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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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Ruth and Boaz’s Encounter in the Field (2:1–23)


May your acknowledger be blessed

The chapter opens with the introduction of the story’s third protagonist, Boaz: “Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a valiant man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz” (2:1).1 How is the nature of Naomi and Boaz’s relationship to be understood? The Masoretic text presents two different variations of the word “kinsman” – its Ketiv is “עדימ,” “Medah,” and its Qere is “עדומ,” “Mudah.” This difference may indeed be significant – Hubbard, for example, translates: “Now Naomi had a friend through her husband.”2 This reading is derived from the written עדימ, which in his opinion is related to the word עדוימ, which means “friend” in the context of 2 Kings 10:11: “And Jehu smote all those who remained in the House of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his ministers, friends (ויעדימ) and priests, until there was no survivor” (see also: Ps 31:12; 55:14; 88:9;19; Job 19:14).3 However, most translations favor the Qere version, “Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side” (JPS; KJV; NAB; NAU; NIV). According to this reading, Boaz was not only an acquaintance of Naomi’s, but a kinsman,4 the meaning of the word derived from a parallelism in ← 131 | 132 → Proverbs 7:4: “Tell Wisdom, You are my sister / and call Understanding my kinsman (עָדֹמ).”

Seeing as the continuation of the verse explicitly cites Boaz as “of the family of Elimelech,” there is no real contradiction...

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