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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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The Book of Ruth’s Dating and Objectives

Opinions regarding the time of the book of Ruth’s composition are polarized, generally falling under one of two adamant approaches: some date its compilation to the period of the united monarchy, during David or Solomon’s reign,1 where others postpone its writing to the period of the Second Temple (although some argue that it originates in between, during the reign of Hezekiah or Josiah).2 Obviously, ← 9 | 10 → as many have commented, the question of its dating colors the understanding of its objectives. Those who claim that Ruth was written during the united monarchy tend to place emphasis on the themes of kindness, or upon David’s genealogy; those who date the book to the period of the Second Temple tend to read it in polemical discourse with Ezra’s condemning of marriage with foreign women. While I do not wish to address the question of Ruth’s dating in these pages, I nonetheless seek to distinguish between the latter and the question of the narrative’s objectives. Of course, it is not always possible to do so, given that different periods raise different issues that must be addressed.3 This is evident in the relationship between the two parameters in the context of our narrative: whoever is convinced that the ← 10 | 11 → text’s main objective is to legitimize marriage with foreign women will favor the period in which this issue comes to a head,4 but the reverse order may also transpire: as...

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