The Book of Ruth in the Old Testament presents one of unique exemplifications of friendship and loyalty that exists between women. This paper argues that the friendship and loyalty between Naomi and Ruth precedes the future marriage between Boaz and Ruth and the eventual birth of Obed, an ancestor of King David, from whose ancestry comes the Messiah.
The friendship and loyalty that existed between Naomi and Ruth transcended the usual friendship that has existed between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law. After the death of their spouses, and given the fact that Naomi could not bear other children, the only normal thing for her to do was to ask her daughters-in-law to go back to their parents and remarry. This is a painful experience to young widowed woman who sheds tears when she realizes that Naomi is asking her to go back to her family. Unlike Ruth, Orpah accepts to go back to her people. The friendship between Naomi and Ruth develops when Ruth vows to follow and lodge with Naomi deal death to them apart. Ruth 1:16-17
‘But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die. There I will be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, And more as well if even death parts me from you!”’
This solemn declaration by Ruth to Naomi forms the basis of the kind of loyalty that Ruth is prepared to give to Naomi. The declaration also cements the friendship between the two widowed women and thus Naomi feels free to give advice to Ruth just as she would to her own daughter. Naomi’s perception of Ruth changes and she even starts calling her, “daughter” instead of the normal “daughter-in-law” which is the rightful relationship between the two women.
The friendship and loyalty between Naomi and Ruth is what leads to the marriage of Ruth to Boaz. When the two women arrive in the land of Moabites, Naomi advices Ruth to go at the threshing floor where Boaz is sleeping in the night. Due to the attachment that the two women have with each other, Ruth has no reason to doubt what Naomi is asking her to do. The friendship between them makes Ruth to trust every advice that she gets from Naomi.
She thus sends Ruth “to do something which is very inappropriate behavior for a woman, and which can lead to scandal and even abuse” (Newman, 81). It can be explained that during those times, it would be normal for prostitutes to go to the threshing floor in the middle of the night, but not for good mannered women. Therefore, if Ruth were to be seen, the gossips would be rampant throughout Jerusalem. The loyalty and friendship between Naomi and Ruth is also evident when Ruth gives birth to Obed. Naomi takes upon herself to nurse the baby. Naomi provides an excellent mothering and surrogacy that transcends the normal relationship that exists between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law.
The friendship between Naomi and Ruth has formed the genealogy through which King David is born in Israel. It is the same genealogy from which the Messiah is born. The friendship that develops between the two women and the loyalty that each woman accords the other allows for the continuation of the ancestry of Alimelech. After his death and the death of his sons, Ruth did not have any hope as a mother and potential grandmother. When Ruth decides to stick with her, she finds warmth in the birth of a grandson with whom she considers her own grandson. She thus nurses him with the care of a grandmother.
In conclusion, the loyal friendship that Ruth accepts to give Naomi has permitted the occurrences that followed when Ruth went with Naomi to Jerusalem.