Toeing the Line

And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.” Ruth 3:7-13 

Today, single people often ask where the line is in dating. But Ephesians 5:3 (NIV) says, “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.” Furthermore, in the great romantic book Song of Songs, the refrain is “do not arouse or awaken love before its time.” Indeed, the question is not where is the line as much as when is the time. The time is marriage, but not before. 

Rather than seeking to take advantage of Ruth, Boaz was humbled, shocked, and delighted that she loved him. Boaz hadn’t pursued Ruth for many reasons, most likely. Among them were that she was a widow in a season of mourning, and he didn’t want to pressure her; she was in a vulnerable place, and he didn’t want to take advantage of her; she was younger, and he felt that she was, as the saying goes, “out of his league.” In Boaz’s humble eyes, there were younger and better-looking men who Ruth would have gladly married, so he didn’t think he had any chance. In telling her to not fear, Boaz assured Ruth that she was safe with him in every way and that he wouldn’t reject her love or manipulate it for sinful pleasure.

Some commentators have speculated that Ruth seduced Boaz and in so doing manipulated him into marriage. While such a thing could have occurred with two sinful people, the context makes it clear that no sin occurred. Rather than sleeping with Ruth, Boaz prayed for her, commended her noble character, declared his love for her, and promised to do all he could to marry her. Despite their differences, Ruth and Boaz were as Paul might say, “equally yoked.” In 2:1, Boaz was called a “worthy man,” and he then called Ruth a likewise “worthy woman.” This means they both loved and trusted God by walking in holiness at such a pace that they could hold hands as husband and wife and walk together step-in-step for the rest of their lives. Boaz also called Ruth a woman of hesed, as she reflected the love, grace, mercy, devotion, and faithfulness of God to others. And Boaz was therefore delighted to have the opportunity to marry a woman that Proverbs 12:4 would say is a “crown.” Some have speculated that, based upon the command of Deuteronomy 25:5-10, Boaz was obligated to marry Ruth, and she was simply demanding her legal rights. But that law only applied to a brother caring for his widowed sister-in-law, and since Boaz was not a brother of Ruth’s deceased husband Mahlon, he had no obligation to her. Nonetheless, in love and grace, Boaz elected to redeem her in the same way that Jesus Christ, “our glorious Boaz,” elected to redeem us by grace—though He was in no way obligated to do such a wonderful kindness to us. 

Furthermore, the idea behind the law was to enable the family name to continue through offspring, and in this entire dialogue there is no mention of legal obligation or a child to carry on the family name. Rather, this is simply a story of pure love between a woman and a man. 

  • Refer to Naomi’s prayer for Ruth in Ruth 1:8-9, and Ruth’s response* to care for Naomi instead of seeking her own security through her own family. Boaz called this decision Ruth’s first kindness (3:10). With this in mind, discuss God’s providence in the life of Ruth. *Some measure of faith was needed for Ruth to leave what was known and go to something unknown. And Ruth chose to better Naomi’s situation, perhaps at the expense of her own.
  • What observations do you have about Boaz’s reaction* to Ruth’s advance? *It’s safe to say most men wouldn’t have reacted the same as Boaz if a young, attractive woman presented herself in a similar situation.