What does Ruth 3:3 mean?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NKJV: Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Ruth 3:1–5 highlights Naomi's plan. Ruth has been gleaning Boaz's fields throughout the barley and wheat harvests. She has more than enough to feed the two women for a year. But Naomi always wanted Ruth to find rest with a new husband (Ruth 1:9). She thinks Boaz will do nicely. She tells Ruth how to approach Boaz in a way that protects both their reputations. But Naomi doesn't quite understand that Ruth has other priorities.
Chapter Summary:
In Ruth 3, Naomi schemes to find Ruth a good husband, as was always her hope (Ruth 1:9). She tells Ruth how to propose to Boaz. When Boaz has fallen asleep after a long and joyful day of winnowing grain, Ruth is to gently awaken him and make her proposal. Ruth goes beyond Naomi's instruction, however. Boaz understands that Ruth expects him to buy Naomi's land and give her an heir to re-inherit it. He praises Ruth for her devotion to her mother-in-law, but there is another relative who is closer. In the next chapter, Boaz dispenses with his rival and marries Ruth.
Chapter Context:
Ruth 3 is the wind-up to the climax of the story. Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem from Moab two months prior. Boaz, a relative of Naomi's late husband, has allowed Ruth to harvest enough grain to last the women a year (Ruth 1—2). Now that their physical needs are addressed, Naomi wants Ruth married to Boaz. Ruth wants Boaz to provide an heir for Naomi. Boaz is again impressed with Ruth's self-sacrifice and agrees (Ruth 3). After negotiating with a closer relative, Boaz marries Ruth and gives Naomi a son. That son becomes King David's grandfather (Ruth 4).
Book Summary:
Though set in a time of violence and tragedy, the book of Ruth tells one of Scripture’s most uplifting stories. Naomi, an Israelite, leaves her home during a famine. While away, in Moab, her husband and sons die. Naomi convinces one of her Moabite daughters-in-law to leave her and seek a new life. The other, Ruth, refuses, declaring her love and loyalty to Naomi. When the pair return to Israel, they encounter Boaz. This man is both kind and moral; his treatment of Ruth secures Naomi’s future and becomes part of king David’s ancestry.
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