Swinging from the Vine / 841 posts / 2,904 comments / feed / comments feed

Ruth: a woman of excellence

Today I’m reading the account of Ruth and Boaz in Ruth 3 and studying specifically what it means to be a “woman of excellence”. Thanks to my good friend for the stimulating questions.

in the ESV

11And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.

in the NAS

11″Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.

in the New Living

11 Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman.

The King James, New King James and Young’s Literal all use the word virtuous.

in the TNIV

11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.

So the same Hebrew word ‘hayil’ is translated noble, virtuous, worthy and excellence. It’s very interesting that this word is chosen. My lexical aids all say that the word is primarily signifying military might. Other words that are used are strength, power, substance, wealth, riches and valiant.

What an interesting choice of words.

In reading Boaz’ comments to Ruth the morning after she stayed with him, the immediate thought is that he is telling her not to be afraid for everyone will know that she is still pure and that she did nothing sexually inappropriate. Ruth was, after all, in the threshing room with Boaz through the night. But I think he is saying more here than it appears at first glance.

Boaz is not treating Ruth like the poor beggar widow that he would have every reason to see her as. He is treating her as nobility - he is behaving already as her kinsman redeemer (even though he first has to confront the man ahead of him and give him a chance to marry her). Boaz was a judge, he made a judgment and directed Ruth in what she needed to do and what he needed to do in order for him to redeem her as his wife. He chose to see her as the virtuous woman she actually was rather than what she appeared.

When I think about Ruth’s life and her choices, it’s very appropriate to think of her less as a poor widow skimming the leftovers for sustenance and more as an able, stalwart woman of honor, strength and perseverance who is being rewarded for her endurance.

I think this is all amazing considering that Jesus is our redeemer, and doesn’t he see us that way? He sees beyond the rags and poverty and instead sees our nobility and makes a judgment to redeem us.

1 Pe 1:18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

[tags]ruth, bible, women, strength, honor, nobility, boaz[/tags]

Related posts:

  1. In case you missed it: the best of… Taking a cue from Sonja, I’m going to link...
  2. Lorica of St. Patrick Lorica of Saint Patrick I arise today Through a...
  3. good discussion on the Word of God Pop on over to the Hungry and Thirsty blog where...
  4. Christian feminism I can’t believe I forgot to mention this. There is...
  5. the lost art of the farmer’s market treehugger is right, the farmer’s market is a lost art....

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.


  1. Adrian — January 31, 2007 #

    Good stuff my noble woman

  2. Ari — January 31, 2007 #

    thanks :)

  3. Julie Clawson — January 31, 2007 #

    but why aren’t we allowed to see Ruth as other than virtuous? We want Ruth to be “pure” so we read our virtues into the passage so we can use her as a role model for evangelical women.

  4. Ari — January 31, 2007 #

    While I do think that Ruth was “pure” in the sense that she didn’t have sex with Boaz - I agree with you Julie that we insert our “virtues” in this and many other accounts in Scripture to fit certain ideals or molds. Which is why I loved discovering that the Hebrew word there was a military word - what a different image we get of Ruth if we see her “virtue” more on par with military might.

  5. Paul — February 1, 2007 #

    maybe she did have sex with boaz?

    She certainly did something very radical in terms of going to him and offering herself…

    It is pretty contary to most teaching i’ve ever heard of what being a good woman is about - this is pretty blatent, couragious, radical expression of femininity - i love the blend of vulnerability and risk…

  6. Ari — February 1, 2007 #

    I think that’s certainly possible, and it wouldn’t really change anything in terms of Ruth’s virtue

  7. Paul — February 1, 2007 #

    no but it would put a spanner in that ‘always keep one foot on the floor’ christian dating rule, lol

  8. Julie Clawson — February 1, 2007 #

    I personally don’t think her having sex with Boaz (think about what “feet” in the bible often means) would change if she was virtuous or not. But it might help us evangelicals change our perspectives on virtue, sex and women — and then again one day maybe pigs will fly…

  9. Paul — February 2, 2007 #

    flying pigs… I’m always pleasantly surprised Julie how many former earth bound swine are beginning to sprout wings in order to stop rooting and start flying ;)

  10. Jemila — February 3, 2007 #

    I always pretty much assumd that Ruth was intimate with Boaz…yes, vulnerable, yes risky. But perhaps she was led by the Spirit, who knew that the other dude didn’t want her and that she deserved a decent guy? The bible is rich with situational ethics. Why is this such a problem for many believers?

Leave a comment