Friday, June 15, 2012

Ruth totally did not "wait" for Boaz

Did y'all see this picture going around Facebook lately?

image source


Here is the text, in case the image is not readable:  "To all the girls who are in a hurry to have a boyfriend or get married, a piece of Biblical advice: 'Ruth patiently waited for her mate Boaz.'  While you are waiting on YOUR Boaz, don't settle for any of his relatives: Broke-az, Po-az, Lyin-az, Cheatin-az, Dumb-az, Drunk-az, Cheap-az, Lockedup-az, Goodfornothin-az, Lazy-az, and especially his third cousin, Beatinyo-az.  Wait on your Boaz and make sure he respects Yoaz."

My first thought, upon reading this, was "so uhhh, you realize Boaz was her SECOND husband, right?"

In other words, no, this argument is invalid.  Because the story the church teaches teenage girls (and guys too I guess?) is don't have sex, don't "go too far" emotionally/physically/whatever- which is so vaguely defined that I think it is usually based in fear rather than actual information- and then someday, God will come through with this one guy, and you'll get married young (or, you know, eventually, but don't worry, God will come through) and be happy forever with the guy.  Because that's God's plan for your life.  You (a virgin) get married, and then you guys live 60 years together.

So what does that mean for someone like Ruth?  Her first husband died.  Now what?  What does the story about purity, which we hold up in front of teenage girls as the plan God has for every one of them, have to say about Ruth?  There was no part of that myth that said hey sometimes people's husband or wife dies.  Sometimes people get divorced.  (And this myth also seems to tell gay people they don't exist.)

Do the church have this myth with the unrealistic happy ending because we just really really want teenagers to not have sex, and we'll say anything?  Because, dude, no.  There are actual GOOD reasons for Christians not to have sex before marriage, and none of them are "because God has DEFINITELY planned for you to meet a perfect guy and be with him for the rest of your life."

God never promised that.  God NEVER promised that.

And one more little thing I need to point out: that quote "Ruth patiently waited for her mate Boaz."  That is so not in the bible.  And I would not describe anything about the story as "waiting."  What actually happened was Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi were both widows and very poor, and Ruth started working in Boaz's field because poor people were allowed to take the extras from people's fields. He was nice to her, and it turns out that there's a law that if a man died, his relative should marry the widow and take care of her.  So, Boaz happened to be a relative of her first husband.  So Ruth and Naomi not-completely-directly-but-pretty-directly told Boaz he should marry Ruth.

I mean, if by "wait" you mean "she worked hard to take care of herself and her mother-in-law, and when they found an opportunity to get some actual economic stability by getting married, she totally went for it" then I guess it's legit.

I mean, I don't know how much of it was "romance" as we know today and how much of it was a very practical financial need.

Oh, and I'm a bit skeptical about whether Broke-az and Cheatin-az were real people.

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So, what do you think?  What good ideas about dating we can LEGITIMATELY get from the story of Ruth?  (My personal favorite: it's totally not true that the guy has to make the first move.)  What does "waiting" mean?  What's up with this myth of "marry 1 guy and live happily ever after" they teach in church?  Is there at least some bit of good advice we can get out of it?  What is "purity" supposed to be anyway?

17 comments:

  1. Well, I had no idea that you could get dating advice from Ruth! For some strange reason, I thought it was about her being a Moabite and you know, not being struck down by lightning when she told Naomi she'd follow her God too. Fancy God wanting non Jews in his gang!
    Wild paraphrase aside, re the good dating ideas given to us by Ruth and Boaz, I haven't read the book in a while but I thought that she totally set him up by sneaking into his room and sleeping at his feet whilst he had had too much to drink to realise she was there. He then had no choice but to do something and quick. But I guess that wouldn't go down too well in our churches in girls started to do stuff like that.

    I am personally very uncomfortable with the idea that women are supposed to wait for the perfect Godly man to make his appearance. I don't know where this myth has come from, but it's very unhelpful and feeds into teenage romantic fantasies some women have about Prince Charming and the like. What you can get from Ruth, I guess, is that in everything in your life, you are not meant to simply wait passively for life to happen to you, you sometimes need to take the bull by the horns so to speak. If she hadn't sneaked into Boaz' tent,the story might not have turned out the same way. In our world, this might mean that if you feel your options are limited in your bible study group (and let's be honest, they usually are), putting yourself out there via internet dating and meeting new people from other churches etc is not a bad idea.

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    1. Hahaha- I like your first paragraph. Also, about the idea that women are supposed to wait for men to "make the first move"- yeah I guess that doesn't make sense, but it's what I've always heard, so I'm going to have to think about that one. (Although, now that you mention it, I'm the one who first asked my boyfriend "so are we dating?")

      And the thing about "waiting for the perfect Godly man"- maybe I'll write a blog post about that sometime, because if you follow it to the logical conclusion, it's saying "I'm not allowed to date anyone that I don't think is completely perfect- otherwise I'm not trusting God, because God would want me to be with that perfect hypothetical guy." Which just doesn't make sense.

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  2. What really kills me is the misquote "Ruth waited patiently for Boaz." Clearly she did not, which you so kindly pointed out. But what this says to me is that our Christian subculture expects women to be the passive ones in the relationship. We're supposed to hang around like some Disney princess from the fifties (Snow White, anyone?) waiting for our Prince Charming. And then, as you say, get married, have babies, and live together for 60 years. Sorry, but no. I don't plan on getting married any time soon, and kids aren't really of interest to me. And if I do want to get married, I won't be waiting around! Kudos to you, Church, for putting women in the back seat once again.

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    1. Yeah, exactly. After God changed my life and set me free from the lie that I couldn't live without a boyfriend, I decided I'm NOT "waiting for the right guy" any more. I'm not waiting. I do other stuff. I have a freaking full independent life and I have a lot of friends and do a lot of interesting stuff. I'm not waiting. I'm not leaving an empty space in my life so that I'm ready to start dating at a moment's notice.

      (Disclaimer: I do have a boyfriend right now- but I stand by my philosophy of "not waiting.")

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  3. It seems to me that the other thing Ruth did not wait for, was for social norms for women to catch up with what she was doing-- what she knew she needed to do, to provide for herself and Naomi. Even in the Bible, is is the women who "misbehave" who make history. Ruth acted in bold faith-- both in God and in Boaz as a good man. God honors women for their faith, not for their adherence to gender roles.

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  4. You're right,this isn't in the Bible: 'Ruth patiently waited for her mate Boaz.' And Ruth wasn't really looking for a man. She was honoring her mother-in-law by staying with her and helping to provide for the two of them.

    After Naomi saw how generous Boaz was being to Ruth, and after realizing Boaz was their kinsman-redeemer (a relative, in Boaz's case, a distant relative, and I'll let you look up the importance of kinsman-redeemer in Biblical times), Naomi concluded it would be OK for Ruth to make clear to Boaz that she wanted to marry him, thus the reason for asking him to cover her with his garment. You really have to read the whole book...it's not long -- you should do it.

    Anyhow, Boaz thanked her for choosing him. She could have chosen a younger (probably more handsome, and healthier) man, but she chose him. And they ended up having a child that ended up being David's great, great, great grandfather (admittedly not sure of the number of greats).

    Ruth waited on the Lord to make clear who her second husband would be. She didn't chase after anyone, she had a very honorable reputation in their town, which is a HUGE deal because she was a Moabite (they were sexually perverted and terribly sinful, sacrificing children as part of their religion). But when she told Naomi she'd go with her instead of returning to her homeland, she stated she was going to adopt Naomi's people as her people, and Naomi's God as her God. God ended up blessing her with Boaz and her line of children after her -- after all, having a King for a great, great, great grandson is a big deal.

    As far as dating, I think someone else had a good point (I think they did anyhow): Live your life. And I'd add that if you live your life in a way that's honoring to God by obeying Him, getting to know Him by reading His Word, and putting faith in Him and His son, you will be blessed -- life may have some really difficult spots, but everything will be OK.

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    1. Yes! This is a good summary of how their marriage came together. Also you explained it such that it made sense (she knew Boaz was a good guy, and a kinsman-redeemer, also she was interested in her own reputation, also her mother-in-law was very important, etc)... unlike a lot of the messages I hear from Christian culture about dating that don't make sense. It seems like a lot of stuff I've heard is based in fear- and I'm still trying to figure it out myself... like how am I supposed to be dating in a way that I'm completely devoted to God.

      ^_^ So yeah. I'm sure I'll be writing more about this stuff, because I have a lot of opinions.

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  5. Let's not forget that Ruth uncovered Boaz's "nether regions" (a better translation of the word most commonly rendered "feet"). Now, think about it: his reaction when he woke up uncovered was that he owed it to the woman to marry her. So we all know what she uncovered. What part of *that* is something a nice girl does, while passively waiting for God to provide her with a husband?

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  6. I would suggest everyone commenting first gain a better understanding and knowledge of Jewish law and tradition before making any assumptions like I've seen here. You're all wrong.

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  7. If you want us to believe you, you'll have to explain why.

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  8. I would appreciate if you did not make such hostile accusations against my commenters without presenting an argument to back it up. Any further comments like this will be deleted.

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  9. Let me attempt to help out Mrs.S:


    While yes your interpretation of "wait" can be justified. I believe that what the quote is really saying is that Ruth "didn't jump into another relationship immediately". She didn't find a rebound but rather took her time, took care of her mother-in-law, and listened to her advice. The quote is encouraging girls/women to do the same thing. You don't need a relationship to define yourself, you don't need to rush into anything. Work on being the best person that you can be, listen to the advice of those older or wiser than you and wait for the right person to come along. Don't force the next person to be the right person for you.

    The story has no sexual innuendo nor does it encourage women to be passive. Rather it encourages them to be smart and not make hasty decisions, qualities that are to be admired in any gender.

    According to Jewish historian/scholar Ellicott: "Uncover his feet. - More literally as the margin, lift up the clothes that are on his feet. We are told that the custom still prevails in Palestine of owners of crops sleeping on their threshing-floors, lying with their clothes on, but with their feet covered with a mantle.

    According to Chabad.org (Judaism Site): "Of all the Jewish customs involving shoes, the most unusual and fascinating is that of the laws of halitzah. Going back to Deuteronomy (25:5-9), when a married man dies childless, leaving an unmarried brother, the brother is obligated to marry his widowed sister-in-law. The rationale for what was called a levirate marriage was to continue the name, the assets and the soul of the deceased brother through the subsequent marriage and children. Reference to this practice is also found in the Book of Ruth 3:4 when Naomi instructs Ruth to go to the granary at night, lie next to Boaz and to uncover his feet.

    The brother could also opt to release her to marry someone else. This is the ceremony of halitzah. The widow and her brother-in-law appear before a rabbinical court, a beth din, consisting of five members. The brother-in-law wears on his right foot what is known as the halitzah shoe. This special shoe is made from the skin of a kosher animal and consists of two pieces sown together with leather threads. It must not contain metal and is designed like a moccasin with long straps.

    The widow declares that her brother-in-law refuses to marry her, and he confirms it as directed in Deuteronomy (25:7 and 9). She then places her left hand on his calf, undoes the laces with her right hand, removes the shoe from his foot, throws it to the ground, and spits on the ground in front of him.

    The beth din then recites the formula releasing all obligations.

    The shoe is a symbol of the transaction. This tradition is part of the color and romance of Jewish tradition and life."

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  10. I saw this and thought it was funny, even though it is slightly off in many ways, including in historical accuracy.

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  11. Why use ANY Bronze Age screed to determine ethical behavior in the 21st Century? If you must, why not use ALL the world's scriptures to decide how to live: The Bhagavad-Gita informs a billion HIndus, the Koran a billion Muslims, etc., There are thousands of religions that have no connection with Yahweh, and their adherents live moral, productive lives ACCORDING TO THEIR CULTURES! Just like Christians. So choose your religion for yourself, and never stop looking for the right choice.

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  12. Hi everyone, I found this posting to be too valuable to dismiss it entirely. I have edited it and added to it to give it more credibility so that we can use it with not only our young people, but to women who are recovering from a previous unhealthy marriage and are now wanting to start again. This is what I have written (I have put it on MW with the picture and have run some off to use)

    "To all the girls who are in a hurry to have a boyfriend or get married, a piece of Biblical advice; patiently wait for the right mate, as Ruth waited for her Boaz. (Ruth 3:13- Ruth was asked to wait until Boaz was available for her to be his wife.)

    While you are waiting on YOUR Boaz, don’t settle for any of his relatives; Broke-az, Po-az, Lyin-az, Cheatin-az, Dumb-az, Drunk-az, Cheap-az, Lockedup-az, Goodfornothin-az, Lazy-az, and especially his third cousin, Beatinyo-az. Wait on your Boaz and make sure he respects Yoaz.”

    To all fathers of girls who want to prevent their daughters from being in a hurry to have a boyfriend or get married, two pieces of Biblical advice; “fathers make known to children your faithfulness (Isaiah 38:19)” and “Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart” (Colossians 3:21), so that you model a future “Boaz” for her so that she won’t go after all the “az-es” in search of the love, respect and gentle fatherly caring that she craves from you.

    May young women and mature women who are looking to start again, have help to reach out to their gentle and kind heavenly Father who can model “Boaz” for them if they have missed this in their childhood. And may young men and men wanting to start again be helped to know their Heavenly Father as a model for them to become "Boaz" and to truly understand what love is. AMEN"

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  13. This is the picture I found to use with this.

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