Note: When I did this lesson I was pressed for time. Also the teacher of the other hour of Middle School Sunday School was not going to be there, so I taught both hours, so there wasn't as much reason for me to write up a pretty post explaining all my notes. So this post is basically just my notes. Next time I do this set of lessons I will come back and pretty this up, but for now, I present my notes.
- The set up.
- This story takes place during judges. There is a famine so a Hebrew man leaves Israel with his family and goes to Moab, where there is presumably food.
- Everyone dies. Poor Naomi left alone.
- Famine is over, Naomi wants to go home, but she tells the girls not to come with her.
- Ruth is all like “I’m not leaving you!!!”
- Naomi is like “okay”
- Greatest example of female friendship in the Bible.
- Naomi is basically upset with God here. She has lost everything and come back with nothing.
- Widows basically have no way to make money. And no one to look out for them. So to provide food for them, Ruth goes to glean in the fields.
- Lev. 19:9-10: 9 ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.
- Boaz notices Ruth.
- Boaz talks to Ruth and lets her eat dinner with his other people.
- And tells his people to let Ruth do her thing and not bother her.
- Ruth tells Naomi everything that went down and Naomi is like O.O This man is our nearest kin. Depending on your version of the Bible different words can be used here but if you look in your Bibles there is a footnote symbol and if you look down it says “one who has the right to redeem.” What does that mean?
What is redemption as we think of it? [Let them answer]
- The word redeem can mean many things. You can both redeem a coupon and the Star Wars story can redeem the character of Darth Vader. How can that be? Well it has to do with the meaning of the word. Redeem basically means to compensate for or save something from it’s faults…such as Darth Vader being redeemed. His character is saved—brought back to the light if you will—after a history of doing bad things. It can also mean a thing regaining or gaining value. You could argue Darth Vader regained his value when he came to the light, but a coupon definitely gains value when you actually use it. Before that it’s just a piece of paper.
- In Ruth and Naomi’s case, redemption would mean they would be saved from their destitute lives as childless widows.
- In these ancient times, a A kinsman-redeemer was a relative who could redeem a poor person’s inheritance (Leviticus 25:25). In certain circumstances, where there was no heir, a near relative could act as kinsman-redeemer by marrying the relative’s widow to redeem the inheritance. A relative was not obligated to act as kinsman-redeemer, however. If no relative chose to help, the widow would probably live in poverty.
- Lev 25;2525 “ ‘If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relativee is to come and redeemf what they have sold.
- So what Naomi is hoping for Ruth is that Boaz will “redeem” them by marrying Ruth. And even though Boaz isn’t Naomi’s son, Ruth’s first child would be as Ruth’s first husband’s child—for the sake of inheritance laws, meaning legally that child would basically be Naomi’s grandchild. Both women would be rescued out of their poverty and obscurity by this plan.
- Naomi then suggests a crazy plan, of Ruth basically sneaking into Boaz’s bed that night. I mean that’s not literally what happens but it’s basically what the plan is. Lie down at his feet while he sleeps and see what happens when he wakes up, is what Naomi says.
- Naomi had told Ruth to wait and see what Boaz would do. Instead Ruth says something once Boaz sees her “I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin.” Right here, Ruth is basically proposing to Boaz. I know it doesn’t read that way to us with our modern eyes but the whole “spread our cloak over me cuz you’re my next of kin” is basically Ruth asking him to marry her and redeem her as her kinsman-redeemer.
- “Spread your cloak over your servant, for you are my redeemer.” That also sounds like something people today might say when praying to God, which we’re going to get to that. Save that in your minds. 😊
- Boaz basically agrees with her proposal but he is like “I’m actually not your nearest relative, so we’ve got to check with this other dude first and then if he takes you in, you’re covered. If not, I’ll cover you.”
- Boaz praises Ruth for her loyalty and diligence and also for choosing him over the young men which is a little egotistical. But what I think he’s getting at is that she was smart enough to realize he was her next of kin instead of trying to track down some younger man. This also implies that Boaz is not in fact, a young spring chicken.
- I want to pause on this verse for a minute, because when we read a story of a woman of the Bible doing something like sleeping at a man’s feet, sometimes our first reaction is “that’s so scandalous!” quickly followed by “Well it can’t be that scandalous if a virtuous woman of the Bible did it.” But I want to stop on this verse because no, indeed it is *that* scandalous. Ruth is taking her reputation, Boaz reputation’s, everyone in hand by basically sneaking into his bed at night. However, nothing they did was actually a sin or wrong. She just went into his room and slept at his feet.
- There is this idea in most societies of something called “propriety” which means basically “conforming to conditionally accepted standards of behaviors and morals.” Sometimes we confuse societal standards with sins or things that are wrong in God’s eyes. But…sometimes societal standards are just that…societal standards. And to follow God’s plan for our lives, sometimes we have to break them. Jesus did this when he hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. Those were the types of people good Jewish people didn’t hang out with. But Jesus did it, because he knew these were the people who needed him. In Ruth’s society, sneaking into a man’s bedroom in the middle of the night would be seen as basically an act of prostitution, even though we the reader know she didn’t “sleep” with Boaz in a sexual since.
- I’m not saying sneak into people’s beds or hang out with people you shouldn’t. What I’m saying is that sometimes following Jesus requires us to do things we know to be right but society views as wrong. The ultimate authority we follow is not society’s view of politeness but rather God’s views. This is also why we shouldn’t be so quick to judge people when they seem to be going outside of what we think is appropriate for society. You don’t always know what’s really going on. Just like an outside observer would have mistaken what was going on with Ruth and Boaz.
- Ruth goes back to Naomi.
- Boaz gets down to business and meets with the other people of the city and sees what is to be done with Ruth.
- Boaz pledges to marry Ruth and his decision I sblessed.
- Boaz and Ruth get married and have a baby named Obed. Naomi is basically the grandmother of this baby.
- Remember how at the beginning Naomi was bitter against God for everything had been taken away from her? Here her family has been restored. She didn’t give birth to Obed, but he is as her grandson would be, if Boaz was her son. God has completely restored Naomi. In another word….her life has been redeemed. It has regained the value it had at the end.
- This also directly sets us up for King David.
- What’s so important about Ruth? Why is there an entire book of the Bible dedicated to her?
- Well she directly sets up for King David, who is basically the Biblical King Arthur which is kind of important.
- Her story also directly reflects how the laws to protect and redeem the poor are used to do just that, an example of faithful men and women following God’s laws and their faith being rewarded.
- Perhaps the biggest thing from a Christian sense, is that Christians often view this story as a metaphor for our relationship with Jesus. Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer, he is the person who redeems us:
- Dr. Leggett goes on to explain: “As Boaz had the right of redemption and yet clearly was under no obligation to intervene on Ruth’s behalf, so it is with Christ. As Boaz, seeing the plight of the poor widows, came to their rescue because his life was governed by Yahweh and his laws, so also of the Messiah it is prophesied that his life would be governed by the law of God and that he would deal justly and equitably with the poor and with those who were oppressed (Ps. 72:2, 4, 12, 13; Isa. 11:4)” (The Levirate and Goel Institutions in the Old Testament With Special Attention to the Book of Ruth,Mack Publishing, 1974, p. 298). https://www.gci.org/bible/hist/ruth3
- And that’s it! For the summer this is the end of our people of the Bible. Next Sunday we’re going to do a lesson to help prepare you guys for school and the Sunday after that is the party, if you guys have memorized the books of the Bible. Then the eighth graders will go to confirmation and the rest of us will continue with one of the biggest characters of the old Testament. King David.