Naomi and Ruth - a conversation

Gender and Sexuality
Deepening Spirituality
Reflection
World of Diversity
Image of two women
Author
Kathy Galloway

This dialogue was originally presented at a CRC event in 2015: Re-imagining Church - No Longer Male and Female but One in Christ which was facilitated by Kathy Galloway, Jenny Morgans and Emma Percy.

 

Ruth 3, 1-18

Naomi

Oh, bitter is my life indeed; the Lord has abandoned me in my distress. It was famine that drove us here, Elimelech and me and our sons, into this alien land of Moab, among people who did not know us, or our God. It was hard enough, but we survived; then my husband died. Thank God I still had my sons, and we could make a living. But I am a daughter of misfortune; my fine boys, both of them, they died also. Now I have no man to provide for me or protect me. I’m alone, apart from my daughters-in-law – good girls both of them, but they are young, and they still have a future, and after all, Moab is their country. It’s much worse for me. Moab has made me childless, and God has turned against me. I will go back to Bethlehem; I hear there’s food there, and maybe the Lord will look kindly upon a poor widow.

Ruth

I can’t leave her on her own! She is so unhappy, so wretched. And she has been good to us, like our own mothers. I know the Israelites have a very low opinion of Moabites-they think we’re godless, heathen people, and they particularly don’t like Moabite women, they call us sluts and idolaters. It’s against their laws for one of their men to marry one of us, and even if they do, there are other women who’ve just been divorced and abandoned without so much as a by-your-leave. But even though she was not exactly thrilled in the beginning, she came round when she realised that her sons loved Orpah and me, and particularly when she saw that we loved them, and were good wives to them. She’s going to go back to her home, but it’s hard to go back after so long away, and with no one to support her. She’s trying to persuade us to go back to our homes, and I think Orpah will go in the end. But I can’t leave her on her own-she has no one else. Whatever awaits us, we’ll go through it together.

Naomi

This return has not been an easy one. There’s no one more looked down-on than a failed emigrant. But Ruth, bless her, for all she’s an outsider here, has done everything she can to provide for me. We were so hungry that she went to glean in the fields. That’s really not a safe thing for a woman on her own to do, especially a foreigner. The men feel at liberty to molest or abuse a woman alone, so I was afraid for her. But thank God, things turned out better than I could have imagined and she came back with a fifty-pound bag of barley… 

Ruth

What a strange day! I was terrified to begin with. I was afraid that the young men would pester me. I was afraid that the other women would mock me, and chase me away. But I had no choice; I have to work so we can eat. So I just asked the man in charge if I could glean, very politely, and then I worked without stopping for the whole day. Then a man called Boaz came up to speak to me-not one of the young men, and it turned out he was the owner, and he’d been asking about me. He gave me a lot of good advice, gave me food, and told me to work beside the women of his household, even told his workers to leave sheaves for me to glean. So I came back to Naomi with more than I’d dreamed of…

Naomi

What an opportunity! It turns out that they were Boaz’s fields Ruth was working in-and he’s a relation of mine. Perhaps God is with us after all. All through the harvest, we haven’t gone hungry. He’s let her work with his women, and protected her. Maybe he’s done more than just kept an eye on her-maybe he has an eye for her. She’s a good-looking, strong young woman. Can we turn this to our advantage? I know it’ll be a big risk, and I know she’ll have to overcome a lot of hesitation, but I’m going to make a suggestion to Ruth. Women have to use what they have-and in the end, what we have is our bodies…

Ruth

I think she means well, and she wants to make me secure. But I didn’t really imagine it would mean this. Naomi has basically told me to put my best clothes on and go and to get into bed with Boaz. In a barn full of drunken men, I’m supposed to do this quietly, with no one noticing! She’s given me no advice other than ‘just do what he says.’ I’m not a young virgin, I’ve been married. I know what this means. But what will he think? That after all, I am just a Moabite harlot! Will he understand that I haven’t come for sex, I’ve come for protection, because we are relations? I think he’s a good man-but you can never be sure! It’s very hard, always having to throw yourself on the mercy of strangers, it’s humiliating. Will it always be like this for women? Will we always be dependent?

Naomi

Things could not have worked out better! Boaz bought the land that belonged to my husband, and everything that belonged to my sons. And he also acquired Ruth, as part of the inheritance. He married her, and she had a son, and I look after him. The women in the neighbourhood say now, ‘A son has been born to Naomi’. The Lord has indeed restored my life to me. 

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