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Book of Ruth
RUTH, BOOK OF. The author of this book is unknown. The historical setting is the period of the judges (
The book records the circumstances that led to the marriage of Ruth, a Moabitess, to Boaz, an Israelite. A famine forced Naomi and her husband to move to Moab, where her sons married Moabite women, one of whom was Ruth. Naomi and her daughter-in-law became widows, and Ruth and Naomi settled in Bethlehem. In the course of providing food for herself and her mother-in-law, Ruth met Boaz, a prosperous farmer and a relative of Naomi. With Naomi’s encouragement, Ruth tenderly reminded Boaz of the levirate obligation (
Bibliography: E. C. Rust, The, The Book of Ruth, The First and Second (LBC), 1961; A. E. Cundall and Leon Morris, Judges and Ruth (TOTC), 1968.——TEM
RUTH, BOOK OF (ר֑וּת, meaning uncertain, possibly companion). In the Heb. Bible Ruth is in the third section, the Hagiographa (or Writings), one of the five Megilloth or scrolls, each of which was associated with one of Israel’s principal feasts. Ruth was read at the . In the LXX, Lat. and Eng. VSS, it follows the .
The setting of the b.c. In contrast to the international background of the Book of Judges, which traces the moral, religious, and political decline of Israel on a broad scale, Ruth throws light upon a domestic scene where the standards of loyalty and integrity were still high., “the loveliest complete work on a small scale” (Goethe), is the period of the Judges, i.e. c. 1200-1020
Jewish tradition maintained that Samuel wrote the books of Ruth, Judges, and Samuel. Since the death of Samuel is noted in
Since an understanding of the purpose is determinative of the date, it must be considered first. There is no other short book in Scripture which has been supplied with so many widely-divergent motives. The chief of these are:
2. To show how a Moabitess was included in the ancestry of David. The tracing of Naomi’s line through Obed and Jesse to David (
3. A plea for an extension of the practice of levirate marriage, thus averting the tragedy of a family line being extinguished. The purpose then would be one of humanity toward the childless widow.
4. The idyllic nature of the story and the seemingly metaphorical names of its characters, Naomi (“pleasant”), Ruth (“companion”), Mahlon (“sickness”), Chilion (“wasting”), Orpah (possibly “stiff-necked”) has led to it being described as a “Novelle” (Gunkel) or “an interesting tale of long ago” (R. H. Pfeiffer). Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction and the names are good Heb. names. The name “Elimelech” appears in the Amarna tablets of the 14th cent. b.c., but nowhere else in the OT. Forms compounded with “melech” (king) were uncommon in the postexilic period. The narrative itself purports to be historical (
5. Ruth was regarded as the perfect proselyte by the later rabbis. She made a clean break with her own people and was completely loyal to the nation and religion of her adopted family.
6. Perhaps one should not look for a single, all-embracing motive for the book. Surely its preservation is due to the fact that it enshrines so much of what is basic in human relationships and in true Israelite religion. It is a story of a loyal, disinterested relationship, which secured its just reward. The upright, considerate, and industrious Boaz was a model Israelite. It demonstrates an overruling Providence and the all-embracing love of God, illustrating the fact made explicit in
The canonicity of Ruth has never been seriously questioned.
Universal assent would be given to the statement that Ruth is a veritable masterpiece of the storyteller’s art. The briefest of introductions sets a scene of hopeless desolation (
A disastrous expedition (
An approximate date for these events, working back from the genealogy of
Return to Bethlehem-Judah (
A chance encounter (
The plan of Naomi (
The reference to the dead (
Events in the gate (
G. A. F. Knight, Ruth and Jonah (1950); H. H. Rowley, “The Marriage of Ruth,” The(1952), 161ff.; L. P. Smith, “The Book of Ruth,” IB II (1953); A. E. Cundall and L. Morris, Judges and Ruth (1967); J. G. Baldwin, “Ruth,” NBC (1970).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
1. Order in the Canon:
The place which the Book of Ru occupies in the order of the books of the English Bible is not that of the Hebrew Canon. There it is one of the five meghilloth or Rolls, which were ordered to be read in the synagogue on 5 special occasions or festivals during the year.
In printed editions of thethe megilloth are usually arranged in the order: Cant, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiates, Esther. Ru occupied the second position because the book was appointed to be read at the which was the second of the 5 special days. In Hebrew manuscripts, however, the order varies considerably. In Spanish manuscripts generally, and in one at least of the German school cited by Dr. Ginsburg (Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, London, 1897, 4), Ru precedes Cant; and in the former Ecclesiastes is placed before Lamentations. The meghilloth constitute the second portion of the kethubhim or Haigographa, the third great division of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Talmud, however, dissociates Ru altogether from the remaining meghilloth, and places it first among the Hagiographa, before the . By the Greek translators the book was removed from the position which it held in the Hebrew Canon, and because it described events contemporaneous with the Judges, was attached as a kind of appendix to the latter work. This sequence was adopted in the Vulgate, and so has passed into all modern Bibles.
2. Authorship and Purpose:
The book is written without name of author, and there is no direct indication of its date. Its aim is to record an event of interest and importance in the family history of David, and incidentally to illustrate ancient custom and marriage law. There is no ground for supposing, as has been suggested, that the writer had a polemical purpose in view, and desired to show that the strict and stern action taken by Ezra and Nehemiah after the return in forbidding mixed marriages was not justifled by precedent. The narrative is simple and direct, and the preservation of the tradition which it records of the descent of Israel’s royal house from a Moabite ancestress was probably due in the first instance to oral communication for some considerable time before it was committed to writing. The Book of 1Sa also indicates a close relation between David and Moab, when during the period of his outlawry the future king confided his father and mother to the care of the king of Moab (
3. Date of Composition:
With regard to the date at which the narrative was committed to writing, it is evident from the position of the Book of Ru in the Hebrew Canon that the date of its composition is subsequent to the close of the great period of the "earlier prophets." Otherwise it would have found a natural place, as was assigned to it in the Greek Bible, together with the
4. Ethical Teaching:
The ethical value of the Book of Ru is considerable, as setting forth an example of stedfast filial piety. The action of Ru in refusing to desert her mother-in-law and persevering in accompanying her to her own land meets with its due reward in the prosperity and happiness which become hers, and in the honor which she receives as ancestress of the royal house of David. The writer desires to show in the person and example of Ru that a sincere and generous regard for the claims of duty and affection leads to prosperity and honor; and at the same time that the principles and recompense of righteous dealing are not dependent upon race, but are as valid for a Moabitess as for a Jew. There is no distinctive doctrine taught in the book. It is primarily historical, recording a decisive incident in the origin of David’s house; and in the second place ethical, indicating and enforcing in a well-known example the advantage and importance of right dealing and the observance of the dictates of filial duty. For detailed contents see preceding article.
LITERATURE. English commentaries upon the Book of Ru are naturally not numerous. Compare G. W. Thatcher, "Judges and Ruth," in (New) Century Bible; R.A. Watson, in Expositor’s Bible; the most recent critical commentary. is by L. B. Wolfenson in AJSL, XXVII (July, 1911), 285 ff, who defends the early date of the book. See also the relevant articles in Jew Encyclopedia, HDB, EB, and Driver, LOT, 6, 454 ff.