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What’s Good for the Gander is Good for the Goose: “The Foreigner at the Well” in Ruth

Ruth at wellIn recent blogs[1], I’ve been considering the alluring and powerfully theological type-scene “Foreigner at the Well.”

It is common for people to develop in their entertainment of any form typical scenarios drawn from their own “way of life” which the community recognizes, anticipating their outcomes, and finding great amusement in their subtle variations and at times anti-typical results.

After considering the “standard form” of this type-scene in both Jacob’s and Moses’ love stories, we looked at the variation of it in the Marriage of Isaac and Rebekah, where it works out through a proxy and is heavy laden with overt theological intention—divine appointment.

It has 3 parts. 1. An unmarried foreigner travels to another region. 2. He goes to a local well. 3. He meets the woman who will be his wife. In Scripture, the union leads to a transformed world that has influenced the intended audience.

Today I’d like to look at another variation on the pattern—the love story of Ruth and Boaz in Ruth 2:1ff.

First, let me say that the book of Ruth should be titled, “Naomi.” It is Naomi’s destruction and restoration through the covenant loyalty of YHWH that frames the book. Ruth is, however an important part of that restoration. When the women greet Naomi at her return, with Ruth at her side, Naomi decries, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and YHWH has brought me back empty.” (Ruth 1:20-21) The women answer in Ruth 4:14-15, “Blessed be YHWH, who has not left you this day without a redeemer… He shall be to you a restorer of life… for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”

Indeed, YHWH works in the life of Naomi through Ruth by orchestrating through a random encounter the meeting of Ruth and Boaz the great-grandparents of King David himself.

This love affair begins in an adaptation of the type-scene “Foreigner at the Well.” For in this version of the scenario, the hero is the heroine, and, like the story of Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage, the author overtly lays these events in the hands of YHWH.

First, the narrator tells us in Ruth 2:1 of the “dashing and handsome” kinsman of Naomi… come on you have to give me a little license, he has all the things that would have made him an attractive catch in those days after all. He was a well to do and worthy man, who kept the teachings of charity in the Torah, even during those years when every man did what was right in his own eyes. He greets his workers with YHWH on his lips. (Ruth 2:4)

Next the author gets playful as he describes the circumstance that brings Ruth into Boaz’s gaze. She goes out to seek mercy (חן-hane) and וַיִּ֣קֶר מִקְרֶ֔הָ “her chance happened” upon the field of this man, Boaz, who also travels from Bethlehem to his fields and sees Ruth during a brief moment of rest as she sits near the well. The well is not mentioned specifically, but the scene draws it out, as Boaz speaks of “the vessels” and invites her to quench her thirst from what the men have drawn. (Ruth 2:9)

Like the story of Rebekah, Ruth’s worth as a woman is championed. Boaz’s foreman speaks glowingly of her respectful request to labor behind the gleaners, and her hard labor since early morning, rendering in Hebrew a defensive posture for her rest… it was just “a little.” Boaz gushes with special favors, and special protections. When she asks why he has shown such mercy (חן-hane) a kind of “just because” display of compassion (Ruth 2:10), he declares its rational; he knows what she had done for Naomi. (Ruth 2:11) He blesses, “YHWH repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by YHWH, the God of Israel, under whose (כּנף kanaf) wings you have come to take refuge!” (Ruth 2:12) (A clear foreshadowing of that fateful night on the threshing floor where he will spread his own (כּנף kanaf) hem over her.)

And was this chance? Noami says not. She calls the meeting proof of Divine חסד hesed (covenant loyalty). She says, “May he be blessed by YHWH, whose hesed (covenant loyalty) has not forsaken the living or the dead!” …”The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” (Ruth 2:20)

As already quoted, the women share her interpretation, saying at the birth of her grandson from Ruth and Boaz, “Blessed be YHWH, who has not left you this day without a redeemer.” (Ruth 4:14)

“They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David,” (Ruth 4:17) the first of many Messiah’s and forbear to Christ, Messiah of Messiahs.


 

[1] “Wells: The Singles’ Bars of the Ancient Near East,” & “I’ll Have One “Foreigner at the Well” with a Twist.”

[2]  Media pic from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

2 thoughts on “What’s Good for the Gander is Good for the Goose: “The Foreigner at the Well” in Ruth

  1. rico says:

    awesome example that God will fulfill His plan thru whom He chooses and how!!

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