Book of Ruth

Published: 2021-08-29 17:35:07
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This is a love story, although it is not the usual love that recent fictitious novels depict. Most love stories are about two people, while this story is about three. It is about a more sacred and deep love that cannot be described by a word that has lost it’s meaning throughout the years. The word “love” has become an overused word that people use for everything. What I find discomforting is the fact that the word is used not only to express how much you “love” someone, but also how much you “love” something. I love my mom”, “I love pizza”, “I love my boyfriend/girlfriend,” and “I love my phone,” are all phrases we are familiar with. They all use the same word, and yet the meaning is different in each sentence. The Book of Ruth tells about a greater and more meaningful love that cannot be expressed by that word alone. It is conveyed through the characters actions. Two widowed women, Ruth and Naomi, are related to each other through marriage. This tale tells of their travel to Bethlehem, and how there they find a distant male relative named Boaz.
The book of Ruth only has four chapters and 85 verses, but what it lacks in size is made up for in abundant love and unwavering faithfulness as Naomi, Boaz, and especially Ruth discover, firsthand. Ruth shows her love through dedication and devotion without actually mentioning the word “love”. In the beginning of the story, Naomi’s husband and her two sons die. Without them, she is a poor lonesome woman. She pleads with Ruth and Orpah, her sons’ widowed wives, to return to their homes, but they insist they want to return to Bethlehem with her. Orpah eventually turns back.
When Naomi pressured Ruth to leave her like her sister did, because Naomi has no life to offer her, Ruth countered with, “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people; and your God my God; Where you die, I will die – there will I be buried. ” (Ruth 1:16) Ruth was willing to give up her entire being for Naomi. She showed true dedication because she did not seek personal gain in her choice. Naomi had no more sons for Ruth to marry, and as far as Ruth knew, she was going back to Israel to die as a widow.
Although Ruth does not have to stay with Naomi, and could have easily gone back home to her family and found another husband, Ruth stays faithful to her and travels with her. “Agape is a willingness to sacrifice in the interest of mutuality. Agape is a willingness to go to any length to restore community. It doesn’t stop at the first mile, but it goes the second mile to restore community. ” (King 61) Ruth went far and beyond the second mile to restore community. It was then Ruth’s life goal, her duty, to help Naomi and carry on the family name and inheritance. Agape is disinterested love. It is a love in which the individual seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor… It begins by loving others for their sakes. ” (King 61) This love is shown between Ruth, Boaz, and also Naomi. Ruth does not owe anything to Naomi. Sure at one point Ruth was married to her son, but Ruth could have easily went back to her home with her parents and find another family to be a part of. She stays with Naomi and both Ruth and Boaz show agape by helping her even though they could have easily passed her up and abandon her.
It is back in Bethlehem that Ruth meets Boaz. In order to provide for Naomi and herself, she is gleaning grain in the fields of a rich landowner. She shows her devotion by working in the field to feed Naomi, and also cared for helpless Naomi in her old age. Boaz, a distant relative of Naomi’s deceased husband, has heard of Ruth’s devotion to Naomi, and he instructs his workers to leave extra grain for her. This is an example of a more friendly love for family and mankind known as philia. “Philia means intimate affection between personal friends.
Philia denotes a sort of reciprocal love, the person loves because he is loved…It is not set in motion by any quality or function of its objects. It is the love of God operating in the human heart. ” (King 61) Even though Boaz has no relation to Ruth, he still reached out and helped her. As the friendship develops, Naomi visualizes a plan that would possibly mean a better life for her daughter-in-law. She instructs Ruth to visit the threshing floor when the grain is being examined, then to lie down next to Boaz and uncover his feet. This bold act was an ancient way of asking protection as a next of kin.
Ruth was even willing to marry him, who is basically a stranger, to help Naomi. Boaz is flattered by Ruth’s actions, but there is another closer relative than he that could redeem Ruth and buy her inheritance. He says he is unable to buy Ruth’s inheritance because it would conflict with his own. Boaz announces his intention to marry Ruth, since he is next in line. This is a great example of Boaz acting with chesed when he accepted the double responsibility of land purchase and marriage, thereby preserving lineage and inheritance of a family that were almost lost (Ruth 382). According to Rabbinic tradition, the main theme (of the Book of Ruth) is chesed (Hebrew), loyalty, or faithfulness arising from commitment… This faithfulness and love is shown through her words and actions. The main characters, Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz, all manifest acts of chesed. Naomi shows concern for the welfare of her widowed daughters-in-law, especially Ruth, although technically she has no obligation toward them. Ruth’s chesed in cleaving to Naomi goes beyond all expectation, and her seeking marriage with Boaz, the family protector, underlies her loyalty to the family. (Ruth 382) This passage basically sums up the idea of chesed in this short biblical story. Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz are all dedicated to help one another, but not because of the word love. It is because of chesed. Society today does not know what true love is, American’s especially. It does not help that we only have one word for love. Taking examples from the Book of Ruth can help society today to become more loving. There are three main types of love present in this story: agape, chesed, and philia. People are extremely selfish in this day and age.
Although I cannot stereotype and say this is true about everyone, most people make themselves the ultimate priority in their lives, and don’t think about helping others. People usually do not understand the value of labor for those we love, or understand the need to care for the helpless. Most of us cannot even take time out of busy days to make a phone call to a loved one, send flowers when a friend is sick, or sometimes even hold the door open for someone. The three types of love can help society become better, especially at “loving”.
Agape is the one most likely to help humanity. Being able to love someone in a selfless way, and being able to help others without concern for oneself is important. Philia helps unite people, and makes families stronger. It strengthens all of the relationships people have. Chesed means loyalty and faithfulness, which is need for any relationship to be successful. Reading through the Book of Ruth caused me to think about the different types of love. There’s love for your family, love for your friends, and then there’s unconditional love, and love for mankind.

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