Review: The Book of Ruth From: The Bible Authors: Various
Two topics in life are definitively room-clearing: religion and politics. As I fully enjoy awkward conversations and uncomfortable subjects, here I write. I wouldn’t dream of writing an essay on politics. First, what a boring dream and second, I do not possess enough knowledge to write anything worth reading in the field of politics.
I am certain your powers of deduction have now led you to know I am writing something on religion. Well, I’m not. Not really. I’m writing a series on reviewing the bible as literature. The term “Bible” can mean different things to different people so, to be clear, this would be The English Standard Version of both Old Testament and New Testament. This is my Bible. Yes, I am a Christian. I could go off on a tangent (really a rant) here about how more Christians need to consider following Christ as Buddhists follow Buddha, meaning stop being condescending, holier-than-thou jerks and remember Jesus loved the underdog and was a defender of the outcast – but that would be off topic and would incite mobs of angry Christians. So! We return to the bible, and keep this a review of the bible as literature. Nothing more; nothing less. Simply literature.
First, a background on what the bible consists of. This is a book that was written over the course of 1600 years by an estimated forty writers. If that is not confusing enough, now consider that this was written on three separate continents as well. There is the Old Testament, consisting of thirty-nine books. The books of the Old Testament are separated into sections – Pentateuch (five books), Historical (twelve books), Poetic (five books), and Prophetic (seventeen books). Then there is the New Testament, twenty-seven books. These books are separated into three parts: Historical (five books), Pauline epistles (thirteen books) and the Non-Pauline Epistles (nine books).
I have decided to first review the Book of Ruth for several reasons. Here they are: it is one of my favorite stories in the bible and this is my essay so I can write whatever I want; it is a story of love; it is slightly scandalous; and this story shows righteousness, redemption, and faithfulness. Added bonus: it is short enough to read for those of you just delving into the bible for the first time, or for the first time in many years.
The story begins in the country of Moab (Moab no longer exists but would be in Jordan in present times). Moab was seen as a heathen country in these times. A woman named Naomi and her husband Elimelech move here with their two sons to avoid a famine. When Elimelech dies, Naomi is left a widow.
Naomi’s two sons marry, to women named Ruth and Orpah. After ten years of marriage, both Ruth’s and Orpah’s husbands die. Now Naomi is left with no one but her two daughters-in-law. Naomi decides to return to Judah, as she has heard the Lord is good there and has provided His people with food. Along the way Naomi tells the girls they have no duty to her, that her daughters-in-law are free from any bonds. Consider the times: in these days, you were duty bound to family. Both young women insist they will stay with Naomi, at first. Orpah does not need much convincing and quickly leaves. Ruth stays, proclaiming; “
Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17 ESV)
Sentimental and sweet, all wrapped up in the first two paragraphs. Here is Naomi, this little old lady, miserable and bitter with nothing left. She could make her daughters-in-law stay if she chose to. But she knows how hard it is to be left with nothing. She does not want her bitterness to affect them. So she tells these young women, widows themselves with no children, that she releases them so they can find a new, happier life. But Ruth, good and kind, stays. Ruth stays to honor God because she knows showing sacrificial love is integral to her faith.
Naomi and Ruth return to Judah, where a relative of Elimelech named Boaz lives. Boaz is a prosperous field owner, and Ruth unknowingly finds his field when she sets out to find food for the day. She is granted permission from a young woman who runs the field to collect scraps the harvesters leave behind. When Boaz returns that day and inquires about Ruth, he is so impressed with her goodness;
“But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.”(Ruth 2:11 ESV)
that he feeds her dinner and instructs his workers to allow her to glean in his field. Returning home, Naomi is delighted to learn Ruth has gleaned in the very field belonging to Boaz. All in all, it is a good day.
Now for the scandal: Naomi instructs Ruth to sneak in and lie at the feet of this man one night after he has ate and drank his fill for the evening. This is like telling a stripper to crawl into bed with her dead husband’s wealthy second cousin and just see what happens. Remember, Moab was a heathen country – Ruth was a heathen woman. Even in today’s society, that’s risky. Try it out sometime; see what happens. Maybe things will work out in your favor, but probably not as good as they do for Ruth. Boaz finds her there at the end of her bed and tells her to stay until morning. Ruth is careful to awake and leave before anyone notices she is there, thereby negating herself performing the walk of shame.
Let us recap. This is big, people. This book, written sometime around 1,000 BC, is about a heathen woman with nothing but a good heart and faith in God. Ruth doesn’t know what is going to happen when she crawls into this guy’s bed. She just trusts that God will reward her faithfulness and the sacrificial love she shows to Naomi. By throwing herself onto the feet of this man and spending the night with him, she winds up not just a one-night stand – she becomes his wife. Ruth has a son named Obed, who has a son named Jesse, who is the father of David. THE David. So Ruth becomes the great-grandmother of David as well. If that’s not bad-ass, I don’t know what is.
Nikki Boss likes Jesus a lot but thinks it's okay if you don't. She's been published in a few magazines but nothing huge. Nikki likes animals and kids but doesn't have a lot of tolerance for adults. She slings crepes for a living, does a few theater shows each year, and sleeps a lot.