Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. I will. Hebrew and Septuagint may be read with an interrogation in the same sense. “Shall I not seek rest?” (Haydock) — By this expression she means a husband, chap. i. 9. Marriage fixes the unsettled condition of women. (Calmet) — Noemi being apprised of the law, entertained hopes that she could engage Booz to marry Ruth. (Haydock) — Thus her penury would cease, and she would perhaps have children, as she earnestly desired. (Menochius)
Ver. 2. Night. In Palestine, and other maritime countries, a breeze generally arises from the sea in the evening. It was then that Booz seized the opportunity of winnowing his barley; so that, at an early hour, he gave Ruth six measures, and retired to rest, beside some of the remaining sheaves (Calmet) in an adjoining apartment, erected for the protection of the reapers during the great heats, and to contain the corn in case of a shower. (Columella, i. 7. and ii. 51.) This shade was probably in the same field where Ruth had been gleaning. (Calmet) — She might lawfully seize this opportunity (Haydock) to obtain an honest marriage. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 3. Garments. External cleanliness has many attractions, Judith x. 3. Many editions of the Hebrew are very confused, by the improper insertion of i: “I will put the garments on thee, and get me down,” &c. (Kennicott)
Ver. 4. Sleepeth. People of fortune did not disdain to sleep among the corn.
Non pudor in stipulâ placidam cepisse quietem,
Nec fœnum capiti supposuisse suo.—– Ovid, Fast. i. (Menochius)
— Feet. It is said that women in the East, enter their husbands’ bed at the feet, to shew their submission. (Calmet) — Ruth was conducted on this occasion by a superior Being, who gave success to her undertaking, and disposed the mind of Booz (Theodoret) to grant her just claim. It was according to the law of Moses, that a widow might demand in marriage the next kinsman of her deceased husband, if she had no children by him. Ruth considered Booz in this light. (Haydock) — She was not actuated by a love of pleasure, as the latter was convinced, otherwise she would have desired to marry some young man, (Calmet) in her own country, ver. 10. Both parties would probably have their clothes on among the straw, so that there would be less danger; though, if their virtue had not been very constant, (Haydock) the situation was no doubt sufficiently perilous, and in other circumstances could not have been tolerated. (Calmet) — We must also remember, that clandestine marriages were not then forbidden. (Salien) — That same night they might have married, had not another’s being nearer akin proved an obstacle; (Tirinus) so that Booz could not have claimed the inheritance of Elimelech, though he might have taken Ruth to wife. By deferring another day he obtained both. (Haydock) — Lyranus thinks Ruth could be excused only by ignorance, in thus exposing herself to danger, and that Noemi was guilty of a grievous sin, in giving her such advice. But they both had the purest views, seeking only an honest marriage, by arts which were not blamable. See St. Thomas Aquinas, 2. 2. q. 154., and 169., and Cajetan. (Tirinus) — Noemi was well assured of the virtue of both parties, and followed the directions of the Holy Spirit, (Calmet) as the event shewed. (Worthington) — Dr. Watson justly reproves the censure of Paine, who calls Ruth, “a strolling country girl, creeping slily to bed to her cousin,” and exclaims, “pretty stuff indeed to be called the word of God!” But in correcting this impertinent remark, he seems to allow that some things have been inserted in the Scriptures by human authority, so as not to be the word of God. This concession is more dangerous than the censure of Paine, and the quotation from St. Augustine by no means countenances it, as it barely insinuates that an express revelation was not requisite to insert some things, which the authors might know by other means. The holy father never doubted but every part of Scripture was equally inspired, and to be received without the smallest hesitation. What Dr. Law, and other such “good Christians,” might think, does not regard us. (Haydock) — “As a person imploring protection, Ruth laid herself down at the foot of an aged kinsman’s bed, and she rose up with as much innocence as she laid herself down. She was afterwards married to Booz, and reputed by all her neighbours as a virtuous woman; and they were more likely to know her character than you are. Whoever reads the Book of Ruth, bearing in mind the simplicity of ancient manners, will find it an interesting story of a poor young woman,” &c. (Watson, let. 4.) — Must do. She trusted to the superior wisdom of Booz, knowing perhaps that he was not absolutely the nearest relation, but being convinced, as the event proved, that the other would not consent to marry Ruth on the conditions specified by the law. (Salien, A. 2810.[in the year of the world 2810.])
Ver. 7. Merry. Hebrew, “good,” yet by no means intoxicated. (Du Hamel; Menochius) — It was formerly the custom, as it is still in many places, (Haydock) to conclude the harvest with a feast; (Calmet) on which day Cato observes, that the men and oxen did not work. (De re Rust. c. 131.) Hence the vacuna of Ovid. (Fast. vi.) (Tirinus) — The pagans did this in honour of Jupiter and Ceres. But the true God had enjoined his people (Haydock) to offer the first-fruits to him, and to feast in his presence, Leviticus xxiii. 10., and Deuteronomy xxvi. 21. — Sheaves, either of corn or of straw. (Septuagint) — The Arabs and neighbouring nations still delight to rest upon the ground, with some clothes thrown over them. (Calmet)
Ver. 8. Troubled. Hebrew may be rendered, “and turned himself, or felt,” &c. (Calmet) — He perceived something at his feet, when he awoke, and was in consternation, particularly when he perceived, through the glimmering light, a woman at his feet. (Haydock).
Ver. 9. Kinsman. Hebrew, “a redeemer;” (Calmet) one bound to defend and to espouse a brother’s widow, if others more nearly akin refuse. (Haydock) — Ruth modestly admonishes him of this duty, and begs that he would take her to wife, (Calmet) as he might then have done without any other formality. (Serar. q. vii.) — We find a similar expression [in] Ezechiel xvi. 8., and Deuteronomy xxii. 80. Some think that she only asked for protection. The custom of the husband, stretching a part of his garment over his bride, was perhaps already established among the Hebrews. (Calmet) — Hebrew and Septuagint, “stretch thy wing over,” &c. Chaldean, “Let thy name be invoked upon thy handmaid, to take me to wife.” (Menochius; Isaias iv. 1.)
Ver. 10. Thy latter kindness; viz., to thy husband deceased, in seeking to keep up his name and family, by marrying his relation according to the law, and not following after young men: for Booz, it seems, was then in years. (Challoner) Salien supposes about seventy years old. (Haydock) — The affection which Ruth had all along displayed towards her husband, deserved applause. (Calmet) — Much more did her present endeavours to comply with God’s law. (Worthington)
Ver. 11. Woman. Virtuous here may denote, “strong, generous,” &c., Proverbs xxxi. 10. (Calmet) — But it includes the assemblage of all virtues. (Haydock).
Ver. 12. Than I. The Jews think that he was brother of Elimelech, while Booz was only his nephew. But they might be in the same degree; the other being only older. (Calmet)
Ver. 13. Well. Hebrew tob. (Haydock) — Hence the Jews would translate, “If Tob will redeem thee, let him.” They say that Tob was the paternal uncle of Mahalon: but it is not probable that his proper name should be only here mentioned, and not [in] chap. iv. The Septuagint and Chaldean are conformable to the Vulgate and the opinion of the Jews is abandoned by most interpreters; (Calmet) and by the Protestants, “well, let him do the kinsman’s part.” (Haydock) — Liveth. Chaldean, “Bound by an oath, before the Lord, I say that I will fulfil my promise unto thee.”
Ver. 14. Hither. The next kinsman might otherwise allege this as a pretext for not marrying her, (Salien) as people are but too apt to suspect the worst, though nothing amiss had passed between them. (Haydock) — Booz consulted his own as well as Ruth’s reputation: for the apostle admonishes us to abstain from every appearance of evil, 1 Thessalonians v. 22. (Menochius)
Ver. 15. Mantle. The Syrian and Arabian ladies cover themselves all over with a large white veil, or piece of cloth, which has no holes, so that Ruth might conveniently carry the barley in it. — Measures is not in [the] Hebrew or Septuagint. Most people supply ephi. St. Jerome, who has translated six bushels, (allowing three to the ephi; chap. ii. 17,) has understood that Booz gave Ruth two ephi. If we explain it of six ephi, the burden would be great enough, consisting of 180 pints or pounds of barley. Bonfrere would supply six gomers, each of which consisted of only the tenth part of the ephi, or three pints, in all 18. But such a present seems too inconsiderable. We may therefore stick to St. Jerome, whose six measures (Calmet— modios, bushels; Haydock.) make about 60 pints; (Calmet) or, according to others, 160 pounds, which, though heavy, a woman might carry. The Septuagint insinuate, that Ruth carried the barley in her apron. (Menochius) — And. Hebrew, “he went.” But the text is probably corrupted. (Calmet)
Ver. 16. What, &c. Hebrew, “Who art thou?” It was yet so dark that she did not know her. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Ruth, instructed by her mother-in-law, lieth at Booz’s feet, claiming him for her husband by the law of affinity: she receiveth a good answer, and six measures of barley.
1 After she was returned to her mother-in-law, Noemi said to her: My daughter, I will seek rest for thee, and will provide that it may be well with thee.
2 This Booz, with whose maids thou wast joined in the field, is our near kinsman, and behold this night he winnoweth barley in the threshing-floor.
3 Wash thyself therefore and anoint thee, and put on thy best garments, and go down to the barn-floor: but let not the man see thee, till he shall have done eating and drinking.
4 And when he shall go to sleep, mark the place wherein he sleepeth: and thou shalt go in, and lift up the clothes wherewith he is covered towards his feet, and shalt lay thyself down there: and he will tell thee what thou must do.
5 She answered: Whatsoever thou shalt command, I will do.
6 And she went down to the barn-floor, and did all that her mother-in-law had bid her.
7 And when Booz had eaten, and drunk, and was merry, he went to sleep by the heap of sheaves, and she came softly and uncovering his feet, laid herself down.
8 And behold, when it was now midnight the man was afraid, and troubled: seeing a woman lying at his feet,
9 And he said to her: Who art thou? And she answered: I am Ruth, thy handmaid: spread thy coverlet over thy servant, for thou art a near kinsman.
10 And he said: Blessed art thou of the Lord, my daughter, and thy latter kindness has surpassed the former: because thou hast not followed young men either poor or rich.
11 Fear not, therefore, but whatsoever thou shalt say to me, I will do to thee. For all the people that dwell within the gates of my city, know that thou art a virtuous woman.
12 Neither do I deny myself to be near of kin, but there is another nearer than I.
13 Rest thou this night: and when morning is come, if he will take thee by the right of kindred, all is well: but if he will not, I will undoubtedly take thee, as the Lord liveth: sleep till the morning.
14 So she slept at his feet till the night was going off. And she arose before men could know one another, and Booz said: Beware lest any man know that thou camest hither.
15 And again he said: Spread thy mantle, wherewith thou art covered, and hold it with both hands. And when she spread it and held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it upon her. And she carried it, and went into the city,
16 And came to her mother-in-law. Who said to her: What hast thou done, daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her.
17 And she said: Behold he hath given me six measures of barley: for he said: I will not have thee return empty to thy mother-in-law.
18 And Noemi said: Wait, my daughter, till we see what end the thing will have. For the man will not rest until he have accomplished what he hath said.