Ruth, The Book of
| RELATED: Boaz, Elimelech, Mahlon, Moabite, Naomi, Obed, Old Testament, Orpah, Ruth, Samuel
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Easton's Bible Dictionary
was originally a part of the Book of Judges, but it now
forms one of the twenty-four separate books of the Hebrew Bible.
The history it contains refers to a period perhaps about one hundred and twenty-six
years before the birth of David. It gives (1) an account of Naomi's going to Moab
with her husband, Elimelech, and of her subsequent return to Bethlehem with her
daughter-in-law; (2) the marriage of Boaz and Ruth; and (3) the birth of Obed,
of whom David sprang.
The author of this book was probably Samuel, according to Jewish tradition.
"Brief as this book is, and simple as is its story, it is remarkably rich in examples
of faith, patience, industry, and kindness, nor less so in indications of the
care which God takes of those who put their trust in him."
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
contains the history of Ruth, as narrated in the preceding
article. The main object of the writer is evidently to give an account of David's
ancestors; and the book was avowedly composed long after the time of the heroine.
See ( Ruth
4:17 ) Its date and author are quite uncertain. Tradition is in favor of Samuel.
It is probable that the books of Judges, Ruth, Samuel and Kings originally formed
but one work. The book of Ruth clearly forms part of the books of Samuel, supplying
as it does the essential point of David's genealogy and early family history,
and is no less clearly connected with the book of Judges by its opening verse
and the epoch to which the whole book relates.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
1. Order in the Canon:
The place which the Book of Ruth 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 the Old Testament the megilloth are usually arranged in
the order: Cant (AKA. Canticle of Canticles, Song of Solomon or Song of Songs),
Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiates, Esther. Ruth occupied the second position because
the book was appointed to be read at the Feast of Weeks 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), Ruth precedes
Canticles; 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
Ruth altogether from the remaining meghilloth, and places it first among the Hagiographa,
before the Book of Psalms. 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
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 1 Samuel
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 (1 Samuel 22:3), and so far supports the truth of the tradition
which is embodied in the Book of Ruth.
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 Ruth 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 Book of Judges and other historical writings,
in the second division of the Hebrew Scriptures. In the opening words of the book
also, "It came to pass in the days when the judges judged" (Ruth 1:1), the writer
appears to look back to the period of the Judges as to a comparatively distant
epoch. The character of the diction is pure and chaste; but has been supposed
in certain details, as in the presence of so-called Aramaisms, to betray a late
origin. The reference to the observance of marriage customs and their sanctions
"in former time in Israel" (Ruth 4:7) does not necessarily imply that the composition
of Ruth was later than that of Deuteronomy, in which the laws arid rights of the
succession are enjoined, or that the writer of the former work was acquainted
with the latter in its existing form. Slight differences of detail in the procedure
would seem to suggest the contrary. On the other hand, the motive of the book
in the exhibition of the ancestry of David's house would have lost its significance
and raison d'etre with the death or disappearance of the last ruler of David's
line in the early period of the return from Babylon (compare Zechariah 4:9). The
most probable date therefore for the composition of the book would be in the later
days of the exile, or immediately after the return. There is no clue to the authorship.
The last four verses, giving the genealogy from Perez to David (compare 1 Chronicles
2:4 - 15 ; Matthew 1:3 - 6 ; Luke 3:31 - 33), are generally recognized as a later
4. Ethical Teaching:
The ethical value of the Book of Ruth is considerable,
as setting forth an example of stedfast filial piety. The action of Ruth 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 Ruth 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.
English commentaries upon the Book of Ruth 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, who defends the early date of the book. See also the relevant
articles in Jew Encyclopedia, HDB, EB, and Driver, LOT, 6, 454.
A. S. Geden
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, book of judges (once part of), book of ruth, glean, mahlon (first husband died), marries boaz, old testament, orpah leaves naomi, stayed with naomi