Get ready kids, time to make Bible history! We’ve got a book named after and written about… a woman. Aaaaaaaaaaand she isn’t a prostitute or super naggy. Which is a bit of fresh air if you’ve been paying attention thus far. Don’t get too excited though. Ruth’s book comprises all of 3 pages, and it isn’t exactly a thrilling romance. But she doesn’t get raped, beaten or kidnapped, so we’ll call that progress.
During the time of Judges (we’ll just assume that Samson is running around killing people while this story is happening), there was a woman named Naomi. Naomi and her husband left Israel to go live in a foreign land during one of the many times that the Israelites were enslaved. (Somehow all of those nasty threats God made don’t seem that bad. Even when Israel is enslaved they seem to be able to do just about whatever they want. Not exactly the worship me or animals will pick your eyes out of your dead body threats that we’ve read about). Naomi had two sons, who each took foreign wives. One of those wives was Ruth. Naomi’s husband and two sons all died, leaving all three of them widows. It doesn’t say how they died, but I blame Samson for all three deaths. That guy is a particularly virulent plague.
After being left a widow, Naomi heard that God had come back around to the Israelites and given them food, so she decided to go back and get some food too. She tried to leave her daughters-in-law behind, to stay with their own families and find new husbands, but Ruth would not stay. She insisted on going wherever Naomi went. Eventually, Naomi gave in and took Ruth back to Israel with her.
When Naomi got back to Israel, everyone was really excited to see her, but Naomi insisted on whining about how badly God had screwed her over instead of kindly saying hello back. You would think people would questions the whole leave while shit is bad and then come back when it’s fixed thing, but no one seems to care. Including God. I was hoping for a Naomi-shaped pillar of salt or something (maybe the Bible violence is rubbing off on me), but no. Nothing. I’m assuming the two women had very little, because Ruth decided to go pick up food that had been left behind in nearby fields (remember the rule that says no going back over your field to see if you’ve missed anything? you have to leave it for the poor? Ruth takes advantage of that rule).
The field that Ruth chose happened to belong to a guy named Boaz. Boaz, aside from having a kick ass name, seems to be a pretty popular and all-around good guy. When he sees Ruth out working in the field, he immediately asks the men working his field who she is. They reply that she is the foreigner who came back with Naomi. Boaz walks out to talk with Ruth, and lets her know that she is welcome in his field. In fact, he would prefer she kept working in his field and no one else’s. He offers to provide her with water and safety.
She thanked him, asking why he would show such kindness to a foreigner. He replied that he had heard stories of how kind and good she had been to her mother-in-law. And he was impressed that she had left her family behind t0 live amongst people she did not know.
Boaz must have been quite taken with dat booty, because he invited her to eat dinner with him and his people. He also told his men to help her and give her part of his own harvest to collect.
After a hard day’s harvesting, Ruth took what she had collected back to Naomi. Naomi was astounded at how much Ruth returned with and asked her whose field she had worked. Ruth told Naomi all about Boaz. Naomi, who apparently thought very highly of Boaz, was excited to hear it. She also warned Ruth to stay in Boaz’s field, because she might not be safe in other fields. Which makes me think that a woman out and about in Israel is most likely to be a) kidnapped and carried off like a prize b) brutally raped or c) brutally raped and then stoned to death for not trying hard enough to stop it. So safety was probably highly prized, especially for an unmarried woman.
Plus, says Naomi, Boaz is a close relative and “kinsman redeemer.” (I looked that up, it just means that whomever is your closest relative gets all your stuff if you die. Your land, your wife, your kids, stuff like that.) As such, Naomi decides it would be a good idea for Ruth to go to him and try to get him to find a home (a man) for her. Naomi tells Ruth to get spiffed up, wait until Boaz has eaten and fallen asleep, and (you think she’s gonna trick him into sleeping with her, don’t you? while i understand why you would guess that, you’re totally wrong) lay down at his feet.
Ruth does as she’s told. When Boaz awakes to find her at his feet, he’s pretty excited. He offers to to help her but notes that there is another kinsman-redeemer who is more closely related to her, and he has to make sure that the other guy doesn’t want to help her before he can. (“Help” means to marry her and claim everything belonging to her.) So he sends Ruth back to Naomi with more food. Ruth seems pretty down at first, thinking that Boaz has brushed her off, but Naomi assures Ruth that Boaz would help and not to lose heart until the matter is closed.
The next day, Boaz goes to the other kinsman-redeemer. Boaz asks him if he wants Naomi’s land (I didn’t realize at first that the land was up for grabs, but apparently it is. And how does she still have land after jumping ship for years?) And of course, the guy wants the land. So then Boaz asks if he will also marry Ruth , but the guy says no, because it might endanger his own estate. Being next in line, Boaz stakes his claim on the land and Ruth. He gave his sandal to the other guy to show it. Apparently, that was the closest thing to signing a contract on the dotted line. Legally binding contract=give a dude your sandal.
That’s it. That’s the “wedding.” There you have it: a romance, Bible style. Then they do it and make a baby. A couple of generations later, comes David. But we aren’t ready for David yet. We have to backtrack a bit, because I’m following the Bible, and it only makes rough chronological sense. Next time, we will be reading about Samuel.