Essay On Ruth Bible

Image: Ruth and Boaz

Painter: Josep Anton Koch (1768-1839)

Fortress Press has published a Bible Commentary in two volumes. This commentary seeks to introduce readers to each book of the Bible by focusing on the context of the text and how the text has been interpreted and applied in contemporary situations.

Below is the promotional material introducing The Fortress Commentary on the Bible:

The Fortress Commentary on the Bible: The Old Testament and Apocrypha and Fortress Commentary on the Bible: The New Testament present a balanced synthesis of current scholarship on the Bible, enabling readers to interpret scripture for a complex and pluralistic world. Introductory articles in each volume discuss the dramatic challenges that have shaped contemporary interpretation of the Bible.

Commentary articles set each book of the Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha in its historical and cultural context, discuss the themes in each book that have proven most important for the Christian interpretive tradition, and introduce the most pressing questions facing the responsible use of the Bible today. The writers are renowned authorities in the historical interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, sensitive to theological and cultural issues arising in our encounter with the text, richly diverse in social locations and vantage points, representing a broad array of theological commitment-Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and others, and alive to the ethical consequences of interpretation today.

A team of six scholar editors and seventy contributors provide clear and concise commentary on key sense units in each book of the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament. Each unit is explored through the lenses of three levels of commentary based on these critical questions. The result is a commentary that is comprehensive and useful for gaining insights on the texts for preaching, teaching, and research. In addition to the commentary essays on each book, the volumes also contain major essays that introduce each section of Scripture and explore critical questions as well as up-to-date and comprehensive bibliographies for each book and essay.

Fortress has made available a free sample of the commentary on Ruth. Ruth’s commentary is divided intro three sections:

1. The Text in Its Ancient Context
2. The Text in the Interpretative Tradition
3. The Text in Contemporary Discussion

You can download a PDF copy of the commentary on Ruth by clicking here. The commentary on Ruth was written by Gale A. Yee. Her commentary discusses the biblical text and then looks at how the Rabbis viewed Ruth and how they approached the text. The commentary then looks at the story of Ruth from the perspective of immigrants and impoverished women.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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This entry was posted in Book of Ruth, Hebrew Bible and tagged Boaz, Elimelech, Ruth. Bookmark the permalink.

Peter Leithart, “When Gentile Meets Jew: A Christian Reading of Ruth and the Hebrew Scriptures,” Touchstone, May 2009, 20–24.

Some highlights:

Christological reading that integrates the detailed studies of Jewish scholars has the potential to address some of the complaints against the historical practice of typology. Taking cues from Luke 24​, typological interpretation has traditionally plundered the Old Testament for shadowy types of Jesus.

This is consistent with the New Testament’s Christological use of the Old: Jesus is the Seed of Abraham​, Melchizedek, Moses, David, the sage-king Solomon, Elisha, a prophet like Jeremiah, and, above all, the Last Adam. What traditional typology has often missed, however, is the complexity of these Old Testament types. Each type is itself a rich tapestry of antitypes.

Jesus is David, but David himself is Adam, Jacob, Moses, and Israel. According to the Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7), for example, David’s sons are sons of Yahweh; but Yahweh already has a son, Israel. Thus, David’s sons personify Israel, and a Davidic Christology is at the same time an Israel Christology.

To say that Jesus is the Son of David​ seems to give us only a skeletal royal Christology, but once we see that the figure of David is elaborated by overt or implicit typological links with earlier figures, we begin to put flesh on the bones. Jesus is not the “second Adam,” as if history skipped from Eden to Golgotha without anything intervening. Jesus is the Last Adam, the last of a series of increasingly complex Adam figures, and as such He embodies, and surpasses, them all.

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At first, Ruth seems unpromising territory for a Christian interpreter. Ruth herself is mentioned exactly once in the New Testament, on page 1, in the genealogy that begins Matthew’s Gospel (1:5). After that, she’s ignored. Boaz gets (slightly) more exposure, gaining a place in Luke’s genealogy as well as Matthew’s (3:32). Beyond that, there are no explicit references to Ruth, nor does the New Testament contain any obvious allusions to Ruth’s story.

——–

Moab is triply disqualified from association with Israel. Moab himself was the son of the incestuous daughter of Lot (Gen. 19); at Baal-Peor, Balaam unleashed the daughters of Moab into the camp of Israel to seduce Israelite men to fornication and idolatry, provoking Yahweh to bring down a plague that stopped only when Phinehas impaled a fornicating couple with his spear (Num. 25); and when Israel first passed through Moabite territory, the Moabites refused to offer bread and water (Num. 22:1–6; Deut. 23:4), but instead hired Balaam to spout imprecations.

——–

Ruth the Anti-Type

Her redemption of the Moabite reputation has a double twist. When she sneaks onto the threshing floor the night after the harvest festival to find Boaz—a man old enough to call her “my daughter” (Ruth 3:10)—she is every inch the Moabitess. Like Lot’s daughters, she appears to be approaching a wine-filled “father” seeking a son; like the Moabite women who seduced Israel, she seems to be preying on an unsuspecting Israelite man, and we almost expect a Phinehas to loom up, spear poised.

Yet this Moabitess has already pledged herself to the Israelite widow, and all her Moabitish actions are acts of hesed (cf. 3:10). She does want a son from Boaz, but she acts out of loyalty to Naomi. Unlike her Moabite forebears who refused to bring food to Israel, Ruth is an inexhaustible source of bread for Naomi. Every time she leaves the city, she returns with baskets full of grain (2:17–18; 3:15, 17). This Gentile woman fills the empty Naomi (2:18).

Ruth is the antitype of Lot’s daughters and of the Moabite women at Baal Peor— anti-type because she plays against type, fulfilling the earlier history of Moab by reversing it. In a more straightforward sense, she is an antitype of Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah who dressed herself as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law in order to gain a son for her dead husband (Gen. 38).

Both Tamar and Ruth dress up and seductively approach a father figure to get a son, and, as the mother of Perez and Zerah, Tamar is in the same Davidic genealogy as Ruth. Judah had other sons, but Perez and Zerah, sons of incest, are the ones that figure in all the royal genealogies, all the way to Jesus. Tamar is the savior of Judah’s seed, and so is Ruth.

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On Boaz “The Prototype”:

As he provides food for the hungry, and permanent land for Elimelech’s widow, he plays the part of Moses and Joshua. Reversing the inverted exodus at the beginning of Ruth, Boaz leads Ruth, and through her Naomi, out of the wasteland into a land of barley, wheat, and wine.

In this respect, Boaz also serves as a prototype of the future kings of Israel, who, according to Psalm 72, render justice to the poor and satisfy the needy. Boaz is Moses-shaped, and David, Solomon, and every faithful king of Judah is a Boaz. More fundamentally, Boaz is an Adam.

This is most striking in the threshing-floor scene in Ruth 3, when Boaz awakes from a deep sleep astonished to find a woman at his feet. He is an improved Adam, who feeds Ruth without seizing forbidden fruit, who protects his bride from want, who fathers the seed that produce the seed who will crush the serpent’s head.

Boaz is Adam, Moses, and Joshua. By conforming to the pattern of Boaz, David also becomes a composite of these types, and as Son of David, Jesus is all this and more. To say that Jesus is a greater Boaz doesn’t strike a note; it strikes a chord.

——–

The typological redemption of Ruth follows this pattern: Naomi, the Jewish widow, is bereft; the Gentile daughter Ruth joins her; Naomi gets a redeemer when Boaz attaches himself to Ruth. The pattern is not “salvation, then incorporation of Gentiles” but “incorporation of Gentiles, then salvation.”

——–

Leithart closes with this quote from de Lubac:

Scripture is like the world: “undecipherable in its fullness and in the multiplicity of its meanings.” [It is] a deep forest, with innumerable branches, “an infinite forest of meanings”: the more involved one gets in it, the more one discovers that it is impossible to explore it right to its end. It is a table arranged by Wisdom, laden with food, where the unfathomable divinity of the Savior is itself offered as nourishment to all. Treasure of the Holy Spirit, whose riches are as infinite as himself. True labyrinth. Deep heavens, unfathomable abyss. Vast sea, where there is endless voyaging “with all sails set.” Ocean of mystery.

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