Sunday, November 4, 2018

Ruth 3 and 4: Grandmother

The story of Ruth and Naomi culminates with Ruth's marriage to Boaz (Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17) and the birth of Obed. Obed's son will be Jesse. Jesse's son will be David. And Ruth and Boaz will be forever remembered as the grandparents of Israel's greatest king. But the grandmother who may be happiest is Naomi, whose biological relationship to Obed may be fairly distant.

Remember that Ruth is Naomi's daughter-in-law - no biological relationship - though the two women have chosen to make a family as mother and daughter. Boaz is related to Naomi in some way, though scripture doesn't specify what that is. He is identified by Naomi only as "our kinsman."

And yet the women said, "A son has been born to Naomi." A son. To Naomi. It has to do with lines of descent and family trees, of course, and it's wonderful that Ruth has given the gift of (grand)motherhood to Naomi.
Michelangelo Buonarotti. Salmon, Booz, Obeth. Sistine Chapel ceiling. 1508-1512. Vatican City.
Michelangelo included this part of David's (and Jesus') family tree in the lunettes of the Sistine Chapel. The lunette on the south wall contains the names of Salmon, Boaz, and Obed (though Michelangelo records the versions Booz and Obeth). To the left of the name plaque a woman holds close her swaddled child. A breast protrudes through her garment, indicating that she has recently nursed the child. This could be Ruth or Naomi (Ruth 4:16). Either way, this figure group is a very tender one, strangely juxtaposed with the old man who seems to face a carved image of himself.* 

It's a beautiful thing, this making of families of the heart. It will happen again at the foot of the cross. Jesus says to Mary, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And a(nother) son has been given to Mary.

*The figure on the right has, sometimes, been identified as Boaz, but evidence to support that claim is weak. If not Boaz, though, the figure is difficult to identify.

What about the widow in Mark 8:38-44? Take a look at where she might have dropped her offering on this week's Art&Faith Matters' Facebook page.

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