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Friday Bible Blogging - Ruth 1 to Ruth 4

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleRuth is by far the shortest of the Biblical books that I've read so far - just 4 chapters long. It's also the shortest of the Historical Books, but not the shortest book of the Bible, or even of the Old Testament.


Ruth, Chapter 1

In a time of famine, Elimelech left Bethlehem in Judah to go live in Moab. He took his wife, Naomi, and their two sons. After a time, Elimelech died, and his sons married Moabites. But after about 10 years, the sons died, too, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, on their own. After hearing that the famine in Israel had ended, Naomi decided to return, but first she tried to send Orpah and Ruth back to their own mothers. Orpah left, but Ruth refused to leave her. There's a fairly well known passage from this section with a nice sentiment, where Ruth expressed her loyalty to Naomi.

Where you go, I will go;
   where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
   and your God my God.
17 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!'

Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, "the whole town was stirred because of them". Naomi asked the people to begin calling her Mara, instead - meaning 'bitter', as opposed to her previous name which means 'pleasant'.


Ruth, Chapter 2

To feed themselves, Ruth went to glean from the fields - gathering some of the grain left behind by the reapers. She just happened to go to the field that belonged to Boaz, a relative of Ruth's. She caught Boaz's eye, and he told her to stay in his fields with his young women, while at the same time he told his servants to keep an eye on her and provide her with extra grain. He even invited her to eat lunch with him. At the end of the day, she returned to Naomi with plenty of food and told her of the day's goings on.


Ruth, Chapter 3

Naomi instructed Ruth to clean herself up, put on her best clothes, and approach Boaz at the threshing floor, but only after he'd eaten and drank. When he went to lie down, she was to "go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do." Now, there's a little bit of a question as to what that's supposed to mean. 'Feet' was sometimes used as a euphemism for 'genitals' in the Bible, so some people might interpret those instructions in a sexual light. However, according to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), at least, these words were to be taken at face value, since Ruth and Boaz followed all the appropriate customs in the rest of the book and wouldn't have committed such a sin here. Anyway, Ruth followed Naomi's advice, and when Boaz took notice, she asked him to "spread your cloak over your servant", an expression of marriage. Boaz agreed, but there was a closer next-of-kin who he would have to talk to, first.


Ruth, Chapter 4

The next day, Boaz met the other next-of-kin at the town gate to discuss the matter. The other next-of-kin was unwilling to marry Ruth, because "I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it."

Next came a passage that reminded me a bit of Grandpa Simpson telling a story.

7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, one party took off a sandal and gave it to the other; this was the manner of attesting in Israel. 8 So when the next-of-kin said to Boaz, 'Acquire it for yourself', he took off his sandal.

So, Boaz and Ruth were married and had a son, Obed (though following custom, the son was given the name of Ruth's dead husband). The final few verses were genealogy, from Perez through a few generations to Obed, and then to Jesse, and then to David. I've read that these last few verses were probably tacked on, possibly in an attempt to legitimize David's claim to kingship (whose story will be told in upcoming books).


---

There's really not much to write about the book of Ruth. It was a short story about only a few characters. It's most likely allegorical, as the names of almost all the characters translate to something meaningful for the story (Elimelech - "My God is King", Naomi - "Pleasing", Mahlon - "Sickness", Chilion - "Wasting", Mara - "Bitter"). Perhaps the most significant lesson taken from it is that non-Jews can convert to Judaism and become full standing members of the community.


New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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