Bible Study October 29 for Worship November 11Posted: October 26, 2012
Bible Study October 29 for Worship November 11
Ruth 3:1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek a home for you, that it may be well with you?
2 Now is not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maidens you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.
3 Wash 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 But 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.”
5 And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”
Ruth 4:13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, 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 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Ruth is a charming, human and very earthy story. Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem, and Naomi’s kinsmen recognize her and greet her. But Naomi, who is still deeply in grief says, “do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for I am very bitter over my losses.” But Naomi cannot remain paralyzed by her grief. She had already picked up and moved from Moab back to Bethlehem in order to survive, and like other survivors, she soon has a plan to try to secure her and her daughter-in-law’s future.
Naomi was a wise woman. She recognized Ruth’s beauty and sent her daughter-in-law to glean in the fields of a relative in hopes that Ruth might be “noticed.” When Ruth was indeed noticed by Boaz, Naomi makes plans to take advantage of the situation. “Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek a home for you, that it may be well with you?”
So Naomi had Ruth take a bath, put all of the moisturizer and perfume on her they had left, washed Ruth’s best outfit, and sent her to Boaz’s threshing floor in the evening with instructions. “Go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But 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.”
For sensitive or prudish ears, this part of the story may be too risqué. Feet in the ancient Hebrew was often a euphemism for genitals. Naomi and Ruth were using time honored feminine strategy for survival. Neither Ruth or Naomi, because they were female could make a claim to Elimelech’s land, but Boaz as a male kinsmen could. As it turned out there was another kinsmen who was a closer relative who was ugly and not nearly as nice as Boaz, who could have claimed Elimelch’s land, if he was willing to marry Naomi or Ruth, so there is in the story a moment of suspense. Will the two, now lovers, be able to marry? (Marilyn Puett should write this up as a Romance.) As it turns out the nearer relative would love to have had Elimelech’s land, but he didn’t want the added complication of incorporating two additional women into his family. He wanted big land but not big love. So Boaz was able to claim Ruth as his bride and Naomi then had a place in the household.
Naomi ceased to be Mara for her bitterness was gone, and when Ruth gave birth to a son, Naomi became the caregiver prompting her friends to say: “A son has been born to Naomi.” All’s well that ends well. From death and grief Naomi is restored to life and joy. And one reason the story was remembered is that Ruth was the great-grandmother of the Great King David. And that is why the story was finally written down in the time after the exile. For when the scribes began trying to force men to divorce their foreign wives and disown the children of those unions, the writer of the story was reminding everyone that their greatest King had been the descendant of the marriage of a Hebrew and a Moabite woman.
What do we learn from this story? Faith is not a bunch of ideas – faith is not beliefs. Faith is life lived out in relationships – earthy, messy relationships in covenant with other people and ultimately with God. Faith is Naomi sending Ruth to the threshing floor, Ruth obeying Naomi out of love, and Boaz knowing what to do. It’s complicated. And faith is also the assertion that in this very human covenant making God was somehow in the midst of it. Faith is recovery from grief and restoration of land and promise. Faith recognizes that great leaders can come from irregular liaisons (just check out Jesus’ pedigree in Matthew chapter 1). Faith also involves risk taking. Will Boaz still respect her in the morning? Will the claim of the nearer kinsmen prevent the two lovers from marrying? We live by faith and not by sight. It’s messy! So all of the play it safe, no nonsense, prove it to me, neat and tidy people just need to get over it!
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. How were Naomi and Ruth feeding themselves?
2. What provision for the poor was made in ancient Israel?
3. Who is Boaz in relationship to Naomi and Ruth?
4. What activity was Boaz engaged in, when Ruth first met him?
5. How did Naomi prepare Ruth for her second encounter with Boaz?
6. With what instructions did Naomi send Ruth to the threshing floor of Boaz?
7. What happened between Ruth and Boaz that night?
8. Who else might have been in the running to become the husband of Ruth?
9. When Ruth marries Boaz what is the deal for Naomi?
10. When Ruth gives birth to a son what is the interpretation placed on the birth by Naomi’s friends?
11. What name was given to the child?
12. Who else was a descendant of Ruth?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
1. Why was the Story of Ruth written down almost 700 years later?
2. How have relationships between men and women changed since the time of Ruth and Boaz?
3. How have families changed since the time of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz?
4. What difference does contraception make in relationships between men and women?
5. How has the economic emancipation of women changed male – female relationships and families?
6. Do you think sexuality plays a role in faith?
7. Do you think the everyday covenants people make are related to God?
8. What kind of risks have you taken in your life?
9. Have you ever experienced being restored in any way?
10. What is the best example you can give from your life of the nature of your faith?
11. Do you think faith is messy?
12. How you do think God feels about earthy?
13. Are there any times in your life, when God has been present?
The week of November 5 – November 11: Stewardship Sunday – Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 – Risk