Since my seminary days, I have been irresistibly drawn to the redemptive features of the Book of Ruth, and more especially, as it concerns women (as) and foreigners.
I have been drawn to the story of the nameless man (who shall remain nameless) who thought he was too good for a woman from the despised Gentile tribe of Moab.
It’s a despicable human practice that the most despised members in a despised people group are the women of that people group. For some strange reason, dishonoring the women of a despised tribe is proof of how low that tribe is. No wonder enemy groups degrade the women of their opponents through rape. Yes, women always have it worse when it comes to any marginalized group!
No wonder then that this nameless man who shall forever remain nameless, thought he was too good for Ruth. After all, in case of an enemy raid, she would be one of those who would be raped wouldn’t she? So why would he want to give his name to such a woman???
Hmm, little did he know he was the one who needed this foreign woman’s name….
You see, oftentimes, nationals assume it is the immigrant that needs them. As such there’s a permanent projection of worthlessness on the immigrant. Rarely do nationals consider that it might be the other way around – that it is they who have need of the immigrants and that God might be sending them solutions through the immigrants (consider where Egypt would have been if not for Joseph…).
It isn’t only nationals who degrade women. It is also customary for men of every nation and tribe to do so too. Despite the fact that the Scriptures clearly tell us that “God saw that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone” so God created Eve, the rhetoric of marriage or any alliance between men and women has been slated to make the woman seem as the needy one.
No wonder then, that many men have been deceived into ‘hiding’ their needs very well and only sharing them in secret with other men. Men have been deceived into perpetuating a rhetoric of ‘invincible’ for themselves. The only problem with that is that God created woman to ‘share’ in man’s burden and so when men reject women they instead end up carrying a burden whose weight never reduces.
So it was with this nameless man in the Book of Ruth. He was a nameless nothing in his own land, but in his own eyes, he was a man and according to human rhetoric, a man didn’t need a woman because he was the big, strong one! If only he knew!
If only he knew that he had no name and this woman was about to give him a name that had a matchless place in the history of the world: that of being the forebear of our Lord Jesus Christ. But no, he was too focused on the false narrative that it was a woman (and a foreign woman at that) who needed the man (and the national). After all, she came from the despised land, and was of a lower gender.
We all know how the story ends: Ruth marries Boaz – a man who by the way, was quick to attribute honor to Ruth from the time they first met – and together, they became one of Jesus’ most honorable forebears.
Today, I’d like to speak to nationals who are quick to relegate foreigners (immigrants) to the place of “they need us, we don’t need them.” I’d like to say to such people, remember the Book of Ruth. You never know what God is bringing to your land through a foreigner, but if you are truly blessed of God as you believe, then you should also take the time, like Boaz, to recognize and affirm the worthiness of the foreigners who stand before you. Take the time to recognize their mutuality in being equal image-bearers of the Most High God, and remember that our God is not a partial God and His love extends to all. Therefore, He could not and would not have placed all the good in the world in you and your people alone. More importantly, open your heart to the foreigners, because just like Joseph and Ruth, God might just be sending them to rescue you and your land.
The same advice goes for the men who think women need them more than they need women. Think about the nameless man in the Book of Ruth. Whatever name he thought he had died with him – it was never mentioned in the Bible. The only name that was mentioned was the name of the man who didn’t think his name too good for Ruth and who, in return and through Ruth became one of the most honored forebear of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ruth had no money, no landed property or claims to any property in Bethlehem, yet she carried the legacy to the greatest seed of humanity in her – the lineage of Jesus Christ….
The worldly systems may be focused on men giving women their names and so deceive men into thinking they have more honor, but as the Book of Ruth shows, honor also resides in a woman, and a foreign woman at that.
-Rev. Tega Swann
Rev. Tega Swann is an ordained Teaching Elder (Pastor) in the Beaver-Butler Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church(USA). She is the founding pastor of Refreshing Springs Ministry, Aliquippa & Ambridge. She has the honor and privilege to be mother to one wonderful child.