18 September 2014

Ruth 2:1-23

"Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, 'To whom does this young woman belong?'" (v.5)


Yuck! This verse in particular clashes with the western world view. Most of us find the idea that a young woman automatically 'belongs' to someone abhorrent. Yet it is not so far back in our own history that women were seen as property, and marriage was important to ensure proper inheritance rather than anything else. Horrifically, in this country there are still young women, particularly in the sex trade, who are brought here as slaves and owned by someone.

Ruth stands against that culture, where women are property passed from man to man along with the rest of their property. From this story we see how she is far from a powerless item of property as she responds to the unfolding situation with dignity, honour and intelligence.

We see admirable qualities in both Ruth and Boaz as they live with integrity, compassion and concern for others. That (during Old Testament times) is expected for a man of substance like Boaz but not usually recognised in a poor widow like Ruth. She has achieved that recognition through extreme faithfulness, hard work and character. (Contrast her with Abraham in Genesis chapter 12 who also left home and family but did so with promises of a future, unlike Ruth who had no such promises.)

In the end Ruth is rewarded in the only way that people of the culture understood. She gets married and has a son. Now both she and Naomi have a secure future.

The book of Ruth combines a gripping story with a subversive message that contradicts verse 5. In God's plan nobody is another's property, and God is at work subverting human attempts to have power over each other. It is not a promise of wealth and happiness for those who can copy Ruth, but a challenge to stand against injustice and poverty by choosing to place ourselves with God alongside those who are suffering, and to faithfully stick with them.

To Ponder

  • Reflect on what it must be like to be considered someone's property. How do you respond to slavery today?
  • Reflect on the character that other people see in you. Are you happy with that?
  • Reflect on the ways in which you understand God to be working in a subversive way against power. How do you feel about that idea? Where do you see it in your own life?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dave Warnock

Dave Warnock is a Methodist minister in the Leicester North Circuit based in Syston, Leicester. He is passionate about lots of things (including Scripture, discipleship, gender/sexual equality, pacifism and cycling) and loves being part of the Methodist people.