Ruth 3:3 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Ruth 3:3, NIV: Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don't let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking.

Ruth 3:3, ESV: Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.

Ruth 3:3, KJV: 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.

Ruth 3:3, NASB: Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not reveal yourself to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.

Ruth 3:3, NLT: Now do as I tell you--take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don't let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking.

Ruth 3:3, CSB: Wash, put on perfumed oil, and wear your best clothes. Go down to the threshing floor, but don't let the man know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking.

What does Ruth 3:3 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Naomi has a problem. She wants Boaz, an older, highly honored Jewish man, to marry Ruth, her young Moabite daughter-in-law. Culturally, there is nothing about this scheme that makes sense. But Naomi knows Ruth deserves the best in life, and she's resolved to make it happen. Naomi must balance several things all at once. She needs to figure out how Ruth can propose to Boaz while keeping safe and maintaining enough privacy that Boaz doesn't lose face for talking with a foreign widow.

Ruth is to wash and "put on her cloak." Naomi may be concerned Ruth stays warm, but she probably means Ruth should take off her mourning clothes and dress as a woman who is eligible to marry. But threshing floors are known for sexual decadence (Hosea 9:1), so Ruth needs to hide until everyone's asleep. The workers will end the day with food and wine and sleep on the ground near the threshing floor to protect the grain. That will give Ruth and Boaz privacy, as everyone will be asleep, but they will be near people who can come to Ruth's aid if something untoward occurs. Not that it will; Boaz has already proven protective of Ruth by insisting she stay with his female servants in the fields (Ruth 2:8–9).

Naomi's care pays off. Ruth follows the instructions, including taking Boaz's robe off his feet to gently wake him (Ruth 3:4, 7). But when he wakens, she goes off-script. Naomi wants Ruth to have a good husband. Ruth wants Naomi to have an heir. Boaz realizes what Ruth is asking and is so impressed with her lovingkindness toward her mother-in-law that he quickly agrees (Ruth 3:10–13).

The story of Ruth would have been spoken to audiences for generations. This isn't a dry textbook of events and instruction like Leviticus. It is an exciting, suspenseful tale. As such, the storyteller approaches the line of suggestion for the sake of the narrative. Unfortunately, modern critics often miss the subtly and cross that line, making the story more salacious than it is.

The comment about "drinking" falls victim to this unfair interpretation. Ruth is a Moabitess. That means she is descended from the son that one of Lot's daughters gave birth to after sleeping with her drunken father (Genesis 19:30–38). That does not mean that Ruth waits until Boaz gets drunk and then offers herself sexually. She needs to wait until after the party so that he and the others will be relaxed and asleep and she can talk to him privately.