Rodzinka, an unofficial campus organization dedicated to discussing family values, began the semester with a lecture on the Book of Ruth presented by Gary Anderson, an Old Testament and Hebrew Bible professor in the theology department.
Anderson described Ruth as a “wonderful illustration” of the themes of Song of Songs.
Though Solomon’s Song of Songs had its origins in erotic love poetry, it is read both within the Jewish and Christian traditions not only as describing the love between a man and a woman but also the love between God and his people.
During the time of the Book of Ruth, every farmer had to provide a portion, of his crops for the poor. Ruth received food in this manner because she had no means of support without a husband. Boaz, a landowner, took extraordinary care to make sure that Ruth was not molested by local men and collected water for Ruth.
In response to his kindness, Ruth approached Boaz in his sleep, and asked him to “spread [his] skirt over [his] maidservant,” essentially a Hebrew marriage proposal. Anderson quipped that this behavior is “not advisable” nowadays.
In Hebrew, the word for “skirt” is also used in Ruth 1:12. The word literally means “wing.” In this context, “wings” references the shelter under the wings of God represented on the Ark of the Covenant. According to Anderson, this is one of the most “profound” theological points of the book. Ruth becomes a worshipper of the God of Israel as she asks Boaz to spread his wings over her. For Ruth, marriage was her path to God.
Anderson compared Ruth’s infertility to that the “chosen women” of Genesis. She is also Abrahamic in receiving a call from a pagan land to the Promised Land. At the book’s end, she conceives a child, foreshadowing the miraculous birth of Christ.
One student saw a conflict between the ancient understanding of marriage as a matter of duty and safety and modern views of marriage which emphasize romantic attraction.
Anderson responded that the Song of Songs demonstrates that there is a place for romance in the Old Testament, as seen in Song of Songs. Rather than provide a comprehensive vision of marriage, Ruth illustrates that marriage is not only a romantic endeavor, but also an institution in which the partners have a certain responsibility. Ruth’s marriage was formed with the explicit goal producing children. While having children within marriage is often regarded as an optional matter of lifestyle, such a mentality was unimaginable in Biblical times.
Dale Parker is a junior classics major who could potentially write uproarious bylines, but sometimes chooses to forego that privilege to add to the august dignity of his office as editor of religion and ethics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org