*Good Monday morning. Thanks for joining me. I apologize for not posting last Thursday and Friday. I was at Annual Conference from morning until late evening. Today we return to the Book of Ruth. Just to recap: Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, (both widowed) have found themselves in Bethlehem. Ruth went to gleam the fields belonging to a man by the name of Boaz, who happened to be kin to Naomi's deceased husband. When Naomi received word that Ruth met this fellow and that he showed kindness to Ruth Naomi's demeanor changed and her outlook took a whole new positive turn. Let's see what happens next.
"One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, 'My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for? Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don't let him know that 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."(Ruth 3:1-4)
The Hebrew literally reads: "Shall I not find rest for you, that it will be well with you?" Naomi is trying to secure Ruth's future. But, in doing so she is also looking out for herself. Naomi, all of a sudden, is no longer looking down on things. She has a plan. Now, the plan seems to be a simple one. Ruth is to get herself "prettied up" and then she is to go to where Boaz has been working tirelessly. Once he has filled his belly with food and wine and lays down Ruth is to uncover his feet and lie down with him. With that in mind I ask a simple question: "WHAT? She is to do what?" Well, guess what? Yep, there is deeper, and somewhat bawdy meaning here.
On the surface this all seems innocent. But, we need to remember the Bible was not written to a twenty-first century audience. When I taught this as part of Disciple II Bible study I still recall the reaction I received. I laugh about it till this day: "Where did you come up with that, Preacher?" Well, I assure you that whatever I teach I will back up with scripture. The threshing floor where Ruth was to wait for Boaz was, on one hand, where grain and chaff were separated. But, that wasn't all it was known for. Hosea 9:1 states: "Do not rejoice. O Israel;...for you have been unfaithful to your God; you love the wages of a prostitute at every threshing floor." (Hosea 9:1) Yes, the threshing floor could be described as the ancient world's "red light district." Ruth was to "uncover" Boaz's feet. Poor girl! She got all dressed up just to give this smelling guy a foot massage. Umm....No! I'm sorry, but "feet" in Hebrew is a common euphemism for "genitals." In Deuteronomy 28:57 "feet" is used as an euphemism for female genitals: "And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet." (KJV) (NIV translates this to womb) The Hebrew interpretation of 2Kings 18:27 reads: "drink the water of their feet." However, the KJV uses a word that I am not going to write out.
Well, Ruth was to "uncover Boaz's feet." She was to then lie down herself. I don't think I have to tell you what this may very likely mean. The meaning of this word "lie" ( as in lie/lay with) has explicit meaning in many Old Testament passages. However, in the case of our passage in Ruth it does not say that that Ruth was to "lay with Boaz" but she was to simply lie down. So, the writer leaves it up to the reader as to the interpretation.
Ruth does as she is instructed. Boaz was awakened in the middle of the night and was startled to find a woman laying at his feet. (Who wouldn't be? Of course he ,may have asked: "Wow! Just how much did I have to drink?) Now, when he asks Ruth who she is, she tells him. But, she does not wait for Boaz to tell her what to do as Naomi instructed her.
"I am your servant Ruth,' she said. Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.'" (Ruth 3:9)
Perhaps Ruth is simply saying: "I'm cold! Cover me up!" But....You guessed it! There's more being said. Ezekiel 16:8 makes it clear that "to cover with one's cloak/ extend one's cloak" is a euphemism for "intercourse." Now, we have to remember that she told him to do this because he was "a kinsman-redeemer." Remember, her husband had died and there was no brothers of the husband left in which to carry on the husband's name. Boaz is "as of now" the only one that can "save the day."
What happened on the threshing floor? Well, we can speculate, but I can assure you that whatever it was Ruth was looking to secure her future. I would suggest that, if nothing else, Ruth made two requests. One for redemption of the land, and the other for marriage.
I have been awhile typing this study. It has been a busy morning here at Madison UMC. We are having VBS this week, and I am enjoying being around the children. So, if I'm a little late with the daily postings you will know why. Tomorrow, we will continue our study of the Book of Ruth. -Pastor Rick