Study Guide

The Book of Ruth Humility

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Naomi said, "Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying?" (NRSV 1:11-13)

Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? (KJV 1:11-13)

Naomi is being realistic here in her humility. She recognizes the desperate situation she's in and how little she has to offer her daughters-in-law. That shows that in tough times, humility can really just be a matter of practicality. If these women don't listen to her, she'll be traveling around saddled with two single ladies and nothing to show for it.

"[Ruth] said, 'Please, let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.' So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment." (NRSV 2:7)

[Ruth] said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now. (KJV 2:7)

Ruth ain't too proud to glean. And if we may say so, she's pretty awesome at it. At this point, her humility and willingness to do the tough work may also just all be part of Ruth and Naomi's Master Plan to Find a Hubby. If she appears humble and hardworking, what man wouldn't want her?

[Ruth] fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?" (NRSV 2:10)

[Ruth] fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? (KJV 2:10)

Classic Ruth move. The girl is so humbled by Boaz's kindness that she falls to the floor. Why would he take notice of a little ol' foreigner like her? Of course, by further humbling herself, she's sure to win herself even more affection. Boaz likes his women that way.

[Ruth] said, "May I continue to find favor in your sight, my Lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants." (NRSV 2:13)

[Ruth] said, Let me find favour in thy sight, my Lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens. (KJV 2:13)

Ruth is all humility here. Boaz is super nice even though he has no obligation to her. After all, she's not one of his servants, but he's treating her like she is. It's kind of sad when being someone's servant is a social step up.

[Boaz] said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin." (NRSV 3:9)

[Boaz] said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman. (KJV 3:9)

And now Ruth starts to climb the social ladder. Before, she wasn't even one of Boaz's servants. Now, she's lying at his feet demanding that he marry her and calling herself his servant. Nice move, girl. But is it all an act? If so, she's one clever, scheming lady.

[Boaz] then said to the next-of-kin, "Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it, and say: Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not, tell me, so that I may know; for there is no one prior to you to redeem it, and I come after you." (NRSV 4:3-4)

[Boaz] said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech's: And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee. (KJV 4:3-4)

Now it's Boaz's turn. Except he seems just to be playing a casual humble role here. Though he really wants to marry Ruth, Boaz has to play it cool with the other kinsman so he won't tip his hat. His whole proposal has a faux shrug of the shoulders to it. Inside, his heart must be beating like crazy. What a hopeless romantic. What a clever property-acquirer.

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