Monday, October 6, 2008
Ruth, the foreigner
Ruth was a foreigner in a strange home. She left her home and family, buoyed by a determined vow to Naomi, and entered a new world. Ruth undoubtedly wrestled with customs and inside jokes that everyone got but her. Although the language was similar, she may have stumbled over local idioms. And keeping track of the relatives may have seemed overwhelming.
Ruth could not shed the label, “the Moabite.” The author of Ruth reminds us in 2:2 of Ruth’s origin, calling her “Ruth the Moabite.” Later, when Boaz asked his servants to identify her, they referred to her as “the Moabite” and underscored her origin by adding “from the country of Moab.”
If Ruth wanted to minimize her alien status, she wasn’t getting much help. Did she recognize her vulnerable position as a foreigner? She responded to Boaz’s kindness with a question: "Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?" She didn’t hide her status. She was a foreigner and her question implied that perhaps she had not found favor in the sight of others because her foreignness.
And, in case we miss the foreignness, our author labeled Ruth as “the Moabite” again in 2:21. Boaz called her “Ruth the Moabite” twice in his negotiations with the kinsman.
Did she feel isolated by the label? Did she feel torn between her new people and her family? Once she came to Bethlehem, did homesickness set in? She had one foot in two camps: her new family in Bethlehem and her family still in Moab. She knew both cultures; she knew both religions.
Next: where deities reign