While having a Scripture discussion this past weekend with several men, Boaz and Ruth came up. Our topic, at the moment, was concerning concubines and the notoriously squishy definition of pilegesh (concubine) in Scripture. Someone noted that the word is never used in the Book of Ruth, but Boaz’s ‘maids’ (na’ara: H5291) do seem to fit the bill, even as ‘concubine’ is a definition for the word. Certainly, a wealthy, righteous, older man is highly unlikely to be single as Christendom likes to portray him.
Still, I offered that it is somewhat speculative to assume that Ruth was not an only wife. Harder evidence is necessary to be more insistent that Boaz had more than one wife.
My eldest, who was engrossed in the text, suddenly said, ‘Hey, wait a minute. Look at Ruth 4:16-17!!’
That’s when the conversation got really interesting!!
And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it.
And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.Ruth 4:16-17 KJV
I had previously always read this as if Naomi was being a nurse maid or grandmother, of sorts. But, this text parallels Sarai taking Hagar’s son as her own, or as Rachel and Leah taking Bilhah and Zilpah’s sons respectively, as their own and naming them! To do so, the one bearing the child is a bond servant to the one receiving the child and both are under the covering of the man producing the seed.
So the question becomes, did Ruth make herself a bondservant to Naomi when she said,
And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.Ruth 1:16-17 KJV
Certainly, from that point forward, Naomi is ‘calling the shots’ and directing her every step. And, the baby winds up on her knee and as some translator notes say (e.g. NASB95), Naomi took the son ‘as her own!’ The same word, cheq (H2436), is used of Sarai giving her maid ‘into Abram’s bosom’ as a wife, i.e., belonging to him!
And, if this is the case, can there be any doubt that Boaz had also taken Naomi as his woman in her old age, one whose womb was as dry as Sarai’s? See Ruth 1:11-13. The parallel is striking.
Further, this seems a direct connector to Paul’s reference in 1 Timothy 5:16 that I address in my paper Paul’s Perspective on Polygamy regarding widows who have widows.
Suddenly, the evidence seems to be piling up that righteous and wealthy Boaz not only had concubines, but also took both Naomi and Ruth. Recall that this story happens during the time of the Judges wherein we have numerous examples of polygynous men….
Paradigms are hard to break and the western Greco-Roman Christian monogamy-only “ideal” is a tough one to shed, but we have to come to grips with the fact that YHWH doesn’t have a problem with it, even describing Himself, on multiple occasions, as having two wives.
Fascinating and insightful.
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SHALOM Pete as always very interesting and will probably cause a other contraversial division of opinion , i think we have misunderstood Ruth but not in the way that you are suggesting ,and i dont have many people who agree wih me but thats for another time . I notice this was a mens bible study group and i am wondering how your wife sees all this and the other women in your fellowship …..im afraid we had a terrible time with a messianic jewish rabbi who created a stir in our fellowship in Bournemouth, eventually his wife left him as he went on to have another 6 wives and more children…it wasn’t good and i witnessed his behaviour behind the scenes of our fellowship which left a dear woman friend penniless and destroyed the fellowship ..His name was PhilipSharpe and he committed suicide in the end ..you can read it all on the Web…I also notes that Moshe Kopinski and Simon Altaf both support multiple wives….I just don’t know whether it’s for today …but only have the phillip Sharpe experience to go on and also how I might feel if my husband wanted another wife…..being blunt I might just think he wanted his cake and eat it…or i might think great take the pressure off me ….ok i realise im speaking probably as one who is not completely healed and whole and i dont have a believing husband,,, .I think personally we’ve gone to far away from this bit of the torah and at the end of the day yeshua has one bride not two ….one new man ..two sticks that became one ..but i would love to hear your wifes views……blessings as always from margaret .. and i hope I don’t offend you by my honesty …
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Thank you for your comment, my apologies for replying so late. Immediately upon receiving it, I read it to Kelly, but that was the first day of our house being sick. Long story short, I was in bed for a few days and slow catching up after as everyone else cycled through whatever I had…
Kelly’s quick response was, ‘Why do my feelings matter? If it’s truth, it is truth. How I feel isn’t important.’
We went on and discussed my blog and she again expressed appreciation that I generally keep our family life and our personal matters off the board and out of the public eye.
You are not the first to ask the ‘feelz’ question and honestly, it is one I should write about. Feelings are generally selfish in nature and often lead away from challenging truth.
A second item I should write about is also covered in your comment. You name several public people who may or may not have had a bad ‘experience’ and believe that is an argument against. In fact, it is no argument at all. It is a part to whole fallacy. If your reasoning is valid, then the number of bad/broken monogamous relationships we are all familiar with should prove that monogamy is bad…. In truth, most all marriage problems stem from the sin in the hearts of one or more participants and not from the form of marriage structure.
With your permission, I would like to use parts of your comment in a future blog post to discuss these two points. (You will notice I redacted your email address from public view).
Blessings and shabbat shalom!