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Ruth 3:18

ESV She replied, "Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today."
NIV Then Naomi said, "Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today."
NASB Then she said, 'Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today.'
CSB Naomi said, "My daughter, wait until you find out how things go, for he won’t rest unless he resolves this today."
NLT Then Naomi said to her, 'Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.'
KJV 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.
NKJV Then she said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.”

What does Ruth 3:18 mean?

Despite the hopefulness of Naomi's statement, this verse subtly illustrates how vulnerable women were in Ancient Near East culture. Naomi's and Ruth's husbands are dead. Likely, Naomi's father is dead, as well. They have no male relative directly responsible for their protection and provision for them.

Naomi's late husband sold his land when they went to Moab. As a destitute woman, Naomi can't buy it back. Besides begging, the women can sell themselves as slaves or resort to prostitution.

Situations like Ruth and Naomi's predicament have led many to believe that God is sexist. Certainly, the culture was highly patriarchal, and women had few rights. But it's important to remember that this is the culture, not God's will. The laws He gave to Moses for the Israelites show how He expected His people to be better than the culture they lived in.

One example is that He established the concept of gleaning. When harvesting, men would go through the fields, grab stalks in their hands or inner elbows, and cut them with a knife. Women would follow and tie the bundles together. After them, gleaners could come through and pick up the stray stalks the reapers left behind. Reapers were not allowed to go through a field a second time or to harvest the edges of the field; the leavings were for the poor and the sojourners—the legalized immigrants (Leviticus 19:9–10). Even so, gleaning was extremely meager.

God also established the "levirate marriage." If a man died with no heir, his brother was to marry his widow and provide a son in the dead man's name. The son would inherit the late man's legacy (Deuteronomy 25:5–6). On the surface, this seems to be a very patriarchal practice—its primary purpose was to make sure the man's line continued. But it also greatly benefitted the widow. With no husband and no son, she could not benefit from the land that should have been her husband's, and unless her father could take her back and find another to marry her, she had no male relative to care for her.

The concept of the kinsman-redeemer is another law that seems designed to benefit men but protected women, as well. If a man had fallen into extraordinarily tough times, he could sell his land to a relative—a "kinsman-redeemer"—who must return it to him or his heirs at the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:25–28, 47–49). Apparently, a kinsman redeemer was also responsible to buy it back from a non-relative and use the profits to support the late landowner's family.

Women were particularly vulnerable at the time of Ruth and Naomi: the time of the judges (Ruth 1:1) when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6). In this same historical period, a woman from Bethlehem was treated brutally by her partner and gang-raped until she died (Judges 19:22–30). The tribe of the men who committed the crime—Benjamin—was punished, and the other tribes would not allow their daughters to marry the Benjamites who survived battle. But the six hundred men needed wives so the tribe would not be cut off. Thus, the other tribes killed the inhabitants of an Israelite town that had not joined in the battle against Benjamin. The virgins were spared and given as wives, but there were not enough. So they told the remaining Benjamites to steal women who were celebrating in a field at Shiloh (Judges 21). This is the awkward reality of the culture. It is not God's heart toward women.

Ruth has done what she can within a system that should have been ruled by God's Law but often wasn't. She worked hard gleaning (Ruth 2). She approached Boaz, her late husband's relative, as a kinsman-redeemer. She even challenged him to a levirate marriage, which wasn't typically combined with a kinsman-redeemer or performed by a distant relative (Ruth 3).

The fact that two women must wait for two men to decide who is going to marry the younger woman is horrible to modern ideals. To the women, it's a success; God has rescued them.

Fortunately, Boaz understands God's heart, as well. He not only let Ruth glean, but he also made sure she took home as much as she could carry. He willingly agreed to Ruth's unconventional combination of kinsman-redeemer and levirate marriage even though he isn't her levirate. That would mean he would buy the land, give Ruth a son in her late husband's name, and then give the boy the land.

There's only one problem: there is a man who is more closely related. Understanding God's intention toward women, Boaz sets out to make sure the man does what is right for Naomi and Ruth. If he refuses, Boaz is happy to (Ruth 3:13).
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