What does the verse “spread the corner of your garment over me” mean?

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Naomi asked Ruth to go to Boaz, and instructed her saying, “when he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.” Ruth obeyed, and in verse 9 she tells Boaz, “I am your servant Ruth. . . . Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family” (Ruth 3:4).

The ESV uses the phrase “spread your wings” which is an phrase commonly used of the flowing upper garment. The Jewish Talmud explains Ruth’s action as a proposal for marriage (Deut. 22:30). It is said that a similar custom still exists in some parts of the world.

Ruth’s request may have reminded Boaz of what he had recently said to her: “The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust” (Ruth 2:12). Ruth asks Boaz to fulfill in a personal way his own prayer that God would bless her. And as a gracious and godly man, Boaz promises to fulfill Ruth’s request, in case the nearer kinsman does not agree to do the kinsman’s duty.

But Boaz cannot agree to her request at the time, and he comforts her, “Fear not.” He has already shown his intentions in the matter. But to avoid reproach, Boaz considers that the only proper way is to wait until the “kinsman nearer than I” shall first be given the chance of meeting the duty that logically rests upon him.

The case that was to be judged was regarding Naomi and Ruth’s land which, though they were unable to farm it themselves, they could receive some revenue from it. Elimelech, the closest of relative had been an esteemed citizen of Bethlehem. But he was not willing to buy the land or marry Ruth. If he should marry Ruth, the first child by her would be considered as the child of Ruth’s dead husband. Then, both the land that he might buy from Naomi, and also the kinsman’s own property, could pass to Ruth’s offspring. In the case of Boaz, he was willing to take that obligation, if necessary, in order to marry her.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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