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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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Before the Law (4:1–12)


Blessed is the Lord, who has not withheld a redeemer from you today

Ruth’s voice is not heard in chap. 4, although her presence is the backdrop of the entire scene.1 Her voice no longer needs to be heard. At the threshing-floor, she passed the reins over to Boaz, and the responsibility to deal with her affairs now rests upon his shoulders. In the previous scene, she was accepted into Boaz and Naomi’s nation from a spiritual and social perspective. Only after this acceptance does the author begin to settle matters on the legal front. This encounter with the law is the final obstacle Ruth must face in order to become fully integrated into the Israelite community.

Gathering at the Gate (1–2)

The scene of redemption opens with a description of Boaz’s arrival at the gate: “And Boaz went up to the gate and sat there (םש בשיו) (4:1). This description draws a parallel with Ruth, who Naomi bids “Sit, my daughter” (3:18) at the end of the previous chapter. This parallel is reinforced as the narrator places the subject before the predicate, writing “רעשל הלע זעבו” rather than the more common order wherein the verb ← 261 | 262 → is placed before the subject, “רעשל זעב לעיו”.2 Ruth is sitting and waiting, just as Boaz sits and waits. The analogy of their actions, however, also underscores the difference between them: both have spent the night upon the threshing-floor, but Ruth is sitting inside her mother-in-law’s house, whereas...

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