Asking for Help at the Right Time: Ruth 3

The third chapter of Ruth gives us some indication about its historical meaning. We must remember the story is set in the days of the Judges (1.1). This has often been seen as a dark period of time in the history of Israel. They continued in generational cycles in which each new generation would do the same as the previous one did. Ruth is a bright spot in the midst of darkness. The idea of Kinsman Redeemer gives a minute picture of the activity of God with his children.

The time of harvesting the grain was complete. Now it was time for the process of winnowing the barley. When the grain was threshed, it was winnowed by throwing it up against the wind (Jer. 4.11). Afterwards it was tossed with wooden scoops (Isa. 30.24). The shovel and the fan for winnowing are mentioned in Ps. 35.5; Job 21.18; Isa. 17.13. The refuse of straw and chaff was burned (Isa. 5.24). Now freed from impurities, the grain was laid up in granaries till it was used (Deut. 28.8; Prov. 3.10; Matt. 6.26; 13.30; Luke 12.18).

In Naomi’s mind, it was time for her to help Ruth find a husband and get on with her own personal life.

Ruth 3 looks like a pretty straight forward story for the average reader of the English Bible. Naomi tells Ruth her plan for finding her a husband and Ruth carries out the plan. She does what Naomi told her to do. Find Boaz after the harvest party, uncover his feet and he will tell you what to do. With a simplistic reading of Ruth we miss the undergirdings of the idea of kinsman-redeemer and the cultural situation which allowed this plot of Naomi’s to work. The stirring question is: when is the right time to ask for help?

We must understand that Scripture is filled with different kinds of literature which suggest different pictures and figures of speech which are often missed by contemporary readers of the Bible. It is often difficult for us living in the Western world with Western customs to realize that other parts have different traditions within their culture. This is the case in chapter three of Ruth.

We must deal with two figures of speech. First, is the word feet in our English Bible. In a natural reading we make that mean those two appendages that attach the bottom of our legs to the ground. However, in Scripture feet is often a metaphor for male genitals, (Ex. 4.25; Judges 3.24; Isa. 7.20) when the context allows for such. The actual Hebrew word that is used here means to uncover him from the waist down. One can understand why he woke up startled! There was no immoral impropriety in the act of Ruth. This is demonstrated by the meaning of the second figure of speech “…spread the corner of the garment over me…,’ which is a figure of speech in which a person in the ancient world asks for marriage to occur. In short Naomi’s plan was to send Ruth to ask Boaz to marry her according to the law. What he did in the next part of the story was an honorable playing out of his role. It is difficult for us to imagine this story occurring this way, only because of the worldview we presently have.

The kinsman-redeemer is the greater part of the story of chapter 3 which is often not seen. The Old Testament ultimately paints God as the kinsman who redeems Israel. The supreme example of this idea is found in the redemptive activity of God in the Exodus, a powerful redemptive act to deliver Israel from the impairment of slavery in Egypt (Deut. 7.8; 2 Sam. 7.23).


  • Think about the times you needed help and you did not ask, in comparison to the times you did ask. What were the differing results?
  • Think about following the suggestions of those close to you who have your best interest at heart.


  • Choose someone who you can help this month and offer them the help they need.
  • Ask God to send you the help you need via someone in the body who is searching for someone to help. When it arrives, give God praise for it!

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