wait until the men were sleeping and quietly go to Boaz and put part of his covering over her feet and lay there. This was apparently a customary way of asking a man to provide the protection of marriage.

Boaz was impressed, as he says, because in his estimation she could have had her pick of younger men, rich or poor, but was not motivated by a desire for wealth or excitement. Rather, she was loyal to her mother-in-law and recognized that Boaz, as a near relative, was the choice of integrity in line with the law of Moses, which said that the near relative of a deceased man was to marry his widow and raise up children to his name. This was a way of ensuring that the land he had inherited from God remained in his family.

As it turns out, the descendent of Ruth and Boaz was David, king of Israel. It was God who had engineered this coming together of two godly believers to produce the greatest king Israel ever had.

It is unfortunate that some have suggested that Ruth uncovering Boaz’ feet was a euphemism for sexual intercourse.  This interpretation is totally contradictory to the whole tenor of this book.  It is designed to show the integrity and character of David’s ancestors.  No one would have thought that Ruth having sex with Boaz showed moral integrity.

Randall Johnson

3 thoughts on “Why did Ruth lay at Boaz’ feet?

  1. Thanks, that was such a great, contextual expose` of the culture of the day and the goodness of God’s design in his Law. Some misconstrue the law about near relatives as being horribly disgusting – interpreting it in our culture rather than recognising the reality of blessings on people’s lineage. I really like the way you put it all, and now I am off to find out more about this way of proposing. One thing that stands out to me is that as a woman she made herself very vulnerable visiting Boaz in the night as she did. He could have simply used and abused her (or any of the men could have), but his character was so good, as proven by his daytime behaviour. Not to mention, God was protecting her in the shadow of His wings.

  2. A further pondering: If he did have relations with her, as she was not betrothed, he would have been obligated by the Law to marry her. Wow, that was one perfectly orchestrated plan but God and Naomi!

  3. I believe that the meaning of Ruth’s laying at Boaz’s feet is symbolic of her asking him to exercise his duty (and right) as kinsman’s redeemer and marry her and also purchase (redeem) the land that once belonged to Elimelech. Joshua 1 shows God’s promise that “every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses”. So the sole of the feet stepping on something meant (in that culture) “taking possession” of that.
    See also Joshua 3, which refers to the sole of their feet.
    Therefore her uncovering Boaz’s feet and laying at them probably meant (in that culture) that Ruth wanted Boaz to have authority over her as wife and take possession of Elimelech’s land and redeem them. Naomi was Jewish and instructed Ruth about all that symbology.
    The same symbology is applicable to the moment when the other possible kinsman redeemer chooses to decline his right to purchase the land and the bride. To show to all the elders that he would not exercize his right he publicly gives one of his shoes to Boaz, which is symbolic of his declining to tread upon the land and possessing it. After I read Joshua 1 and Joshua 3 I gained a whole new perspective on that matter.
    I also agree that nothing immoral took place on that night.

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