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Ruth: Bridges and Boundaries


Jonathan Grossman

Ruth: Bridges and Boundaries is a literary close reading of the text as a bridge between the anarchic period of the Judges and the monarchic age that begins with the birth of David, as reflected through Ruth’s absorption process within Bethlehemite society. This bridge is constructed from three main axes: the theological perception that human actions have the power to shape and advance reality; the moral-legal perception that the spirit of the law must be privileged over the letter of the law and social conventions; and the principle that the institute of monarchy must be based upon human compassion. The commentary traces the narrative sequence through the paradigm of this three-fold cord, showing how these threads are woven throughout the book. This innovative reading is illustrated with an unprecedented psychological analysis of Ruth as a narrative of transition, using modern psychological theories.
This contemporary yet textually faithful literary commentary offers new insight into the inner workings of the text of Ruth as literary masterpiece. Academic yet accessible, this work provides tools for readers of Ruth and the field of biblical narrative in general.
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Appendix – The Lineage of Peretz (4:18–22)


And Jesse begot David

The concluding verses of the narrative (18–22) should be read as an appendix to the story. Even if these verses were written by the same author as the entire narrative (as LaCocque claims, among others),1 from a literary point of view, this unit is not a direct continuation of the plot, and it can be considered a final stitch that the narrator uses to link the narrative to the royal dynasty of Israel. As Hubbard comments, such genealogical lists are found mainly in Genesis, but unlike these lists – which open the narrative that concerns each family – the genealogical list of Peretz in the book of Ruth concludes the narrative.2 While this list was probably added to the text at a later stage of its editing, it has great bearing upon the reading experience of the text.3

The first question that arises from this unit is that of its necessity. Boaz’s relation to David has been related in the previous verse (“who is the father of Jesse the father of David” [17]) – if so, what information does this appendix contribute?

Surprisingly, the list begins with Peretz rather than the father of the tribe, Judah. Thus, these verses are linked to the story itself, when the elders bless Boaz that his house will be like the house of Peretz, ← 327 | 328 → hinting that their blessing is fulfilled. Given the symbolic saturation of the book of Ruth, it is...

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