Ruth of Moab

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“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!”

– Ruth 1:16-17

The above quotation, written like (and sometimes used as) a wedding vow, comes from an oath in the Tanakh/Old Testament taken by Ruth of Moab to her mother-in-law, Naomi. At the time survival options for women without living male relatives to provide for them were limited, and Ruth’s father and husband had just passed away, leaving her alone with Naomi. Instead of going their separate ways to rejoin the rest of their families, Ruth made the near suicidal decision to “cling” (“dadaq” in Hebrew) to Naomi. Later, Ruth marries Boaz, a close relative of her former husband’s family, and their great-grandson, David, becomes the slayer of Goliath and king of Israel.

Ruth and Naomi are sometimes cited as an example of homosexuality in the Tanakh or Old Testament on the grounds that their relationship was too close to be described as friendship. Scholars compare the language the two use for each other to Adam’s reaction to Eve and emphasize the Book of Ruth’s focus on her relationship with Naomi over all others, including their husbands. Because Ruth never expresses love for Boaz she is tagged as a lesbian here. However, as with all figures whose historical (or fictional) record is limited, it is impossible to settle on a definitive answer as to whether the two were romantically or sexually involved.

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