The Book of Ruth

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What did I have to learn from Ruth? I had no lightning bolt revelation that night, mostly I found comfort. I did have to think about what the book could tell me about my own situation. II hadn't read the story since high school. Reading it again, I saw a different story than the one that was always presented to us as children.

Ruth was faithful, loving, rebellious when necessary and obedient as needed. In return, God took care of her needs. She was a Moabite, widowed along with her sister-in-law and Isreali mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi decided to go home to Bethlehem and told Ruth to return to her family. Ruth stubbornly refused. Naomi could not get rid of her. Ruth followed Naomi all the way home to be her family and to adopt her religion. Once there, Naomi appears to have schemed to put Ruth in the way of a wealthy relative, Boaz. The tradition at the time was for men to marry their brother's widow, or, for the male relative who inherited a piece of land to marry the woman who came with it and sire children on her in the name of the first husband. But Boaz was not first in line to inherit Ruth, so, getting him to marry her was not a simple call to duty.

Naomi knew Boaz had to have a vested interest in Ruth before he would go to the trouble to take another man's inheritance. The text makes it seem that Ruth didn't know what Naomi had planned, that as a good daughter, she obeyed blindly. Because that's what all good daughters and women should do. I find this hard to believe, it is something only a man would think. Women know what women are doing, especially when it comes to social manipulations. And there is no reason why Naomi wouldn't tell her. Further evidence of Ruth's complicity comes from the final move in the play. Naomi sent Ruth to spend a night sleeping at Boaz's feet in the granary surrounded by other men. The act was innocent, but had she been caught, one can only imagine what might've happened. She could've been ruined, maybe even stoned for fornication. Or, she might have been gang-raped. These were brutal times.

A woman who refuses to go home to her family, after being ordered to do so, does not put herself in a dangerous situation such as that without consideration. There is no way she was blindly obedient. She knew what the pay-off could be. Still, it took a great deal of trust for Ruth to perform such a brazen act. I don't think I could do it. Their need, however, was presumably dire. They needed a man to provide them with income. Ruth wanted to take care of Naomi, and, likewise, she wanted to take care of herself and have her own family. The fact that Ruth was serving her own self-interests in addition to taking care of Naomi is completely ignored in the Bible. It's also ignored in every church lesson I've ever come across. Ruth is presented as being purely servile and faithful to her family. Again, I don't think so. Of course she wanted a wealthy husband, and her own children! There was nothing wrong with wanting that, women need to take care of themselves too. We are more than helpmeets to everyone else. Unfortunately, we have to keep reminding ourselves of this, that we matter as much as everyone else does.

Naomi's schemes had the desired result. Boaz seems to have fallen in love with Ruth. Enough that he arranged to marry her, after getting the true inheritor to give up his claim to the property. He did. They married and had children. They were ancestors to King David, and, Jehovah. Supposedly life ended well for Ruth, since Boaz is portrayed as a kind and wise man. Unlike the Ruth of our Sunday school lessons, she was not absolutely obedient, sacrificing and servile to family. She followed her heart and stayed with Naomi, disobeying her and emigrating in order to do it. The lesson from Ruth is to trust your heart and intuitions, listen to those who have more wisdom than you do, and take the necessary risks. Have faith that the Lord will provide, and He will meet your needs in one way or another.

After reading all 4 chapters of Ruth, in my humbled state, I remembered that I can't know what my future holds. Ruth had a second chance. It's not over for me. I might not always be single. I have to live my life well, take care of myself and my responsibilities, do what is needed and trust the Lord to take care of me. I've been trying to do everything on my own. This gave me a lot of comfort. The Spirit won my challenge. I happily, and gratefully admitted defeat.

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