"Did Ruth and Boaz have sex before marriage?"


Ruth 3:1-14 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”

So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings [the word for wings can also mean corners of a garment] over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another.

Compare Verse Translations

The story of Ruth is quite tame when compared with many more salacious tales within the Bible. But is there something more illicit hidden within the text? The alternate translation for "wings" to "corners of a garment" is interesting on its own, but there is enough in these verses already to question what really transpired on the threshing floor. Even with the most charitable interpretation of the text, the story of Ruth is still filled with problematic ancient traditions where men have the only say in marriage. Ruth is effectively forced into marriage with Boaz to continue her family line in accordance with the laws of the Israelites.

Christian Answers:

  • No, they did not have premarital sex. "While Ruth’s actions do seem odd, there is nothing in the text that refers to intercourse." (Evidence Unseen: Did Ruth have sex with Boaz?)

  • They may have had premarital sex. "Well, it seems to me that the low-self-esteemed statement made by Boaz 'You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich' (Ruth 3.10) is his appreciative remark to Ruth for her choice to have sex with him rather than with others and for her desire to have him as the kinsman-redeemer. If this is the case, then 'first kindness' would be the reference to the sex they had when Boaz was unconscious, while the "last kindness" was referring to Ruth's invitation to Boaz to be her redeemer." (Sze Zeng: Did Ruth sleep with Boaz before their marriage to each other?)

  • Yes, they had premarital sex. And some "Biblical writers present premarital sex as a source of God’s blessing." (BU Today: The Bible's Contradictions About Sex)

Jewish Answers:

  • No, they did not have premarital sex. "Rabbinic sources agree that there was no premarital sex between Ruth and Boaz." (Israel Drazin: What did Ruth and Boaz do on the threshing floor?)
  • Yes, they did have premarital sex. "That night [Ruth] approaches the sleeping Boaz in the granary, uncovers his feet, and lies down. Boaz awakes and finds himself 'embraced' (3:8). The Hebrew word is 'vayilapet,' which is usually sanitized in translation as 'startled,' but means nothing of the sort. The word has the same root as that used for Samson seizing – in Hebrew 'vayilpot' – the two pillars just prior to destroying the Philistine temple (Judges 16:29). Samson did not 'startle' the pillars, he took fast hold of them. [See Also: "Why did God enable Samson to kill so many people with his miraculous strength?"] As he wakes up, Boaz is surprised but not disappointed to see Ruth, and when she says to him, 'spread your cloak over your handmaid, for you are the redeeming kinsman' (3:9), that is, you are the one to marry me, he agrees and asks her to stay the night (3:13). It’s all very direct and straightforward. Girl takes the initiative and boy seizes his opportunity." (The Jerusalem Post: Sex and the Moabite Girl)

Secular Answers:

  • We can work from the assumption that they did not have premarital sex. Secular sources reflect very similarly the differences of interpretation seen by those of both the Christian and Jewish faiths. Though, many say that it seems reasonable to assume that nothing especially untoward occurred that night on the threshing floor. No mention of the interpretation controversy exists on the wikipedia page for Ruth. (Wikipedia: Ruth)

Referenced Verses:
Ruth 3:1, Ruth 3:2, Ruth 3:3, Ruth 3:4, Ruth 3:5, Ruth 3:6, Ruth 3:7, Ruth 3:8, Ruth 3:9, Ruth 3:10, Ruth 3:11, Ruth 3:12, Ruth 3:13, Ruth 3:14