Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day

Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy: “We support biblical families.”

Today’s Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day: Ruth & Boaz (Ruth 3:1-10)

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing-floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing-floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet* and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.”

She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.”

So she went down to the threshing-floor and did just as her mother-in-law had instructed her. When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and he was in a contented mood, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came quietly and uncovered his feet, and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and there, lying at his feet, was a woman!

He said, “Who are you?”

And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin.”

He said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter; this last instance of your loyalty is better than the first; you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.”

* “Feet.” OK, sure, let’s just say, his “feet.”

  • Fade Manley

    Oh, how I remember the convoluted explanations given in Sunday School class for what Culturally Specific Symbolic Importance there was to uncovering his feet. See, it was all supposed to be part of a ritual for requesting assistance from a kinsman. Really!

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     Oh, how I remember the convoluted explanations given in Sunday School
    class for what Culturally Specific Symbolic Importance there was to
    uncovering his feet. See, it was all supposed to be part of a ritual for
    requesting assistance from a kinsman. Really!

    Yes.  One imagines that if it were, say, Rick and Boaz I’m sure that Rick would have been instructed to wait until Boaz was drunk and then go, y’know, lie down next to him.  Different society, y’know!

  • rm

    Never thought much before about how she is a young woman and he is an old patriarch. “My daughter” — squick. (I know, figure of speech, but it shows he’s her patriarch/master, not a lover). She is to be praised for having sex with the alpha male patriarch, and not allowing all the beta upstarts to reproduce before he gets his chance.

    And this is why teenage boys are found beaten and fleeing on foot outside of small towns in southern Utah, and why rape victims are too often not listened to.

  • Seraph4377

    What I find interesting is that the book of Ruth seems to be at least as much about the love story of Ruth and Naomi as about Ruth and Boaz.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I only learned last month what “feet” means in the Torah.  Mind you I’ve never taken a bible study class so my ignorance is perhaps understandable.

  • vsm

    I’d say it’s much more about Ruth and Naomi, whether you interpret their relationship as romantic or not. Ruth’s speech to Naomi is some inspired stuff.

  • LL

    Another beautiful story from the beautiful Bible about how women really belong to men and their vaginas and uteruses are not their own to decide for themselves what to do with. 

    In fact, here’s another website to explain how awesome it all is: 
    http://bible.org/seriespage/two-get-ready—i-story-boaz-and-ruthi

    See, you guys? It’s not icky at all!

  • Robyrt

    Huh? Boaz is praising Ruth for staying within the next-of-kin line of succession despite the difficulty, not for going after the alpha male. That’s what “neither poor nor rich” means.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It’s a little odd and maybe even a bit creepy that Naomi basically told Ruth, “Look, go bang my cousin and get married to him so you won’t be That Moabite anymore.”

    I mean, come on. It says there:

    [14] So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another; and he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”

    And he doesn’t even want anyone to know he’s been secretly knocking boots with Ruth either. Side-eye city.

    (Of course, after the fact, when she becomes his wife, all is jim-dandy, but it seems to me like Naomi was trying to set Boaz up without him knowing in advance how it was going to go down.)

  • Carstonio

    In another thread I asked what competitive advantage a male-controlled society would offer over other structures. The only way I can make sense of that is if I assume that the infant mortality rate for the Bronze Age was far, far higher than sociologists have estimated, and that the survival of the societies depended on forcing every single fertile woman to bear as many children as she was capable. (I’ve never seen the remade Battlestar Galactica but I understand that the show tackled the issue of dramatic underpopulation.) Even with that assumption, that wouldn’t justify the control of, say, women who were past childbearing age.

    That line of reasoning sound suspicious because I hear it frequently used against homosexuality. In one case, the person argued that every person has been entrusted with a genetic heritage and that gays are depriving future generations of this. I’ve also heard it claimed that women who do not choose motherhood do so for selfish reasons, and this might have come from someone who resents being a parent himself or herself.

  • Cathy W

    Largely unrelated thought about that page: When did “prosper” become a transitive verb, as in “When she heard that God had prospered her people with food…”?

  • PandaRosa

    “women who do not choose motherhood…” Sometimes I wonder if it were the other way, if society decided a woman should NOT have children unless she could prove she was ready, if abortion and/or temporary sterilization (such as Norplant) was the order of the day, esp for those on welfare. 
    I know I think too much.

  • Carstonio

    A blast from the past…

    The principle here is that an individual’s reproductive decisions should be made by the individual as a default, not by others or by society. The burden is on others to prove that the individual should not have control over those decisions.

  • PandaRosa

    And here I thought the story of Ruth was about family sticking together, looking out for one another. Silly me.

  • Abigail Nussbaum

    Actually, I don’t think the book of Ruth is a good addition to this series, since it’s very much a story about tradition triumphant, and those traditions, while (happily) not being the kind that most people still live by, are specifically the ones that govern familial and marital relations. 

    Pretty much every “good” character in the book acts in accordance with tradition, and then goes the extra mile.  Ruth isn’t obliged to return with Naomi to Israel – as a childless widow she is in an extremely precarious social position, her dowry spent, her claim on her husband’s clan voided by his death, and perhaps too old to be still marriageable.  Naomi recognizes this when she tells her daughters in law that they would be better off returning to their fathers’ houses, which is what Orpah does, but Ruth chooses to stay.  Naomi, in turn, isn’t obliged to find Ruth a husband – as she says to her, she has no more sons, which is the extent of her obligation according to tradition – but she takes on the mother’s role as Ruth has taken the daughter’s.  Boaz isn’t obliged to marry Ruth – there is another relative of Naomi’s husband who has a closer claim and could perform the mitzvah of marrying his kinsman’s widow – but he admires her devotion to Naomi (and also whatever she did when she uncovered his “feet”).  It’s a fantasy about how adhering to tradition will make you happy, for all the good and bad things that implies.

  • http://vicwelle.wordpress.com victoria

    I think the story has a lot of quiet subversive qualities to it.  It shows the women (who both have actual names for a change!) taking action, and the man as the one reacting to them.  Naomi initially tells Ruth to go lay down and wait to do what Boaz tells her to do, but instead Ruth ends up taking the initiative and is the one who speaks first, basically saying, “Ok, here’s how it is: you need to fulfill your tribal obligations, and I need a husband so my mother-in-law and I don’t starve.  So spread your cloak over us and make the best of this situation.”  

    Then again, I know very few protectors of “traditional” marriage would buy this kind of interpretation, but I have a feeling they’d also find a way to take the side of the Levite (Judges 19) who allows his wife/concubine to be gang raped and murdered in order to save his own skin.

  • Deborah Moore

    I’m not so sure of that.  If Ruth were an Israelite woman with a father in town, sure, he could barge right in and demand a shotgun wedding on the spot.  But as a widow without  male protector and, worse, a Moabite, Ruth is pretty much fair game to any man to abuse without consequences.  They are setting up Boaz because he has already proven himself a protector who can be counted on to do right by Ruth.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    Could someone explain the feet thing to me? I’m guessing “feet” is some sort of euphemism for penis? 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Mmm. Fair point. And the story doesn’t exactly tell whether Naomi got Boaz aside and said, “Look, I trust you not to take advantage of her, but we need your help or Ruth is going to probably at best get nistreated.”

  • http://twitter.com/jclor jclor

    It seems rather obvious, if one actually reads the Bible rather than using it as a bludgeon, that, as a society, we’ve recovered from the biblical model of marriage more than we’ve followed it.

    Luckily for right-wing culture warriors, their fervent followers prefer not to actually read it.

  • Jessica_R

    Dealing as this does with birds and Biblical families I think this is the best place to leave this, a wonderful story about Big Bird’s two dads, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/10/big-bird-s-big-gay-love-story-from-birth-to-the-2012-presidential-race.html

  • Seraph4377

    Hard to say.  There are definitely places in the Bible where they use such euphemisms, like in Genesis 24:9 where a servant places a hand “under Abraham’s thigh” to swear an oath.  Alternatively, taking off a man’s shoes may have been a big deal at the time in some way we’ve lost the references for – see Ruth 4 when the next-of-kin gives up his rights to Ruth by giving Boaz his sandal.  Or it could just be a mistranslation (accidental or deliberate)…or even a too-literal translation of a euphemism.  If this were written with certain language today, and translated too-literally in about 4,000 years, they might wonder why he brought a rooster into the threshing room with him, and why handling it was supposed to be seductive.  There are many possibilities.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     It certainly casts Luke 9:5 in a different light.

  • walden

    I think this is on the Slacktivist “biblical family” list because it says — sleep with the guy first, maybe he’ll do right by you…

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K

    Or it could just be a mistranslation (accidental or deliberate)…or even a too-literal translation of a euphemism.  

    I’ve heard that the whale bit from Jonah comes from a literal translation of a metaphor for “being in a bad situation.” 

  • Loquat

    (I’ve never seen the remade Battlestar Galactica but I understand that the show tackled the issue of dramatic underpopulation.)

    It occasionally did, but it didn’t do a very good job on the subject. The population count was updated every episode and the survival of humanity was a constant background worry for the characters in charge, but there was really only one episode where the reproductive rate was actually talked about, and it was really more of a “look at us, we did an episode about abortion, a real-life issue!” episode than an actual thought experiment on how a refugee fleet would handle the issue. Basically, the abortion rate among survivors is found to be high, people argue pro-life vs pro-choice just like in modern-day America, and the president decides to ban it because ZOMG survival of humanity. Mind you, at the time everyone’s packed into refugee ships with limited resources and living space, which seems like a pretty crappy life to bring a baby into, but nobody in the show ever acknowledges this, or indeed gives any thought whatsoever to the question of how these new babies are going to be supported.

    And then later they did an episode where a throwaway line indicated that lots of civilian moms were having to turn to prostitution to support their children. I don’t know whether that was intended to be an answer to the “why so many abortions?” question, but either way the civilian government was clearly not doing a good job.

  • Amaryllis

    It shows the women (who both have actual names for a change!) taking action

    It’s a point of discussion in some circles that there are four women, with names even, mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus– otherwise, it’s all “father begat son,” apparently unaided for all the genealogist cares — and that all those four women have something… unusual … about them. They were foreigners, or were in some way “scandalous,” or at least unconventional.

    As has been said before, well-behaved women seldom make history.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Between being run by two different kinds of raging egomaniacs (Roslin as one President, Baltar as the other) I’m really not surprised the BSG getaway fleet’s civilian government really shot itself in the foot on a lot of things.

  • StillCraig

    The story of Ruth and Boaz isn’t all that shocking. A much more appropriate Chic-Fil-A Biblical Family would be that of Jacob…and his wife Rachel…and his wife Leah…and the maid servants Bilhah and Zilpah. Rachel and Leah were sisters and they married Jacob (their cousin) and set him up with their  maid servants. This incestuous and polygamous relationship is not condemned in the 29th Chapter of Genesis, but Jacob is the great Patriarch with his sons (from these 4 women) resulted in the 12 tribes of Israel. The term “traditional marriage” is a subjective one. Marriages in the ancient world bear little resemblence to the modern “one man, one woman, romantic love” model. In fact, Jacob’s family arrangement would be illegal in all 50 states.

  • Robyrt

     It doesn’t have to be that extreme to be a competitive advantage. Remember, life expectancy was lower, the mechanics of fertility were not well-understood, a large family was a status symbol, and having several children is a competitive advantage on a farm or ranch even today simply due to the nature and amount of work required to do the job. From there, having a patriarchy specifically is probably due to a shortage of eligible men, but it’s widely hypothesized that the early Bronze Age was matriarchal while following a similar social structure otherwise. (See Sarah’s starring role in Genesis, for instance.)

  • Carstonio

    Your point is really about the value that high levels of reproduction had in such societies given the hardships they faced. And although I suspect that eligible women were probably scarcer than eligible men because of the health risks associated with childbirth, you’re right that such a shortage would have led to a gender acquiring power.

    But my point is really about the gender-based control structure, specifically the defenses of it then and now. I’m not sure I can imagine a Bronze Age chieftain concluding that control of all women was necessary to keep his tribe going. It seems far more likely that he was primarily concerned with preserving his own power. It should be possible for a society to have motherhood as the norm for women as a survival necessity and still have no gender-based barriers to economic, social and political power. I perceive patriarchy as benefiting mostly men and their power, with women simply surviving in the system like serfs. Patriarchy seems to assume that women would naturally rebel against motherhood if it weren’t forced upon them, and I’ve heard a few arguments that lean in that direction.


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