This week journalist Alisha Gordon brilliantly schooled the churchiest of church folks on Twitter about the truth behind Ruth and Boaz’s love story. Known as the epitome of biblical #RelationshipGoals, many of us were taught to be Ruth, a woman of immeasurable faith who waited for Boaz, a wealthy landowner to make an honest woman out of her.
Whether it be a Sunday church service or Single’s Ministry meeting, the Ruth and Boaz blueprint is continuously preached to single/non-married women as a reminder to behave passively as they wait for their Boaz to wife them. While some women take heed to this perilous advice and try to strategically avoid dating other men named Brooke-az, Poor-az or Lying-az, Gordon reminds us Ruth didn’t exactly wait for her man, she was actually rather proactive in catching Boaz’s attention.
Despite this known fact, the Ruth and Boaz romance has become the architectural foundation to shame women who use their intelligence and sexual power to get the men they want. In her series of tweets, Gordon reflected on how the meme below is completely wrong about what drew Boaz to Ruth:
When we first meet Ruth, she’s a widow who continued living with her in-laws after her husband died. Afterward, Ruth moved to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law Naomi and found work in the barley fields in order to financially support them. The owner of the field happened to be Boaz, a relative of Ruth’s deceased husband. When Boaz first met Ruth, he shared his admiration for the loyalty she possessed towards her in-laws and was very kind to her. Ruth told Naomi about his friendliness and Naomi plotted a plan for Ruth to initiate sexual relations with Boaz in order for him to commit to her. Naomi’s plan can also be linked in the Levirate law that claimed relatives of the deceased should marry their widows in order to continue the family inheritance.
Ruth followed Naomi’s plan to “lay it on” Boaz during a nighttime visit to his bedroom, after he had a good meal and drank alcoholic beverages. Naomi told Ruth to uncover Boaz’s feet (genitals) and lay down beside him until he gave her instructions. When Boaz realized it was Ruth in his bedroom, he told her she was a virtuous woman and also explained there was another male relative who was more closely related to her deceased husband than he was and that relative was in line to marry her. Because of that information, Boaz decided to defer from having sexual relations with Ruth.
The next day, The Book Of Ruth details Boaz explaining the situation to the male relative who was next in line to marry our heroine. The relative didn’t want to sacrifice his own inheritance by marrying Ruth, so he relinquished his rights and Boaz accepted the responsibility. Soon after, Boaz and Ruth became husband and wife, creating the familial lineage of Jesus.
Although this fairy tale brought forth the Messiah, I can’t fully assess the love story Ruth and Boaz had. It’s canonically beautiful but lacks depth; there are limited details about the passion they shared for one another or what they did during quality time. Therefore, lacking insight on why any woman should desire to replicate the highly sought after “Ruth and Boaz” phenomenon in her own life. The lesson that comes out of this story is: wait for a man who is a “nice guy” and will financially provide for you. Those days are long gone, with women, particularly, Black women taking the work force by storm.
Preaching this message of passivity to women is problematic because a relationship is based on what two people curate together. When one person is not actively voicing their opinion or needs in a relationship, it allows for the other person to be controlling. Also, when a couple is so strategic in how they are supposed to cultivate their relationship, no room is left for the spur-of-the-moment surprises that help deepen intimacy or establish the foundation of their friendship.
Most important, I think Boaz receives too much praise for his do-right-man behavior. We never hear about his flaws or traits that get under Ruth’s skin. When “nice guys” receive too much attention for their seemingly charming behavior, women are set up to believe there are very few “nice men” and when you find one with a little act right you must hold onto him, forever. When this happens, men who exhibit affable qualities may feel like they can cross boundaries or are owed something more for the character they should (genuinely) possess.
What the Ruth and Boaz’s relationship should teach us is, every woman can have a Boaz in her life; however, they should take note of his Lazy-az, Broke-az, Dumb-az past. Moreover, it might not hurt to uncover your potential husband’s “feet” before your wedding day. Who knows? He may rise up and called you #blessed.