Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889) Ruth et Booz (vers 1868)
The book of Ruth recounts the meeting of Boaz, a native of Bethlehem, with Ruth, a foreigner from the land of Moab. At the beginning of the story, Elimelech and his wife Naomi leave Bethlehem because of a famine and migrate to Moab. The couple’s two sons marry two local girls, Orpah and Ruth. But death takes Elimelech and his sons away. Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem, urging her daughters-in-law to go home. But Ruth insists, wanting to follow her mother-in-law, to be integrated into the people of Israel, and to be attached to God.
The two women move to the Bethlehem area where Ruth meets Boaz. He has just harvested. He sees that the young widow is gathering the rest of the harvest in her fields, looking for food. This young woman does not leave him unmoved. He lets her do it, takes care of her, and provides for her needs, without trying to take her over. Back home, Ruth learns from her mother-in-law that Boaz is related to Elimelech. According to Jewish custom, he has the “right of redemption”, that is, he can marry the wife of one of his relatives to produce offspring.
Naomi feels the advantage of the situation, she dreams of having offspring to honor her and show that the Lord has blessed her. She encourages her daughter-in-law to spend the night at Boaz’s feet. She hopes that Ruth will seduce him, succumb to his charms, and have no choice but to marry him, once she is presented with a completed deal. Ruth only half respects her mother-in-law’s instructions and goes to Boaz’s feet. Without trying to force his hand, she offers to marry him, while leaving him free.
After cunningly solving a legal problem, Boaz can take Ruth as his wife. Her faith and faithfulness made this union possible. Their mutual respect makes it possible to overcome the obstacles and distance themselves from Naomi’s motives. Their union is blessed by God who gives them a son Obed, the grandfather of King David. Ruth and Boaz thus take their place in the genealogy of Christ.
Father Nicolas Potteau, Community of Saint-Lambert-des-Bois