These verses are 12 kinds of bizarre if you are reading from our cultural vantage point. So let’s shift vantage points a wee bit, shall we?
Verse 1. I must find a home for you. Some translations say something more along the lines of “I must find a place of rest for you.” What Naomi means is “We’ve gotta catch you a husband!”
Thats a lovely way to think of marriage, isn’t it? A place of rest? (“Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded place of rest?” It has a nice ring to it.)
Now, this might sound strange to you, because it a little bit sounds like Naomi is instructing Ruth to throw herself at Boaz, but that is not the case. In that time, it was culturally and lawfully appropriate for a widow to speak up in terms of who she would like to marry. (If you are curious about this you can check commentaries from people who are smarter than me. Or read Deuteronomy 25).
Verse 3. Naomi instructs Ruth to get all gussied up – hair, nice dress, perfume, the works. All to get Boaz’s attention. Poor Baoz, with Ruth looking her best and Naomi masterminding this whole plan, he doesn’t stand a chance.
Verse 4-5. Naomi tells Ruth to wait until after Boaz has eaten and, ahem, drank…and subsequently fallen asleep before approaching him. The instruction to uncover his feet is assumed to be to waken Boaz, but also might have something to do with the sandal and unsandaled tradition (Again, see Deuteronomy 25:5-10).
And Ruth does exactly as she has been told.
Modern day context check for a second: Ladies, if your mother-in-law told you to put on your best dress and crawl into the room of a sleeping man and sleep at his feet…what would you do? Keep in mind, the cultural context is a lot different, but that takes a lot of faith and a lot of courage to obey instructions like that.
Doesn’t this story just get better by the day?!