This week at church we talked about the book of Ruth. It’s a great book, and I was excited when I heard we were studying it (it’s named after a Gentile woman — you can’t get more risqué than that!), but was disappointed in the things we chose to celebrate. We celebrated Boaz, the kinsman redeemer! And while, yes, I understand why this is so important (and symbolic of Christ), I was frustrated with the way his heroic redeeming of Ruth was focused upon. So, I have one simple question:
Why aren’t we talking about the heroic actions of Ruth and Naomi?
Ruth and Naomi did the unthinkable thing in the culture of the Ancient Near East: they moved to a new home on their own. First, traveling was rather dangerous, especially for two women. In their culture, women weren’t worth much if they weren’t married. Because both of their husbands had died, Ruth and Naomi were doomed to begging for food and money for their survival. However, they refused to accept that.
Ruth, with the guidance of Naomi, found a job gleaning fields, collecting the wheat that was left behind. While this wasn’t a huge step up from begging, it was something better than simply sitting on the streets. They set up a way to survive on their own, without the help of a man. (Yes, I know Boaz gave them more wheat than necessary, and they were well-fed because of it, but Ruth found the job and established a standard of living that was okay for she and Naomi of them without his help.)
Finally, Ruth made the first move on Boaz. Naomi found out that Boaz was a kinsman redeemer, and urged Ruth to approach him. Again, their culture didn’t have a high opinion of women, so making the first move was risky, and chapter 3 even talks about how Boaz was worried people would think she was promiscuous. However, Ruth was willing to take this risk, and she acted boldly.
While I do think Boaz is a great guy, I hope that we can understand the heroic actions of Ruth and Naomi. They were two powerful, determined women who were dedicated to each other and to creating a good life for themselves. They didn’t allow culture to completely define the actions they took, and it was beautiful. Let us celebrate the power of all of our biblical characters!