Why did Ruth lay at Boaz’ feet?

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

Image via Wikipedia

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


8 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.

    • Never had thought of it in the context you explained but that was very well thought out! Thanks be to God for showing you that it will sure be used in my class! Rally like that!

  4. It’s clear that Nothing imoral took place,the same book of Ruth says it loud and clear in chap.3 ver.9-11 ,because he as a guardian redeemer of her family a type of JESUS CHRIST the guardian an redeemer of Gods Family humanity, his moral conduct is far beyond dout as CHRIST (Boaz) will never abuse or do any harm “Know ” his bride the church ( Ruth) before the marriage is celebrated. And beside Boaz says ” And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask.All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character “.

  5. This is so simple, Boaz also already knows that there is a closer family member to redeem her, in other words, provide a child for her and if he is unwilling then Boaz will step up an provide a child for her. The Narative is suggesting that they are both of Noble character he can not violate the law by having any sexual encounter with her. The garment Ruth asks for him to cover her has the authority of Boaz in the hem of it. This is why David felt bad after cutting the hem of King Saul, he cut his authority off, much like ripping the arm badge off of a decorated general which is his ranking and authority.
    The uncovering of the feet may be simply to wake him up naturally from cold feet so the transaction can take place.

  6. 1. She did not lie next to him, where it would have been easy for Boaz to reach her body, with nice clothes upon, which would have been a better option for physical encounter than lying at the feet. Lying at the feet is fairly safer for the girl, who only want to inform him of her presence. She was advised by Naomi to lie at the feet, rather than next to him, which is what Ruth did. This clearly projects the ‘character’ of the girl to the man here. Choosing to lie next could clearly show the intention of quick-pleasure and nothing more, wherever choosing to lie at the feet put the cultural connotation more on priority, rather than the intention for physical pleasure. What a noble choice!

    2. Remember, Ruth was a ‘Moabite’ woman, and Sodom and Gomorrah were Moabite towns, the towns of incest. In spite of having come from the incest-ful Moabite background, she was keep herself safely away, following a Jewish culture of “lying at the feet” rather than the culture of her background. This not only stand in support of her chaste character, but also her commitment to adopt the Jewish culture — both of them could have been another reason for Boaz to admire at her more.

    3. Surely Ruth made herself vulnerable against all risks, before the Christ-type Boaz, and even before other men. Are we willing to make ourselves vulnerable for Christ sake! I am sure of protection of God was upon Ruth, while she was trying to demand things in godly way from one having kinsman-redeemer rights, and same way the Lord will not let us down, howmuchever vulnerable we make ourselves for our Lord Jesus Christ!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s