Session 3: At the Midnight hour
Session 3: At the Midnight hour
At the Midnight Hour is a small group study based on Ruth from the team at St Ebbe's Oxford

Bible Passages

Ruth 1:1-4:4

Brief notes 

At the end of ch.2 a crucial piece of information is disclosed: Boaz is a kinsman-redeemer (K-R). The K-R had a special role in Israelite law  – see Lev.25:23-25 and Deut.25:5-10. He was the means God had provided for protecting the family line of those Israelites who died without any children. The closest relative was obliged to marry the childless widow in order to raise up children for the man who had died. 

Naomi’s Plan (vv.1-5) 

Back in 1:9 Naomi had prayed for both Ruth and Orpah that they would find rest in the home of another husband; now in 3:1, Naomi seeks to secure the answer to that prayer. Boaz is the man she has in mind, the wealthy relative who had shown them such kindness. Her plan seems designed to secure a husband by fair means or foul. The perfume, the best clothes, the timing (at night, after good food and wine), the warm physical closeness of an attractive woman, and the invitation to sexual intimacy which uncovering the feet would suggest – it was all a deliberate temptation, designed to seduce. 

Ruth’s Plan (vv.6-11) 

We are not to suppose that perfume and nice clothes and sexual attraction are somehow wrong, though the concern for secrecy suggests this was risky at least and open to misunderstanding. Ruth is happy to go along with Naomi’s plan up to a point, but rather than wait to be told what to do, as instructed, she boldly takes the initiative. Naomi’s plan had been to secure a husband for Ruth, but Ruth’s is to make sure her husband is also  Naomi’s K-R. In verse 9 “your garment” is the same word translated “wings” in 2:12. Ruth calls on Boaz to be the answer to his own prayer by marrying her and fulfilling his responsibilities as a K-R. Boaz recognizes her kindness (v.10) – not in having pity on a poor old bachelor(!), but her kindness to her mother-in-law, in putting her needs before her own. 

Boaz’s Plan (vv.12-18) 

Boaz is very happy to fulfil his responsibilities, his affection for Ruth is clear, but the bombshell is dropped that a closer K-R exists. Boaz throughout shows a concern to do what is right, and to be seen to do right. He doesn’t jump the gun, he acts with both kindness and propriety towards Ruth, anxious to give no hint of scandal. The gift of grain was both a pledge of his love for Ruth, and a sign for Naomi (v.17) that he would take seriously his role as Naomi’s K-R. 

Some possible questions 

Starter question – 

Verses 1-5 

Verses 6-11 

Verses 12-18 

Sinclair Ferguson makes the following comment about how Ruth illustrates that God’s working in all things for the good of those who love him (Rom.8:28) means that his sovereign purposes may lie well beyond the horizon of our lives, and therefore will never be completely fathomable to us – 

“The explanation for much that takes place in our lives lies well beyond our lives and may be hidden from us all through our lives! For God does not mean to touch only our lives by what he does in us; he has the lives of others in view – even those yet unborn”