I LOVED this story from The Seed Company’s blog! It was really amazing to see the story of Ruth in a new context, simply because it was understood by a people group on the other side of the world. Read on:
The Ikizu and Zanaki translators and I recently checked their translations of the book of Ruth. In the process of doing so, they taught me something new about the story. I first realized that I had misunderstood the book when we were looking at possible pictures to use in Ruth. One of the Zanaki translators said, “We must have one of Grandma Naomi with the baby on her lap, because that is the climax of the story!”
Personally, I have always thought of the climax of the book being when Boaz and Ruth are married, because I’m used stories that have a goal of the guy and girl getting married and living happily ever after. However, the way the story was intended is that the great moment of the story is when Ruth gives birth to a son. Boaz and Ruth getting married merits about a third of a verse (Ruth 4:13a) and the son’s birth and the joy surrounding that event takes up about nine and two-thirds verses (Ruth 4:13b-22). Boaz was a wealthy man and could provide for Ruth and Naomi while he was alive, but he was probably old and likely to die before Ruth would, which would have left her a penniless widow once again. The inheritance goes to sons, not wives! In this instance of levirate marriage (inheriting the wife of your dead brother/relative and having children that would be considered his), Ruth’s son would inherit her first husband’s property. So the true great moment of the story is the son’s birth, because only then did Naomi and Ruth have a provider.
Even though this idea is not in my worldview, it is how Naomi and Ruth thought about things, and it’s how Ikizu and Zanaki people think, too. In most Tanzanian cultures, women who do not have sons are desperate for one, because without one, they have nobody to provide a home for them if their husband dies or leaves them. So even though I’ve studied the Bible and am supposed to be advising the translators, they definitely understood the story of Ruth much better than I did!
This story was originally appeared on Andrew & Michelle Sandeen’s Blog. They serve the Bible translation efforts in Tanzania, East Africa.