Ruth, the Moabitess
Lived during the rule of the judges
Wife of Boaz, part of Jesus’ genealogyby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.” When Ruth said these words to her mother-in-law Naomi, after the deaths of both their husbands, little did she realize what effect these words would have on the future of the world. The story of Ruth from the Bible is one of unconditional love, dedicated faith, and steadfast loyalty.
When the judges ruled the land, a man named Elimelech and his wife Naomi and their two sons were forced to move from their land of Bethlehem to the land of Moab. It was here that the two sons found wives, one named Orpah, and the other, Ruth. Eventually, Elimelech and his sons died, leaving all three women widows. Naomi desired to return to Bethlehem, but encouraged the girls to stay in Moab. At first they both refused, but after Naomi’s urging, Orpah gave in. Ruth steadfastly refused in one of the most beautiful displays of loyalty and unconditional love in the history of man:
“Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. You’re people will be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die. And there will I be buried. May the Lord deal with me, however so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
Ruth was a Moabitess, a race of people that had found severe displeasure with the Lord for several reasons. The Moabites where cursed by the Lord because of their perverse beginnings, (the story of Lot and his daughters after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah) and also because of their pagan beliefs. The people of Bethlehem, however, were Hebrews, and worshipped the God of Israel. To the people of Bethlehem, Ruth was a pagan stranger that had no relations aside from her mother-in-law, and certainly no man to speak for her. She was hard-pressed to find food for Naomi and herself. She went out to the fields to glean wheat, and found a field that belonged to a man named Boaz. She worked hard and only stopped to rest once or twice, for fear of trouble from the men in the field. Boaz noticed her, and asked after her. When he learned of her history, he told her not to leave his field to glean wheat elsewhere, and offered her food and water for her meal. He also told the men to leave her some extra wheat in the field behind them for her to gather. That night she took much home, and told Naomi of what had happened. Naomi told Ruth that Boaz was their kinsman-redeemer.
Before going on with the story, a question arises: What is a kinsman-redeemer? The definition of “kinsman” is “nearest male blood relative. If anyone from poverty was unable to redeem his inheritance, it was the duty of the kinsman to redeem it.” The Hebrew word for “kinsman” is “goel.” “Redeemer” is defined as “one charged with the duty of restoring the rights of another and avenging his wrongs.” The Hebrew word for Redeemer is also “goel.” In Biblical times, these words were interchangeable. If a man was the redeemer of a family, he must have been a kinsman. And if he was a kinsman, then it followed that he was a redeemer for the family. Back in Ruth’s day, the kinsman redeemer avenged deaths, claimed inheritances for poor family members, and married the widow of a dead male relative. He played a role very similar to the one that Jesus played for all mankind, but for his family.
So when Naomi told Ruth that Boaz was their kinsman-redeemer, it held great meaning for them both. As time went by, Naomi told Ruth that she would do her best to find a new husband and house for Ruth. She then gave Ruth some very peculiar instructions: “Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.” (Ruth 3:3-4) If Ruth thought her mother-in-law was a little crazy, she didn’t let on. She simply replied “I will do whatever you say.” She did everything she was told. That night, after all the men had prepared the barely, it was kept in a pile on the threshing floor, with all of the men sleeping around it to protect it.
Everything was peaceful. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, Boaz awoke. Maybe he thought that a man was sneaking in to steal the barely. To his astonishment, he found a woman lying at his feet. When he asked her name, she replied, “I am your servant Ruth. Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” Boaz quickly covered her, praising her, and promising to do what she asked. He warned her, though; there was another man closer to them than he was, who could also redeem them. The next day he went to see the man in front of ten elders, and presented the matter before him. However, this man wouldn’t redeem Ruth, perhaps because of his insecurities about potential inheritance to a Moabite woman, so the task was handed to Boaz. He claimed that he was their redeemer before the witnesses, who blessed him and his future. So he and Ruth married, and in due course she gave birth to a son named Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, who was a descendent of Jesus Christ.
“Where you go, I will go...” With these words, Ruth sealed her fate, and the rest of humankind’s. By following her mother-in-law, she met and married her husband, gave birth to a son, and thereby secured the future of our Savoir, Jesus Christ. Her story is a classic example of unconditional love, dedicated faith, and steadfast loyalty.
New International Version. The Bible.
Ann Spangler. Women of the Bible – 52 stories for prayer and reflection. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan, 1999
Kerux…The online journal of Biblical Theology http://www.kerux.com/documents/KeruxV3N3A2.asp (April 17th, 2004) World History
Moab and Edom (Bibleplaces.com)
http://www.bibleplaces.com/moabedom.htm (April 17th, 2004) World History
Biblical History 101: Part 2
http://www.talentsministries.org/Sermons/history101part2.html (April 17th, 2004) World History
A tour of the biblical sites of Jordan
http://www.jordanembassyus.org/03212000008.htm (April 17th, 2004) World History
Process Theology: Seminars, conferences, speaking events
http://www.process-theology.org/commentary/110203.htm (April 17th, 2004) World History
What does kinsman redeemer mean? By Pastor Mark Downey
http://www.kinsmanredeemer.com/meaning.htm (April 17th, 2004) World History
http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=redeemer (April 17th, 2004) World History
http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=kinsman (April 17th, 2004) World History