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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Today's Scripture Reading | Ruth 4:1–22

No sooner had Boaz gone up to the gate and sat down there than the next-of-kin, of whom Boaz had spoken, came passing by. So Boaz said, “Come over, friend; sit down here.” And he went over and sat down. Then Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here”; so they sat down. He then said to the next-of-kin, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it, and say: Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not, tell me, so that I may know; for there is no one prior to you to redeem it, and I come after you.” So he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.” At this, the next-of-kin said, “I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one took off a sandal and gave it to the other; this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the next-of-kin said to Boaz, “Acquire it for yourself,” he took off his sandal.

Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have acquired from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, to be my wife, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance, in order that the name of the dead may not be cut off from his kindred and from the gate of his native place; today you are witnesses.” Then all the people who were at the gate, along with the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you produce children in Ephrathah and bestow a name in Bethlehem; and, through the children that the Lord will give you by this young woman, may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your 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 neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed, Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David. (NRSV)

The book of Ruth is unusual in the Old Testament because it’s told from a woman’s point of view. In Ruth’s lifetime (1160–1100 B.C.), economic hardship was pervasive, so we can see the challenges faced by three brave women: Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth. Now, as then, women’s rights, reproductive rights, male power, and dominance over women—all are seen in this fourth chapter of Ruth.

When Naomi is widowed, she is thrust into the lowest echelon of society and is thus compelled to rely on a male “guardian-redeemer” in order to survive. According to law she must sell the land she inherited from the deaths of her husband and the deaths of her sons, Ruth and Orpah’s husbands.

How do the three women cope?

Orpah decides to live with her parents, but Ruth and Naomi stick together. While the overarching theme is about God’s love for a faithful people, one can’t miss that the story is a personal one of the two women who support each other. Ruth has promised her mother-in-law “wherever you go, I go, your people are mine and your God is my God” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth agrees to marry the “guardian-redeemer” and thus ensures Naomi’s survival as well as her own.

The story is filled with risk and sacrifices. However, through love and kindness, Ruth and Naomi not only survive but thrive. As a result they become part of Jesus’ genealogical heritage. Loving-kindness enables these women to overcome a system designed to marginalize them. Their treatment of one another and the people around them plays a role in the blessings and security that come into their lives.

God our creator and protector, let us not be pulled apart by the divisiveness of our times. Help us to uphold the rights of everyone with loving-kindness and to cherish the important relationships in our lives. Help our leaders to see a way to manage our resources for the good of everyone and find ways to be respectful of all. Amen.

Written by Elise Magers, Assistant Director, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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