a. Naomi’s Clever Plan (3:1–5)
4 Finally, when he lies down, carefully notice the spot where he is lying. Then go there, uncover his feet, and lie down. He will then tell you what you must do.” 11
5 Ruth answered her, “Everything you have said 12 I will do.”
1 Unlike ch. 2, Naomi, not the narrator or Ruth, initiates the story’s new phase. Evidently, previous events had given Naomi release from bitter isolation—and an idea. She declared her intention to carry out a parental duty: I must secure a permanent home for you. As in 2:20 (” our kinsman-redeemer”), Naomi thereby treated Ruth as family—as if she were her own daughter. The verb bqš in the Piel (lit. “to seek”) may be a legal term implying that the object sought was owed Ruth. 13 In this case, she wanted a permanent home (Heb. mānôaḥ, lit. “a resting place”) for Ruth. Derived from nûaḥ (“to settle down”), the term is a synonym of menûḥâ. (see 1:9). Clearly Naomi had in mind a new marriage and the attendant security, permanence, and belonging it would provide Ruth. 14 Indeed, she specified the desired result (so that you will be well situated), a common idiom associated with attractive benefits: bridal happiness (Jer. 7:23), security (Jer. 42:6), long life (Gen. 12:13; Deut. 4:40; 5:16, 33), material prosperity (Jer. 40:9), and many children (Deut. 6:3). Besides seeing Ruth happily settled, Naomi probably also wanted to provide for Ruth’s uncertain fate after Naomi’s death. It would be one thing for Ruth to endure widowhood in a strange land during Naomi’s lifetime, quite another to do so after she was gone.
A significant theological point emerges here. Earlier Naomi had wished for these same things (1:8–9). Here human means (i.e., Naomi’s plan) carry out something previously understood to be in Yahweh’s province. In response to providentially given opportunity, Naomi began to answer her own prayer! Thus she models one way in which divine and human actions work together: believers are not to wait passively for events to happen; rather, they must seize the initiative when an opportunity presents itself. They assume that God presents the opportunity. In Naomi’s case, any success presumably would be part of Yahweh’s “full payment” of Ruth (cf. 2:12). If so, then, theologically Yahweh acts in Naomi’s acts. That is, what Naomi does constitutes at the same time God’s acts. 15 Her acts execute God’s plans.
2 Naomi next spelled out the twofold premise of her plan. First, she reminded Ruth that Boaz is our relative. The word mōḏaʾtānû (“our relative”) represents a clever play on its cognate word in 2:1 (“friend”). While the latter downplayed Boaz’s familial ties to Naomi for dramatic revelation later in 2:20, the former now builds upon that revelation. The syntax of the sentence stressed that Boaz was a close relative. 16 Thus, his kinship—and whatever duties went with it—was a key premise of Naomi’s plan. His earlier kindness toward Ruth sounded the knock of golden opportunity at the widows’ door; Naomi intended to answer it without hesitation. Second, she added: Look [lit. “Behold!”], he is winnowing the barley tonight. This seemingly simple statement raises two problems. Taken literally, it contains a rather odd expression unattested elsewhere (lit. “to winnow the threshing floor of barley”). Normally, one threshes barley, not a threshing floor! Thus, several take ʾeṯ-gōren to be a prepositional phrase and haśśeʾōrîm as the direct object of zōreh. 17 Equally odd is the mention only of barley and not of wheat as well (cf. 2:23). Were there separate threshing floors for each grain? Or were the two grains winnowed on the same threshing floor but in two separate phases? 18 One cannot be certain. Possibly the expression itself was a known colloquialism meaning “to winnow barley.” The phrase’s literal rendering in LXX (“he is winnowing the threshing floor of barley”) might reflect knowledge of the expression, but it may also simply show slavish translation technique. Since the two grains were likely harvested in two stages, their winnowing also probably proceeded in stages. 19 In any case, Naomi’s point was that Boaz would be in a secluded spot where he and Ruth could talk privately under cover of darkness.
In ancient agricultural practice, winnowing was the festive, joyous climax of the harvest process (cf. Isa. 41:14–16). Harvested grain was first bundled in the field, then carried manually or by cart (Amos 2:13) to the threshing floor, an open space of either exposed bedrock or hard, stamped earth. There the grain was threshed, i.e., beaten with a toothed sledge, trampled under animal hooves (Mic. 4:13), or crushed under cart wheels (Isa. 28:28). The purpose was to remove the husks from the kernels. Winnowing then separated the kernels from the husks, chaff, and stalks. With a fork or shovel, the winnower repeatedly tossed the mixture into the prevailing breeze. 20 The wind scattered the lighter chaff a distance away and the heavier grain fell near the winnower. After being sifted with a sieve, the kernels were collected in piles (Cant. 7:3), the straw fed as fodder to animals, and the chaff used for fuel.
Naturally, the location of the threshing floor partially regulated the wind velocity, and this may explain why Bethlehem’s floor was downhill from the town. 21 One needs a steady breeze—but not one too strong or gusty. That may also explain why Naomi specified that Boaz winnowed tonight (in force, “this very night”; cf. the versions). He probably intended to take advantage of a propitious evening breeze. 22 Whether his workers (so many commentators) did the actual winnowing is, however, uncertain. Equally uncertain is why Boaz would spend the rest of the night there after the cessation of wind brought winnowing to an end. Most think that he remained to protect his grain from robbers, but Sasson argued from Naomi’s knowledge of his activities (vv. 2–4) that Boaz was involved in some ceremonial, even cultic, preparations customary during harvest festivities. 23 Unfortunately, one cannot be certain. But an important point to remember during the next scene is that the popular mind associated threshing floors with licentiousness. 24
3 On such premises Naomi articulated her plan. Rather than rush right off to the threshing floor, Ruth was first to prepare herself. She was to bathe (lit. “wash”) herself and put on some perfume. The use of scented oils, particularly on festive occasions, was as common in antiquity as the modern use of colognes; indeed, they were symbols of a good reputation (Cant. 1:3; Eccl. 7:1). Obviously, Ruth was to make herself attractive, perhaps even enticing. She was also to get dressed up, probably by wrapping herself in a large mantle like those attested in Canaan since the Late Bronze Age. Although not obvious in the context, extrabiblical parallels using “bathe, anoint, dress up” together suggest that Naomi possibly instructed Ruth to dress as a bride. 25 More certain, Ruth was to look (and smell) her most alluring. Thus prepared, Ruth was to go down to the threshing floor.
She was not, however, to rush up to Boaz and initiate the discussion. Instead, Naomi instructed: Do not let the man notice you are there (lit. “You shall not be known to the man”). The Niphal form of ydʿ (“to know”) stressed that Ruth was to be neither seen nor heard by Boaz. 26 Rather, her presence was to remain a secret until exactly the right moment. Several times in this chapter the narrator refers to Boaz as the man (hāʾîš, vv. 8, 16, 18; cf. hāʾiššâ, “the woman,” v. 14), a clever device with a twofold purpose: to reinforce the scene’s darkness by obscuring the identities of the characters and to hint that the scene is about the relationship between man and woman. As for the right moment, Naomi shrewdly calculated its arrival: until he has finished having his dinner. Obviously, she wanted Boaz to be in good spirits—that sense of contentment and well-being which results from a good meal. 27 In sum, Naomi left nothing to chance. Rather, she calculated as carefully as she could to set up a favorable situation: Boaz would be in a happy frame of mind, and the two would talk alone, away from gossipy ears. In so doing, she modeled the proper use of human ingenuity in the service of a worthy goal. Indeed, given the book’s overriding sense of divine providence, one can say that God works in just that kind of ingenuity.
4 Naomi now detailed the climax of her plan. Finally paraphrases a possible Hebrew oral device which meant, “Now this is crucial.” 28 Her next words are tantalizingly ambiguous and replete with suggestive sexual innuendo. When Boaz lies down (i.e., to sleep), from her hidden vantage point Ruth must carefully notice the spot [lit. “you shall know the place”] where he is lying. Again, without revealing how, Naomi knew that Boaz would spend the night there (see remarks above at v. 3). She also implied that other people might be present, hence the precaution that Ruth carefully follow his movements. No amount of darkness would hide the embarrassment of approaching the wrong man! Sometime later, after Boaz was sound asleep, Ruth was to go there (bôʾ, lit. “come, enter”), uncover his feet, and lie down.
The second (and crucial) action merits additional comment. The verb glh in the Piel (“to uncover, make visible” something hidden) occurs primarily in expressions describing varieties of illicit sexual relations. 29 Obviously, such associations gave it an immoral ring in Israelite ears since such behavior was forbidden. The direct object here (margelōṯ, “place of feet”) probably intensified that ring. 30 As is well known, the term “feet” could be used as a euphemism for sexual organs (male: Exod. 4:25; Judg. 3:24; 1 Sam. 24:4 [Eng. 3]; female: Deut. 28:57; Ezek. 16:25; etc.) though not demonstrable as a euphemism here, it may have been chosen to add to the scene’s sexual overtones. 31 In any case, “place of feet” meant the place where his feet lay. 32 Hence, Naomi instructed Ruth to lay bare Boaz’s feet by laying back the edge of the large mantle in which he slept. Then she herself was to lie down (another sexually suggestive word!), presumably at his feet. 33
What was the purpose of this gesture? First, Ruth’s actions were intended as some sort of signal to Boaz. By lying at his feet, perhaps Ruth was to present herself as a humble petitioner seeking his protection. 34 In the light of Ruth’s subsequent proposal of marriage (v. 9), however, this gesture probably symbolized her proposal (see v. 9). 35 Second, Ruth’s actions may have ensured that the two parties would not converse until they were totally alone—or at least the only ones awake. To uncover Boaz’s feet exposed them to the night air’s increasing chill. Naomi cleverly figured that he would not awaken until aware of the discomfort, i.e., in the dead of night after other workers had either gone home or fallen asleep themselves. 36
Finally, according to Naomi the last move belonged to Boaz: He will then tell you what you must do. Apparently, he would respond to Ruth’s symbolic gesture with some instructions of his own. Thus, Naomi took into account both the time of the meeting and the character of Boaz. She gambled that he would not take unfair sexual advantage of the situation. Later (v. 9), however, Ruth apparently will exceed these instructions on her own initiative, despite her promise (v. 5). In any case, the strange venture was no doubt a risky and daring one. Naomi asked Ruth to enter an uncertain, compromising situation with a great deal hanging in the balance.
Nagging questions plague the reader at this point, however. Why did Naomi pursue this secretive procedure? Was it a custom well known to the audience or Naomi’s own (and highly unusual) invention? Why didn’t she directly approach Boaz or the town elders on the matter of Ruth’s marriage? Unfortunately, firm answers are elusive. It was certainly customary for parents to arrange marriages for their children (Gen. 24; 34; 38; Exod. 2:21; Judg. 14:2–3, 10), but the OT nowhere attests this specific method or matchmaking by a mother-in-law. Since Naomi had identified Boaz as a gōʾēl (2:20), the scheme probably aimed to get him to carry out that duty by marrying Ruth. 37 Still, one wonders why none of the kinsman-redeemers (including Boaz) had yet stepped forward to fulfill that duty. Since it was optional, not obligatory, perhaps each was waiting for the other to act, or each hesitated because Ruth was a Moabitess. If so, Naomi’s ploy was simply an acceptable but unusual way to break the impasse. And certainly she had Ruth’s best interest at heart. Finally, one cannot exclude the possibility that the narrator wanted the audience to compare this plan with that of Tamar (Gen. 38). 38 Is history about to repeat itself—and perhaps with similar historic results for Judah?
5 Ruth’s simple promise of compliance drew the scene to a close. She referred back to vv. 2–4 (Everything you have said) but asked no questions, raised no objections, sought no reasons. Apparently she understood the plan fully—a point to which we must return at v. 9. In the light of siwatta (v. 6), here amar (“to say”) has the nuance “to command, order.” Thus, she took Naomi’s words to be a command to be obeyed, not a suggestion to be weighed. Her simple I will do settled the arrangement and pushed the story forward, Once again she showed herself devoted to Naomi—not by dissent, as in ch. 1, but by consent (1:16–17). 39 . The reader, however, learns nothing of her motives, fears, or expectations; nothing of her faith in God to prosper her efforts. Indeed, the theological question was, Would human plans collide of coincide with God’s plans? Would God bless the clever plan of Naomi the matchmaker or, as with Abraham’s ill-fated move (Gen. 16; 17:18), annul it with a divine no (Gen. 17:21)? 40 As the scene closed, the only certainty was that, like Esther (Esth. 4), Ruth would simply obey despite the dangers. She willingly cast her fate into Naomi’s hands by going along with her plans.
2 Lit. “Shall I not seek …?” For the use of questions to express strong declarations, see the commentary above on 2:8. On the vocative my daughter, see above on 2:2, 8. The nuance of obligation (must) follows GHB, § 113m; cf. vv. 3, 4. In view of the kind of direct object here (see the commentary below), the verb may have the emotional nuance “to strive for, aspire to”; so G. Gerleman, “bqš,” THAT, I:334. Does the imperfect allude to other, unspecified efforts by Naomi behind the scenes, as Campbell suggests (p 116)?
3 Lit. “that it may be well to you.” The consistent usage of the idiom (yṭb l) confirms that ʾašer here introduces a final, not a relative, clause (Gen. 12:13; Deut. 5:16; 6:3, 18; Deut. 12:25, 28; 2 K. 25:24; Jer. 7:23; etc.); so Campbell, p. 116; Rudolph, p. 52; LXX; et al.; against Sasson, pp. 63–64.
4 Lit. “Isn’t Boaz … our relative?”; contrast Campbell, p. 117 (“covenant circle” for “relative”). As with v. 1, the question (expecting an affirmative answer) is in fact an assertion. Syntactically, weʿattâ (“and now”) introduces what follows as both the logical outcome of v. 1 (cf. Joüon, p. 66) and a new phase of conversation (i.e., the plan’s formal beginning; cf. v. 11).
5 Lit. “to winnow the threshing floor of barley.” See the commentary below. The alliterations in Hebrew suggest that Naomi gave the words spoken stress; note the series of h, ō, and eh sounds in MT: hinnēh-hûʾ zōreh ʾeṯ-gōren haśśeʿōrîm hallaylâ.
6 Lit. “you shall pour” (for the unusual vocalization, see GKC, § 104g). The verb sûḵ means “to pour, anoint” with perfumed olive oil, particularly after bathing; cf. 2 Sam. 12:20; 14:2; Ezek. 16:9; Dan. 10:3; R. Patterson, “sûḵ,” TWOT, II:619.
7 Lit. “you shall put your clothes on you” (with most commentators, reading the Ketib śimlāṯēḵ [sing.]). Though the nicely alliterative idiom (śîm śimlâ ʿal) occurs only here (but cf. Gen. 9:23), the context suggests the probable meaning “to get dressed up, to dress one’s best”; so Vulg. and Targ. The word śimlâ probably has a collective sense here (“clothes”; cf. Deut. 10:18; 21:13; 22:5; Isa. 3:7) and includes both the mantle and the shawl mentioned in v. 15 (so LXX). Joüon (p. 68) and Tamisier (La Sainte Bible, III:320) claim that the two items are identical, but as Sasson notes (p. 68), that would imply that Ruth, having filled her only garment with Boaz’s grain gift (v. 15), returned home naked—an unlikely assumption!
8 Reading the Ketib with its unusual and probably archaic 2nd fem. ending (-tî), a form which appears most often (as archaizing?) in Jeremiah and Ezekiel (Jer. 2:33; 31:21; Ezek. 16:18; etc.); see GKC, § 44h; GHB, § 42f; cf. wešāḵāḇtî (v. 4). One “went down” (yrd) to exit a city (1 Sam. 9:27), since, for defensive purposes, ancient cities were usually built on hills. Strangely enough, LXX has “go up” here but “go down” for the same verb in v. 6.
9 Naomi’s instructions use perfect verbs with waw instead of the more common sequence of imperative followed by perfects (2 Sam. 14:2–3). Campbell (pp. 119–20) observed striking symmetry in vv. 3–4: four perfects with waw -conversive, the last with an archaic fem. sing. ending; then a negative imperative and an imperfect; finally, another series of four perfects with waw, the last with the same archaic ending. He suggested that this sequence may reflect early Hebrew syntax.
10 “Having his dinner” is lit. “to eat and to drink,” probably a hendiadys for “to have, enjoy a meal”; cf. v. 7; Exod. 34:28; Num. 23:24; Deut. 9:9, 18; 1 Sam. 30:12; etc. The same word pair occurs in Ugaritic; cf. Dahood, RSP, I:108–109. According to the Gezer Calendar (ANET, p. 320), “harvesting and feasting” followed the month after the barley harvest.
12 The use of an imperfect (tōʾmerî) for an expected perfect is rare (cf. Num. 32:31; Josh. 1:16) but grammatically proper (cf. v. 11; 2 Sam. 9:11). It may imply that Naomi’s words remained in effect though she had finished speaking (cf. GKC, § 107h), or it may simply be a general formula of obedience (so Morris, p. 287; Rudolph, p. 52). Note, further, that following this verb the MT has a rare “Qere not Ketib,” i.e., the Masoretes wrote the vowels of a word (“to me”) to be read though the text lacks its consonants (cf. also v. 17).
14 For mānôaḥ, see Gen. 8:9; Deut. 28:65; Isa. 34:14; Ps. 116:7; Lam. 1:3; 1 Chr. 6:16. Most poignant is Isa. 34:14–15 (i.e., owls who find a safe “nest” in which to enjoy their mates and nourish their young). According to Ratner (“Gender Problems,” pp. 105–109), the change from a fem. (1:9) to a masc. form may be the narrator’s stylistic way of enlivening dry literary material. The same suggestion may also explain the change in forms (based on the root ydʿ) from “friend” (2:1) to “relative” (3:2). Cf. F. Stolz, “nwḥ,” THAT, II:45; L. Coppes, “nûaḥ,” TWOT, II:563.
16 Several lines of evidence support this view. First, the noun’s fem. form gave it an intensive (and abstract) nuance (BDB, p. 396: “kinship, kindred”); cf. GHB, § 89b, citing Arabic analogies. Second, according to GKC, § 141c, the use of a substantive as a predicate of a noun clause signals emphasis (cf. Job 22:12; Ps. 25:10; Prov. 3:17; Cant. 1:10; Ezek. 38:5). The unusual position of the following relative clause (“the one with whose young women you have been”) similarly implies special stress. Normally, it would immediately follow its antecedent (Boaz) or the predicate; cf. Gen. 24:7; Ruth 2:19b. Concerning the unusual vocalization of the suffix, see GHB, § 94h.
17 Hence, “he is winnowing barley at/on the threshing floor”; so RSV; NEB; NIV; Sasson, pp. 64–65, following J. Hoftijzer, “Remarks Concerning the Use of the Particle ʾT in Classical Hebrew,” OTS 14 (1965) 45. Alternatively, from 2 K. 7:1–20 and 22:10 Campbell (pp. 117–19) argued that haśśeʿōrîm (“barley”) should be revocalized haššeʿārîm (“the gates”), a change yielding “he is winnowing (the grain of) the threshing floor near the gate.” Against this change, however, the book of Ruth locates the floor some distance below the city, not at the city gate (i.e., “go down,” vv. 3, 6; “go up,” 4:1); cf. Sasson, pp. 64–65.
18 So Joüon, pp. 66–67, who suggests that “threshing floor” is mentonymous for the “(product) of the threshing floor”; cf. also Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte, III:73. The suggestion is grammatically improbable, however, since it makes “barley” an appositive to “threshing floor”—an unlikely relationship for a Hebrew construct chain (so Campbell, p. 117).
19 According to Sasson (pp. 130–31), by mentioning only barley, the narrator cleverly indicated that, rather than risk having another gōʾēl outwit him in obtaining Naomi’s land (cf. 4:3) by waiting to the end of the wheat harvest, in 4:1–12 Boaz moved swiftly to obtain his best advantage. This implies that 2:23 covers the entire period reported in the rest of the book (except the birth of Obed), not the time between the events of chs. 2 and 3. Two considerations undermine this view. First, as Sasson himself admits, it assumes that the field was sown in barley, not wheat. The text, however, neither confirms nor denies that assumption. Second, Naomi’s statement (v. 2) might assume that the harvest was already over. Were the harvest in full swing, it seems unlikely that Ruth would have been at home unless we assume that the two women conversed in the morning before Ruth left for the field.
21 Cf. n. 17 above. Without offering proof, Hertzberg (pp. 273–74) identifies it with the one at modern Beit Sahur, a village down Bethlehem’s eastern slope beside the “Shepherds’ Fields” of the NT. That would make good sense if the field was nearby but would require workers to carry the grain home up a somewhat steep hill. Others locate it either on a tier of Bethlehem’s descending slopes or on the summit of a neighboring hill lower than the town; cf. Humbert, “Art et leçon,” p. 274.
22 See Humbert, “Art et leçon,” p. 273; Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte, III:131; Targ.; et al. But others claim that in Judah the wind comes up about 2:00 P.M. and dies out toward evening. Therefore, Heb. hallaylâ (“tonight”) must refer to the entire afternoon (so Hertzberg, p. 273) or to “evening” (so Joüon, p. 67, citing the word’s use in Josh. 2:2). Were that the case, however, one would expect the word ʿereḇ (“evening”), as in 2:17. The term may have a double reference: a chronological one (i.e., to the twilight hours) and a thematic one (i.e., to orient the audience to the nocturnal scene which follows); so Campbell, p. 119.
23 Sasson, p. 65. Though field owners probably were present for threshing (cf. 2 Sam. 24:18–20; Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte, III:103), it was unusual for an important man like Boaz not to delegate the night watch to one of his men (so Sasson, p. 65). Perhaps on this occasion Boaz was simply taking his turn “on duty” (so Morris, p. 285).
24 See Hos. 9:1; Robertson, “Plot,” p. 216. According to Carmichael (“ ‘Treading’,” p. 257), Ruth’s successful “treading” (i.e., agricultural fertility) in ch. 2 led Naomi to choose this moment to approach Boaz about “treading” Ruth (i.e., sexual fertility). The audience no doubt readily associated those two ideas of fertility, but the specific motif of “treading” on which Carmichael attempts to build his case is absent from the text. Any sexual relations between Ruth and Boaz must await proof from subsequent events (see below).
25 For the evidence, see Sasson, p. 67; 2 Sam. 12:20; Ezek. 16:8–10; Esth. 2:12; Jdt. 10:3; cf. Humbert, “Art et leçon,” p. 274; Hertzberg, p. 274. Contrast Campbell, p. 131 (the text is purposely ambiguous); Morris, pp. 285–86.
27 Against Robertson (“Plot,” pp. 226–27) and others, the idiom need not imply that Boaz would be drunk. But are we to hear echoes of the scheme by Lot’s two daughters (Gen. 19:30–38)? Cf. Carmichael, “Ceremonial Crux,” p. 335; Gow, “Structure, Theme and Purpose,” p. 116.
28 Though the unusual form wîhî (waw plus Qal jussive of hāyâ) has long troubled scholars, close inspection of its three other occurrences (1 Sam. 10:5; 2 Sam. 5:24; 1 K. 14:5) suggests this sense. In each case, the verb occurs in a temporal clause with the prepositions be or ke and an infinitive construct (lit. “and may it be when …”). Further, the formula comes in the speech of a superior to a subordinate at the precise point where crucial information is given. Hence, the unusual form may be a rhetorical device of spoken Hebrew. That Yahweh speaks in the last two instances (cf. also Samuel as spokesman, 1 Sam. 10:5) also suggests that it may even have been a technical expression of oracular speech. If so, did the narrator thereby present Naomi as giving Ruth divine direction? Contrast GKC, § 112z (jussive as rhythmic form of an imperfect indicative); A. Rubinstein, “Conditional Constructions in the Isaiah Scroll,” VT 6 (1956) 76 n. 2; Joüon, p. 69 (an error for the expected wehāyâ); Rudolph, p. 52 (an actual command).
29 Mainly in the phrase “to uncover the nakedness”; Lev. 18 and 20 (24 times); Deut. 23:1; 27:20; Isa. 22:8; etc.; cf. C. Westermann, “glh,” THAT, I:422; H. Zobel, “gālâ,” TDOT, II:479. From an alleged cognate parallel pair in Ugaritic (gly//bôʾ), Dahood (RSP, I:160–61) claimed that glh here meant “to reach.” Two things, however, undercut this claim. First, the alleged Ugaritic usage occurs in a fixed, repeated expression unrelated to the context of Ruth 3:4. Second, the order of the alleged pair here is the opposite of the Ugaritic formula. Note that Gordon (UT, pp. 379–80, no.579) renders Ugar. gly as “to leave”—a sense opposite to that of bôʾ.
30 Outside Ruth, it occurs only in Dan. 10:6, where it means “legs” (paired with “arms”), and Campbell (p. 121) accepts that meaning here. Nevertheless, three observations favor the consensus meaning “place of feet.” First, the widely differing contexts of Dan. 10 and Ruth 3 leave open the possibility that the word has a different nuance in each. Second, that margelōṯ derives from the word reg̱el, “foot,” suggests a meaning closer to “foot” than “legs.” Third, according to GKC, §§ 124a–b, the -ōṯ ending identifies the word as a “plural of local extension” which refers to a place or area. Indeed, later in the chapter, the word definitely has a local sense (vv. 7, 8, 14). In sum, the word probably meant “place of feet,” and corresponded to meraʾašôṯ, “place of head” (Gen. 28:11, 18; 1 Sam. 19:13, 16; 1 K. 19:6); so Joüon, p. 69; Sasson, pp. 69–70; et al.
31 See Gray, p. 394; Trible, “Two Women,” p. 266; et al. If the word meant “legs,” however, the author may have meant it to be ambiguous and hence provocative (i.e., how much of his “legs” did Ruth uncover?); so Campbell, pp. 121, 131.
33 Followed by ʾeṯ and ʿim (both “with”), škb means “have (illicit) sexual relations (with)” (Gen. 19:32–35; Exod. 22:15 [Eng. 16]; Lev. 18:22; Deut. 22:22; 1 Sam. 2:22; 2 Sam. 11:4; etc.). The Bible describes legal sexual relations with ydʿ, “know” (e.g., Gen. 4:1, 17) or bwʾ, “enter” (e.g., Gen. 16:4); cf. V. Hamilton, “šāḵaḇ,” TWOT, II:921–22. The view of May and Staples that v. 4 refers to an act of sacred prostitution on Bethlehem’s threshing floor (cf. Ruth’s remuneration, v. 15) has not won a following (H. May, “Ruth’s Visit to the High Place at Bethlehem,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society  75–78; Staples, “Ruth,” pp. 145–57). On the verb’s archaic form, see similar forms in v. 3; see nn. 8 and 9 above.
35 In view of the euphemistic usage just noted, to lie at his “feet” implicitly indicated Ruth’s sexual readiness; cf. Green, “Symbolism,” p. 84; Carmichael, “ ‘Treading’,” p. 257 (discarding, however, his claim that the audience would associate margelōṯ specifically with “sandals,” a common sexual metaphor for a woman); cf. idem, “Ceremonial Crux,” pp. 332–33.
37 So Humbert, “Art et leçon,” p. 274; Hertzberg, p. 274; Würthwein, p. 17, who believes (prematurely, I think) that Naomi wanted to obtain an heir for Elimelech. On the other hand, despite the surprising revelation of v. 12, one need not suppose that Naomi sought simply to bypass the near-kinsman in favor of a wealthier relative (against M. B. Crook, “The Book of Ruth. A New Solution,” JBR 16  156) or to force the other kinsman either to do his duty or to step aside in favor of another (against Staples, “Notes,” p. 63).
38 Cf. Robertson, “Plot,” pp. 226–27; Vriezen, OTS 5 (1948) 86. Alternatively, the comparison might be with the more immoral ploy of Lot’s daughters (Gen. 19:30–38), one of whom was ancestress of the Moabites. If so, the audience would wonder whether Ruth might resort to a similar manipulative maneuver to get her way.
39 See Trible, “Two Women,” p. 266, who also points out (pp. 266–67) the stark contrasts between the first and second meetings of Ruth and Boaz: “The first meeting was by chance; the second is by choice. The first was in the fields; the second at the threshing floor. The first was public; the second private. The first was work; the second play. The first was by day; the second by night. Yet both of them hold the potential for life and for death.”