In the Sexual Awareness Month series this year you may have noticed I took a more biblical approach and the Ruth & Naomi story is the latest one I’ll try to tackle. Thanks to the bloggers who joined in the discussion which at times got rather vibrant. There had been some speculation about the closeness of the relationship between the two women suggestion there had some lesbian contact but the evidence of that is simply not there as some more persons where a more liberal reading still hold on to that thinking but it was more about women in their version of a support system given how women were treated. Chapter three of Ruth is where it is in this installment as two widows interact with each other in the patriarchal society in Jewish culture. Human relations and choices made either due to finding themselves in position of power and advantage or disadvantage who often end up in the line of abuse on many levels. Effectively Naomi an elderly widowed mother-in-law who encourages her widowed daughter-in-law to make herself available to a powerful rich man named Boaz to marry her.
Naomi has been effective being seen as a ‘pimp’ by grooming and encouraging Ruth towards Boaz but bearing in mind that a kind of permitted incest was the order of the day despite the laws that protected strangers and widows but with all that her body was still the route to access. To again access to Boaz did not come as easy as today it came by women availing themselves sexually; sex used as transactionally some have said and although Boaz ended up marrying Ruth the assault in my eyes is an older woman pushing a younger woman on a rich man to secure. Naomi knew how to work the system even though laws then offered some protection to widows and strangers coming from the Sodom & Gomorrah days.
(Un)intended seduction may be the challenge here of the benefactor, the search specific nature of the grooming exercise by Naomi pushing on Ruth using femininity; unlike the Lot story of the ‘rape’ of him by his own daughters for purposes of continuing the bloodline here in this episode is about gaining wealth and security on the pretext of a seductress or in supplication, to bring it forward to today for a moment how many times have we seen mothers or guardians literally pimping out those in their charge to gain or take in income for the household. Ruth may have not even wanted to go to Boaz but in obedience to the older woman (Naomi) she obeyed the instructions, consent is another layer in this while she may have ‘offered’ herself to Boaz to eventually seduce him and the outcome showed no outright abuse.
The continuation of the bloodline so to speak and or to provide the kind of security similar to the Lot and his daughters case comes into play, the oldest male or closest male in the family has the responsibility even in a kind of permitted incest to interact with female, Naomi therefore understood the cultural nuances and encouraged Ruth albeit a foreigner into the culture. Naomi obviously was no fool in as far as the grooming of Ruth was concerned, she was looking out for what was supposedly best for her daughter in law; Ruth had done so much for Naomi prior that Naomi may have felt obligated in a sense and also knowing full well that she would get some spin-offs from the arrangement, Boaz was not the first choice so to speak but Naomi seemed sure that arrangement would have worked; I don’t think she was malicious but to instruct Ruth as to the very actions ought to do when she encouraged her to effectively seduce her; Boaz had already found some favour in Ruth as outlined in Chapter 2 of Ruth. How does someone who does not have access directly to their rights via a decision making process.
The business of survival comes into play and that women effectively had to do what they had to do; bearing in mind that the very translators of the bible wrote the thing from a patriarchal perspective.
The levirate marriage concept comes into play, a practice outlined in Deuteronomy 25 v 5 – 10 if a woman is childless after a previous marriage or with children and the husband dies the brothers of the dead husband is obligated to marry her and carry on the heritage and the children as products if that marriage legitimises the respect in the community.
Boaz in a sense realised he got caught or ‘ketch’ and he tried to worm his way out of it by differing Ruth to the other choice as he was closer in the lineage to the bloodline’ even after Ruth spends the night with Boaz he asks her not to let the other women in the circle know as if to suggest that at risk will be some compromised integrity or ethics, despite the cultural customs called for the powerful man to ensure his heritage. His strategy however was not an aggressive one and he seem to have tried to play it cool even though he knew that there was someone else with a superior claim. While Ruth did not end up in an abusive relationship how many times in contemporary reports we have heard of the pimping aspect of older women sending out their own daughters to bring in the bacon.
The rapid succession of disturbing reports of privileged pastors and church leaders who prey on vulnerable can easily be cited in this story hundreds of years old. The attachment to materialism is a major factor and some feel justified to lay themselves bare to ‘eat-a-food’ and easiest way to get to some wealth; this is not only limited to lower classes but professional persons as well for the most part to keep up appearances, the nice apartment must be maintained, the car must look a certain way or even the tertiary level fees have to be found somewhere, trouble is that sometimes the arrangement gets abusive and the privileged individual turns into a monster thinking he has a right so to do. In what are supposed to be legitimate marriages the power differentials play out, the wife may have married for some sort of security especially if she is expected to be a housewife or a stay at home mother and she must know her place; no talk of a job or continuing education under pain of losing certain benefits or gifts or how she in treated in the marriage, and sex by the way is a given whether or not she is in the mood.
Peace & tolerance