Dispatch Two Hundred Five

Posted: July 1, 2019 in Fifty-Eighth Bundle
Tags: , , ,

RUTH 3:1-5; 4:13-17

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash 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. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.” She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.”

4 13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. 14 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! 15 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.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. 17 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.

The story of Ruth, when it was originally composed, must have caused quite a stir within its audience, for it challenges a couple of very deep and basic beliefs when it comes to the relationships between insiders and outsiders. Naomi was an insider who had settled with her Jewish husband in the Israeli town of Bethlehem to raise a family. When her husband died, she left for the foreign region of Moab with her two sons, where the boys found wives and settled down to families of their own. Ruth was one of the Moabite women that married a son of Naomi, which makes Ruth a non-Jewish outsider.

Typically the nature of social prejudice is found in just a few but very fundamental judgments about one’s own people and the conspicuous traits that make them superior to outsiders. It may be skin color, language, lifestyle, gender, age, heritage or family history, but such as the ingredients that go into the making of a shared (by insiders) standard of human value. The associated assumption, of course, is that anything good and anything worth hoping for must come with within, from “us” – “our people.”

Jews and Moabites were prejudiced against each other, as all human groups tend to be. But the greater suspicion was in the Jews toward the Moabites, since their privileged status as God’s “chosen people” had historically set them apart from all pagan foreigners. The story of Ruth is a parable of prejudice transcended for love’s sake.

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