Ruth and Naomi: Dec 20th

The story of Ruth and Naomi is widely quoted by queer writers as an example from Scripture of possible lesbian love:  but how relevant is it?  Superficially at least, it is just a simple story of exceptionally strong family affection and loyalty, between mother- and daughter- in-law. Whether in any way “lesbian” or not, the story is relevant, but not perhaps in the way usually told.  To unravel  the lessons it may hold for us, let’s begin with the simple story.

Naomi was an Israelite widow, living for a while (on account of famine) in Moab, where she married her two sons to Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. The sons later died, leaving Naomi “all alone, without husband or sons” ,

She did have two daughters-in-law, and when she heard that conditions back in Israel had improved, she returned, initially taking her two daughters-in-law with her. She then had a change of heart, and encourages the two women to return to their own home in Moab. After some persuasion, Orpah did so, but Ruth refused.

Do not press me to leave you
Or turn back from following you!
Where you go I will go,
Where you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people will be my people, and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die –
There  will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you
(Ruth 1: 16-17) Read the rest of this entry »

A Reader Responds: MarkF on “Ruth & Naomi”.

A reader, Mark, has provided a lengthy and detailed response in the comments thread to my earlier post on Ruth and Naomi. As I don’t believe that a lengthy analysis is appropriate in the  “comments”, which should be short and to the point, I have moved it here as a guest post.

Thank you Mark, for the obvious time and effort you have put into this post.

“The critical point is that the purchaser of the property is obliged to take the woman with it – women are sold as property along with the land.”

Um, no. It was a package deal, the land and the women, but the women are still not bought.

The man in the story was the closest relative of the late Elimelech. Now Elimelech had died childless. His name would die with him unless he somehow manages to have a child. But how can a dead man have a child? The Law provided for a work-around for this problem. The dead man’s brother was given an opportunity to marry his late brother’s wife. However, there’s a catch. If the woman bears a son, that son will not be that man’s son; he’ll be the son of the dead man. So if I die, my brother gets a chance to marry my widow. And any son who is born will get my name, not my brother’s name. It will be exactly as if he were my son, and won’t be considered to be my brother’s son at all. And here’s the real catch as pertaining to the book of Ruth. This child, fathered by my brother by my widow will also inherit all of my brother’s land. And he won’t have my brother’s name, he’ll have my name. So…if a man is rich and wants to pass down his name and his land to his own sons, he’d lose all of that if he married his late brother’s wife. All of that will go to the son born by his brother’s widow. This is what has happened in Ruth 4:5. The man realizes that all of his wealth will pass out of his own line and over to the line of his late relative. So he declines the offer and Boaz gets the opportunity to marry Ruth. Read the rest of this entry »