The Book of Ruth
Ruth 1:12-22 (NRSV)
12 Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, 13 would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.” 14 Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said,
“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.
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!”
18 When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them,
“Call me no longer Naomi,
call me Mara,
for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.
21 I went away full,
but the Lord has brought me back empty;
why call me Naomi
when the Lord has dealt harshly with me,
and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
22 So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
The book of Ruth does not have an author, it is said to be written by a priest, elder, or a teacher. It was written during around the time of the Unified Kingdom (950-800 B.C.E.). The genre of Ruth is a historical short story, and is post-exilic. It tells the complex storyline of Naomi and Ruth’s lives. During the post-exilic era, Ezra and Nehemiah believed that mixed marriages were dangerous to the survival of the Jewish people because it was a custom for the Jewish people to marry within their own religion; to keep marriage pure. Ruth is intended as a counter argument to the negative attitude towards foreign women during the post-exilic era.
Ruth’s audience was not intended for the “political capitals or cult centers”* in the biblical world. The story of Ruth was meant to relate to the countryside, the villages and towns, more specifically, the common person. Ruth was a character that was just plain relatable. Her struggle through famine, death, and struggling out of poverty made her a character whom people could root for. One of the claims in the book is that women only have a voice in the community. According to Ruth, women’s fate are determined by men such as their husbands, sons, town elders. The book offers the wisdom that God cares for all his people, gentile or otherwise.
Mays, James L. Harper’s Bible Commentary. San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1988.
Newsom, Ringe, Lapsley, Newsom, Carol A., Ringe, Sharon H, and Lapsley, Jacqueline E. Women’s Bible Commentary. 3rd Edition, Twentieth Anniversary ed. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.
Schipper, Jeremy. Ruth : A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Bible. English. Anchor Yale Bible. 2008 ; v. 7D. New Haven ; London: Yale University Press, 2016.