The Forgotten Strength of Women

First, some blog business. I’m in a short course on worship this week, which means being in class from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. I suspect the only true worshipping that will happen is after the class is over. On top of that, our third daughter is due in less than two weeks; our other two each came early. I’m expecting to move straight from intensive coursework to intensive fatherhood, then on Jan. 23 begin a new semester with Advanced Intro to New Testament.

All that to say: Any blog posts you see here for the next month may be proof of the miraculous intervention of God. I’ll try hard to maintain a fairly regular schedule of posting, but I can’t make any promises.

Now on to the post!

Twice this Christmas I heard about the story of Ruth as it relates to the birth of Christ. First, from the pastor of a megachurch in town that held candlelight services on Christmas Eve; second, from a friend who heard another pastor preach on the same thing. In retrospect, it makes sense: Boaz is Ruth’s redeemer, and the Christ story is all about redemption. Myself, I would have preferred a focus on the custom of gleaning and what that can teach us about our own commercial and financial habits. Maybe next year.

Then I read this post from Jesus Creed, which was the best of all:

The narrative of Ruth tells us that at this place, the sons of Elimelech get sucked into the cultural view of women, and they “took the women of Moab” (Ruth 1:4). Many English translations, translate their action as, “they married Moabite women” (NIV, NLT, NRSV, etc.). The Hebrew phrase is meant to be seen as, “they forcibly took Moabite women,” i.e. they raped them. The context suggests that they suffered the consequences of death because of their demeaning acts against the women of Moab.

When one reads the narrative further, one discovers that the word used for Boaz marrying Ruth means to recreate. Boaz exclaims, “Ruth the Moabitess, the woman of Mahalon I have ‘recreated’ to be my woman to ‘resurrect’ the name of the dead…and the people at the gate and the elders said, ‘We witness. May the LORD make the woman coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel. May you be a chayil, in Ephrathah’” (Ruth 4:10-11, paraphrased).

This is a great contrast to what the sons of Elimelech did. They engaged in human trafficking. Boaz, on the other hand, ordered his men to protect this woman, who was an alien and therefore trafficking material. Then he redeemed her, and gave her the place of highest honor, in front of the city gate, where historically the men and women of highest honor gathered—the lawns of the White House would be a modern analogy.

The Hebrew Bible suggests that the main purpose of the book of Ruth is the focus on Ruth as an eshetchayil, a prime example of the woman of Proverbs 31. In fact, on more than one occasion in the book, Ruth is called an eshetchayil(Ruth 3:11; 4:11). The book of Ruth is the story of the transformation of a woman who was sexually abused and treated as human trafficking material, into a strong woman and eshet chayil.

Continue reading The Forgotten Strength of Women