In life, there are times when we have to make major decisions. You come to a fork in the road, make that one decision, and your life veers off in a completely new direction. For example, the decision to accept or reject Christ. To remain in your home church or leave. And, of course, whom to marry. That one decision determines everything else that follows. Christians who marry know they have to live with their choices.
Ruth has come to that point. She has carried out the first part of Naomi’s plan and gone to the threshing floor (Ruth 3:5–6). But she chooses to do things differently, stopping short of any acts that would dishonour herself, Boaz, or the God she now worships.
At the critical moment when Boaz awakens, Ruth does not rub his feet or nibble his ear, or make any other seductive moves. Ruth does not use her sexuality to manipulate Boaz into marriage. Instead of appealing to his sensuality, she appeals to Boaz’s godly maturity and sense of responsibility.
At a moment when emotions are running high, Ruth takes out the Bible and asks if Boaz would be willing to fulfil God’s Word in her life
The Hebrew words translated as “spread the corner of your garment over me” (3:9), or “spread your wings over your servant” (ESV), is an idiomatic way of making a marriage proposal. When speaking of His relationship with Israel, God pledged His commitment to His people using the same idiomatic language: “I spread the corner of my garment over you . . . entered into a covenant with you . . . and you became mine” (Ezekiel 16:8). It established a marriage covenant that entailed protecting and providing for the wife.
Just as she sought refuge and put herself under Yahweh’s “wings” when she came to Judah (Ruth 2:12), Ruth now seeks refuge under Boaz’s wings with her bold marriage proposal (3:9). Ruth asks Boaz to marry her on the basis that he is a kinsman-redeemer (Leviticus 25:23–55), in accordance with levirate custom (Deuteronomy 25:5–10), to protect her and perpetuate the line of Mahlon (Ruth 4:10) by producing an heir.
This marriage proposal is altogether unprecedented in ancient Hebrew society. Here is a “servant” (3:9) asking the boss to marry her; a poor widow marrying a rich man, a younger woman marrying a man old enough to be her father; a Moabite asking a Jew to break ethnic, political, religious, and social taboos. From a human perspective, Ruth’s proposal is a hopeless gamble, doomed from the start. But if God is writing the script and directing the drama, this is a marriage made in heaven.
Given that all the conditions were ripe for a sexual encounter, why was Ruth able to resist temptation? If you were in Ruth’s situation, would you have chosen differently? In what ways would God’s Word help (Psalm 119:9)?
Ruth proposed to Boaz even though that was not the social norm. What do you think of a woman proposing marriage to a man today? If you were a woman, would you do it? Why or why not?