Monday, December 19, 2011

Sluts, Schemers, And Other Shockingly Interesting Women Of The Bible #3 – Ruth

Disclaimer: I am doing this as a way to share what I learn about these gals. I’m not saying what I discover and write about here is the absolute truth about them. I’m not thinking I’m going to discover some revolutionary truth that nobody’s heard before, nor am I looking to start legalistic fights. This is more about me being curious and wanting to learn more about these gals, and saying “Here’s what I learned in my Bible readings today!”

Which One Is She?

She’s a Shockingly Interesting Woman Of The Bible for the sheer number of people who willfully choose to see her in the wrong light (a nice girl who obeys her mother in law)

Who Could Be Her Celebrity Counterpart?

Well, not that this person exists in real life, but I’m going with Sleeping Beauty. I’ll explain why later.

Ruth’s mother in law is Naomi.
And I’m gonna say she’s Susan Sarandon.
An older woman who’s plenty plenty sharp.

Where Is She In The Bible?

Ruth’s got her own book in the Bible, after Joshua and Judges in the Old Testament. (Lyle Lovett once named an album that – “Joshua Judges Ruth”)

What Did You Already Know About Her Before This?

I knew that she took care of her mother-in-law Naomi and wouldn’t leave her for anything, and she married her boss Boaz. And there was gleaning in the wheat fields. And she was talked up a LOT in Sunday School classes for being such a good daughter (in law) to Naomi.

So What’s the Story?

So Mother Naomi was married to Elimelech and had two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. Then Elimelech, Mahlon and Kilion all die, leaving Naomi and her two daughter in laws Ruth and Orpah alone and childless.

Which sounds sneakingly familiar to Tamar last week. In fact, if you choose to look the Bible through the eyes of its female characters, a lot of what the majority (but not all) of the Women Of The Bible do is formed around the questions Am I Married? And Do I Have Children?

Now Naomi, Ruth and Orpah (I’m just gonna call her Oprah and be done with it) are widowers and alone. There’s a famine in the land and Naomi’s heard there’s food in the land of Judah. But Ruth and Oprah are Moabites, and would be considered on the outs in Israel. Technically, Ruth and Oprah are supposed to stay with their mother-in-law, but Naomi says never mind, go back home to your families, you don’t have to take care of me.

There’s weeping and hugging and crying and Oprah finally says, “See ya!” and takes off, but Ruth refuses to leave her momsie, because, as Ch.1 verse 16 says, “…Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Essentially, Ruth is converting from her Moabite religion to throw in with Naomi’s Israelite heritage, all because she loves her momsie-in-law that much.

So Ruth and Naomi make it to Bethlehem, Naomi’s hometown. Ruth decides to go gleaning (picking up wheat left behind by the threshers, which is how poor people got food in that day) in the wheat fields. And she providentially lands in the fields of Boaz, who’s a distant relative of Naomi’s dead husband (fun fun fact, he’s also the son of Rahab, everyone’s favorite Prostitute Who Helped The Israelites!) So Ruth’s gleaning, Boaz sees her, and she’s a looker, so he goes to talk to her. Once he realizes she’s Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi, and the one who converted to her mother-in-law’s religion though she didn’t have to, Boaz tells Ruth to only glean in his fields, he’ll make sure she and Naomi will have enough to eat, and the workers won’t touch her. So Ruth does so, and brings back a ton of wheat home to Naomi, where they make a bunch of bread (I’m guessing.)

So now Naomi is upping the game, and counsels Ruth to go get gussied up for Boaz, wait until he’s sleeping and “uncover his feet.” This could either mean

A) His feet.
B) His penis. (“Feet” was a euphemism for penis in OT times.)
C) Stella points out that there might be a mistranslation of the Hewbrew pronoun, and that Naomi is telling Ruth to uncover HER feet (either her feet feet or her lower half.)

Though I think it’d be really hard for Ruth to pull Boaz’s pants down and him not notice immediately. And in CH. 3v8, it indicates that “in the middle of the night, something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet.” You could argue that what startled the man was his Mr. Other Feet being uncovered, but the verses seem to indicate a passage of time between the uncovering and Boaz waking up. He could’ve been really drunk. STOP IT!

Anyhow, so off Ruth goes to get gussied up, waits until Boaz has had dinner and is asleep, goes down and uncovers whatever feet interpretation you want. Then, like any good housedog who’s allowed on the furniture, she lies at his feet and waits for him to wake up.

When he wakes up in the middle of the night, there’s a chick by his feet, or his Mister Other Foot, and he asks what’s up. Ruth then asks him to “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kindsman-redeemer.”

If you can believe it, this is apparently the OT female way of asking the guy “Will you marry me?” I KNOW! I can’t believe it, I didn’t even think chicks were allowed to ask guys to marry them in Biblical times. They can’t do anything else, really.

Anyhow, so Boaz says “yes, I’d love to, but you’ve got a closer kinsman-redeemer who’s got first right, let me go see what he thinks.”

Then there’s a subplot about the kinsman redeemer (kinda like James Cann In Godfather type, a relative you were supposed to turn to for help.) and Naomi selling land which also had Ruth’s hand in marriage attached, and the kinsman saying thanks, but no thanks, so Boaz steps in, buys Naomi’s land to give it back to her, and marries Ruth. Ruth has a son by Boaz, and the name him Obed, who’s the father of Jesse, who’s the father of King David, and on down the line we go until we get to Jesus. A lot of people like to mention the metaphor of Boaz as kinsmen redeemer to Ruth and Jesus as kinsmen redeemer to us, the human race. That’s all true, but not the focus of this particular entry.

What did you learn?

A few things:


Naomi is quite the schemer. Naomi’s doing some furious matchmaking behind the scenes for Ruth and Boaz to meet (as opposed to the closer kinsmen redeemer that
Naomi must know about but decides wouldn’t be as good a match as Boaz.) Interestingly though, she doesn’t specifically tell Ruth to go to Boaz’ fields,
Ruth lands there on her own (though I suspect God had something to do with it.)

At first glance, I thought the Book of Ruth should’ve been called the Book of Naomi. At first glance, it seems like all Ruth does is obey. Which is an important lesson, sure, we all need to be more obedient.

But at first glance, everything’s kinda given to her. Which makes her Sleeping Beauty. A Disney princess.
Can I tell you that Sleeping Beauty is my favorite Disney Princess movie, 80 percent of it because of the artwork but 20 percent because Aurora doesn’t have to do jack squat. She pricks her finger on a spindle and falls asleep, and when she wakes up, all her problems are over – she’s inherited a kingdom, she’s got a good looking hubby, and the mortal enemy who wanted to kill her is dead. SHE DOESN’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING! MAN!

But if you look at the Book of Ruth and let Sleeping Beauty fade into the background, you’ve got Naomi. A widower, lost both her sons, who’s seen and lived through such tragedy that when she gets back to her hometown, she tells everyone not to call her Naomi, but call her Mara, which means bitter, because “The Lord has afflicted me, the Lord has brought misfortune upon me.”

So how do you go from that mentality – the Lord has brought misfortune upon me – to plotting and scheming to get her daughter in law married to Boaz? I guess that even in your own pit of despair and depression, you don’t give up. The Book Of Ruth doesn’t tell us what Naomi was thinking, if she was praying to God, or if she picked herself up and dusted herself off and said enough, I’m getting us out of this mess.


- Chapter 1 – Naomi tells Ruth to return to her homeland. Ruth refuses, saying she won’t leave Naomi.
- Chapter 2 – It’s Ruth’s initial idea to go glean in the fields.
- Chapter 3 - Naomi tells Ruth to go to Boaz’s threshing floor, wait until he’s asleep, uncover his feet, and Ch.3v4 “He will tell you what to do.” Ruth goes to the threshing floor, waits until Boaz is asleep, uncovers his feet, AND THEN SAYS “Spread the corner of your garment over me,” i.e. the marriage proposal. So Ruth wasn’t waiting for Boaz to tell her what to do, Ruth’s not waiting for a ring, she proposed HERSELF. HER IDEA. SHE PROPOSED TO A DUDE IN BIBLICAL TIMES! No wonder when she gets back to Naomi and tells her what happens, Naomi says Ch.3v18 “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens.” In other words, PUT ON THE BRAKES, KID!

That’s pretty shocking for someone I first thought was a do nothing Disney princess.

Also of note – Boaz is actually a gentleman. A gentleman in Biblical times. My theory is that he didn’t sleep with Ruth on the threshing floor, simply because there were other people there who would’ve probably heard them. And he insists on waiting until he straightens out the whole kinsman redeemer thing.

Yes, Virginia, there are gentlemen in the Bible. Maybe I’ll do a series on them later.

FInally, one of the smartest things you can do in life is make friends with people who are smarter than you. So I must give a shout out to Stella, who is again the Smartest Gal I Know When It Comes To The Bible, and gave me a huge assist on the research of this. Hi Stella! I hope that Mirabella is letting you sleep at night!!!


Anonymous said...

She (Mirabella) is not. She could learn a thing or two from Sleeping Beauty. I don't want her to sleep for 100 years, but 100 minutes would be super fantastic.

But I get to read things like this late at night as a result. Mirabella and I enjoyed it.




Why do you say you are trying really hard to be a Christian? You either are by grace though faith or not. Unless you're trying to earn sonship? Remember, it's not by works! I believe it is called the book of Ruth because she chose the god of her mother in law yhwh by choice and God is always using the outcast and underdog to work though. Moabites could not enter the temple EVER. Or their offspring. And she became rich and received all her land back plus Boaz's riches and all of Boaz's wealth and children went to Ruth's lineage. Just as Jesus left his riches in heaven to give us an inheritance. Although she knew about the nearer kinsman redeemer you would logically chose the further and thus chose both with one proposal. And not look like a slut. Good job. I enjoyed your writing. Blessings and grace to you.