1 2 3 4

Ruth 3 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Ruth 3 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?

2 And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor.

3 Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking.

(3:3-4) Naomi (Ruth's mother-in-law) advises Ruth as to how to best seduce Boaz. She tells her to wait until he is a bit drunk and has fallen asleep. Then "go in and uncover his feet [a biblical euphemism for male genitals], and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what to do."
And Adam Knew Eve Ruth: At his feet until morning
Only a mind obsessed with sex can read sex everywhere. And one hopes that even in our age a mother advising her daughter to abandon virtue and prudence to frolick with someone is very rare. Also, the author of the SAB does not give any support for his claims that “uncover his feet” is a biblical euphemism for uncovering male genitals. That's simply made up by himself.
To understand what happens in this chapter, we first need to know Mosaic law as it applied to Old Testament Israel. Without such context, confusion reigns at best. In Israel, and probably many more countries in the Middle East, when the husband died, the next of kin had the duty to marry the widow, Deut. 25:5. There should be no children and the next of kin shouldn't be married of course. In an age without social security this system protected the most vulnerable.
It seems that Naomi thought that Boaz was the next of kin to Ruth. She might have wondered why Boaz, a God fearing person and who was obviously friendly towards Ruth, chapter 2:8, had made no move in this direction. What Noami and Ruth didn't know is that there was another kinsman, nearer to them, verse 12. Boaz knew that, but they didn't.
So that is why Naomi suggested that Ruth lay at the feet of Boaz. It was a sign of subjection. Boaz didn't need to marry her, she was at his mercy. Boaz didn't think Ruth came to frolick with him as he knew she was a virtuous woman, verse 11. Ruth indeed makes it known to Boaz that she wishes to marry him. Boaz might even have been in love with her, but he couldn't say a thing, because there was a next of kin that had more right to her than he had. To me it seems a classic love story, properly understood.
And so it happened. Boaz, rejoicing by her wish to marry him and not the next of kin, immediately moves to talk to the next of kin, chapter 4:1.

4 And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do.

5 And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do.

6 And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her.

7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down.

8 And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet.

9 And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.

(3:7-9) Ruth does as Naomi says, and then at midnight Boaz wakes up and finds Ruth "at his feet." He asks who she is, and she says, "I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore your skirt over thine handmaid." ("Spreading one's skirt" is a biblical euphemism for sexual intercourse.)
Spreading one's skirt is only a biblical euphemism for sexual intercourse in the feverish imagination of the author of the SAB. When the Bible speaks about intercourse, it is mentioned by name, see chapter 4:13.
Spreading the skirt is a symbolic gesture, a token of him promising to take her in marriage and signifying the care and protection a husband owes his wife in marriage. The word skirt here can also be translated with wings, and we found similar texts as here in Ps. 91:1 and Ezek. 16:8. It is a custom still followed in orthodox Jewish marriages.

10 And he said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich.

11 And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.

12 And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I.

13 Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman’s part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the LORD liveth: lie down until the morning.

14 And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor.

(3:11-14) Boaz seems agreeable to the suggestion and says, "I will do thee all that thou requirest." Next he asks her to "Tarry this night ... lie down until the morning." so Ruth "lay at his feet until morning."
And despite the insinuations of the author of the SAB, that's all what happened. It would be sad to think that if a woman comes to the author of the SAB at night, all he can thinks of is that she wants sex.

15 Also he said, Bring the vail that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her: and she went into the city.

16 And when she came to her mother in law, she said, Who art thou, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her.

17 And she said, These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother in law.

18 Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.