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Ruth 3:9

ESV He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”
NIV Who are you?' he asked. 'I am your servant Ruth,' she said. 'Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.'
NASB So he said, 'Who are you?' And she answered, 'I am Ruth your slave. Now spread your garment over your slave, for you are a redeemer.'
CSB So he asked, "Who are you? ""I am Ruth, your servant," she replied. "Take me under your wing, for you are a family redeemer."
NLT Who are you?' he asked. 'I am your servant Ruth,' she replied. 'Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.'
KJV And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.

What does Ruth 3:9 mean?

Boaz has been sleeping at the community threshing floor. He's had a successful harvest and celebrated with others with food and wine. Now, he only must sell his grain. He is awakened in the dead of night by cold feet. When he stirs, he realizes someone is lying on the ground at his feet. He doesn't know if it's a robber, a prostitute, or one of his own servants (Ruth 3:6–8). Boaz asks the person to identify themselves.

Ruth's response is rich with meaning.

First, she redefines her position. When she first met Boaz, she identified herself as lower than the lowest servant, using the Hebrew word shiphchah. This is something like the western fairy tale's stereotype of a "scullery maid:" the lowest servant in the house, not even worth the notice of the master (Ruth 2:13). Now, she uses a'mah, a term used for a woman eligible to be a wife or concubine.

Second, she asks Boaz to spread his "wings" over her. The term has two different meanings, each with a specific literary metaphor. First, it can refer to the wings of a mother bird who covers her chicks, the metaphor being one who protects another. In this way, Ruth is repeating Boaz's own use of the metaphor back to him. When he first met her, he pronounced a blessing over her, saying "The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!" (Ruth 2:12). Ruth is challenging Boaz to be the agent of the fulfillment of his own blessing.

Second, "wings" can also refer to the corner of a robe. For Boaz to cover her with his robe would mean he takes responsibility for her in an intimate relationship. Even more, a man covering a woman with his robe is a symbol for marriage (Ezekiel 16:8). Ruth is proposing to Boaz.

Finally, Ruth calls Boaz a "redeemer." One of the policies God established in the Mosaic law to combat poverty was the idea of the kinsman-redeemer. If a man found himself so deep in debt he could not free himself, a relative was to buy his land. It would be returned at the year of Jubilee. That way, hopefully, the man would not have to sell himself or his family into slavery, and his descendants would keep their birthright (Leviticus 25:25–28, 47–49). Naomi has already told Ruth that Boaz is a redeemer, meaning, he is related to Naomi's late husband, Elimelech (Ruth 2:20). If Boaz buys Naomi's land, Naomi will no longer be destitute.

Naomi had sent Ruth to Boaz because she wanted "rest" for her daughter-in-law in the home of a husband (Ruth 1:9; 3:1). Since Boaz has shown great kindness during the harvest, Naomi knows he would treat Ruth well. Naomi doesn't seem to realize that Ruth has grander designs. She doesn't just want a husband; she wants Naomi to have an heir. Boaz doesn't need to marry Ruth to redeem the land. Ruth wants to marry Boaz so he can give her a son who will re-inherit the land in the name of Naomi's late son. Boaz doesn't have to do this. The levirate marriage was only required for the brother of the deceased (Deuteronomy 25:5–6), and Boaz is a more distant relation. But where a nearer redeemer sees only the cost, Boaz is even more in awe of Ruth's devotion to Naomi and readily agrees (Ruth 4:6; 3:10–11).

Lot tried to use his daughters' sexuality in the service of his visitors (Genesis 19:4–8). His daughters then used his to secure their own welfare (Genesis 19:30–38). The women of Moab used their bodies to draw the men of Israel away from their God (Numbers 25). Ruth offers herself to a good man in marriage to benefit her mother-in-law's line. She takes agency over her self, and God restores the honor of Lot's daughter by placing Ruth in the line of the Messiah (Ruth 4:17–21; Matthew 1:1–17).
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