“Then she said, “May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.”
RUTH: AN UNUSUAL JOURNEY
There are only two books of the Bible named after women, Ruth and Esther. Both in the Old Testament, the book of Ruth is one of the shortest books in the Bible. Ruth, the character is one of undying loyalty and portrays leadership through with humble braveness.
Her story starts with her marriage to Chilion. The son of Naomi and Elimelech. Naomi and Elimelech had left Bethlehem with their two sons, Chilion and Mahlon, because of a severe famine and journeyed to Moab. Both sons married Moab women, Chilion marrying Ruth.
After a few years Naomi’s husband died, leaving her two sons and daughters-in-law to support her. Then a final tragedy, a few years later both of the sons died. Leaving Naomi and her daughter-in-laws destitute and alone.
Naomi then decided to go back to Bethlehem, where she would have relatives and knowing the famine had abated. One daughter-in-law Orpah decided to stay in Moab. Naomi told Ruth she was also free to stay.
Ruth suffering from the grief of her own loss, pondered her choices. Should she stay in her home country or follow Naomi to a foreign land. Through her marriage and Naomi, she had also become connected with God and felt the love of a family.
Ruth decided that staying in her homeland was not the course she wanted to choose, she told Naomi, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”
A remarkable statement of loyalty.
They both returned to Bethlehem and Naomi’s land. The fields of Naomi’s farm had not been tilled for ten years and there was no food or a visible way to support both of them. Until the farm was restored they had to find food.
In ancient Israel, it was the custom that the far edges of planted fields could be harvested by the poor. Essentially, landowners of that time left ten percent of the fields for the poor. Around the edges of the fields, the poor would take grain or vegetables to help fend off hunger.
A nearby wealthy man, Boaz, had fields of grain. Ruth, to support herself and Naomi, took grain from the edges of Boaz’s field. Each day Ruth would visit and harvest from Boaz’s field. Eventually, Boaz noticed Ruth and began to show interest in her.
From this point the story takes the turn of a familiar path of girl meets boy, she and Boaz get married. A happy ending from a tale of tragic deaths and the loyalty shown by Ruth through a pilgrimage to a foreign land to help Naomi had given her a bounty.
But there is more to this tale of a happy ending. Boaz and Ruth have a child named, Obed. Who became the father of Jesse and who in turn was the father of King David. In Matthew, Ruth is one of five women listed in the genealogy of Jesus. Ruth became part of the royal lineage of Jesus.
The book of Ruth is also placed in the history chapters of the Bible between Judges and Samuel 1, suggesting that its inclusion means something to the history of the Israelites and Christianity.
Ruth’s inclusion in both the genealogy and her book placement in the Bible, is a statement about inclusiveness. Ruth’s story and its placement means the Bible isn’t just a collection of stories about wealthy men, but also includes great women. Ruth was also a woman from an alien world, which speaks to the importance of all people in God’s eyes, regardless of gender or national origin. Ruth’s story directly relates back to Genesis [1:27], where it states. God created all humankind in God’s image, man and woman.
While society from the ancient periods was heavily tilted towards men, the Bible itself did not ignore women. Besides Ruth, we have the book of Esther. We also have Rahab, the protector of the Israelites. Tamar is another forgotten heroine, her story is just as riveting. Mother Mary certainly can’t be overlooked. The Bible has many of these stories involving faithful women, hidden by patriarchal societies, but not hidden in the Bible.
Over the next few weeks we will explore more of these great Biblical women.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
Photo by Martin Norén
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