31 Days of Women from Scripture
Lessons from Ruth in the Bible
An excerpt from “Lessons from a Harlot, a Prophet Judge, and Young Widow” from To Be a Handmaid of the Lord:
Did you know that the world teaches that God teaches a degrading view of women? You don’t have to look very far to see that many believe that God’s story in the Bible puts women into a subservient position, that it glorifies MEN over WOMEN, and that God wants women to be nothing more than baby machines. If you haven’t noticed it so far, I do believe this is one lesson that can prove that point absolutely FALSE! God holds women up – not higher than men, but equal with them. All men AND women in scripture are shown to have faults (excepting Jesus, of course) and strengths – some more than others. “Then Peter opened his mouth and said; ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality’” (Acts.10.34“>Acts 10:34 NKJV). You are your own person with your own mind – do not take my word for it. Read GOD’S WORD and understand what the TRUTH is.
In my endeavors to learn how to be myself while still having that “meek and quiet spirit” (1Peter.3.4“>1 Peter 3:4) I often struggled due to my tendency to lead. What my mother tried to tell me and what I finally learned was, God made me the way that I am. The parts that make my personality as it has been since the day I was born were designed for me. It is the way in which I use those things that matters. While all of the women of scripture make this point, Rahab, Deborah, and Ruth were the real clincher to the points, for me. Each woman is different, but they all reflect the same attitude towards authority that IS that “meek and quiet spirit” that should live within each of us. Today, I share Ruth with you.
Ruth’s story takes place during the time of the judges. As often happened, there was a famine in Israel. During this time, Elimelech took his wife Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, to Moab. They stayed in Moab for some time. Elimelech died and Mahlon and Chilion married Moabite women; Orpah and Ruth. After about ten years both Mahlon and Chilion died. Naomi felt keenly the loss of her husband and both her sons.
Naomi learns the famine is over in Israel, and she determines to go back home to Bethlehem. When she is prepared to leave, she tells Orpah and Ruth to go back to their mothers and to find comfort with new husbands. After both girls refuse to leave at first, Orpah is convinced that she must go home. Ruth still refuses to go, saying, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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 I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth.1.16-17“>Ruth 1:16-17). Naomi saw that she could not change Ruth’s mind, so they left together.
Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest (Ruth 1:22). When Naomi reintroduces herself to people, she tells them to no longer call her Naomi, but to call her “Mara”, “for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20). Mara means “bitterness”. Her own name, Naomi, on the other hand means “my delight”. This was a hard time for Naomi, but she forged on ahead despite of it.
Ruth asks Naomi to allow her to go gather grain from a field of someone who will accept her doing so. Ruth has obviously been taught the law. Leviticus 19:9-10 tell us that God told Israel to not strip the fields clean: they were to leave grain and grape for the poor and the stranger to gather for their own food. Ruth goes and happens to work in Boaz’s field, who is a wealthy kinsman of Naomi’s husband Elimilech (Ruth 2:1, 3).
Boaz comes out and talks with his reapers. He notices Ruth and asks who she is (Ruth 2:5). The servant in charge of the reapers shares that she is Naomi’s daughter-in-law and that she arrived that morning asking permission to gather behind the reapers. He says she has been working since the morning, but is now taking a short rest. Boaz goes to Ruth and tells her not to go to any fields other than this one, and she is to work along with his servant women. He lets her know that he has told his servants to let her be. She has the freedom to drink along with his own servants.
Ruth is astonished at his kindness (Ruth 2:10). Boaz tells her that he is aware of how she has cared for Naomi, how she left her own family and came to a place she did not know. He blesses her and prays that she finds the refuge she sought in the Lord (Ruth 2:12).
Boaz does even more for Ruth by having her to eat with his reapers of the food prepared for them. Boaz instructs his servants to allow Ruth to gather among the sheaves (as opposed to only along the edges as directed in Leviticus 19), to leave her alone, AND to pull good grain from the bundles and leave it where she will pick it up and do not rebuke her for picking it up (Ruth 2:15-16). What a generous man! Ruth works until evening and goes home with about an ephah of barley. An ephah is equal to a little more than a bushel, which would be around eight gallons of barley.
Ruth goes home with her generous day’s wages and tells Naomi of all that occurred. Naomi agrees with Boaz’s telling Ruth to work among his maids, “so that others do not fall upon you in another field” (Ruth 2:22). Boaz was not only being kind, he was offering her protection. Wisely she took Naomi’s advice and stayed under Boaz’s protection while she worked until the end of the barley and wheat harvest.
Naomi tells Ruth that Boaz is a chance for Ruth to find security through marriage. Naomi tells Ruth to clean herself up, dress as nicely as she can, and put herself at Boaz’s feet, literally (Ruth 3:1-5). I do not understand the tradition of the time, but this seems to be the equivalent of Ruth letting Boaz know that she is interested in being married to him. It showed her desire to be under his care and keeping. Boaz is touched – not only has she trusted him, but she showed maturity by not running after young men. Instead she chose Boaz, who is older, but who is also a kinsman.
Boaz makes a comment about Ruth here that is worth noticing. He says, “I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence” (Ruth 3:11). In his first encounter with her in the field, he had taken the time to find out what he could about her. Boaz had learned that she was faithful and hard-working (Ruth 2:6-7). Boaz says in Ruth 2:11, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people who you did not previously know.” Ruth had a reputation and her reputation made the difference in how this story went!
Boaz says he will do whatever she asks. There is an impediment though – there is a nearer relative than Boaz. Boaz must see if that man will relinquish his responsibility to redeem Ruth according to the law (Deut. 25:5-10). Boaz sends Ruth home with more barley. Ruth tells Naomi of all that happened. Naomi is certain that all this means Boaz will act quickly to sort things out (Ruth 3:18).
Boaz goes and finds the man with whom he needs to speak. Boaz shows his good business skills. He tells the man that there is a piece of land Naomi needs to sell. Boaz thought the man could redeem the land so it stayed in the family. The man agrees – he will buy the land. Boaz says, “But wait!”, along with this land, the man must also take Ruth the Moabitess and give her children in the name of her deceased husband (Ruth 4:5). The other man says he cannot do this because it would jeopardize his own inheritance. He says that Boaz may redeem it for himself. They make the agreement official and Boaz makes it clear to all present that he has redeemed all that belonged to Elimilech, Chilion and Mahlon. As well, he has agreed to marry Ruth and to give her children to carry on the family name (Ruth 4:8-10). The people all witness this and wish that his marriage be blessed with many children like Rachel and Leah and they grow to a large number of people like Perez’s descendants.
Boaz marries Ruth and gives her a son. Naomi is blessed by this, as well, as the other women see this as a restoration of her life. Naomi cared for him as if he were her own. They name the child Obed. He will be the father of Jesse, who will be the father of David (Ruth 4:17). In reading Matthew 1:5-6 we see a family connection of interest, Boaz’s mother was Rahab! What a good man she raised!
Ruth’s name means “friendship”. I believe she lives up to her name! Ruth was determined to not leave Naomi alone. She was willing to give up all of her previous life and to hold on to what was in Naomi’s world.
Ruth exhibited a willingness to work, and to work hard. She and Naomi were poor, they were dependent upon the kindness of family until something changed in their circumstances. Ruth did not sit about moping because her husband was gone. She did not allow her being a Moabite to keep her from seeking work. She also did not expect to be as well received as if she had been an Israelite (Ruth 2:10). She was able to accept Boaz’s kindness.
Ruth listened to the wisdom of Naomi. She let Naomi know her intentions for work and sought her advice (Ruth 2:2, 21-23). Ruth showed the same willingness to listen to Naomi when Naomi wants to make sure Ruth is cared for again (Ruth 3:1-5). Naomi kept close even after Ruth marries Boaz. Naomi’s friends say that Ruth loves Naomi and “is better to you than seven sons” (Ruth 4:15). As we discussed in the studies of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah – the having of a son was a great thing to a woman. It meant securing the family line and inheritance. It also meant having a family to care for you when you are older. These women held Ruth above SEVEN sons! Ruth had shown more love and care for Naomi than most women expected from all of their sons.
Ruth was humble. She did not say she would be Naomi’s protector, she said she would follow Naomi. She was able to obey Naomi’s instructions for going to Boaz to ask him to redeem her (Ruth 3:6-13). In our world today, this behavior would be seen as demeaning – to go lie at a man’s feet. But see how he responds to her trust – he is touched (Ruth 3:10)! He seeks to protect her again by not spreading word that she has come to him, and going to meet with the nearer relative himself (Deut. 25:5-10).
So many things were set in place to see to her protection and Naomi’s (Ruth 4:14-15)!
We can be like Naomi and Ruth when we are willing to acknowledge God’s hand in our lives and appreciate the blessings we have. As I said before regarding Deborah – these women recognized God’s AUTHORITY and submitted to it. They were not degraded because of it – rather they were HONORED and HERALDED through the ages because of it. Rahab and Ruth were both “Gentiles” – they were not people of Israel, yet both women are included in the lineage of Christ by name (Matt. 1:5). When we can stop seeing ourselves by the labels that mankind have created and allowing them to limit us; then we can start seeing ourselves as created to be children of God (Rom. 8:21-25; Gal. 3:26; . Our lives will be fruitful, beneficial, and blessed when we humble ourselves to submit to Him and be God’s kind of woman – “a woman of excellence”(Ruth 3:11; 1 Jn. 5:2; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; James 4:10; 1 Pet. 3)!