Ruth 3:7 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Ruth 3:7, NIV: When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down.

Ruth 3:7, ESV: And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down.

Ruth 3:7, KJV: 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.

Ruth 3:7, NASB: When Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came secretly, and uncovered his feet and lay down.

Ruth 3:7, NLT: After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.

Ruth 3:7, CSB: After Boaz ate, drank, and was in good spirits, he went to lie down at the end of the pile of barley, and she came secretly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.

What does Ruth 3:7 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Ruth is a Moabite woman. She is descended from the son conceived when Lot's daughter raped her drunken father (Genesis 19:30–38). When the Israelites were about to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, Moabite women went down into their ranks to seduce the men away from their wives and their gods (Numbers 25:1–9). Ruth is only in Bethlehem because Naomi's family fled to Moab to escape a famine. Ruth married one of Naomi's sons, but both sons and Naomi's husband died. When Naomi heard the famine had broken, she decided to return to Bethlehem (Ruth 1:1–6). Ruth insisted on accompanying her (Ruth 1:15–18).

The writer of Ruth would have learned the tale from an oral storyteller. The storyteller's goal is to entertain his audience. It's possible that the storyteller used slightly suggestive language to keep his audience's attention. Many scholars have over-emphasized and mistranslated that language to claim that Ruth was no more sexually pure than the Moabite women of old had been. That claim is not true.

Boaz has eaten and drunk and his heart is merry because he is celebrating a good harvest after a terrible famine (Ruth 1:1). The threshing floor is a place of celebration—and sometimes prostitution (Hosea 9:1)—but there's no indication Boaz indulges in anything immoral. The heap of grain has been threshed and winnowed; Boaz sleeps next to it to guard it until it can be sold. Naomi knows the rhythms of harvest and had told Ruth how to find him (Ruth 3:4). She also told Ruth to do what comes next.

Ruth uncovers Boaz's feet. Some scholars claim this means she uncovered his sexual organs or even had sex with him. The Hebrew for "foot," regel, can also refer to male sexual parts. When a man squatted to relieve himself, his privates were exposed while his robe literally covered his feet; to "cover one's feet" became a euphemism for using the facilities. This is the original language when King Saul relieved himself in the cave (1 Samuel 24:3). To "uncover" one's nakedness means to dishonor another through sex (Leviticus 20:11). To "lie" with someone can mean to have sex, as in Genesis 30:15–16. So, some think that when Ruth "uncovered" Boaz's "feet," it means she exposed his privates and had sex with him.

This interpretation isn't consistent with the original Hebrew. The word used here for "feet" isn't regel, it's margelōt. The only other occurrence of this word is Daniel 10:6 where it refers to the arms and legs of the angel who appeared to Daniel after having fought the "prince of the kingdom of Persia." Although "lay" often refers to sex, as it does when Ruth's ancestress took advantage of her father (Genesis 19:33), it doesn't always or only mean that. Ruth literally took Boaz's cloak off his feet so he would gently wake up. Then she literally lay down on the ground to wait.

Two other pieces of evidence point to Ruth's chastity. When Boaz awakens, after finding out who she is, he says, "May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter" (Ruth 3:10). He can't give her God's blessing if she is acting inappropriately. The last is that although he wants to do as she asks and marry her, Naomi has a closer relative who has the first right of refusal. Boaz would not have slept with Ruth and then offered her hand in marriage to another (Ruth 4:5).