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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ruth 3:4

 

 

"It shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do."

Adam Clarke Commentary

Uncover his feet, and lay thee down - It is said that women in the East, when going to the bed of their lawful husbands, through modesty, and in token of subjection, go to the bed's foot, and gently raising the clothes, creep under them up to their place. See Calmet.

On the whole, we must say, had not Boaz been a person of extraordinary piety, prudence, and continence, this experiment might have been fatal to Ruth. We cannot easily account for this transaction, probably Naomi knew more than she revealed to her daughter-in-law. The experiment however was dangerous, and should in no sense be imitated.

He will tell thee what thou shalt do - The Targum reads the clause thus: Thou shalt ask counsel from him, "and he shall tell thee what thou shouldest do."


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ruth-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Uncover his feet - Rather, “the place of his feet;” the foot of his bed, as we should say. So also Rth 3:7-8 .


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ruth-3.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Ruth 3:4

Uncover his feet, and lay thee down.

Doubtful expedients

I. we begin with some explanatory observations, for the purpose of vindicating the narrative from misapprehension and abuse.

1. We must notice the general contrariety of pastoral customs to our own which marked those ancient times in the East. What unadorned simplicity! Wearing the garments which had been worn by him during the day, he throws himself down to rest at the end of the heaps of winnowed corn, with nothing but a simple mat beneath him, and a similar covering or cloak above him. How different is all this from the dignity and reserve which would be maintained and the many artificial luxuries and comforts that would be possessed by a person of similar rank and wealth among ourselves.

2. It is a fact that, both in those times and up to this hour in the East, servants have been accustomed to lay themselves in this manner at the feet of their master. One modern traveller mentions that his Arab servants were quite in the practice of doing so with him; and, in cold evenings, of claiming the privilege, which had descended from immemorial usage, of drawing over themselves the skirts of the long mat or cloak in which his person was enveloped.

3. Moreover, it is an interesting fact bearing on the present subject, that a very prominent part of the marriage ceremony among the Orientals was for the bridegroom to throw the skirt of his robe over his bride. The act of Ruth here described was, therefore, a significant action, in which she claimed the protection of Boaz and the honourable acknowledgment of her as his wife.

4. It is further to be observed that while the whole scene proves Boaz to have been a man most pure in spirit and of sensitive virtue, the conduct of Ruth does not for one moment make him doubt or question her purity. But here our defence ceases, at least in respect to Naomi. While we vindicate her intentions, we are constrained to censure her measures; while we acquit her of designing evil, we must blame her for not “abstaining from all appearance of evil.” There was too much of cunning and stratagem about the manner of the whole transaction. There was a forcing of Providence where there should have been a trustful waiting on it; a cutting of a short way to a desired issue, instead of moving in the way which God might open to her.

II. thus explained, the transaction suggests some important practical lessons.

1. The duty of caring for our good name. “Two things there are,” saith St. Augustine, “whereof every man should be specially chary and tender--his conscience and his credit.”

2. The duty of charity in our judgment of others. It will often be found to be the wisest course to form our estimate of a doubtful action by the character of the actor, and when we stand in doubt, to let love turn the scale. Persons seem to each man what he is to himself. One who suspects hypocrisy in the world is rarely transparent; the man constantly on the watch for cheating is generally dishonest; he who suspects impurity is prurient.

3. It is a first principle, in Christian morals that duty must always have the preference before inclination. What true Christian chivalry, born of faith, there was in the heart of this Bethlehem yeoman! He was not only sternly honest, but sensitively honourable, bearing his escutcheon without a sinister brand on it.

4. It is surely not unnatural to ascend in thought from Boaz to Him who, in an infinitely higher sense, is our Kinsman Redeemer, who became “bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh,” and died as the propitiatory victim for our offences, in order that He might reinstate us in the Divine favour, and redeem for us the heavenly inheritance which we had lost. (A. Thomson, D. D.)


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ruth 3:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/ruth-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And it shall be, when he lieth down,.... On the threshingfloor, under the open air, in order to sleep, and take rest:

that thou shall mark the place where he shall lie; the spot he shall lie on, and the direction in which he shall lie, whether east, west, &c. that when the light shall be taken away, and the darkness of the night come on, she might pretty easily find the place where he lay:

and thou shall go in and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; go into the threshingfloor, or to the place where he lay down and gently lay aside the covering upon his feet, whether a blanket, or rug, or his own long clothes, with which his feet were wrapped, and then lay herself down at his feet; this seems to be advised to, in order to give him a hint that there was somebody at his feet. This may seem to us to be strange advice, and not consistent with the character of pious and virtuous women, which they both bore, and with that modesty they otherwise seem to be possessed of; to clear this, let it be observed, that this man was, as Naomi thought, the next kinsman, and so in right of the law in Deuteronomy 25:5, was the husband of Ruth, and therefore might take such a freedom with him as she did; and it seems by the same law as if the woman was to make the demand of marriage, which may serve to reconcile the carriage of Ruth to her character: besides, what things in one age, and in one nation, are reckoned immodest, are not so accounted in another age, and in another nation; add to this the age and gravity of Boaz, and the well known virtue of Ruth to Naomi, she might think herself quite safe in the advice she gave: and yet after all, it must be owned, it is somewhat difficult to account for her simplicity and wisdom in it; since she could not be sure that sin and folly would not be committed, considering the infirmity of human nature; or that such a behaviour in Ruth would not alienate the affection of Boaz from her, and cause him to consider her as a light and loose woman, and unfit to be his wife:

and he will tell thee what thou shall do; being a judge of Israel, and expert in the law, he would inform her whether he was the next kinsman, and had the right of redemption or not, and what methods must be taken, and what rites used, in order to her marriage with him, or another person.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ruth-3.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

go in, and uncover his feet and lay thee down — Singular as these directions may appear to us, there was no impropriety in them, according to the simplicity of rural manners in Beth-lehem. In ordinary circumstances these would have seemed indecorous to the world; but in the case of Ruth, it was a method, doubtless conformable to prevailing usage, of reminding Boaz of the duty which devolved on him as the kinsman of her deceased husband. Boaz probably slept upon a mat or skin; Ruth lay crosswise at his feet - a position in which Eastern servants frequently sleep in the same chamber or tent with their master; and if they want a covering, custom allows them that benefit from part of the covering on their master‘s bed. Resting, as the Orientals do at night, in the same clothes they wear during the day, there was no indelicacy in a stranger, or even a woman, putting the extremity of this cover over her.


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/ruth-3.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

Uncover his feet — Remove the clothes that were upon his feet; thereby to awaken him.

Will tell thee — What course thou shalt take to obtain that marriage which belongs unto thee.


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/ruth-3.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Ruth 3:4 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.

Ver. 4. And it shall be, when he lieth down.] He lay on the floor, as best liked himself, without bed or pallet. Hollinshead saith, that some old men he knew who told of times in England, that if the good man of the house had a mattress, or flock-bed, and a sack of chaff to rest his head on, he thought himself as well lodged as the lord of the town: for ordinarily they lay upon straw pallets covered with canvas, and a round log under their heads instead of a bolster. Pillows, they said, were only for women in child birth.

And uncover his feet.] Naomi well knew the piety and chastity of both Boaz and Ruth, and confidently trusted that he would give the young widow good counsel. Otherwise this was a bold adventure: since people are so prone to fleshliness, and unbridled lust, like the wild fig, will soon mount over the wall: it is a "law of the members" in a double sense, as one saith.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/ruth-3.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

When he lieth down, to rest or sleep, as upon such occasions they used to do in those hot countries.

Thou shalt go in: though Naomi and Ruth seem to be virtuous and modest women, and their intent was lawful and honest; yet there seems to be a manifold irregularity in the manner of it. First, It seems to be against that modesty which should be eminent in that sex, and in unmarried persons. Secondly, Against honesty, both because it was an injury to another person, who was nearer akin, whose right this was; which Naomi could not be ignorant of; and because it was a preposterous and precipitant method, not agreeable either to the rules of Scripture, or the usage of well-mannered nations, or that decency which even nature requires. Thirdly, Against prudence; for it might have proved the occasion, as of many sins, so of great shame to all of them; and a means to alienate his affection from her, which she sought to engage. And though there be some circumstances which alleviate the fact, as the experience which Naomi had of the wisdom and sobriety both of Boaz and of Ruth, yet she knew not what the event would be; and that there was something of shamefulness in the thing, may be gathered both from Naomi’s choice of the night for it, as if it were a work of darkness, and from Boaz’s fear lest this should be known, Ruth 3:14. And it is an aggravation of it, that this course was unnecessary, and she had a plain and likely way, which was directly to address herself to Boaz, or the next kinsman, and to require the duty which by God’s law he was bound to perform, and this before witnesses, as Boaz did. And her clandestine proceeding seems to have arisen from a distrust of God’s providence to bring about what she desired in the ordinary way.

Uncover his feet; remove the clothes which were upon his feet; thereby to awaken him.

What thou shalt do; how thou shouldst carry thyself, or what course thou shalt take to obtain that marriage which belongs unto thee. Only there were some rites to be observed, and circumstances to be done, before they came to the conclusion of the marriage, about which Boaz would instruct her.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/ruth-3.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4. Uncover his feet, and lay thee down — Viewed in the light of our own age this act would be in the highest degree immodest and presumptuous, but not so according to the laws and manners of that ancient time. We have seen that according to the levirate law Ruth had a right to claim the favour of marriage from her deceased husband’s nearest unmarried kinsman, and therefore this act, instead of being a compromise of her virtue, was regarded by Boaz as prudent and worthy of praise. See Ruth 3:10-11. Doubtless the reason of Naomi’s advising this course to Ruth was, that she thought it would be more likely to succeed than any other form in which she could make known her desire to Boaz.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/ruth-3.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

And it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall mark the place where he shall lie, and you will go in, and uncover his feet, and lay yourself down, and he will tell you what you shall do.”

But once he laid himself down to sleep Ruth was to mark where he lay down (darkness would be approaching), and when the time was right she should go onto the threshingfloor, lift up his robe where it covered his feet (Boaz would be using his robe as a kind of bedcovering) and should then lay herself down there and put that portion of the robe over herself. This was seemingly a recognised act by which she would be claiming the right of levirate marriage. It certainly indicated that she was seeking his protection. Boaz would then tell her what she should do. It would be in his hands how he responded to her plea.


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Bibliography
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/ruth-3.html. 2013.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Ruth 3:4. Uncover his feet — Remove the clothes which are upon his feet; thereby to awake him; and lay thee down — She was not to lie down by his side, for that would have been immodest, but at his feet, in the posture of an humble supplicant. Had Ruth acted in any respect that in those days was judged indecent or immodest, it is most likely she would have highly displeased such a grave person as Boaz appears to have been. What she did, however, seems to us indecent, and would certainly be a very improper conduct in any woman in our days; but the general character of both Naomi and Ruth forbids us to suppose that they had any sinful intentions. And yet, as Mr. Scott observes, “when all allowances are made, perhaps neither party can be entirely exculpated. At least, though their plan was graciously rendered successful, it was not recorded for imitation in the present state of society.”


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Bibliography
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/ruth-3.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Sleepeth. People of fortune did not disdain to sleep among the corn. Non pudor in stipula placidam cepisse quietem,

Nec fœnum capiti supposuisse suo.----- Ovid, Fast. i. (Menochius)

--- Feet. It is said that women in the East, enter their husbands' bed at the feet, to shew their submission. (Calmet) --- Ruth was conducted on this occasion by a superior Being, who gave success to her undertaking, and disposed the mind of Booz (Theodoret) to grant her just claim. It was according to the law of Moses, that a widow might demand in marriage the next kinsman of her deceased husband, if she had no children by him. Ruth considered Booz in this light. (Haydock) --- She was not actuated by a love of pleasure, as the latter was convinced, otherwise she would have desired to marry some young man, (Calmet) in her own country, ver. 10. Both parties would probably have their clothes on among the straw, so that there would be less danger; though, if their virtue had not been very constant, (Haydock) the situation was no doubt sufficiently perilous, and in other circumstances could not have been tolerated. (Calmet) --- We must also remember, that clandestine marriages were not then forbidden. (Salien) --- That same night they might have married, had not another's being nearer akin proved an obstacle; (Tirinus) so that Booz could not have claimed the inheritance of Elimelech, though he might have taken Ruth to wife. By deferring another day he obtained both. (Haydock) --- Lyranus thinks Ruth could be excused only by ignorance, in thus exposing herself to danger, and that Noemi was guilty of a grievous sin, in giving her such advice. But they both had the purest views, seeking only an honest marriage, by arts which were not blamable. See St. Thomas Aquinas, [Summa Theologiae] 2. 2. q. 154., and 169., and Cajetan. (Tirinus) --- Noemi was well assured of the virtue of both parties, and followed the directions of the Holy Spirit, (Calmet) as the event shewed. (Worthington) --- Dr. Watson justly reproves the censure of Paine, who calls Ruth, "a strolling country girl, creeping slily to bed to her cousin," and exclaims, "pretty stuff indeed to be called the word of God!" But in correcting this impertinent remark, he seems to allow that some things have been inserted in the Scriptures by human authority, so as not to be the word of God. This concession is more dangerous than the censure of Paine, and the quotation from St. Augustine by no means countenances it, as it barely insinuates that an express revelation was not requisite to insert some things, which the authors might know by other means. The holy father never doubted but every part of Scripture was equally inspired, and to be received without the smallest hesitation. What Dr. Law, and other such "good Christians," might think, does not regard us. (Haydock) --- "As a person imploring protection, Ruth laid herself down at the foot of an aged kinsman's bed, and she rose up with as much innocence as she laid herself down. She was afterwards married to Booz, and reputed by all her neighbours as a virtuous woman; and they were more likely to know her character than you are. Whoever reads the Book of Ruth, bearing in mind the simplicity of ancient manners, will find it an interesting story of a poor young woman," &c. (Watson, let. 4.) --- Must do. She trusted to the superior wisdom of Booz, knowing perhaps that he was not absolutely the nearest relation, but being convinced, as the event proved, that the other would not consent to marry Ruth on the conditions specified by the law. (Salien, A. 2810.[in the year of the world 2810.])


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/ruth-3.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

Go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down. Singular as these directions may appear to us, there was no impropriety in them, according to the simplicity of rural manners in Beth-lehem. In ordinary circumstances these would have seemed indecorous to the world; but in the case of Ruth, it was a method doubtless conformable to prevailing usage, of reminding Boaz of the duty which devolved on him as the kinsman of her deceased husband. Boaz probably slept upon a mat or skin; Ruth lay crosswise at his feet-a position in which Eastern servants frequently sleep in the same chamber or tent with their master; and if they want a covering, custom allows them that benefit from part of the covering on their master's bed. Resting, as the Orientals do at night, in the same clothes they wear during the day, there was no indelicacy in a stranger, or even a woman, putting the extremity of this cover over her.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ruth-3.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) Uncover his feet.—More literally, as the margin, lift up the clothes that are on his feet; so LXX. and the Vulgate. We are told that the custom still prevails in Palestine of owners of crops sleeping on their threshing-floors, lying with their clothes on, but with their feet covered with a mantle.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/ruth-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
uncover his feet
or, lift up the clothes that are on his feet.
1 Thessalonians 5:22

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Ruth 3:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/ruth-3.html.

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