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Ruth: Bridges and Boundaries

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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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Two Mothers in Bethlehem (4:13–17)

Extract



Better to you than seven sons

Marriage and Birth (13)

In short, rapid-paced sentences, the narrator briefly relates what could be considered the climax of the plot: “And Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife” (4:13). The terse nature of this report downplays its significance, presenting it as a technical series of events, a process that must be undergone. There is no emotional involvement reported between Boaz and Ruth. While emotional penetration is rare in biblical narrative, this detached report is followed by explicit descriptions of Naomi’s inner world as seen by her neighbors, a juxtaposition which underscores the lack of emotion between Ruth and Boaz’s relationship. Here, too, it seems that the narrator wishes to remove any suggestion of romance or love from their union, which is based on mutual desire to perpetuate the name of the deceased. This lack of romantic love is emphasized through intertextuality: the expression “And Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife,”1 is almost identical to the description of the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca: “And he took Rebecca and ← 305 | 306 → she became his wife and he loved her” (Gen 24:67).2 The strong affinity between the story of Ruth and that of Abraham’s servant’s search for a wife for Isaac,3 reinforces the likelihood that this allusion is intentional. This allusion expresses what is lacking from the Ruth narrative: Rebecca becomes Isaac’s wife, “and he loved her.” The narrator does not...

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