Role of Marriage in the Book of Ruth Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Book Of Ruth and Marriage: An Analysis Into Religious and Secular Conventions of the Time

The Gospels of the Old Testament provide the structure of Judaism. Yet, they also provide an interesting examination into the anthropological activities of an ancient people. For example, in The Book of Ruth, there is significant content that helps describe the nature of marriage between both individuals and between God and his mortal followers. Along with exploring the ceremonial and religious ties to marriage, The Book of Ruth also helps define what an ideal archetype of a Jewish wife was during the ancient time period the gospel was written; she is an obedient servant who is seen almost like property of her husband.

The Book of Ruth is the gospel from the Old Testament, and thus has its roots in ancient Hebrew tradition. Yet, it is also included in the Christian version of the holy Bible as well, illustrating how its principles translated from Judaism into Christianity when the religions divided. Ruth was originally a non-Israelite, who later married a member of the Jewish faith, Mahlon, son of Naomi and Elimelech. The family moved out of Israel into pagan territory in order to try to avoid a flood (Zavada 1). Mahlon later died, along with his other brother. This prompted Naomi to want to return to Israel, where she could be with other members of the ancient Israelite community once more now that her husband and two sons had been taken from her. This is where the story opens.

Initially, Naomi was critical of her son's marriage to Ruth because of the fact that she was not an Israelite of Jewish faith. In fact, Naomi had told both Ruth and her other sister in law Oprah to return to their birth parents and remarry someone outside of the Jewish community. Clearly, Naomi did not consider either of her too late sons' wives as part of the Israelite community. Both women did initially put up a fight, but Ruth was the only one to stay, as Oprah did end up leaving the family. The Book of Ruth shows both women making the attempt to stay within the Jewish community, as both said to Naomi "surely we will return with thee unto thy people" (The Book of Ruth 1:10). Despite the death of her husband and her mother-in-law's desire for her to leave, Ruth stayed devoted to Naomi. She worked hard to help sport her and Naomi, as all the men and their family had passed away in the harsh famine. According to the research, "when Naomi and Ruth arriving today at they are immediately faced with the problem. Being without men in the family who can work the land and earn a wage, they are destitute. Ruth secures food the only way possible for people of this sort -- she gleans in the field" (Anderson 4). As a result, Ruth met Boaz, who was actually a relative to her late husband. According to Levirate law, it was tradition for male relatives to marry their dead family members' widows. This kept the family close and tight knit, resulting in the close relationship within the Israelite community. Boaz went to a closer relative, Ploni Almoni, to clear the marriage. This is made clear when Naomi says "blessed be he of the Lord who has not failed in his kindness to the living or to the dead! For the man is related to us; he is one of our redeeming Kinsman" (The Book of Ruth 2:20). Ruth and Boaz then married and had a son, Obed. Ruth is the ultimate devoted wife, who devotes herself not only to her late husband, but the rest of his family and culture as well. As such, "The Book of Ruth is one of the most moving accounts in the Bible, a story of love and loyalty that is a stark contrast to today's cynical, throwaway society" (Zavada 1). Rather than leaving her husband's family and community, Ruth makes the difficult situation to stay and remain among the Israelites. This illustrates the importance of strong devotion within marriage, but also how non-Hebrews could be accepted into the community through the strength of devotion seen within marriage.

The Book of Ruth also discusses the seemingly strange world of traditions of ancient Israel regarding marriage and marriage customs. A modern audience might find many of these traditions quite strange, but an ancient audience would have understood the customs and followed it themselves. The gospel here explores several different specific customs in rights regarding marriage. First, the Book of Ruth discusses the issue of Levirate customs and how they dictated marriage activities. According to the research, Levirate marriage customs dictate that a brother should remarry his deceased brother's wife (Anderson 6). This became part of Israelite customs regarding the process of marriage within the culture first in Deuteronomy 25. Here, the scripture says "if brethren dwell together, and one of them died, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without to a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother unto her" (Deuteronomy 25:5).

The Book of Ruth echoes the traditions set out beforehand, but does alter them slightly. This gospel states "now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor: and this was the testimony in Israel" (The Book of Ruth 4:8). Boaz does this. In this regard, the couple is following the strict, and seemingly strange, customs of traditional Israelite culture and heritage. In many ways, this places a very ceremonial image of marriage within ancient Hebrew traditions. If the woman and the deceased spouse had had children, it was typically not practiced to marry the brother of the deceased man. Here, the Old Testament describes "And it shall be, that the firstborn which she very shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel" (Deuteronomy 25:6). Within this custom, the first child of the relationship is still acknowledged to be the child of the deceased brother.

This further connects the act of marriage with the sacrament that God provided his people. Essentially, marriage is not just a relationship between two individuals; it is also a relationship with those individuals and God. The ritual of marriage is essentially a religious aspect. Thus, "marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God's holy ordinance, through which he wills to perpetuate the human race until the end of time" (Anderson 2). Marriage is in many ways a way to secure future generations of a community. Here, in the Book of Ruth, marriage does serve as a way to continue on the bloodline of ancient Israelites. When Ruth's husband dies, the community does not want to allow his bloodline to completely diminish off the face of the planet. As such, Ruth is encouraged to marry Boaz, so that their firstborn child can carry on the name of Ruth initial husband, who was also Boaz's close relative. This replicates the image of marriage as further connecting mortals to God. Essentially, there is a metaphor within the Hebrew community that "the relationship of God to Israel is that of the love between husband and wife" (Anderson 7). As such, marriage is a sacred connection between God and individuals, just as much so as it is a functional relationship between a husband and wife.

Moreover, the Book of Ruth also discusses other problematic issues with marriage, including the nature of a non-Jewish marrying into the community. During this time, the book is supposed to have been written, it was often seen as controversy 02 Mary with the person outside of the Jewish faith. Both Ezra and Nehemiah stress the importance of staying within the Hebrew traditions and not marrying those following other faiths. As such, prior Gospels have shown discouragement for allowing outsiders into Judaism. The Book of Ruth is an interesting development, which highlights a woman who does successfully enter into the Jewish faith through marriage, even if she had to marry twice to do so. Within the gospel, Ruth converts to Judaism, and except the Israelites God as the ultimate deity. By doing so, she converts to Judaism, but also enters into the Israelite community. The Bible quotes her as telling Naomi, "where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, and even death separates you and me" (The Book of Ruth 1:16-17). Clearly in this passage, she consciously makes the decision to convert.…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Anderson, Gary A. "Marriage in the Book of Ruth." University of Notre Dame. 2005. Web. Retrieved 14 Dec 2013 from http://old.usccb.org/laity/marriage/Anderson.pdf

The Holy Bible. King James Version. New York: American Bible Society. 1999.

Zavada, Jack. "Book of Ruth: Introduction to the Book of Ruth." Old Testament Books. 2011. Web. Retrieved 14 Dec 2013 from http://christianity.about.com/od/oldtestamentbooks/a/Book-Of-Ruth.htm

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