7 Markers Pointing to Ruth’s and Boaz’s Purity at the Threshing Floor
No other book in the Bible has a scene that provokes a reader‘s wild imaginations like that of Ruth and Boaz in Ruth Chapter 3. It describes a man and a woman lying together at the threshing floor at midnight, rife with suggestions of a sexual encounter, as depicted by Marc Chagall’s painting below. Did they or did they not? I’m convinced that they did not, and I list these seven markers why:
1. Boaz is described as “a worthy man” (Hebrew ish hayil, Ruth 2:1), or “a man of excellence,” or “of noble character.” He is a godly man, well-respected by his workers, and treats his workers – and the foreigner Ruth the Moabitess – with kindness and respect (Ruth 2:4, 13).
2. Ruth was not offering her body to Boaz when she said, “spread your wings (Hebrew kanaph) over your servant” (“spread the corner of your garment over me” in the NIV; “spread your skirt over your handmaid” in the NKJV). Nor is there any evidence in the Bible that “uncovering one’s feet” means intimate contact. This is a bold and honest marriage proposal from Ruth. In Ezekiel 16:8, when the Lord says to Israel, “I spread the corner of my garment (kanaph) over you,” it means that he made Israel his “wife.” This proposal also evokes Boaz’s praise of Ruth as a Moabite who now trusts God as her refuge in her difficult situation, “under whose wings (kanaph) you have come to take refuge!” (Ruth 2:12)
3. At the threshing floor, Boaz says that Ruth is a “worthy woman,” or “a woman of noble character,” or “a woman of excellence” (eshet hayil, Ruth 3:11-12). All of Bethlehem knew her virtues and excellence. The word for “worthy” is the same word used for the “excellent wife” or the “virtuous wife” of Proverbs 31:10, who loves and takes good care of her husband and children, is chaste, industrious, and a wise businesswoman. Why would Boaz praise Ruth if she offered her body to Boaz to do as he pleases?
4. Boaz and Ruth would not be described as a man and woman of worth, of noble character, and godly, if they violated the Seventh Commandment.
5. Boaz’s instruction to Ruth to “remain tonight… until the morning” does not mean they were sexually intimate. The Hebrew word “remain” in this verse (luwn) is also used by Ruth when she committed to stay with Naomi, “where you lodge I will lodge” (luwn, Ruth 1:16). This word means nothing else than to stay in a lodging place for the night, as its plain meaning in more than 80 instances in the Old Testament.
6. Boaz, as a man of honor, would not intentionally hand Ruth over to his relative for marriage, after he already had violated her (Ruth 3:13; 4:5).
7. Only in Ruth 4:13 is there a direct reference to a sexual relationship between Boaz and Ruth. This is after they were lawfully married, “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.” The words “went in” are often used in the Old Testament to say that a child was born as a result of a sexual relationship (Gen 16:4; 38:18; 2 Sam 12:24).