Ruth 3:9 – “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.”
The first thing Boaz does is ask: “Who art thou?” – He asks Ruth to identify herself. Boaz may not have known who she was in the dark and before he does or says anything else he asks her to identify herself and in doing this she will also tell him why she is there and what she wants. Boaz is a type of Jesus but unlike Boaz knows who we are! When He asks us this question, it is because He wants to be sure we know who we are and who He is! He is waiting for us to declare ourselves. He is waiting for us to acknowledge He is our Master and our Lord. He is waiting for us to acknowledge we are His servants. Ruth does all this when she gives her answer. Do we know who we are in Christ? Ruth could tell Boaz who she was; can we do the same when our Boaz asks us this question? We are so many things and He is so many things to us! We are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17); and a new man created in righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24). We are a holy temple belonging to God (1 Cor 3:16-17) a place where He dwells and we are sons (1 John 3:1-2) born of God through the new birth. But we began first and continue always to be servants and as His servants we show forth that holiness (Ro 6:16). This is how Ruth answers, she begins by declaring this, she never let go of this attitude of serving and belonging to Boaz. Later she will enjoy all the blessings from her relationship with him and be seen as more than a servant. So too will we, but knowing who we are and what we are to Christ enables us to come to Him and lay hold of Him in a greater way. By learning to serve we learn to rule and reign!
Ruth’s answer is a beautiful one. She gives her name: “I am Ruth” and by this name she is identifying who she is, Boaz will recognize her by her name. She is Naomi’s daughter in law. She gives another description of herself that shows another relationship. She says: “I am … thine handmaid.” She is the woman who has labored in his fields. The word “handmaid” means “bond-servant.” She describes her place and her service. She shows her humility and respect.
“The word handmaid was a term of humility or obeisance; it was a token of respect or submission used by the speaker before a great man or God.” (Bible Encyclopedia).
This isn’t the first time she has told Boaz this, that she was his “handmaid.” When she first met him she said, “I am a stranger” (2:10). When she thanked him for his gracious words and his grace she was utterly his, she called herself “thine handmaid” (2:13), she was no longer a stranger, she had found a place and purpose. Ruth is emphasizing two things. First that she is his “thine handmaid” “I am thine” and second she is his servant, Ruth identifies herself as his handmaid twice in this verse, she sees its importance and it is her link to him. She has deliberately left out the word Moabitess and emphasized instead her service and submission to him. She has forgotten and been forgiven her past. She has let go of her past so that she can embrace her future. The name of Ruth is mentioned 12 times in this book. The words “the Moabitess” is used five times with that name to describe her (1:22; 2:2;2:21; 4:5; 4:10) and in the other seven references to Ruth it is not mentioned, she is described in other ways. She is Ruth, the woman who married Naomi’s son (1:4); who would not let go of Naomi (1:14); who accepted Naomi’s God and people (1:16). She is Ruth, the young woman that Boaz called “my daughter” (2:8) and who Naomi advised (2:22). Here she is Ruth the servant who will later be known as Ruth his wife (4:13).
Ruth’s words tell Boaz of her present relationship, and it is from this relationship that she begins her request. She does not want to let go of that relationship and yet she wants more. As “his handmaid” she reminds him of her service and her faithfulness and also of his present protection. This is how her relationship began; it is the foundation for what she is about to claim. This is how we begin our relationship with our Boaz, with Jesus. We begin as His servants, as there we prove ourselves as we prove Him. The Apostle Paul emphasized the importance of faithful service, of doing it “heartily” or from the heart and knowing that there was a reward for that service because of the One we serve. He said “ye serve the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23-24), we should never forget that and because it is Christ we serve there is that promised reward. Ruth saw by faith the reward promised through the Word, so should we. She comes wanting more and our Boaz is waiting for us to do the same.
So what does Ruth request? She says: “spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid.” It seems an unusual request by our customs or standards but it is a wonderful request. Ruth is requesting both protection and marriage. The word “spread” means “stretch out; stretch forth” and this shows that the action is on the part of Boaz, it is something he must do. Ruth must wait and see how he reacts. The word “skirt” means “a corner,” “a wing, and feathers.” This is how she sees his garment; it is not just any covering, but a special covering, a tender covering, a protective covering. This same word “skirt” is translated as “wings” in Ruth 2:12. Boaz had said to her: “The Lord recompense thy work and a full reward be given thee” for what she had done and given up in following Naomi, loving her and loving God. Boaz saw that she had already trusted in the Lord, he described her trust in this way: “under whose wings thou art come to trust.” Ruth had already trusted in the covering and protection of the Lord God of Israel but now it is Boaz that she has come to. Boaz is the “full reward” promised her! Now she is laying claim to the “wings” of Boaz (3:9).
“She had already drawn part of the mantle over her; and she asked him now to do it, that the act might become his own. To spread a skirt over one is, in the East, a symbolical action denoting protection. To this day in many parts of the East to say of any one that be put his skirt over a woman is synonymous with saying that he married her; and at all the marriages of the modern Jews one part of the ceremony is for the bridegroom to put a silken or cotton cloak around his bride” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown).
I had never thought of that before, that Ruth had already drawn a part of his mantle over her and now she is asking Boaz to do it, not just a corner but the whole garment. She is asking him to show his acceptance of her, to complete the promise she is laying claim to. Ruth wants to enter into a deeper relationship. She is asking for marriage, the greatest union and protection that Boaz can give.
Looking back again at that “skirt” or “wings,” we see a wonderful provision set before us. Elsewhere in the Word of God when that word “wings” is used, we see that they cast a great shadow; a wonderful shadow and those that rest under these wings have a great assurance. David found under the shadow of those wings the “loving kindness” of God (Ps 36:7) and a “refuge” from calamities (Ps 57:1) and while resting there he could “rejoice” (Ps 63:7). The Psalmist says that the shadow of the wings of the Almighty is a “secret place” (Ps 91:1). How wonderful when we come to the Lord, and we ask Him to spread his skirt or wings over us! He can do this now and while we wait for Him to claim us as His Bride we find that same refuge and experience that same joy!
We see this protection, this claiming by spreading the skirt over someone picture marriage in Ezekiel. There he tells us God spread His skirt over His people in the same way. It was a love relationship and a covenant relationship. “Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee … and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.” (Ezek 16:8). When God cast His garment over His people and they were married. (Isa 54:5).
We come to the feet of our Boaz, the Lord Jesus Christ, and we make this request. Today is a time of preparation and a time of waiting and a time of serving, but it is also a time when we come to Jesus and lay claim to Him. There are a lot of distractions in the world, think about Ruth. She could have sought out and married a younger man; Boaz mentioned they were younger men she could have gone after (3:10). They could have been interested in her, they could have provided for her, she could have had some security, some provision, some blessing. But she wanted more. We can go after lesser things or we can go after Boaz, we can obtain partial blessings or we can obtain a full reward, a full blessing. Ruth did this, she chose Boaz who could give her the greatest blessing of all. Her choice shows a desire for a deeper relationship. Her choice shows the accepting of the espousal that Paul tells us of (2 Cor 11:2). Her choice is saying as Rebecca, “I will go” (Gen 24:58). Her choice shows a greater commitment, and a greater love. Ruth ends her request with her justification, she says: “for thou art a near kinsman” or a “redeeming kinsman.” Her choice rests upon Redemption.
“And now, for the first time we hear Ruth claiming. She claims Boaz as a kinsman-redeemer and insists upon her rights. This puts him under obligation and he does not shift the responsibility. He appears to appreciate the confidence she shows in him.” (Mary M. Bodie)
To be continued