By: Caren Buskmiller
Imagine that your family died in a couple months. You do not know where to live, what you will eat, or who will comfort you. That was exactly the situation that Naomi was in. Because they needed someone to protect them, Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, go on a journey to find a kinsman, or provider, for them to rely on. In Ruth 2:2-23, Samuel, the author, demonstrates the Catholic Social Teaching theme of Rights and Responsibilities.
In order to comprehend any work of literature, one must understand the setting and genre. Several scholars believe that the story of Ruth happens from 1200-1050, during the times of the Judges (Fischer 797) because of the marriage traditions (Pope 1). Most of the story takes place in Bethlehem, Naomi’s homeland (Guzik 1). This passage is literal because the characters’ actions are possible and the setting exists. Therefore, Ruth is written in the genre of history.
Ruth chapter 1 demonstrates the Catholic Social Teaching theme of Rights and Responsibilities through Ruth’s actions. In the beginning, Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, dies, leaving Naomi alone with her sons. Her sons marry Orpah, another woman, and Ruth, but the grooms die soon after. Naomi decides to go to Bethlehem alone, since there is nothing left for her at home. Ruth refuses Naomi’s request to stay and goes with her to Jerusalem (Fischer 799). Ruth has a responsibility to take care of Naomi, because she did not have anyone else to care for her. Although Orpah did not sin by going home, Ruth did better by showing love for Naomi when no one else could.
Because of Boaz’s actions, the second chapter of Ruth illustrates the theme of Rights and Responsibilities. In Bethlehem, Naomi has a kinsman named Boaz (Fischer 800), who was related to her through her deceased husband (Guzik 1). Ruth goes to glean, or gather grain left by reapers (Guzik 1), on Boaz’s land. Boaz tells the men to leave her alone and asks servants to drop grain for her to pick up, because he wants them to be happy (Fischer 800). Boaz had a responsibility to protect Ruth because he was her kinsman.
In Ruth 3, Naomi demonstrates the Catholic Social Teaching theme of Rights and Responsibilities by helping Ruth find a husband to provide for her. Naomi picks a time when Boaz will be joyful, and then sends Ruth in her best clothes to Boaz. After arriving, Ruth gets under Boaz’s blanket to remind him that he is her kinsman. Although Boaz loves Ruth, he cannot marry her because there is a closer kinsman she does not know about who has rights to marry her (Fischer 801).
Even through strife, Boaz implements the theme by solving the issue of the kinsman instead of marrying Ruth immediately. First, Boaz talks with the elders and kinsman to strike a deal. He offers Naomi’s field to the closer kinsman and says he wants Ruth in exchange. The kinsman agrees (Fischer 801), but then they discover the catch: the kinsman now has a stronger responsibility to take care of Ruth and marry her because of buying Naomi’s land (Fischer 802). Then, the kinsman decides to give Boaz responsibility since he already has a family to take care of. Boaz and Ruth finally get married and Ruth gives birth to Obed, who is the grandfather of David (Fischer 802).
Ruth’s story teaches that we all have a responsibility to follow God’s law, although it may be difficult. This is exhibited by Boaz giving Ruth grain, and Ruth going with Naomi to Jerusalem. Lastly, Boaz obeys the Jewish rules by asking permission to marry Ruth, although it would have been easier to do it impulsively.
Besides having a moral, there are a couple analogies involving God and the Church in this book. Primarily, Boaz symbolizes Jesus by being charitable and looking after Ruth and Naomi. Likewise, Naomi represents the Church by being a mother to Ruth and doing what’s best for her.
In conclusion, a reader can see signs of the Catholic Social Teaching theme of Rights and Responsibilities in Ruth 2:2-23. This theme is demonstrated through Boaz protecting Ruth and Naomi, and Ruth accompanying Naomi to Jerusalem. Now, imagine that you have a new family. You live in a beautiful country, you have plenty to eat, and there are people who will comfort you in the days to come. That was exactly the situation that Ruth and Naomi were in.
Fischer, James A. “Ruth.” The Collegeville Bible Commentary. Collegeville: The Liturgical
Press, 1989. Print.
Guzik, David. “Ruth’s Work as a Gleaner.” Blue Letter Bible. Sowing Circle, 2006. Website. 17
Pope, Hugh. “The Story of a Gentile Woman, The Great-Grandmother of David.” Veritas Bible.
Veritas Bible, 2 July 2013. 17 November 2013.