When God created this whole world way back in the first chapter of Genesis, he gave birds beautiful majestic wings for flying all around. People just got boring arms and legs. Obviously, we were a tiny bit jealous of the birds, because we went and sewed cloaks for ourselves. Now, not only can we keep warm, we can let those cloaks flap around in the wind behind us while we pretend to fly. Hey, we flightless humans can dream, can't we?
References to bird wings and human cloaks appear several times throughout this story (and they're more closely related than you would think). Boaz kicks off this metaphor when he tells Ruth:
"May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!" (2:12)
Here, God is compared to a bird with wings that will shield us from danger. This is a pretty common image throughout the Bible:
Whew. And that's not even all the bird mentions in the Bible.
Naturally, God is not just some tiny sparrow. He's a huge eagle with a giant wingspan. He covers his little baby eaglets and swoops in to save them from trouble. Saving the day one baby bird at a time. All in a day's work for the creator of the universe.
Ruth seems to take Boaz's words to heart, because later, she cleverly tosses the same language back at him during the scene on the threshing floor:
[Boaz] said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin." (3:9)
The Hebrew word for "cloak" here literally means "wing" (source, p. 194). Ruth is essentially telling Boaz to act with the same faithfulness as God. He should cover her with his great, big strong man wings and make her an honest woman. Nicely done, Ruth.
There's one more interesting detail about cloaks that's easy to miss. Ruth asks for Boaz's cloak as a covering at night. The next morning, Boaz tells her, "Bring the cloak you are wearing and hold it out" (3:15). Looks like Ruth got what she was asking for. Here, the cloak is almost like an engagement ring. It's a sign of his promise to shield her, protect her, and take her under his wing as his wife.
Who knew birds and cloaks could be so darn romantic?