So Ruth and Naomi are back in Bethlehem, and now they need to figure out what to do there. Naomi’s extended family includes a man named Boaz, and when Ruth decides to go glean in the fields to provide for their family, she finds her way to his fields. Boaz comes to inspect his holdings, and he notices the new gleaner following his reapers. Sidenote for those who are not familiar: back in the day, reapers were the people whose actual job it was to gather food from the fields. Gleaners were the poor, who followed the reapers and were able to pick up whatever they left behind for their own use.
So Boaz notices Ruth, and decides to help her out. “And Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Have you not heard, my daughter? Do not go to glean in another field, neither shall you go away from here, and here you shall stay with my maidens (Ruth 2:8).” Boaz basically becomes Ruth’s protector – he tells the men in the fields not to touch her, allows her to take water to drink, and is offering her use of his field for her gleaning. She’s very grateful, particularly as a foreigner, which is all too timely as so many people who are new to this country can’t count on being welcomed and accepted this easily.
So all is good with Ruth and Boaz, and Ruth comes home to Naomi at the end of the day. Naomi reveals that Boaz is a relative of theirs, and Ruth spends the whole harvest season with his maidens, and continues to be loyal to her mother-in-law. It strikes me that in reading this book before, I’ve never noticed how Ruth is told to stay with the other women specifically so the men don’t molest her. It’s sad how today, even with the evolutions coming because of the #metoo movement, we’re still given the same lessons as women: safety in numbers, don’t put yourself in a bad situation, it’s your responsibility to keep men from molesting you in some way. While of course as a woman I have internalized the importance of these precautions, I’m still wondering how it’s been literally thousands of years and our expectations haven’t changed at all. Where’s the verse about the male reapers being told just to not molest women in the fields? When does that part of the discourse get to happen?