Year 2, Week 6, Pentecost +18

 
 
 


October 13, 2019


RUTH 1:1-18

INITIAL THOUGHTS

  • Columbus/Indigenous Peoples’ Day

  • While often read at weddings- this is about a different kind of fidelity and love about soul mates, not romantic partners

BIBLE STUDY

  • Introduction

    • “In the days when the judges ruled” - this was not a good time (see Judges 21:25, “people did what was right in their own eyes” as opposed to God’s eyes)

    • Authorship/When was it written?

      • Critique of the homogenization and purification of Israel in the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah - both of which speak out against foreign wives

      • “Is Ruth in fact a Late Biblical book? Although this is the consensus of Biblical scholars, there are some vocal dissenters. These tend to take at face value the assertion of the opening verse that we are reading a story that goes back to the period of the Judges - an assertion that led, as perhaps the author of Ruth intended, to the placement of the book between Judges and Samuel in the Septuagint and the Christian canonical order of the Bible… But style is actually the clearest evidence of the lateness of Ruth… There are at least a dozen terms that reflect a distinctively Late Biblical usage.” (Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation and Commentary, The Writings, p. 621)

      • Actually placed between Song of Songs and Lamentations in the Tanakh.

  • Wordplay abound

    • Naomi = pleasant, yet she becomes bitter, “Mara” (vv.20-21)

    • Ruth = friend or kindness

    • Elimelech = “my God is King”

    • Mahlon and Chilion = “sickness” and “destruction.”

    • Bethlehem = “house of bread”

    • Orpah = “nape” as in the nape of the neck, which you show to someone when you turn your back on them.

    • “Lodge” = can also mean to complain

  • Ruth 

    • Ruth is foreign- Moabite (the worst of the worse-see Numbers 25)), but will exemplify what it means to be faithful (caring for the widow) and the savior of Israel (keeping the family line alive and active- resurrection)

    • Ruth is David’s great-grandmother and is mentioned in the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:5)

    • Ruth is repeatedly referred to as “Ruth the Moabite” 

      • “Ruth’s Moabite origins have led many interpreters - convincingly, in my view, to see this story as a quiet polemic against the opposition of Ezra and Nehemiah to intermarriage with the surrounding people when the Judahites returned to their land.” (Alter, p. 622).

    • v. 14 Ruth “clings” to Naomi - harkens back to Genesis 2:24 “therefore a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife”

      • is an unlikely faithful companion: foreign, widow, woman, enemy of Israel

      • A new “nontraditional” family is created by this union of friendship, love and loyalty

    • Both Ruth and Naomi are childless widows which is to say they are some of the most vulnerable and defenseless members of society- especially Ruth who is, in addition to being a childless widow, a foreigner

  • Ruth’s pledge of loyalty

    • abandons gods, family and country to be faithful to Naomi- a HUGE risk

    • “Lodge” - can also mean to complain

      • Ruth accepts the hardship of what is to come and will live in the messiness of life with Naomi

    • Ruth accepts the hardship which is to come in order that Naomi may have the possibility of new life-Ruth becomes the agent of new life and redemption - John Ahn, Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

    • The manner of her redemption is accompaniment - walking with Naomi, clinging to Naomi, complaining with Naomi - being kind

  • Kindness - See Jonathan Sacks commentary

    • Ruth can mean friend, in Middle English it meant kindness, we see the antonym, “ruthless” in today’s language

    • Kindness is not fixing - Ruth does not challenge or attempt to fix Noami’s personal grief (death of husband and sons), theological crisis (“the LORD has dealt harshly with me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me” v. 21), or economic devastation - Ruth listens, walks with, clings to, and complains/murmurs with

  • God at work

    • No question of why God has caused such tragedy to happen or even where God is- only a faithful response.

    • God works through the unlikely - common theme in the Bible

      • Noah the drunk

      • Abraham and Sarah the elderly and childless

      • Jacob the trickster

      • Joseph the dreamer

      • Moses the stuttering murderer

      • Hebrew nation of slaves

      • David the little boy

      • David the adulterer and murderer

      • RUTH - woman, widow, alien, enemy to preserve the line of David

    • God is not the main character but is subtly working through Naomi, Ruth Boaz and others to bring about new life and hope in the midst of death and bitterness - Kathleen M. O’connor, Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ)

THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS

  • During a time when immigration of Syrian Refugees is forefront in people's mind- perhaps it is time to remember and lift up how God works through the unlikely and unwanted (at least unwanted according to Ezra and Nehemiah). How have the unwelcome and unlikely been the saviors of a people?

    • The poor living on the lakefront wharves and beaches welcoming the rich during the Chicago fire

  • Are we willing to accept the companionship of others? Naomi is returning home with the constant reminder of her tragedy and with an enemy woman to explain (Katharine Sakenfield, NIB vol 2) Sometime accepting help and companionship is as difficult as offering it.

  • Are we willing to live with people in the wilderness of life. Not trying to fix or change them, but simply to be with them as Ruth pledges to “lodge” (or complain or suffer) with Naomi

  • Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “the Bible dedicates a book to the story of David’s great-grandmother Ruth, as if to say that her life was no less significant than his. She was a stranger, an outsider, someone with nothing but her own force of character, her refusal to walk away from another person’s troubles. David was a military hero, a master politician, a king. There is a form of greatness, suggests the Bible, that has nothing to do with power, fame or renown. It exists in simple deeds of kindness and friendship, generosity and grace. Rarely do they make the news. But they change lives, redeeming some of the pain of the human situation.”