Given the small size of the book of Ruth, it only took one post to do the whole thing and to have a little reflection, which is below with some changes. The original post that has chapter breakdowns is available here.
- Naomi – Ruth’s mother in law who she is determined to care for
- Ruth – the woman the book is entirely focused on
- Orpah – the other daughter in law of Naomi who decided to go back home and remarry. This is a totally normal thing to do under the circumstances that they were in. She and Ruth were young widows.
Yeah, there’s a part of me that would like to say that the problem with the situation was their inability to get and maintain their own work and households and property without the men in their lives. That would only be partially true. In order to even get a prowess in anything that would let these women do that as widows, they would had to have been doing other than running households before that. We aren’t told at what level of prosperity that Naomi’s husband was before his death, but he apparently had enough to sell and flee a famine to a foreign land and entice two local women to marry his sons. But he had sold everything and then died in a foreign land. We aren’t told the state of things when the sons die, but know that the women don’t have much. None of them sell anything for their journey back to Bethlehem and they don’t have anything when they get there.
Times are rough but Naomi appears to know her rights. She has a plan. She is not helpless and neither is Ruth, at any point. These were not damsels in distress. They had rights. These rights were exercised. Everyone involved prospered on account of them. Without knowing their rights, bad times could have become desperate. Without men like Boaz who respected their rights and who loved his neighbor in the way he was instructed by God to, bad times could have become desperate for the women. The laws worked the way they were supposed to, partially because the women knew their rights and weren’t afraid to exercise them. Yes, it depended on a relative being willing to redeem them, but this practice wasn’t created for widows alone. Naomi’s husband would have had to make the same request if he had been there and without money as well. The women took control of their destinies and made sure everything ended up the way it was supposed to after all. And Boaz was an honorable Israelite who understood the laws and abided by them, who was willing to redeem the land sold by his relative, who was willing to give his relative heirs, who respected Ruth as a widow, an honorable woman, and a person with rights under the Israelite law.
Despite the patriarchal overtones of the reasoning behind these laws, this is a book that exemplifies why women also need to learn about our religions, our rights and the laws of the land we are in. Using this knowledge to improve our lives is not demanding special treatment or being needy. It’s what the laws are there for.