- The Time of Her Life: Ruth and Naomi
- Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues
- Indiana University Press
- Number 30, Fall 5777/2016
- pp. 7-23
- View Citation
- Additional Information
The debate about the nature of the Book of Ruth is spurred by a profound ambivalence in the book’s portrayal of the role of women. Ruth’s assertiveness, her devotion to Naomi and her independence in seeking out sustenance for herself and her mother-in-law disclose a female character of exceptional autonomy. No other biblical book describes the relationship between two women in such positive terms. By contrast, when men assert themselves as the exclusive power brokers in Chapter 4, they take charge of women’s affairs and leave no room for the women to play an active role in determining crucial aspects of their fate, most noticeably regarding inheritance and redemption. The question addressed here is how these two positions are represented in the speeches of Naomi in 1:11–13 and Ruth in 1:16–17. In these speeches, each woman sets out her own understanding of the role of time in a woman’s life, and what women can offer to one another in the face of tragedy. The paper will also explore the importance of these speeches for clarifying the narrator’s position about how women should make their way in biblical patriarchal society.