Ruth Proof

The first part of the story of Ruth was today’s Old Testament reading. It detailed how a Bethlehem couple, Elimilech and Naomi left their land because of a famine and went to nearby Moab where, presumably, prospects seemed better. Eventually, their two sons married Moabite women. Then, one by one, the three men, Elimilech and the two sons, died, leaving their three widows in perilous economic straits. Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem where her land and family still were. Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law, insisted on accompanying her with her famous pledge, “Wherever you go, I shall go, … Your people shall be my people and your God will be my God.” Ruth_asks_Naomi_C-206[1]The reading ended with the two women arriving at the time of the barley harvest.
In his homily, our celebrant told us that the reading is the only one in the Catholic Lectionary from the Book of Ruth. From my perspecive, that’s too bad. The story of Ruth and Naomi make clear that the Land Law was being observed during this time – first half of the tenth century, BC.
Elimilech’s ancestral land had been leased out until the next Jubilee. Naomi could not afford to “redeem” it. So she and Ruth were destitute, dependent on the generosity of their neighbors. However, they did have the right to glean the fields after the harvesters had passed through. 2-rooke-ruth-bows-to-boaz[1]
Ruth was gleaning the field of Boaz, who seemed a bit taken with her. He told her she could have all the water she wanted and supplied her with a more than ample lunch. He told his harvesters not to be too careful so that this girl could gather enough to keep hunger at bay. That evening, Ruth told Naomi about all that had happened and Naomi asked the name of this man. When Ruth told her it was Boaz, Naomi was excited. “This man is our redeemer!” She meant that Boaz had the right and the obligation to redeem Elimilech’s land and marry Ruth. The story goes on. The land is redeemed and Boaz and Ruth marry. They had a son, Obed, who was the grandfather of King David.
The story assumes that the Land Law was in effect and was understood by the Israelites. Otherwise, the story makes no sense.
So, despite many scholars’ opinions to the contrary, the Land Law was being observed through the time of the Judges and at least up until the time of the Kings.

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