Archive for category King of Hopelessness: A Study of Ruth
I won’t belabor the points made in the rest of the series, but I felt it was necessary to provide some concluding thoughts on the book of Ruth.
- First of all, the book is primarily a book explaining the rise of the House of David. It develops the preeminence of the clan in Judah which sets the stage for David’s rise as king and the claim his clan made on the rightful rule of all Hebrews.
- Second, Ruth contains a lot of core beliefs like redemption and resurrection that provide the foundation for the development of monarchical and exilic Hebrew thought. The themes certainly exist elsewhere, especially in the Joseph narrative of Genesis, but here they are explicitly tied to agricultural themes, out of which emerges the practices of the Hebrews.
- It provides glimpses into the polytheistic Hebrew culture that David overthrew in revering YHWH as the one true God. Naomi seems to embrace polytheism, or at least a consort to YHWH but this is rejected in favor of the worship of YHWH alone through Boaz and the people of Bethlehem.
- The book ties sexuality, agricultural seasons and human tragedy together in a single theme, uniting all of creation in the rhythms of YHWH’s work and will.
Ruth represents what I think of as proto-Jewish thought. Jewish thought really emerges after the Exile (c. 600 BCE) but all of the themes are present here. The Hebrews were a very loose identification and there are a lot of moving parts to their society that we simply cannot understand because of the difference in time and culture that stands between us and them. That being said, it is safe to assume that Ruth offers us a unifying point.
I have written elsewhere that I believe David is the keystone of the entire Hebrew Scriptures. It is his rule that unites the people of the region under one government, one religion and one language. It is his rule that allows for the collection, collation and publication (if such a word can be used anachronistically) of the Torah and the Psalms. These then essentially form Hebrew as a language and distinguish it from its proto-Canaanite predecessors and mark out the Hebrews as their own people.
Ruth then underlies David’s reign, gives it legitimacy in the face of opposing forces, particularly the tribe of Ephraim which would break free of the House of David in 922 BCE under Jeroboam b. Nebat and would ultimately come under the rule of the House of Omri (884 BCE). The House of David continued its rule in Judah until the Exile, even retaking large portions of the northern kingdom under the rule of strong kings like Josiah.
Speaking of Josiah, he will be the focus of another series of posts coming soon. There are four key compositional periods we must consider in studying the Hebrew Scriptures. They provide us with the bulk of the literary output of ancient Judah:
- David and Solomon (1000-922 BCE)
- Hezekiah (726-697 BCE)
- Josiah (639-609 BCE)
- Exile and Return under Zerubbabel (c 600-520 BCE)
These four periods, all considered part of the House of David, are responsible for almost all of the literary output that is the Hebrew Scriptures. It is amazing to think that there is a huge period of the history of Judah, indeed most of the reign of the House of Omri in the northern kingdom, during which we know next to nothing about Judah; and then there is a literary explosion during the Exile and the Return. There is very little in the Hebrew Scriptures that was not either composed or compiled during one of these four periods.
But more of that anon.
וַיִּקַּח בֹּעַז אֶת־רוּת וַתְּהִי־לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה וַיָּבֹא אֵלֶיהָ וַיִּתֵּן יְהוָה לָהּ הֵרָיוֹן וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן׃
וַתֹּאמַרְנָה הַנָּשִׁים אֶל־נָעֳמִי בָּרוּךְ יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא הִשְׁבִּית לָךְ גֹּאֵל הַיּוֹם וְיִקָּרֵא שְׁמוֹ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל׃
וְהָיָה לָךְ לְמֵשִׁיב נֶפֶשׁ וּלְכַלְכֵּל אֶת־שֵׂיבָתֵךְ כִּי כַלָּתֵךְ אֲשֶׁר־אֲהֵבַתֶךְ יְלָדַתּוּ אֲשֶׁר־הִיא טוֹבָה לָךְ מִשִּׁבְעָה בָּנִים׃
וַתִּקַּח נָעֳמִי אֶת־הַיֶּלֶד וַתְּשִׁתֵהוּ בְחֵיקָהּ וַתְּהִי־לוֹ לְאֹמֶנֶת׃
וַתִּקְרֶאנָה לוֹ הַשְּׁכֵנוֹת שֵׁם לֵאמֹר יֻלַּד־בֵּן לְנָעֳמִי וַתִּקְרֶאנָה שְׁמוֹ עוֹבֵד הוּא אֲבִי־יִשַׁי אֲבִי דָוִד׃ פ
וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדוֹת פָּרֶץ פֶּרֶץ הוֹלִיד אֶת־חֶצְרוֹן׃
וְחֶצְרוֹן הוֹלִיד אֶת־רָם וְרָם הוֹלִיד אֶת־עַמִּינָדָב׃
וְעַמִּינָדָב הוֹלִיד אֶת־נַחְשׁוֹן וְנַחְשׁוֹן הוֹלִיד אֶת־שַׂלְמָה׃
וְשַׂלְמוֹן הוֹלִיד אֶת־בֹּעַז וּבֹעַז הוֹלִיד אֶת־עוֹבֵד׃
וְעֹבֵד הוֹלִיד אֶת־יִשָׁי וְיִשַׁי הוֹלִיד אֶת־דָּוִד׃
So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”
Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David. (4:13-22, ESV)
Boaz took Ruth. Nothing echoes back to the semi-nomadic, clan-based culture of Bronze Age Canaan like terms like “took” (קָח, qar) in reference to marriage. It is the idea of being carried away and it ties back to the ancient and probably prehistoric practice of snatching a woman from another clan. It is so engrained in the consciousness of Mediterranean peoples that it even appears in much later Roman mythology recounted by Livy and Plutarch as the way the first Romans acquired their Sabine wives.
The idea is simple and very old. Men would sweep down on a neighboring village or tribe and snatch the woman (or women), carry them off which is the core of the word qar. Once they were safely back in their own village, the men would pair off with the women. While this is sometimes called “rape” in Renaissance materials, this was just how you got a wife and perpetuated your line.
The modern wedding ceremonies have echoes of this potentially violent method of marriage in that the bride’s father presents her to him. This is a more peaceful and amicable response to the “taking” although the phrase “Do you take this woman to be your wedded wife” still appears in most ceremonies.
The LORD gave her conception. The Hebrews took the divine aspect of conception very seriously. If a woman was barren, it was because YHWH had chosen to deny her children. This is typified in the patriarch’s wives (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel) but is present even into the time of David and beyond. Marriage might be an act of man, but children were the work of God.
In our society where one of the political shibboleths is still your view of an unborn child and abortion, it is worth a bit of a sidetrack to explore this concept in the Hebrew Scriptures.
To the authors of the Hebrew Scriptures, conception was an act of God (as were most natural processes, including fermentation of malted grain – but I digress.) Thus, to cause a woman to lose a child carried a stiff penalty (Exodus 21:22-25). Likewise, refusing to impregnate your wife had some pretty stiff consequences, extending even to death (Genesis 39:9-10). During their slavery in Egypt, the hallmark of the Hebrew midwives was that they would not abort a child or inform the authorities (Exodus 1:17).
In the Hebrew worldview, God took pregnancy and childbirth very seriously. It was a sacred thing that happened in the mundane, and to interfere with pregnancy was to violate the will of God. Hebrews adored children, even when the children were unexpected.
Often the arguments around being pro-life or pro-choice revolve about who’s right it is to control the pregnancy. They usually boil down to who’s life is more important – the mother or the child. To the Hebrews, such an argument would have made no sense. They believed pregnancy, even illegitimate ones and the product of rape, was YHWH’s act. He caused the sperm and egg to join and the life to begin. To countermand his will would be an act of divine treason.
The question of whether our greater knowledge of biology and medicine changes our perspective of God’s work in pregnancy is something that has been argued endlessly, but the fact remains that the earliest followers of YHWH revered life in the womb, and to argue for aborting that life even in the most extreme situations requires dealing with this fact.
Blessed be the LORD. Notice the absence of YHWH’s consort SHDY in the women’s pronouncement. Earlier in this series of posts, I noted that Naomi seems to have believed that YHWH was not a single deity but had a female consort. Now, Naomi makes no mention of her? The author of the book may very well have done this on purpose. The birth of the ancestor of David confirms the superiority and uniqueness of YHWH among the other “gods” of people. We may actually have the record of the emergence (or more appropriately, re-emergence) of monotheism in the lineage of the House of David.
There has been a lot of discussion of YHWH’s female consort in more recent scholarship, and as I have noted before, there is no denying that there are hints of such a belief in the ancient Hebrew’s worldview. But it is equally true that the Hebrew Scriptures seem to intentionally point the reader away from this status quo belief in a consort deity to a singular monotheism. Each place that the female consort appears, there is literary evidence that this view is erroneous in the author’s mind. The Scriptures report reality of people’s beliefs as well as the reality of what the author knows to be true. Naomi might have embraced a dual deity, but the House of David did not so Naomi does not make the pronouncement. Instead, the people of Bethlehem do.
וַיֹּאמְרוּ כָּל־הָעָם אֲשֶׁר־בַּשַּׁעַר וְהַזְּקֵנִים עֵדִים יִתֵּן יְהוָה אֶת־הָאִשָּׁה הַבָּאָה אֶל־בֵּיתֶךָ כְּרָחֵל וּכְלֵאָה אֲשֶׁר בָּנוּ שְׁתֵּיהֶם אֶת־בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וַעֲשֵׂה־חַיִל בְּאֶפְרָתָה וּקְרָא־שֵׁם בְּבֵית לָחֶם׃
וִיהִי בֵיתְךָ כְּבֵית פֶּרֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יָלְדָה תָמָר לִיהוּדָה מִן־הַזֶּרַע אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן יְהוָה לְךָ מִן־הַנַּעֲרָה הַזֹּאת׃
Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the LORD will give you by this young woman.” (4:11-12, ESV)
Witnesses. Being a witness (עוּד, ‘uwd) was a big deal in the Hebrew culture. Remember that their culture was largely oral. While writing systems existed, they were the exclusive property of the rich and artisans. Proving just about anything required witnesses, so throughout the Hebrew Scriptures there are constant calls for witnesses.
One of the great commandments is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16, ESV) Many people reduce this to simply, “Don’t lie” but false witness was much more severe. It was roughly equivalent to perjury in our judicial system, but it carried a much stiffer penalty. Under rabbinical Judaism, if someone was found to have borne false witness, they were sentenced as if they had committed the crime they accused others of.
By calling the elders and all the people nearby as witnesses, Boaz evokes the most powerful element of ancient society – the community. Individuals had to suborn their own wishes and desires to the good of the community. It was the selfish man who elevated his own desires above that of the tribe or clan, and when such people came on the scene they were ultimately snuffed by the weight of their peers.
Boaz wisely involves the entire town with his marriage to Ruth and the redemption of the property of Elimelech. It removes any suspicion of foul play, establishes Boaz’s reputation even further, and most importantly it provides precedence for the ascendance of Ruth and Boaz’s descendant David.
To have met with the other kinsman in private and enacted this transaction without the public display would have been just as legally binding, but then the kinsman could have accused Boaz of manipulation of deceit and it would have been Boaz against the kinsman. Now, there was no reversing the covenant, and while the kinsman or his family might have eventually regretted the decision, there was nothing they could do.
The House of Perez. This little reference to Perez is something that most people miss, but it is crucial to the ascendancy of David. The narrative itself is related in Genesis 38. Judah, the heir apparent to the leadership of the sons of Israel had several sons. The oldest, Er, was married to a Canaanite woman named Tamar. When Er died without offspring, Judah had his second son, Onan, marry her. Onan was then struck down by God for refusing to impregnate Tamar. Judah’s third son, Shelah, was too young to marry Tamar, so Tamar used an elaborate trap to get Judah to impregnate her. She conceived twins, and once Judah discovered the situation, he took her as his own wife and the eldest of the twins, Perez, inherited the rule of Judah’s clan.
The Hebrew inhabitants of Bethlehem claimed descent through the house of Perez. The similarity between Boaz’s redemption of Elimelech and Judah’s redemption of his own son’s inheritance seem to have had a strong effect on the Bethlehemites. Just as Perez’s family ascended, so too would Boaz’s.
No one should miss the significance of this declaration. The descendant of Boaz and Ruth would be directly connected to Judah. Later, in the book of Deuteronomy, an entire legal code would be adopted for when the child of incest or immorality could be admitted into the congregation. Not surprisingly, the number of generations is the same as the number between Perez and David. (Deuteronomy 23:2-3)
Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal.
Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” (4:7-10, ESV)
וְזֹאת לְפָנִים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל עַל־הַגְּאוּלָּה וְעַל־הַתְּמוּרָה לְקַיֵּם כָּל־דָּבָר שָׁלַף אִישׁ נַעֲלוֹ וְנָתַן לְרֵעֵהוּ וְזֹאת הַתְּעוּדָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל׃
וַיֹּאמֶר הַגֹּאֵל לְבֹעַז קְנֵה־לָךְ וַיִּשְׁלֹף נַעֲלוֹ׃
וַיֹּאמֶר בֹּעַז לַזְּקֵנִים וְכָל־הָעָם עֵדִים אַתֶּם הַיּוֹם כִּי קָנִיתִי אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר לֶאֱלִימֶלֶךְ וְאֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר לְכִלְיוֹן וּמַחְלוֹן מִיַּד נָעֳמִי׃
וְגַם אֶת־רוּת הַמֹּאֲבִיָּה אֵשֶׁת מַחְלוֹן קָנִיתִי לִי לְאִשָּׁה לְהָקִים שֵׁם־הַמֵּת עַל־נַחֲלָתוֹ וְלֹא־יִכָּרֵת שֵׁם־הַמֵּת מֵעִם אֶחָיו וּמִשַּׁעַר מְקוֹמוֹ עֵדִים אַתֶּם הַיּוֹם׃
The Sandal Thing. Perhaps this custom of taking off your shoe to seal a deal does not make a lot of sense to us, and it appears it did not make a whole lot of sense to the author of this book either. The custom is repeated in Deuteronomy 257-10 although it is possible that it is in Deuteronomy because it appears here in Ruth rather than the other way around. Deuteronomy contains a number of legal interpretations based on later events like the entire passage on the manners of a king (Deuteronomy 17).
There could be any number of reasons how this tradition came into be, but it probably has something to do with remaining where you are. By removing a shoe, you were insistent that this was your own decision to stand and refuse your claim on your kinsman’s property.
Then Boaz Said. Boaz’s proclamation is incredibly important for the rule of the House of David. He makes it clear that he purchased the belongings and heritage of Elimelech and his sons, and that he took Ruth as wife to perpetuate their legacy. By recording this statement in this way, the author validates David’s primacy. He explains why David’s family deserves to rule Judah and then supports that declaration with another declaration from the elders of Bethlehem in the next section.
וּבֹעַז עָלָה הַשַּׁעַר וַיֵּשֶׁב שָׁם וְהִנֵּה הַגֹּאֵל עֹבֵר אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר־בֹּעַז וַיֹּאמֶר סוּרָה שְׁבָה־פֹּה פְּלֹנִי אַלְמֹנִי וַיָּסַר וַיֵּשֵׁב׃
וַיִּקַּח עֲשָׂרָה אֲנָשִׁים מִזִּקְנֵי הָעִיר וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁבוּ־פֹה וַיֵּשֵׁבוּ׃
וַיֹּאמֶר לַגֹּאֵל חֶלְקַת הַשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר לְאָחִינוּ לֶאֱלִימֶלֶךְ מָכְרָה נָעֳמִי הַשָּׁבָה מִשְּׂדֵה מוֹאָב׃
וַאֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי אֶגְלֶה אָזְנְךָ לֵאמֹר קְנֵה נֶגֶד הַיֹּשְׁבִים וְנֶגֶד זִקְנֵי עַמִּי אִם־תִּגְאַל גְּאָל וְאִם־לֹא יִגְאַל הַגִּידָה לִּי וְאֵדְעָה כִּי אֵין זוּלָתְךָ לִגְאוֹל וְאָנֹכִי אַחֲרֶיךָ וַיֹּאמֶר אָנֹכִי אֶגְאָל׃
וַיֹּאמֶר בֹּעַז בְּיוֹם־קְנוֹתְךָ הַשָּׂדֶה מִיַּד נָעֳמִי וּמֵאֵת רוּת הַמּוֹאֲבִיָּה אֵשֶׁת־הַמֵּת קָנִיתָה לְהָקִים שֵׁם־הַמֵּת עַל־נַחֲלָתוֹ׃
וַיֹּאמֶר הַגֹּאֵל לֹא אוּכַל לִגְאָל־לִי פֶּן־אַשְׁחִית אֶת־נַחֲלָתִי גְּאַל־לְךָ אַתָּה אֶת־גְּאֻלָּתִי כִּי לֹא־אוּכַל לִגְאֹל׃
וְזֹאת לְפָנִים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל עַל־הַגְּאוּלָּה וְעַל־הַתְּמוּרָה לְקַיֵּם כָּל־דָּבָר שָׁלַף אִישׁ נַעֲלוֹ וְנָתַן לְרֵעֵהוּ וְזֹאת הַתְּעוּדָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל׃
וַיֹּאמֶר הַגֹּאֵל לְבֹעַז קְנֵה־לָךְ וַיִּשְׁלֹף נַעֲלוֹ׃
Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down.
Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.”
Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. (4:1-8, ESV)
Up to the gate. The gates of a town or city where the main meeting place for most business in ancient Judea. This was true whether the town was only lightly fortified or a built up city. The gates where something of a choke point. Everyone had to enter by them, and certain business was done at each. This is why the gates of Jerusalem had names like Sheep Gate and Water Gate. If you were a farmer, you would most likely be using a particular gate so other farmers who wanted to meet you would naturally head to that gate.
In a town the size of Bethlehem, it was likely that there were only one or two gates. The gates were breaks in a small wall, although no remains have yet been uncovered. The walls of Jericho, which is to the south, would have stood about 14′ high and were 5′ feet thick. They were made mostly of mud brick with a stone tower for defense. Jericho was a major city at a ford in the Jordan River. Bethlehem was essentially a farming town, so it is reasonable to assume that the fortifications – whatever they would be – were less imposing than Jericho’s; but they must still have provided some protection.
Bethlehem’s hilltop situation in a mostly pastural setting meant that most of the warfare of the region would pass it by. There were other very genuine and very real concerns. The walls probably served as protection against wild animals. Of particular interest were Syrian bears (Ursus arctos syriacus) and Asian lions (Panthera leo persica). Today these top level predators are found only in zoos and reserves, but in the Bronze Age, they were very real concerns. The Syrian bear is actually a subspecies of the same family as the kodiak (Ursus arctos middendorffi) and the grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis) bears. The lions, although smaller than their African cousins, were still ferocious. Since both troubled the flocks and the populace, it is not surprising that settlements were walled.
Gates (שַׁעַר, ša’ar) could be made of anything, but most likely they were wooden doors of some kind, set into the wall and hinged. Since they were locked at night, the people who lived or were working outside of them would gather right outside in the morning. This was a time to do some quick business before the day began, and this is probably when Boaz went to the gates.
Naomi is selling her property. Boaz waits for the other family member (who is never named) and then assembles a council of elders to hear the situation. Then he phrases the matter carefully. He mentions only the property and that Naomi is attempting to sell it. It is only after the kinsman says he would like to purchase the land that Boaz mentions the woman Ruth.
This moment again highlights an important concept built into the redeemer. He not only restores what is dead, but he becomes the owner of it. He becomes responsible for it. While the nearer kinsman is more than happy to redeem the lands, he is not ready for the responsibility of a new wife.
More than likely, this nearer kinsman was already married and had selected an heir. Were he to marry Ruth and have a son with her, he would have to re-evaluate and reallocate his legacy.
Now, there is something else at work as well. People must have known of Boaz’s interest in Ruth. Would you marry a woman who another man clearly has designs upon? The potential for trouble is obvious. While I am sure the other kinsman was sincere in not wanting to have to rethink his legacy, there was probably also a bit of common sense built into turning down the property.
וַתָּבוֹא אֶל־חֲמוֹתָהּ וַתֹּאמֶר מִי־אַתְּ בִּתִּי וַתַּגֶּד־לָהּ אֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה־לָהּ הָאִישׁ׃
וַתֹּאמֶר שֵׁשׁ־הַשְּׂעֹרִים הָאֵלֶּה נָתַן לִי כִּי אָמַר ֵ ַ אַל־תָּבוֹאִי רֵיקָם אֶל־חֲמוֹתֵךְ׃
וַתֹּאמֶר שְׁבִי בִתִּי עַד אֲשֶׁר תֵּדְעִין אֵיךְ יִפֹּל דָּבָר כִּי לֹא יִשְׁקֹט הָאִישׁ כִּי־אִם־כִּלָּה הַדָּבָר הַיּוֹם׃
And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ” 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.” (3:16-18, ESV)
Not empty-handed. The Hebrew רֵיקָם (reyqam) means “empty” and is translated elsewhere as “vanity.” The idea is something that rings hollow. Boaz knew that Ruth could not return to Naomi without some kind of promissory gift. She needed assurance.
While six measures of barley was a substantial amount, it was hardly a bride price. Boaz instead sends a surety, a partial gift in lieu of the larger one to come. This echoes the shavuot festival when the Jews were to bring the first fruits of their barley harvest, before they took any for themselves. You can see how deeply entwined the Ruth story is with what was, at the time, an evolving faith in YHWH.
The man will not rest. How else do you describe a redeemer? Through the passages I mentioned yesterday (Leviticus 25, 27, Numbers 35) the ga’al was to pursue all means necessary to enact the redemption. Accepting the role was accepting all of the responsibilities it entails.
I have mentioned before that the worship of YHWH was largely restricted to the Judean highlands. This would mean that much of what we know as Torah was also restricted to that region. In a subtle way, Naomi’s words confirm that Boaz (and therefore David’s family) observed the righteousness of Torah even before the nation of Israel was formed. (Remember that this takes place “in the time of the judges”.)
This adherence to righteousness to Torah will become vital in validating the right of the House of David to rule all of Judah and Israel, although this will not become important until the monarchy period.
וַתֵּרֶד הַגֹּרֶן וַתַּעַשׂ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר־צִוַּתָּה חֲמוֹתָהּ׃
וַיֹּאכַל בֹּעַז וַיֵּשְׁתְּ וַיִּיטַב לִבּוֹ וַיָּבֹא לִשְׁכַּב בִּקְצֵה הָעֲרֵמָה וַתָּבֹא בַלָּט וַתְּגַל מַרְגְּלֹתָיו וַתִּשְׁכָּב׃
וַיְהִי בַּחֲצִי הַלַּיְלָה וַיֶּחֱרַד הָאִישׁ וַיִּלָּפֵת וְהִנֵּה אִשָּׁה שֹׁכֶבֶת מַרְגְּלֹתָיו׃
וַיֹּאמֶר מִי־אָתּ וַתֹּאמֶר אָנֹכִי רוּת אֲמָתֶךָ וּפָרַשְׂתָּ כְנָפֶךָ עַל־אֲמָתְךָ כִּי גֹאֵל אָתָּה׃
וַיֹּאמֶר בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ לַיהוָה בִּתִּי הֵיטַבְתְּ חַסְדֵּךְ הָאַחֲרוֹן מִן־הָרִאשׁוֹן לְבִלְתִּי־לֶכֶת אַחֲרֵי הַבַּחוּרִים אִם־דַּל וְאִם־עָשִׁיר׃
וְעַתָּה בִּתִּי אַל־תִּירְאִי כֹּל אֲשֶׁר־תֹּאמְרִי אֶעֱשֶׂה־לָּךְ כִּי יוֹדֵעַ כָּל־שַׁעַר עַמִּי כִּי אֵשֶׁת חַיִל אָתְּ׃
וְעַתָּה כִּי אָמְנָם כִּי אם גֹאֵל אָנֹכִי וְגַם יֵשׁ גֹּאֵל קָרוֹב מִמֶּנִּי׃
לִינִי הַלַּיְלָה וְהָיָה בַבֹּקֶר אִם־יִגְאָלֵךְ טוֹב יִגְאָל וְאִם־לֹא יַחְפֹּץ לְגָאֳלֵךְ וּגְאַלְתִּיךְ אָנֹכִי חַי־יְהוָה שִׁכְבִי עַד־הַבֹּקֶר׃
וַתִּשְׁכַּב מַרְגְּלוֹתָיו עַד־הַבֹּקֶר וַתָּקָם בְּטֶרֶם יַכִּיר אִישׁ אֶת־רֵעֵהוּ וַיֹּאמֶר אַל־יִוָּדַע כִּי־בָאָה הָאִשָּׁה הַגֹּרֶן׃
וַיֹּאמֶר הָבִי הַמִּטְפַּחַת אֲשֶׁר־עָלַיִךְ וְאֶחֳזִי־בָהּ וַתֹּאחֶז בָּהּ וַיָּמָד שֵׁשׁ־שְׂעֹרִים וַיָּשֶׁת עָלֶיהָ וַיָּבֹא הָעִיר׃
So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. 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. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”
So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. (3:6-15, ESV)And he said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the LORD lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.” (3:6-13, ESV)
His heart was merry. Boaz’s household celebrated the barley harvest with gusto. They partied into the night. He laid down at the edge of a pile of grain and fell asleep. This is a fascinating image, isn’t it?
As I have mentioned before, this celebration was not the kind of pointless drinking party that we tend to think of in our modern context. It was certainly loud and raucous, but not out of control. Although it is only speculation on my part, I tend to believe that the ancients partied better than we do because they had far more work to do. By the end of the barley harvest, people would be physically exhausted. The celebration was the culmination of hard work, which served to balance the celebration somewhat.
The idiom וַיִּיטַב לִבּוֹ (wayēy-tab lēbō) includes the noun לֵב (leb) which is often translated as “heart” but more closely might mean “center of understanding.” There is little doubt that idiom is the similar to our own experience of relaxation and euphoria when we consume moderate amounts of alcohol. It represents a release of tension, but does not necessarily represent drunkenness.
Drunkenness is often used as an excuse for actions that are otherwise inexcusable. “I was drunk” is often treated as an explanation for playing the fool and behaving in ways that are dishonorable and often quite sinful. This is why the Scriptures speak so directly about the dangers of drunkenness. (Genesis 9:20-23, Proverbs 5:20, Proverbs 20:1, Ephesians 5:18)
But drunkenness and merriness of heart are two different things. One is a sinner seeking an excuse. The other is a righteous man in relaxation and celebration. Anyone with eyes can tell the difference. If you must make excuses or apologies for your actions, you were drunk. That’s simple.
We know that Boaz still has his wits about him, even in the merriness of his heart because of the exchange that follows. A drunken man would not have the restraint or wherewithal to handle himself as he does with Ruth.
She came softly. I have previously written about the possible sexual connotations of the exchange that comes next. Ruth slips under Boaz’s robe (“your wings”) and lies beside him. Sleeping, he does not immediately wake up but when he does, it is unavoidable that someone is with him. One can almost imagine him thinking, oh please let this be Ruth! And it is.
Ruth’s request for Boaz to “spread your wings over your servant” is an invitation to accept her presence as permission to join with her and make her his wife. The language is unclear here. There are clearly sexual overtones, but it is not plain if there is actual sexual contact involved at this point. It is important, however, that I remind you that such contact was not strictly forbidden in Torah at this time. Boaz could claim her in this way and then compensate the “closer” relative he mentions. Whether he did or not is simply not stated.
Redeemer. It is here that we are introduced to the idea of the גָּאַל (ga’al), which is often translated as “redeemer.” This is a difficult term to render into another language, and it has much more to it than the theological definition of redemption. As a result, just reading the English translation makes it easy to miss what Ruth is saying.
In the Greek translation of this book, ga’al is rendered as ἀγχιστεὺς (ag-chēst-EFS) or “next of kin.” Latin similarly translates it as propinquus, which has the same meaning. In both languages, the term is missing any kind of idea of redemption as we might understand it.
The concept of redemption comes not from the word ga’al but from the role granted to the ga’al in the Torah. Being the next of kin or closest family to a widow carried a weight that appears even in the Christian testament. In Leviticus 25-27 and Numbers 35, there are several scenarios in which the word appears as both a noun and as a verb. Because the word is extremely ancient, we cannot be sure if the idea of a next of kin comes from the redeemer or vice versa. Either way, close family was intrically tied with the idea of perpetuating life, which is at the core of redemption.
And it is here in this passage that we see the linchpin, the keystone of interpreting this word. Ruth is the very essence of the redeemer motif. It illuminates the entire concept for the reader of any age.
What is Ruth asking for? She is not asking for her own redemption. Boaz is not her close relative. He is not even Naomi’s close relative. He is Elimelech’s relative. He is a dead man’s relative, and Ruth is not asking for her own redemption but rather for Elimelech’s. She is asking for a resurrection and reconstitution of Elimelech’s legacy, through Ruth. Boaz would redeem from death and give new life.
This is the key of all the Hebrew Scriptures and the reason why Ruth is such a significant book. Redemption through the ga’al is new life for old, and the book of Ruth takes place in the midst of the barley harvest which represented life from the dead seed and ground. The themes and motifs of the book all come together in this single idea of a redeemer.
I am a redeemer. Boaz speaks with absolute certainty that he will stand as the redeemer, but he points out the technicality of a closer blood relative. He states it matter-of-fact, but it is plain that Boaz intends to find a way around this technicality so Ruth can be his.
There is a two-fold dynamic going on here. It is pretty clear that Boaz is smitten by Ruth, and the feeling is mutual. This takes second place to the advantage of bringing Elimelech and Boaz’s holdings together. The redemption of Elimelech’s legacy might cause complications for a man with children, and it would be a boon to a young man who would receive only a portion of his father’s lands and not a broad inheritance. But if Ruth and Boaz had only one eligible son, they could pass all of the property on to him and he would have the influence of two landholders instead of one.
Lie down until morning. What happened that night is beyond our ability to know. It would appear that Boaz literally covered Ruth with his robe, keeping her with him until the morning. She could slip away unnoticed before the rest of the men woke up.
It was common for the women of a household to rise before the men, so Boaz seems to indicate that Ruth should just slip out with the rest of the women so no one notices her. He is very specific when he says, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshingfloor.” What is interesting is that he uses the word אִשָּׁה (ēshah) that indicates a married woman. Perhaps Boaz makes it clear that something happened that night?
Either way, he gives Ruth six measures of barley, literally “six barleys” and sends her away.
וַתֹּאמֶר לָהּ נָעֳמִי חֲמוֹתָהּ בִּתִּי הֲלֹא אֲבַקֶּשׁ־לָךְ מָנוֹחַ אֲשֶׁר יִיטַב־לָךְ׃
וְעַתָּה הֲלֹא בֹעַז מֹדַעְתָּנוּ אֲשֶׁר הָיִית אֶת־נַעֲרוֹתָיו הִנֵּה־הוּא זֹרֶה אֶת־גֹּרֶן הַשְּׂעֹרִים הַלָּיְלָה׃
וְרָחַצְתְּ וָסַכְתְּ וְשַׂמְתְּ שִׂמְלֹתַיִךְ עָלַיִךְ וְיָרַדְתְּ הַגֹּרֶן אַל־תִּוָּדְעִי לָאִישׁ עַד כַּלֹּתוֹ לֶאֱכֹל וְלִשְׁתּוֹת׃
וִיהִי בְשָׁכְבוֹ וְיָדַעַתְּ אֶת־הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב־שָׁם וּבָאת וְגִלִּית מַרְגְּלֹתָיו וְשָׁכָבְתְּ וְהוּא יַגִּיד לָךְ אֵת אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשִׂין׃
וַתֹּאמֶר אֵלֶיהָ כֹּל אֲשֶׁר־תֹּאמְרִי ֵ ַ אֶעֱשֶׂה׃
Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.
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. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” And she replied, “All that you say I will do.” (3:1-5)
Rest for you. Earlier, Naomi had encouraged Ruth and Orpah to return to their mother’s houses so they could find a new husband and rest. (1:9) The idea is a place of comfort, implying the healthy relationship of a man and woman resting together in completeness. It does not in any way indicate an end of work because the work of a wife was often much harder than that of a young woman, but rather the sense of a “right place”.
Naomi recognizes that Ruth’s “right place” is with a husband and she judges that the time is right for Ruth to declare this to Boaz. As I’ve already noted, Ruth and Boaz clearly fancy one another, but they have restrained from acting on the relationship – or Ruth has anyway.
The Threshing Floor. Because the grain harvest were so important in the Late Bronze Age, we actually know quite a bit about threshing floors and the like. The barley harvest was an important celebration, and the threshing floor was essentially the place where everyone made public the relationships that had been formed during the harvest. Young men and women would pair off as they had in the fields and, we assume, contracts would be made for their official marriages.
A threshing floor usually was a hill with flat land around it. On the flat land, the men would winnow the grain with whip-like sticks, breaking the stalks and loosening the husks around the grain. Then the women would gather the winnowed grain in baskets, take it to the top of the hill and carefully throw it up into the wind. The husks and stalks would blow away and the kernels of barley would fall back into the baskets.
After the daylight waned, the gathered group would celebrate, drinking the dregs of the previous seasons beer and the first bits of the current seasons. After eating and drinking, people would lie down on the threshing floor to sleep because they would be doing the same thing the following day.
Wash therefore and anoint yourself. A lot of commentators make it sound as if Naomi has some kind of nefarious plan to seduce Boaz here. I don’t think that is the case at all, and I think it demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the context. Clearly the views of sexuality and marriage in this context are different from our own modern views, which are often tainted by Puritanical and Victorian prudishness to a fault.
Naomi is instructing Ruth to prepare herself Boaz. Since Boaz was flirting with her in the fields while she was working, dirty and nasty, I doubt seriously that it mattered to him whether she was washed or not. The preparations Ruth needs to take are more to announce that she is now ready to accept him as her husband and she has cleansed herself for exactly that purpose.
Even the way that Naomi instructs Ruth to put on her cloak (שִׂמְלָה, sēmlah) implies something of a signal that Ruth is ready for Boaz. Of course, the language is poetic and somewhat obscure but this might have been some kind of special garment, meant to conceal the clean and perfumed body beneath.
Uncover his feet. The phrase uncover his feet is a sexual metaphor. This is difficult for most Christian readers to accept, but Naomi is instructing Ruth to uncover her own body, wrap herself in Boaz’s robe against his own naked body and then wait for him to notice. This is a totally sexual act, and as a result it makes a lot of us uncomfortable because we have an unhealthy separation of sexual contact and marriage.
As pointed out earlier, there is nothing immoral or even immodest in what Naomi tells Ruth to do. This is simply how marriage worked in this context, and in many ways it is far more moral than the way we do things today. The Hebrews would have had no understanding of the distinctions of “living together” and “common law” marriage that we have today.
Thus, we have Ruth clean and anointed with perfumed oils, wrapped in her cloak and waiting for Boaz to finally rest on the ground. Her willingness to do this can be understood as duty to Naomi, but it also seems that Ruth is more than willing to take this step. She has now labored in Boaz’s fields, eaten at his table and accepted his hospitality. She is a woman of child-bearing years, clearly active and vigorous and ready to be married again.
וַתִּשָּׂא וַתָּבוֹא הָעִיר וַתֵּרֶא חֲמוֹתָהּ אֵת אֲשֶׁר־לִקֵּטָה וַתּוֹצֵא וַתִּתֶּן־לָהּ אֵת אֲשֶׁר־הוֹתִרָה מִשָּׂבְעָהּ׃
וַתֹּאמֶר לָהּ חֲמוֹתָהּ אֵיפֹה לִקַּטְתְּ הַיּוֹם וְאָנָה עָשִׂית יְהִי מַכִּירֵךְ בָּרוּךְ וַתַּגֵּד לַחֲמוֹתָהּ אֵת אֲשֶׁר־עָשְׂתָה עִמּוֹ וַתֹּאמֶר שֵׁם הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתִי עִמּוֹ הַיּוֹם בֹּעַז׃
וַתֹּאמֶר נָעֳמִי לְכַלָּתָהּ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לַיהוָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא־עָזַב חַסְדּוֹ אֶת־הַחַיִּים וְאֶת־הַמֵּתִים וַתֹּאמֶר לָהּ נָעֳמִי קָרוֹב לָנוּ הָאִישׁ מִגֹּאֲלֵנוּ הוּא׃
וַתֹּאמֶר רוּת הַמּוֹאֲבִיָּה גַּם כִּי־אָמַר אֵלַי עִם־הַנְּעָרִים אֲשֶׁר־לִי תִּדְבָּקִין עַד אִם־כִּלּוּ אֵת כָּל־הַקָּצִיר אֲשֶׁר־לִי׃
וַתֹּאמֶר נָעֳמִי אֶל־רוּת כַּלָּתָהּ טוֹב בִּתִּי כִּי תֵצְאִי עִם־נַעֲרוֹתָיו וְלֹא יִפְגְּעוּ־בָךְ בְּשָׂדֶה אַחֵר׃
וַתִּדְבַּק בְּנַעֲרוֹת בֹּעַז לְלַקֵּט עַד־כְּלוֹת קְצִיר־הַשְּׂעֹרִים וּקְצִיר הַחִטִּים וַתֵּשֶׁב אֶת־חֲמוֹתָהּ׃
And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.”
And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”
And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’ ” And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.” So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law. (2:18-23)
The man who took notice of you. When Ruth returns from the fields with an ephah of barley, Naomi is surprised. And why wouldn’t she be surprised? Ruth gleaned the equivalent of a day’s work for someone who was supposed to be harvesting in the field. It is clear that someone noticed her and provided for her.
“The man who took notice” is actually just one Hebrew word - נָכַר, nakar. Nakar is distinct from the Hebrew word that indicates intimate knowledge (יָדַע , yada’) of marriage. This is purely a recognition or a shift of focus. In other words, Naomi is excited that someone is interested in Ruth but not pursuing her. I am not sure that Naomi was fully aware of the situation until Ruth mentions that the man’s name was Boaz.
Blessed by the LORD. As soon as Naomi hears the name Boaz, she realizes that YHWH has not forsaken her. This is an important turning point in the story because until this point, Naomi believes that she is under some kind of curse. She was bitter and broken, but here she sees the hand of Providence that has guided her to this point.
It is good, my daughter. Ruth’s revelation that Boaz commanded her to stay close to his own young women is a signal to Naomi. She realizes that not only has Boaz chosen to protect her but that he has singled her out as a potential wife. The young men have been assigned the task of protecting Ruth from other young men, a sort of informal bodyguard for her. Ruth is not oblivious to this, as we saw in the way she responded to Boaz’s flirtatious statements to her; but Naomi confirms it.
I question the English translation of פָּגַע (paga’) as “assaulted”. While the context is certainly that young men could meet young women in the field and have sex with them, thus claiming them as their own, there is no indication here that this was an “assault” or rape, which the translation clearly implies. The word is used much more in the sense of meeting or encountering, and the concept seems to be a more consensual thing. Clearly, Naomi is concerned that Ruth remain focused on Boaz, but I think her concern is more that Ruth might find a young man that she prefers over the most likely older (3:10) Boaz.
Until the end of the harvest. Now, here is an interesting paradox because in the next chapter we will discover that Ruth goes to Boaz and they make their marriage covenant during the barley threshing, which would have occurred before shavuot, meaning within seven weeks of paschal. The wheat harvest, however, extends until succoth in the autumn. How could Ruth remain with Naomi until autumn but also enter into her marriage covenant with Boaz?
We will wrestle with the nature of the marriage covenant in a subsequent post, but it is important to remember that actual marriage ceremonies, which the Hebrews seem to have really enjoyed, took place long after the covenant was made between the bride and groom. Boaz could take Ruth has his wife but she remain with Naomi until the ceremony; and there really would be no time for such a ceremony during the barley harvest and the wheat growing season.
וַיֹּאמֶר לָה בֹעַז לְעֵת הָאֹכֶל גֹּשִׁי הֲלֹם וְאָכַלְתְּ מִן־הַלֶּחֶם וְטָבַלְתְּ פִּתֵּךְ בַּחֹמֶץ וַתֵּשֶׁב מִצַּד הַקּוֹצְרִים וַיִּצְבָּט־לָהּ קָלִי וַתֹּאכַל וַתִּשְׂבַּע וַתֹּתַר׃
וַתָּקָם לְלַקֵּט וַיְצַו בֹּעַז אֶת־נְעָרָיו לֵאמֹר גַּם בֵּין הָעֳמָרִים תְּלַקֵּט וְלֹא תַכְלִימוּהָ׃
וְגַם שֹׁל־תָּשֹׁלּוּ לָהּ מִן־הַצְּבָתִים וַעֲזַבְתֶּם וְלִקְּטָה וְלֹא תִגְעֲרוּ־בָהּ׃
וַתְּלַקֵּט בַּשָּׂדֶה עַד־הָעָרֶב וַתַּחְבֹּט אֵת אֲשֶׁר־לִקֵּטָה וַיְהִי כְּאֵיפָה שְׂעֹרִים׃
And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.
When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”
So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. (2:14-17)
A Meal Together. Boaz’s invitation to Ruth is yet another sign that she has been welcomed to the clan. This is a social meal more than a sustenance one. Because the harvest was a time of celebration, they would be eating the roasted and preserved products from the previous harvest. The term for roasted grain (קָלִי, qaliy) can be applied to many different dried or parched products, from roasted grain to dried spices.
The Egyptians still eat a dish called duqqa which dates from the time of the Pharaohs. It is bread dipped in wine and then dipped in a mixture of chopped up spices and grains. The content of duqqa varies but it is most likely that this is the kind of meal that Boaz invited Ruth to participate in.
The participants probably sat around shallow bowls of wine, which at this point in the year would have been nearing the end of its lifespan, and dipped their bread into the wine and duqqa. Their conversations would be about the day, the harvest and of course the people in the fields. Ruth probably sat across from Boaz, and you can imagine the way he looked at her.
Leave it for her to glean. Boaz’s further instructions to his reapers expands significantly on the idea of gleaning. First, she is permitted to glean among the sheaves (עֹמֶר, ‘omer). The sheaf was the primary form of measurement used for grains. It was roughly the amount of stalks that one man could carry and appears to have been the amount of grain one person ate in a day. (Exodus 16:16) It works out to about 2 liters of grain, and ten omer’im were equal to an ephah. (Exodus 16:36)
The reapers would gather a handful of stalks (צֶבֶת, tzebeth) and cut it with their scythe. The handfuls were somehow bound together and left lying. Another reaper would then come behind and bind the handfuls into sheaves which were stood up in the field. At the end of the day, the sheaves were carried to the threshing floor. The reapers would shake the grain from the stalks into ephah baskets before being threshed to release the grain from its spike and husk.
Apparently, the reapers were to drop some of the grain from the handfuls and leave it around the sheaves. As the sheaves were cleared, this left a supply of grain for Ruth to pick up. She would have had a much more difficult task since she would be doing the gathering herself. She would need to shake out the grain herself, and most likely she carried it in the fold of her robe.
At the end of the day, Ruth had collected an ephah of grain. That means she had harvested the equivalent of ten sheaves of barley. This was a week’s worth of grain, if she and Naomi were willing to eat barley bread. Of course, making barley bread was not a simple task and involved threshing, malting and grinding; but Boaz’s generosity is still unmistakeable.