Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

OT Tuesday: Golddigger or Lady of Faith?

The time of Judges was a tumultuous time in the nation of Israel, people were doing pretty much what ever they want, there was no centralized government and the law of the land (the Mosaic Law) was being obeyed only by the most devout. When things got real bad God would appoint a Judge to straighten things out, but the peace and order that the Judges actions brought rarely lasted. During this period a very bad famine spread across Judea. The famine was so bad that an Israelite family;  Elimelech his wife Naomi, and sons Mahlon and Chilion, move to Moab to escape starving.

While there in Moab Elimelch died and Naomi was left with her two sons who supported her. Eventually Mahlon and Chilion took wives as it was not forbidden for Jewish men to marry Moabite women. Mahlon married Ruth and Chilion married Orpah and they lived in Moab for 10 years. Then tragedy struck: both of Naiomi's sons Mahlon and Chilion  died. In these ancient days this is a tragedy of the worst kind. Very similar to custom in today's middle east, women didn't work outside of the house. Husbands provided for their wives, and sons provided for their widowed mothers. Now these three women were without any form of support. in Ruth 1:8-13 Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem and told her daughters-in-law to return to their families, which Orpah did, but in a display of love and devotion Ruth pledged herself to Naomi and to God. 
16 But Ruth said, “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. 17 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)

So these penniless women with no means of support traveled to Bethlehem, their only option to support themselves is to glean from the fields. Gleaning is the earliest form of welfare on record, it's mentioned in Exodus 23:10-11, Deuteronomy 24:19-21, Deuteronomy 14:28-29, Leviticus 19:9-10 and Leviticus 23:22 . The custom is to harvest the field but anything dropped, missed, left behind, or left unharvested is for the poor to take, a biblical 'workfare'. (Contrast this with the Koran which stresses that at harvest you strip the field) So Ruth went out into the field and gleaned and supported Naomi, which being the daughter-in-law she was not required to do. That's actually quite a feat for a foreigner in a foreign land back then.

The field that Ruth chose to glean was owned by Boaz, a relative of her father-in-law Elimelech. Boaz was older, closer to Naomi's age, and he was rich, and I'm pretty sure that when he saw Ruth he kind of fell for her. He asked her to stay on his field and not glean from another, and to hang out with his female servants when gleaning, and allowed her access to the fields ahead of all other gleaners. He even allowed Naomi to drink from the water that the servants drew  for him, and in a desert community, that means a lot. When she asked why he was being so nice to her he said 
11 Boaz replied to her, “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 that you did not previously know. 12 May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” (Ruth 2:11-12)
Boaz was rewarding Ruth for being a pretty awesome person, he even allowed Ruth to sit with his harvesters and he fed her himself. After gleaning all day Ruth went home and fed Naomi and told her the story of her day. So Ruth continued to live with Naomi and care for her while gleaning wheat and barley, and Naomi began to look forward to the end of the harvest and thought of security for her daughter-in-law. Naomi told Ruth that Boaz was going to be at the threshing floor tonight and 
3 Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 It shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do.” (Ruth 3:3-4)

This chapter is interesting to read and research. Many commentators agree that the threshing floor is known in the bible as a place of illicit liaison, and many commentators imply that "uncover his feet" had very little to do with feet, yet others (many of whom I trust) insist that the text says nothing went on between Boaz and Ruth other than what the text says. And what the text says is that after eating Boaz was sitting up and nodded off. Ruth snuck up to Boaz, curled up at his feet and uncovered them. He awoke and saw Ruth lying there and in Ruth 3:9 he asked who was there and she answered “I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.” All commentators agree that this is kind of a reverse proposal, she's asking him to ask her to marry him. He replied 
10 Then he said, “May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence. 12 Now it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. 13 Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the Lord lives. Lie down until morning.” (Ruth 3:10-13)
You could look at this chapter and think that something else was going on, maybe their trist in the night was a little hotter than the Bible with all it's creative euphemisms let on. You also may also think that Ruth was a gold digger, sinking her claws into a rich old man in order to avoid starving and thereby getting a free ride on the gravy train. Personally I think that there was a lot of real affection here. Marriages in this time were rarely for love to begin with, but I think there was love here. 

Boaz realized that she wants him to be her kinsman redeemer, this is a relative that will save someone in trouble. Jesus is our kinsman redeemer, he adopted us into our family when we gave him our lives and he died to pay the penalty for our sins. In Ruth's case, harvest was over, there was going to be no more food to glean for herself and Naomi, she was begging Boaz to marry her and support her. Boaz already thinks that Ruth is pretty hot and awesome wife material, but according to the law of the time a closer relative was entrusted to be the kinsman redeemer so Ruth had to wait until this unnamed closer relative either redeemed her or allowed Boaz to do it. So in the morning Boaz gave Ruth six measures of barley and sent her home to Naomi.

Ruth 4:1-10 is a fascinating study of ancient property law, it describes how Boaz met the closer kinsman and told him how Naomi had to sell a field but in order to buy it he had to take Ruth with the land. Boaz reminded this closer kinsman of his responsibilities in the matter if he did chose to redeem the land:
Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.” The closest relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, because I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself; you may have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it.” (Ruth 4:5-6)
Middle eastern property law is pretty complicated but in a nutshell, the closer kinsman would have to take Ruth as his wife to have legal claim to the land as she's the widow of the last owner. If the kinsman did that, the land would end up belonging to any child Ruth had and not him. 

So Boaz ended up with the land and Ruth, whom he thought was pretty hot to begin with, and not long after she gave birth to a son whom they loved and Naomi really loved and dedicated her life to help raise. They named him Obed, and Obed grew up strong and healthy and had a son himself one day, and named that son Jesse. Jesse in turn had a bunch of sons, The youngest of which was David who became the greatest king in Israel's history. 

But for our purposes the story doesn't end there, because many generations later, in David's hometown, the great-grand daughter (many generations removed) of those two lovers, Boaz and Ruth, gave birth in a manger, and her son became our Lord and Savior. 

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