There is only one woman in the Bible that is specifically called an eshet chayil. That woman is Ruth, the Moabitess. If it has been a while since you’ve read the book of Ruth, please take the time right now to read its four short chapters. This will refresh your mind about the context of her extraordinary life.
“Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence (eshet chayil). (Ruth 3:11)
The book of Ruth may be a small book, but it has great significance for people of faith. There are many thematic nuggets we could explore within its few pages. The following list is only a sample.
- Integrity & Kindness
- Protection & Prosperity
- Repentance & Redemption
- The Feast Cycle (harvests)
- Torah of Widows/Poor & Kinsmen Redeemer
- Torah for Strangers/Sojourners (They also are in Covenant)
- The Lineage of King David & Messiah Yeshua
- Blessings over Children
- Return from Exile & Restoration
- Allusions to Wedding Feast of the Lamb
With all these rich themes, is it any wonder that the Book of Ruth is read during YHWH’s feast of Shavuot (Pentecost)? Creation Gospel students will recognize the significance immediately: Shavuot falls on the central (main) branch of the menorah. As such, it encompasses the whole. Shavuot stands as the “servant” to all the other moedim (feasts). A careful read of Ruth will demonstrate this fullness. We will try to stay focused only on those themes that directly link Ruth to an Eshet Chayil. With so many treasures in this book, that is going to be difficult!
What’s in a Name? רוּת
The meaning of Ruth (Rut) is usually referred to as a friend. But, the Hebrew root for Ruth is the word for shepherd or to tend a flock. It has the idea of a neighbor or companion, often an intimate companion.
If we stop and consider Ruth’s story, we can deduce that she was indeed a shepherdess of Israel. It is her lineage that birthed King David and Messiah Yeshua, both of whom were notable shepherds. When we think of the relationship that a shepherd has with their sheep, this notion becomes even more apparent. A (good) shepherd guards, feeds, and leads their flock. They are willing to seek out the “lost” and they will fight against dangerous predators. This sounds like the traits of an ezer or an eshet chayil, does it not?
Ruth is the only woman to receive the title eshet chayil by name in scripture. She received this designation BEFORE she was a mother and while she was a poor destitute widow, and a stranger (alien) in Israel. Ruth forsook her birth place and family to join with the God of Israel and His people. Once she made this commitment, she never wavered. Her diligence caught the attention of a wealthy relative — one that could change her and her mother-in-law’s life. That relative was Boaz. It was he that declared that Ruth was an eshet chayil.
The circumstances surrounding this encounter and proclamation however, are quite risqué. Naomi instructs Ruth in a secret seduction plan to attract Boaz. Both Ruth and Naomi were already aware that Boaz favored Ruth. This could be seen when Boaz told Ruth to only glean from his fields. Naomi, the admitted bitter woman, wanted to secure the future of her beloved daughter-in-law. The favoritism that Boaz showed Ruth must have provoked Naomi’s heart to “push/guide” Boaz to do the right thing—– offer them redemption.
But Naomi’s plan was anything but orthodox. Ruth risked her reputation and future by approaching Boaz in the middle of the night. Her actions were a reversal of cultural norms. Ruth pursued Boaz. It is usually the man that pursues the woman, even in today’s world. Essentially, she got all dolled up and offered herself to Boaz in a secret proposal.
It happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet. He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.” Then he said, “May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. “Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence –eshet chayil. (Ruth 3:8-11)
Boaz knew exactly what Ruth was asking of him. Perhaps he had already considered proposing to Ruth. However, what Naomi and Ruth did was courageous and Boaz knew it. This is why he calls her an eshet chayil. She was not only an upright woman in the eyes of the people and YHWH, but she was willingly to battle (in her own feminine way) for what she desired.
I believe Ruth’s brazenness only added fuel to the fire of Boaz’s growing fascination for her. He could clearly see her attentiveness in the care of her mother-in-law. It takes a special kind of woman to CHOOSE to care for a bitter person. He could also see her strong work ethic. She was driven and steadfast. These things revealed Ruth’s heart. And when Ruth came to Boaz in the night —— well, let’s just say that the depth of her passion was revealed. Boaz probably couldn’t wait to become her husband!
The very next day Boaz seeks out the one person who could thwart their plans — a kinsmen that was closer to Naomi by blood than he was. But when this other man discovers that he will not only have to redeem the land but also marry Ruth, he concedes to Boaz. I imagine that Boaz was rejoicing on the inside at this news.
Take note of the process Boaz goes through to acquire Ruth. He scrupulously follows the Torah (instructions/law) of YHWH. In other words, unlike fallen Adam, Boaz puts YHWH before the woman. As much as he may desire her, he faithfully obeys the proper course of action. Boaz was functioning in his “redeemed” purpose. And by the looks of things, he had no problem with allowing Ruth to function in her purpose as ezer. He realized that he had found an eshet chayil!
An eshet chayil, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. (Pr. 31:10)
While all this is true, Ruth’s actions and intentions could be distorted very easily. Based on some carefully placed Hebrew idioms, there are those that have concluded that Ruth’s actions were anything but holy when she approached Boaz in the middle of the night. Was Ruth acting as a righteous woman or a harlot in this scene? There is a fine line to consider when it comes to discerning her role. Please ponder on the thoughts of Dr. Hollisa Alewine on this matter.
“Feet in Scripture are sometimes used as a euphemism for genitals. To lie with a man can also be used as a euphemism for intercourse. Spreading one’s skirt over a woman carries the same implication. Lest we think Ruth was inviting something improper, be assured that sometimes a foot is just a foot! The duality and ambiguity of the expressions is what is important because it inserts the question mark as to Ruth’s virtue. Boaz clearly vindicates her righteousness, and the people and elders at the gate affirm it.”
The duality that Dr. Alewine brings up is an often overlooked theme in the Scriptures. There are many cases where the actions of a righteous person appear to be portraying the contrary. Generations before Boaz, Judah is placed in a similar situation with a woman from Canaan.
Ruth, Tamar, and Rahab
When Boaz was at the city gates before the elders claiming his right of redemption for Naomi and Ruth, the elders blessed Boaz’s obedience.
All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem. “Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the LORD will give you by this young woman.” (Ruth 4:11-12)
The elders draw our attention back to Boaz’s forefather, Judah. What is so reflective about the people’s blessing is that Tamar, like Ruth, sought redemption from her kinsmen. But Judah refused to give her what was rightfully hers. If you will recall, Tamar had married two of Judah’s sons but they died before producing an heir. Judah promised his youngest son to Tamar when he came of age. However, when the time came, Judah didn’t keep his promise. Tamar ended up tricking or manipulating Judah to get him to do what he should have done all along: obey God’s Word.
Tamar accomplished her kinsmen redemption by deceiving Judah. She dressed up as a prostitute and seduced him. Later, when Judah learned she was pregnant, he wanted to have her burned alive. However, when she proved that Judah was the father of her growing womb —- he declared her more righteous than himself. As a result, Tamar secured the lineage of the Tribe of Judah. It is through the line of Tamar’s firstborn, Perez, that Boaz, Oved, Jesse, David, and eventually the Mashiach (Messiah) would come.
It came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb. Moreover, it took place while she was giving birth, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” But it came about as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out. Then she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” So he was named Perez. Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah. (Gen. 38:27-30)
Thus far, we have uncovered two women in the ancestry of Mashiach (Messiah) that have questionable identities. And the book of Ruth points to both. This dichotomy between a harlot and a righteous woman runs deeper still. There is another harlot/righteous woman in Mashiach’s line: Rahab.
Rahab was an Amorite of the city of Jericho. She was an innkeeper and a supposed prostitute that had heard great stories about the God of Israel. When the Israeli spies came to her city, she placed her allegiance with them and YHWH by helping the spies escape safely. When the Israelites came back to take Jericho, she let down a scarlet cord from her window. The men of Israel recognized this sign and she and her family were spared. They joined Israel as sojourners. Later, Rahab marries an Israelite named Salmon, who became the father of Boaz.
Now we have found three women connected to the Book of Ruth and the Messiah that appeared to be doing the actions of a harlot. Yet, we know that in the end they are each really righteous. Since we have already explored this same dichotomy of a harlot and a righteous woman (wisdom) in the Book of Proverbs, a question arises.
What is YHWH teaching us in this duality? Dr. Alewine has this to say:
“Because the Revelation harlot is a woman, and perhaps because it is too easy to dismiss a troublesome woman with bad names or a bad reputation, we would do well to study the foundational roles of women in the Torah. Sometimes a troublesome woman who appears to be a harlot is a virtuous woman [eshet chayil] led by the Holy Spirit, she guides [ezer] men who stray back into the straight path.” [brackets and bolding are mine]
Stay tuned. In Part VII, I hope that we can bring all these revelations together and make them applicable to our lives today.
 Read all of Ruth 2.
 I hope you didn’t miss that these are the actions of an ezer and an eshet chayil.
 Alewine, Hollisa, PHD, The Scarlet Harlot & The Crimson Thread. London, KY: The Creation Gospel Publishing, 2012, p. 162.
 This is speaking of Tamar. Though the Bible doesn’t explicitly state that she was from Canaan, the majority of scholars and commentators deduce that this was indeed the case. Judah himself married a Canaanite woman and had a Canaanite friend. This and the fact that Judah was most likely residing in Canaan, all point to Tamar’s Canaanite ancestry. (Gen. 38)
 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. (Mt. 1:5)
 Alewine, Hollisa, PHD, The Scarlet Harlot & The Crimson Thread. London, KY: The Creation Gospel Publishing, 2012, p. 54.