The word for “wing” in Hebrew Scripture is כנף (kanaf), but it is often used figuratively in the Hebrew Bible. We find just such an occurrence of the term in the Book of Ruth. Ruth 3:9 says of Boaz, “Spread your wing over your handmaid (parashtah kenafekha al amatakha; פרשת כנפך על אמתך). In this case, כנף (kanaf) is used as another word for the hem of Boaz’s garment.
In the ancient Near East, the edge of a person’s garment symbolized identity, authority, and protection. Boaz’s role as a kinsman-redeemer reflects his important status in providing identity and protection of Ruth. If we look a little deeper into the Hebrew Bible, we also find that a similar role and language is used to describe the protection given by God. The Hebrew Psalter reflects (Psalm 91:4): “He shall cover you with His feathers (באברתו; be’evrato), and under His wings (כנפיו; kenafav) you shall take refuge.” The psalmist knows that God doesn’t have literal wings; the very next line of the Psalm shows that God’s “feathers” and “wings” are metaphors for divine fidelity and protection: “His faithfulness (אמתו; amito) is an encircling shield.”
This is the beauty of the Hebrew language. Words reveal connecting themes throughout the whole of the Bible, and the “wing” or a garment’s “edge” (כנף; kanaf) is just one of many that reveal the power of the Lord’s protective hand. Just as Boaz was meant to be the redeemer and protector of Ruth, so God is the Redeemer and Protector of His people.