The beautiful portrayal of loyalty between Ruth and Naomi in the Book of Ruth has caught the imagination of readers throughout the centuries. The words of Ruth which express life-long devotion to her mother-in-law have sometimes become part of the wedding ritual. Although originally spoken by one woman to another, the words seem especially appropriate for a bride and groom to pledge their life-long devotion to one another. "Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16b)
Robert Wood first suggested that Ruth and Naomi were involved in a lesbian relationship with one another, in "Homosexual Behavior in the Bible." Few would press the text to yield evidence of physical sexual intercourse between the two women. Nevertheless, lesbians treasure this story and sometimes use these words of Ruth in a ritual in which two lesbians promise life-long love and devotion to one another.
The very real possibility that the relationship between Ruth and Naomi did not include sexual intercourse can serve as a reminder that sex in the narrow sense is not necessarily the heart and centre of a lesbian relationship, just as it is not necessarily the heart and centre of a heterosexual relationship. The essence of any marriage covenant is love, companionship, emotional support, and life-long commitment to one another's welfare.
What Do You Think?
Is it appropriate to think of Ruth and Naomi as partners in a lesbian relationship? Why, or why not?
If one thinks of Ruth and Naomi as two women involved in a lesbian relationship, how does that affect one's definition of what is a homosexual relationship?
Since Ruth was eventually married to Boaz and had children, must one therefore think of her as a person with heterosexual orientation?
Assuming that Ruth was indeed a person of heterosexual orientation, is it impossible that she may have had a lesbian relationship with her mother-in-law?
Assuming that the relationship of Ruth and Naomi did not include a physical sexual act, is it possible to think of it as a lesbian relationship, nevertheless?
How would an outsider distinguish between a celibate lesbian relationship and a close friendship between two women?