Study Guide

The Book of Ruth Gender

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When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. (NRSV 1:4-5)

They dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband. (KJV 1:4-5)

Naomi is left without a man in sight. This is a very big deal for ladies of the Bible. She can't just go eat, pray, love in Bali. Sadly, there was no way a woman could provide for herself without men around, so she had to immediately find herself a man—preferably a relative. She can't just hold out and wait for Javier Bardem to come along.

Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go back each of you to your mother's house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband." (NRSV 1:8-9)

Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. (KJV 1:8-9)

Naomi begs her daughters-in-law to return home and look for new husbands right away. The biggest bummer is that these newly single ladies don't even get time to mourn for their lost hubbies and their lost marriages. They've gotta find some men, stat, or else lose, well, everything. And in the meantime, they've got to rely on the kindness of their mother's husbands, too. Here's hoping they don't hog the food.

Boaz said to Ruth, "Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, and follow behind them. I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn." (NRSV 2:8-9)

Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens: Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn. (KJV 2:8-9)

Boaz tells Ruth to stick with the girls otherwise his male servants might harass her. We don't really know why though. Is it because Ruth was a looker? Or was it just that dangerous for women to walk around unaccompanied?

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." (NRSV 3:1)

Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? (KJV 3:1)

Again with the husband talk. Ruth needs to snag a man or she'll be in trouble. You also have to wonder if Naomi is thinking of herself a little here. If she can get one of her husband's kinsmen to marry Ruth all her troubles will be over, too. Then again, couldn't she go find herself a husband and save them all the trouble? Or is she too old to be the marrying kind?

"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." (NRSV 3:3-4)

Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do. (KJV 3:3-4)

Some things never change. Naomi tells Ruth to gussy herself up before going out to get a man. She also instructs her on how exactly to go about getting him (play it sexy and uncover his feet). Naomi seems to have forgotten that Ruth was a married woman though. It's not likely she'll need Boaz to tell her what to do with the "feet" once they're uncovered. She's been down that road before.

[Ruth] lay at his feet until morning, but got up before one person could recognize another; for he said, "It must not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor." (NRSV 3:14)

[Ruth] lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor. (KJV 3:14)

Boaz is worried for Ruth's reputation here. Respectable women didn't sleep with men they weren't married to (even if they were just curled up together next to some barley). Ruth needs to sneak out before anyone can spot her there. To be fair, the dude could also be worried about his own reputation here. It's not like he wants to be the town cad.

"I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, to be my wife." (NRSV 4:10)

Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife. (KJV 4:10)

This one kind of makes us modern folks squirm a little. The story doesn't record any kind of marriage ceremony. Instead, Boaz just "acquires" or "purchases" Ruth along with some land. Our plucky heroine is reduced to nothing more than property. Thank goodness our wedding ceremonies have evolved a bit to accommodate love and trust and all those ooey gooey things.

"May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you produce children in Ephrathah and bestow a name in Bethlehem; and, through the children that the Lord will give you by this young woman, may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah." (NRSV 4:11-12)

The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem: And let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the Lord shall give thee of this young woman. (KJV 4:11-12)

The elders in town offer Ruth all kinds of blessings and call on her to be like famous biblical women of the past. There's even a winking nod to Tamar, who tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her so that she could bear a child in her dead husband's name. Do some of these guys know what went down on the threshing floor after all?

Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. (NRSV 4:13)

Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son. (KJV 4:13)

The story begins with the loss of sons and ends with a new one. While we've enjoyed our time with the female leads, it's clear that this is the real story. A new man has entered the world and that's all that matters.

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