Saturday

20 September 2014

"'He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for the daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.' Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighbourhood gave him a name. 'A son has been born to Naomi.'" (vv. 15-17)

Background

The book of Ruth is short enough to read all the way through and it is worth doing so. Some of the action may be puzzling in contemporary terms, being related to Israelite rules about the obligations of a deceased man's closest male relative to marry his widow and raise up children in the dead man's name. But much of it is very recognisable human behaviour, told from the perspective of the women involved: the desperate poverty of two women on their own; the tendency of men to 'bother' young women forced to find their living on the fringes of society; the way women read correctly the over-generous behaviour of the relatively wealthy Boaz; the audacity of two women determined to find a legal solution to their dilemma; and the influence of the village women in retelling and interpreting the whole soap opera.

What the conclusion reveals is that it is really the story of Naomi rather than that of Ruth, even if she plays a leading part. It is about how Naomi's fortunes are restored (rather like those of Job after she has endured terrible loss and in particular the pain of losing both her sons and, as she had imagined, her possible grandchildren.

Many grandmothers today can echo the village women's estimate of a grandchild as "a restorer of life and a nourisher of old age". Very few (in our society at least) would go so far as to breastfeed the baby, and no-one would refer to the child as the grandmother's own. But this exaggeration emphasises the significance of the reversal that has been achieved for the woman who called herself 'Mara' (bitter) (Ruth 1:20), because of the astounding love of her daughter-in-law who would not abandon her, and became more to her than "seven sons". In a world where only sons really counted, this is praise indeed.

To Ponder

  • This is story with no miraculous or divine intervention. All the action is achieved by the women; yet at the end the village women say "Blessed be the Lord" for the outcome. Is this right in your view? How does this apply in your life?


Bible notes author: Janet Morley

  • Sign up for e-newslettersKeep in touch with what interests you