Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.  So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”

She said to them, “Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. I went away full but the Lord has brought me back empty; why call me Naomi when the Lord has dealt harshly with me, and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

We often hear the story of Ruth and Naomi read at weddings because of the beauty of Ruth’s pledge to her mother-in-law. But the story is also fundamentally about love outside the confines of marriage, Ruth’s care for Naomi extends well beyond the social dictates of in-law relationships.

Dr. Renita Weems, a womanist scholar of the Hebrew Bible, examines Ruth and Naomi’s relationship in her book “Just a Sister Away: Understanding the timeless connection between women of today and women in the Bible.” The book’s title is an encapsulation of her thesis–that every woman is “a sister away” from healing.

Womanist theology is a way of thinking which considers ritual practices, spirituality, Biblical interpretation, and all aspects of religious life through the lens of Black women’s liberation. Examining Ruth through a womanist framework means reading the relationships depicted in the story and looking toward liberation.

Discussion questions:

1. What are some of the relationships described (in the passage)?

2. Do you see any of yourself or your relationships reflected in the story?

3. Do you have a “star word” or other example of a text that encourages you?