Now is not Boaz, whose young women you were with, our relative? Look, he is winnowing barley tonight on the threshing floor. Bible

“Now is not Boaz.” This is one of the many rhetorical questions in Ruth. Naomi could have just made the affirmative statement, “Boaz is our relative,” but framing the statement as a rhetorical question pulls the reader into action.

“whose young women you were with.” Naomi is hatching a bold and somewhat risky scheme to get Boaz to accept an invitation to marry Ruth. She is trying to get Ruth to buy into her plan by reminding Ruth that Boaz had been gracious to her in the past and made sure she was protected as she was gleaning, so why would he not offer her protection now by marrying her? What is completely missing from this section of Ruth, and is without explanation, is why Naomi would not have done what parents did in that culture when they wanted to give a son or daughter in marriage, ask the parents of the prospective spouse or, in this case due to Boaz’s age and standing in the community, simply ask Boaz himself. No explanation is given for this glaring ommission.

“our relative.” Not the same word as “kinsman-redeemer” that occurs elsewhere in Ruth, or in Ruth 3:9. Note how Naomi now intimately connects Ruth with her plan to get a husband for Ruth by calling Boaz “our relative,” not “my relative” or “my dead husband’s relative.” On the other hand, the fact that Naomi only refers to Boaz as “our relative” shows us that there was much more conversation between Ruth and Naomi about Naomi’s plan to get Boaz to marry Ruth than is written in the Book of Ruth. In Ruth, Naomi’s instructions only take four verses (Ruth 3:1-4), and she calls Boaz “our relative,” but by the time Ruth is lying at Boaz’s feet at the threshing floor, Ruth asks Boaz to marry her “because you are a kinsman-redeemer.” The development of this plan between Naomi and Ruth very likely took hours but the meat of it is the four verses in Ruth. One of the amazing things about the Bible is the way the Author captures the essence and essentials of a conversation or event so the reader gets what is necessary to understand without having to read a lot of non-essential material.

“Look.” Naomi uses this interjection to catch Ruth’s attention.

“he is winnowing barley tonight.” Winnowing was done in the evening or early night when the winds blew and it was easier to separate the grain from the chaff. Generally, cool breezes blew from the west at night, from the Mediterranean Sea, and winnowers took advantage of both the cooler evening/night time and the wonderful breeze. In the process of winnowing, the piles of grain, stalk, and chaff that had been separated during threshing were thrown into the air. The round, heavy grain fell almost straight down, the pieces of stalk blew a little distance away, and the small chaff blew even further away. At that point the grain could be more easily picked up to be sieved, which happened before it was ground into flour.

The fact that Boaz was winnowing barley shows that the barley harvest was over. But the barley harvest had just started when Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem (Ruth 1:22). So it was likely only a month or so that Ruth and Naomi had been in Bethlehem, and now Naomi was seeking a husband for Ruth. The age difference between Boaz and Ruth and the fact that Ruth and Naomi needed family support meant that it was understood that this marriage was not based on romantic interests but rather on personal necessity. Also, it was likely that Ruth would not be Boaz’s only wife unless his other wife had died and he had not remarried. In fact, there is no reason to assume that a wealthy man like Boaz only had one other wife, although that may have been the case. Also, it is very likely that Boaz had children by his wife or wives, but they are not mentioned for the same reason that the wives and children of Jesus’ twelve apostles are not mentioned, they are not germane to the biblical record or the points that the Author is trying to make.

“the threshing floor.” the threshing floor was a flat area where the stalks of wheat could be piled and then threshed and then winnowed. The smooth, flat surface allowed the grain to be better separated and collected.

Commentary for: Ruth 3:2