Rejoice not, O Israel!
Exult not like the peoples; for you have played the whore, forsaking your God.
You have loved a prostitute’s wages on all threshing floors.
This reference to an actual custom had completely escaped my notice: Prostitutes earned their wages on threshing floors. I did found a mention of this in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Q-Z (gbooks), but it seems to be completely absent from commentaries.
So what I wasn’t told in Sunday School is that, by meeting a man at a threshing floor, Ruth was risking her nice girl reputation and the protection it gave her (Ruth 2). She didn’t just risk a scandal. She risked being branded for life as a harlot. All this would explain Boaz’s initial reaction to her presence (since it would’ve been otherwise normal for a servant to sleep at his feet) and his insistence that no one find out about it.*
Ruth and Naomi were a lot more gutsy than I certainly am. I think we Christians today are very quick to excuse ourselves from getting things done because of concern about our reputations. Not to say that things will always go as planned, but that some risks just need to be taken.
*And now the whole world pretty much knows. Poor guy.