Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ruth, Chapters 3 & 4

So, as I mentioned before, Jerry Falwell holds Ruth up as a paragon of Christian virtues, an example for every woman to follow. So far, she's been fairly innocuous, following her mother-in-law back from Moab to Bethlehem and gleaning the fields of her rich relative Boaz while flirting with him. Let's see how the rest of her story holds up, hmm?

Chapter 3

Naomi is pimping her daughter-in-law out to Boaz. She tells Ruth to anoint herself and go down to the barn where Boaz is planning to sleep so as to be fresh for threshing tomorrow. It seems like his bed would be the best place for that, but whatever. So when he's a bit drunk and lies down, Ruth is to uncover his 'feet' (yeah, not the feet) and lie down next to him. Boaz will then tell her what to do. So she does, and at some point during the night, Boaz rolls over and finds her lying there. He doesn't even remember who she is. She introduces herself and asks him for sex, like any good, unmarried Christian woman ought to do.

Boaz, who is supposed to be an exemplar of good Christian manhood, thanks her for choosing him over an old man. His conscience pricks him a little and he tells her there's another relative who is closer than him, and who technically should have first dibs, which, I suppose if you're going to live a life based on biblical inerrancy, would make Ruth a good Christian, but this particular law seems pretty well ignored by most. Anyway, another prick is also conscious of the fact that there's a nubile young lady in his bed, so he asks her to stay until morning. She uh, lays on his feet for the rest of the night, leaving before dawn. Before she goes, Boaz gives her a veil full of barley in payment.

Ruthe goes home and spills to Naomi. Then they wait until the end of the day for the decision of the other relative.

Chapter 4

Boaz finds the kinsman and some village elders. Then they start haggling: Boaz informs him that Naomi is selling her land. He proposes that the kinsman buy it. The kinsman agrees quickly. Then Boaz throws Ruth into the mix and says their kids would get the land as an inheritance. The kinsman then balks, saying he doesn't want to jeopardise his own inheritance. So he takes off his shoe (a man who doesn't want to marry his childless, widowed relatives has to give his shoe to the one who takes her off his hands, according to Leviticus), and hands it over.

The people rejoice at the match, and they have a son. They also praise Ruth and Naomi. Then Naomi nurses the boy, despite being too old to conceive. The boy is called Obed and we get a brief genealogy that will lead to the great king David.

So, that's the book of Ruth. No mass murders, kidnappings, assassinations, executions, rapes or divine tantrums. It's not the gentle love story it's held up to be: Ruth and Boaz might have feelings for each other, but she's still the kinsman's to keep or trade, and his stated reason for choosing trade isn't that he sees their love, but he doesn't want someone else's kids getting his inheritance. As for being good examples of Christian virtue, what? Regardless of what was intended or what actually happened, Ruth quite brazenly sneaks into a barn and gets into bed with a man she isn't married to, something I doubt the students of Jerry's fiefdom, Liberty University, would get away with, even if they said it was 'showing submission', as the author of the Skeptics' Annotated Bible answered posits. And Boaz? Well, regardless of whether he has sex with her (and my guess is that he did), he lets a woman sleep in his bed all night, then purchases her in the morning. That's exactly the kind of husband I'd want.

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