[K:NWTS 22/1 (May 2007) 3-16]

Narrative Art and Biblical Theology in the Book of Ruth

James T. Dennison, Jr.

Arguably the loveliest book in the Bible, Ruth has attracted romantics, scholars, poets, artists, literary critics, even Hollywood film directors. All agree—this little book is a gem. The Germans call it a Novelle—a novelette—a little novel or short story. While it is a mini-drama, Ruth has all the marks of a large canvass panorama or a magnificent ornamental tapestry. The larger picture is the place of the book of Ruth in biblical theology—in the history of redemption—in the intersection of divine revelation and human story. That intersection is the interface between the vertical and the horizontal—the eschatological and the temporal. And in that interface, God enters into the life of his people—in a Bridegroom and a Bride and a Son.

Let us examine the narrative and literary artistry of this Hebrew masterpiece, while keeping our eye upon the wider range of redemptive-historical revelation—while keeping our eye on the son of Ruth, son of David, son of God.

Framed Chapter 1 and Chapter 4

The book of Ruth begins with a mini-inclusio in chapter 1, verses 1-7. This narrative unit is framed by the word "land" (v. 1—"famine in the land" ['eretz]; v. 7—"return to the land" ['eretz]). Alongside the inclusio or framing device of "the land" is the proper noun "Judah" [jehûdah]—v. 1 and v. 7. Having noted the structural artistry of the opening section of the book of Ruth, we flip forward to the end of this tiny gem.

The book of Ruth ends in chapter 4 with a genealogy—a stylized list of begatitudes (4:18-22). The literary form of this genealogy is repetitive: each name in the genealogy occurs twice, save the last name, David. And you will notice that each name occurs twice over through an interconnected formula: X begat Y and Y begat Z. There are nine duplicate names: Perez, Perez (v. 18); Hezron, Hezron (vv. 18 and 19); and so on. There are nine "begats" [hôlîdh]; there are nine markers in the Hebrew of the direct object (the particle 'eth). The end of the book of Ruth displays an artistic literary structure devoted to genealogy—a carefully constructed genealogy which concludes in a singular name—Dawidh/David.

Genealogical Bracket

Before we return to chapter 1, let us note some additional details about the genealogy. Perez, whose name begins the sequence in v. 18, also appears in v. 12 of chapter 4. The name Perez forms a bracket around v. 12 and v. 18. Now, notice the three names which conclude the genealogy in v. 22—Obed, Jesse, David. Those names also conclude v. 17. Thus we have another bracket! Verses 17 and 22 are framed by Obed, Jesse, David. The book of Ruth ends with two Hebrew narrative framing devices: Perez encloses verses 12-18; Obed, Jesse, David enclose verses 17-22. Two framed literary units at the conclusion of this lovely book. One framed literary unit at the opening of this lovely book.

One more observation on the Davidic genealogy in 4:18-22. It is proleptic—that is, the book of Ruth ends open to the future—the future of the monarchic, Davidide (the Davidic Monarchy). Now did you notice how the book of Ruth opened in chapter 1, v. 1—it opens to the past—it is analeptic—that is, reflecting back on the tumultuous theocratic days of the Judges. Future monarchy—past theocracy. But I do not want to direct your attention primarily to this linear, book-end paradigm; that is, the past-future (chapter 1 and chapter 4) book-ends to the present (chapter 1 through chapter 4). In other words, before Ruth 1 and after Ruth 4 bracketing Ruth 1 to 4. Not Ruth the transition between two dramatic redemptive-historical eras. Not Ruth the keystone between the theocracy and monarchy. Rather I want you also to notice the similarities between the initial narrative unit of Ruth 1:1-7 and the concluding narrative unit of Ruth 4:13-17. Note: Naomi appears in Scene One, chapter 1—wife, mother, displaced person, widow, mother-in-law, childless, empty. Naomi appears again in the final scene, chapter 4:13-17—widow, grandmother, mother-in-law, grandson on her lap, restored to the Promised Land, full. It is the child which is central to both these narrative panels: 1:5—Naomi's two defunct children; 4:16—the child, the grandchild, of Naomi's old age. Only here in the book of Ruth do these Hebrew terms for child [yeledh] appear. But the verb "to beget a child" ("was born" in some English versions) explodes nine times on the page in 4:18-22. And the mother of the longed-for child is the daughter-in-law (1:6 and 4:15). The sons of whom Naomi is bereft are replaced with the son of Ruth and Boaz. Only in these two panels (1:1-7 and 4:13-17) do the terms "son" and "sons" [ben/benê] appear (1:11 and 12 excepted [banîm]). Also observe that the terms "wife" and "wives" ['îša/našîm] only occur in these two panels: 1:1 and 4; 4:13 and 14. In chapter one, the sons of Naomi take wives (v. 4); in chapter 4, Boaz takes Ruth as his wife (v. 13).

Finally, we have the word—the powerful word—return [šûb] which dominates this book. It is a key word (or leitworter as the Germans call it) for the entire book of Ruth. And in our opening and closing narrative panels, the dominant key word is found in 1:6 and 7 and 4:15. In 4:15, the Hebrew text reads literally "turning back" Naomi's life; or returning (yea, restoring) Naomi's full life to her.

Foreshadowed Inception-Conclusion

I am suggesting that the literary genius of the Hebrew writer uses a narrative panel to open the book which foreshadows the narrative panel which closes the book. And the relation between the beginning and end of the drama in this book is centered upon what the Lord does: what the Lord does in chapter 1 (he visits his people drawing Naomi back [return!]—back to the Promised Land); what the Lord does in chapter 4 (he provides a kinsman-redeemer—the Hebrew term is go'êl, in v. 14); the Lord provides a goel even as he enables Ruth to conceive the long-desired heir (v. 13). Notice also that the journey or sojourn motif transitions in chapter 1 are theocentric (God-centered); the rest or no-sojourner motif transitions in chapter 4 are theocentric. It is God the Lord who brings Ruth to Bethlehem, even as it is God the Lord who makes Ruth the wife of Boaz—the great-grandmother of David—the ancestress of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. 1:5).

Chapter One

Let's look further at chapter 1. The initial narrative sequence of chapter 1 ends where it begins. The family in Bethlehem (v. 1) sojourns to Moab, but only one of the family returns to Bethlehem (v. 22). Naomi's story ends where it begins—an inclusio of location framing Ruth chapter 1. Between the bracket inclusio (v. 1 to v. 22) are transitions—shifts of location, shifts of relation, shifts of religion. In the redemptive-historical shift, in the transition from theocracy to monarchy—Ruth! Ruth herself a redemptive-historical shift. A pagan widow shifts from unbelief to faith in the Lord. A Gentile woman shifts from cut-off-from-Israel to grafted in to Israel. In the redemptive-historical shift—nestled between the end of the chaotic theocracy and the inauguration of the emergent monarchy—a shift from Moabitess to mother in Israel. If we begin our narrative in Bethlehem—if we end our narrative in Bethlehem—it is because Bethlehem of Judea is the site of the ultimate redemptive-historical shift—one narrative—one story—one in the One from Bethlehem Ephrathah (4:11).

The way in which chapter 1 begins and ends—Bethlehem (v. 1), Bethlehem (v. 22)—is a mirror projection of how the entire book of Ruth begins and ends (1:1 with 4:17; with 2:4 and 4:11). We begin and end the book of Ruth at Bethlehem—our drama takes place in Bethlehem. In Bethlehem, we are present with a man, a woman, a child—at the transition of the history of redemption. "O Bethlehem Ephrathah . . . " (Mic. 5:2)!

Chapter Two

If the pattern of inception is as the pattern of conclusion, then we begin again with chapter 1 verse 22. The sojourn motif begins and ends symmetrically in chapter 1—and the end is a beginning again. A new beginning in Bethlehem in the home of Ruth's mother-in-law (2:1). And as she begins to glean in Bethlehem, moving to the fields from her mother-in-law's home (2:3), so she returns from the fields in Bethlehem to her mother-in-law's home (2:23). But Naomi and Ruth are joined at the beginning and end of chapter 2 by Boaz—Boaz (2:1); Boaz (2:22). The new beginning in Bethlehem includes a new character at Bethlehem. Boaz of Bethlehem becomes the singular male focus from the beginning of Ruth chapter 2. And the end of Ruth in chapter 4? Boaz (4:21). But the concluding male figure—the last male figure—the final name—the last name of the book of Ruth is the singularly mentioned David (4:22). You see it, don't you? the author will not let your eye release from David!!

Chapter Three

The second chapter, which is framed with Ruth and Naomi and Boaz, shifts from the mother-in-law's house in Bethlehem (vv. 1-2) to the fields of Boaz outside Bethlehem (v. 3)—then back to the mother-in-law's house in Bethlehem (v. 23). And the place where we conclude chapter 2 is the place where we begin chapter 3—the mother-in-law's house (3:1). This third episode in our narrative drama will end in 3:18—in the home of the mother-in-law (v. 16).

You will observe that the narrative frame brackets Boaz at the beginning and end of chapter 2; then draws the camera down to Boaz and Ruth in the threshing fields at the center of chapter 2. The narrative frame brackets the home of the mother-in-law at the beginning and end of chapter 3; then draws the camera down to Boaz and Ruth at the threshing floor at the center of chapter 3. The male hero and the female heroine become the center of the drama in the central chapters of the narrative.

But you will also observe another framing device at the antipodes of chapter 3. Verse 1—she said "My daughter"; verse 18—she said "My daughter". Naomi's remarks to Ruth define the beginning and end of chapter 3—a precise parallel in the Hebrew text; "and she said, my daughter" (v. 1); "and she said, my daughter" (v. 18).

Chapter Four

And now, chapter 4 where Boaz forms the literary frame of the final drama in our little gem. Boaz in v. 1; Boaz in v. 21—and the camera folds down upon Boaz in v. 5 ("And Boaz said"); v. 9 ("And Boaz said"); v. 13 ("And Boaz said"). Boaz is at the center of the drama in this final chapter; he frames the narrative of Ruth even as he shadows her under his wings (2:12)—even as he takes her to be his wife, the mother of his son, the heir of the blessings of Judah. Gentile and Jew and the son begotten in time of both—proleptic of the Son begotten before time for both Jew and Gentile.

Literary Narrative Summary

I have made the case that each of the four chapters of this marvelous book is surrounded by a literary framework indicating that each chapter is a discreet unit of a narrative tapestry. The four individual tableaus are seamlessly woven together to form a perfect romance—a lovely narrative masterfully composed by a master storyteller. And each individual tableau? It is a story in itself. Like Otorino Resphigi's musical `church windows', each chapter of the book of Ruth is like a framed church window. Chapter 1—Ruth and Naomi in loyal embrace framed by the little town of Bethlehem. Chapter 2—Ruth and Boaz in the harvest fields framed by Naomi's house in the little town of Bethlehem. Chapter 3—Ruth and Boaz at the threshing floor framed by the mother-in-law's house in the little town of Bethlehem. Chapter 4—the goel-redemption of Ruth framed by Boaz at the gate, in the house of the heir of Judah in the little town of Bethlehem.

Inside Chapter 1

Let's now venture inside each of the framed four chapters for rich, additional literary and narrative artistry. One of the fundamental narrative elements in any story is characterization. The author presents the characters in his drama through their words, their actions, their relational positions. Each of the characters in the book of Ruth is a full-bodied, dynamic character. To use E. M. Forster's classic terminology, they are `round' as opposed to `flat' characters. Ruth, Boaz, Naomi—each is a well-developed personality in our narrative. Let me illustrate this by our author's characterization of Ruth and Orpah in chapter 1. In 1:8, both daughters-in-law join Naomi at the inception of her return to the Promised Land. When Naomi urges them to return from her return—to turn back from her turning back—Orpah complies and goes back; Ruth refuses and goes on. The author has featured this particular scene as a cameo of the character of Ruth and Orpah. We are given a window into the soul of each of the daughters-in-law as we watch their response to the departing Naomi at the edge of the plains of Moab.

Ruth clings to her mother-in-law (v. 14). Her embrace of her departing mother is a window into her soul. And her speech in verses 16-17 is an explanation of what is in her soul. She has been transformed—we would say converted/regenerated—she has been transformed by Yahweh/Jehovah, the God of the covenant (v. 17). And as she clings to the neck of Naomi, so she clings to the grace of the Lord God who has first clung to her. Our author has combined the "return" motif with characterization—Ruth will not return; Orpah will. And our author has done this in order to characterize Ruth as a believer—one who confesses the Lord God of the covenant—one who would rather die than be separated from the people of God, the land of God, the possession of God. And Orpah? Orpah is characterized as one whose soul goes back (v. 15)—back to Moab, back to her pagan Moabite culture, back to her Moabite idols, back to Moab where her husband and her father-in-law lie dead and buried. Orpah does not cling to Naomi; Orpah does not cling to the God of the covenant; Orpah clings to her pagan gods; Orpah detaches herself from Naomi. And so Orpah disappears; Orpah disappears from the narrative—her character is removed from the story, detached from the history of redemption—her soul content with idolatry, with paganism, with return to death. And as our author characterizes Ruth through the scene in which she hangs upon the neck of Naomi, Orpah is absent. Orpah has gone back. Orpah recedes back into the arena of death even as Ruth proceeds into the arena of life with her mother-in-law.

But our author has reinforced this broad portrait of characterization—he has reinforced the character contrast between Ruth and Orpah by a structural pattern. I direct your attention to verses 9 and 14. "Then she [Naomi] kissed them [Ruth and Orpah] and they lifted up their voices and wept" (v. 9). Now v. 14: "And they [Orpah and Ruth] lifted up their voices and wept and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law." The duplication of the Hebrew phrases "and they lifted up their voices and wept"—the exact duplication of phrase is a framing device. The duplication of the Hebrew phrase places the spotlight on the two daughters-in-law and frames their personalities—their souls—their heart's delight. Notice who bestows the kiss in v. 9—it is Naomi. She detaches herself from Ruth and Orpah—she sends them back to Moab with a kiss while she breaks away to Israel. And they lifted up their voices and wept. And as Naomi pushes them away with her lengthy speech in verses 11-13, again they lifted up their voices and wept (v. 14). But now—who bestows the kiss in v. 14? Orpah! Who detaches herself from her mother-in-law and from Ruth? Orpah! Naomi breaks the relationship with a kiss—v. 9 return! Orpah breaks the relationship with a kiss—v. 14 and she returns. But Ruth? she does not return. Ruth? she bestows no farewell kiss. Ruth? she does not detach herself—refuses to detach herself. Ruth clings, Ruth hugs, Ruth holds fast, Ruth embraces Naomi. Ruth embraces Naomi's people, Ruth embraces Naomi's land, Ruth embraces Naomi's Lord. Ruth embraces Boaz, Ruth embraces David, Ruth embraces the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here is brilliant characterization indeed—marvelously, artistically framed—featured by the structure of the inspired Hebrew text. Orpah and Ruth characterized by contrast.

Ruth's story goes on to the Promised Land and to Ruth's greater son, Jesus Christ, while Orpah disappears from the story—disappears into the land of death. Orpah will be reprised in her counterpart in chapter 4. The unnamed goel—the unnamed kinsman redeemer who refuses to redeem Ruth. He too will disappear from the story—so selfish his act of refusing to perform the levirate that he has no name—no name in the history of redemption. Ruth and Orpah characterized by contrast—chapter 1; Boaz and No Name characterized by contrast—chapter 4.

Notice too that Orpah never speaks. Ruth's confession of faith (1:16-17) is a profession of the new-born character of her soul. She loves the Lord God because he has first loved her; and her testimony to his marvelous grace in her life flows from her mouth—her speech. Orpah's speechlessness by contrast tells us a great deal about her soul: no confession, no testimony, no love of the Lord God, nothing but silence!

Inside Chapter 2

I want to pursue this matter of characterization through speech—through dialogue—by examining chapter 2. When characters speak, we learn a great deal about their personalities. Thus narrative dialogue is a clue to how the author presents the character—even when the characters do not say a word. Orpah says nothing and her character is revealed by her not speaking. Mr. No Name in chapter 4 says "I will redeem it" when offered Naomi's land (4:4); but he hastens to say "I will not redeem it" when he finds that he must take Ruth in the bargain (4:6).

The dialogue between Boaz and Ruth is the center of chapter 2—a chapter you recall framed by the beginning and end of barley harvest (1:22 with 2:23). In fact, this central dialogue between Ruth and Boaz in 2:8-14 is also flanked by two other dialogues: the dialogue between Ruth and Naomi (2:2) and the dialogue between Ruth and Naomi (2:19-22). We have symmetry of setting—Naomi's house at the open and close of the spring grain harvest; and symmetry of characterization—dialogue exchange between Naomi and Ruth at the beginning and end of the chapter. When Boaz enters our narrative, he is carrying on a dialogue with his servants (2:4-7)—narrative characterization of Boaz through interchange with his field hands. There is symmetry once more when our hero departs from chapter 2—i.e., by means of a dialogue with his servants (2:15-16). And at the center of this artistically crafted, symmetrically balanced chapter, the first dialogue between our heroine and our hero: verses 8-14—"and Boaz said to Ruth . . . and she said [to Boaz]."

At the center of this mutual dialogue characterization is Boaz's recognition of the transformation that has occurred in Ruth (vv. 11-12). Notice carefully what Boaz says about her: you left your people (2:11). Did not Ruth confess that her people would be the people of the Lord (1:16)? Boaz says: you left your land (2:11). Did not Ruth confess that her land would be the land of the Lord's dwelling place (1:16-17)? Boaz says: you have come to dwell under the wings of the Lord God of Israel [Yahweh 'Elôhê yîsra'el]" (2:12). Did not Ruth confess "your God, my God ['elôhayik 'elôhây]" (1:16), "Yahweh to me [Yahweh lî]" (1:17). Ruth confesses (chapter 1); Boaz acquiesces (chapter 2).

But we must pause to explore Boaz's characterization of Ruth as a person who has taken refuge under the wings of the Lord God of Israel (2:12). It was Israel as the people of God over whom the Lord "spread his wings" (Dt. 32:11). What the Lord did to Israel, he has done to this Gentile. The Psalmist exclaims "the children of men take refuge in the shadow of thy wings [O Lord]" (Ps. 36:7). What the Psalmist confesses is done to the children of men is done to this Moabite daughter of the sons of men. Again the Psalmist prays "be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me for my soul takes refuge in thee and in the shadow of thy wings I will take refuge" (Ps. 57:1). Surely Ruth had prayed "be gracious to me, O God, my soul takes refuge in the shadow of thy wings." Again the Psalmist declares "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty . . . He will cover you with his pinions and under his wings you may seek refuge" (Ps. 91:1, 4). Ruth had come to seek refuge under the wings of the shadow of Shaddai [tahath kenâpâw teheseh Shaddai]; Boaz declares "you have sought refuge under the wings of the Lord God of Israel" [hasôth tahath kenâpâw Yahweh 'Elôhê yîsra'el].

And the covering of the wings of the Lord? It is mirrored in the covering Ruth requests from Boaz on the threshing floor (3:9)—"spread your covering over your maid." Ruth—covered by the wings of the Lord God—asks Boaz to mirror that covering by placing her under the shadow of his goel redemption. You see, the Hebrew word for "wings" or "wing-covering" [kanaph] is used here in 3:9 by Ruth. The very word God uses to describe his winged-covering of his redeemed people; the very word the Psalmists use to describe the shelter of God's wings—his wings of grace which shadow, which canopy, which cover over, which hide his children—that word is the word Ruth uses to ask Boaz to shelter her, to redeem her, to cover her like a canopy—"spread your wings"—your kanaph—your covering, for you are goel, you are kinsman redeemer.

Ruth has given herself up to the grace of the God of the covenant; she gives herself up to the kinsman redeemer to meditate the tangibles of that grace to her. Ruth at the feet of Boaz (3:7) pleading—cover me with your covering; canopy me with your canopy; redeem me with your redemption. And Boaz? Boaz says, "I will!" Beautiful! Simply beautiful!!

More Inside Chapter 3

Our author is a consummate literary artist. There are narrative devices which leap from the page of the Hebrew text. There are structural markers used as inclusios, framing paradigms, chiastic patterns. All of these techniques serve to heighten the poignancy, the loveliness, the romance of this Biblical gem. Notice what the author does with time in chapter 3. We noted previously that chapter 3 is framed by the house of Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law—Naomi's house (v. 1); Naomi's house (v. 18). But notice the sequence of time in this third chapter. The scene opens in the evening of the fateful day (vv. 1-5); the center of the drama takes place at midnight (v. 8); the morning dawns in v. 14 and we walk with Ruth back to the place where the chapter began. The central panel of chapter 3 is Ruth and Boaz at the midnight point between two days. The flanking panels of chapter 3 are Ruth and Naomi on the evening of the first day; Ruth and Naomi on the morning of the second day. The center of the chapter is the center of the drama: Ruth and Boaz, Boaz and Ruth.

The Lord God

But it is the Lord God who is the supreme center of this drama as he transforms a Gentile pagan by his wonderful grace—his undeserved favor [hesed]—his unmerited kindness—transforms her and grafts her into the trunk of Israel. His name is Shaddai (1:20); his name is Yahweh/Jehovah (1:21); his name is God of Israel (2:12); he is the goel—the great Redeemer of his people. And so he frames Ruth with the covering of his wings; he turns Ruth's heart back from her gods to the God who made her in his image; he places himself at the center of her story; he translates her from death to life. And to Boaz, the Lord brings this new-born Gentile widow, this outcast, this uncovenanted female—the Lord brings her to Boaz that together—Bridegroom and Bride—may bring forth life new-born in a Son predestined to marry Jew and Gentile unto himself for ever and ever. The union of Ruth and Boaz? it is proleptic of the union between Christ and his Bride. And in that union, the confession of the Bride is—you are mine, and I am yours—my Lord, my God, my Redeemer.

Other Scholars

I have proposed a number of literary and narrative devices for penetrating the lovely plot and drama of this Biblical masterpiece. Scholars and commentators have suggested numerous organizing motifs from this four-chapter idyll. Donald Rauber's justly famous Journal of Biblical Literature article of 1970 suggests the barren to fullness motif which characterizes Naomi from chapter 1 (note v. 21) to chapter 4 (note vv. 14ff.).1 The most recent commentary by André LaCoque—a deconstructionist version of the text—suggests it is hesed or "kindness" which forms the center of the drama.2 Only LaCoque suggests this hesed arises from Israel's experience in the Babylonian Exile, making Ruth a political tract for Jews exposed to Babylonian Gentiles. All critical deconstruction (LaCoque's included) is actual a fantasy of reconstruction—a fantasy of reconstruction in this case by way of late 20th and early 21st century ideology. LaCoque does not write a commentary; he constructs a reinvention of Ruth so as to make her out a postmodern global-village immigrant.

Life to Death

I close with what I believe is the most poignant motif which hangs as a shadow over the book of Ruth. I acknowledge my debt to feminist scholar, Phyllis Trible, for this paradigm—though she is not the only one who has noticed it.3 Please do not suppose I am endorsing Trible's feminist agenda when I recognize the truth of the paradigm she has identified. She may be correct about the paradigm, while incorrect about its modern cultural application (or reduction). I should also mention the excellent article by Murray Gow of New Zealand in the Bible Translator for 1984.4 I am suggesting that the most poignant organizing motif of this literary gem of a book is: life and death. Notice the book opens with the living escaping the land of death (Bethlehem Judah) for the land of life (Moab). But there, the reverse greets them—they meet the reverse of life in the death of Elimelech, the death of Mahlon, the death of Chilion. They turn from death to life; they return from life to death. And as Moab becomes the opposite of what they found it, they return from death (Moab) to life (bread in Bethlehem Judah). What Naomi resolves to turn back from—to return from—is the land in which she leaves her dead husband, her dead sons, her dead hopes. And when Orpah retreats into that land, or rather when Orpah refuses to turn from that land to the land of Naomi's El Shaddai—Orpah recedes into death and the land marked by her husband's grave, her father-in-law's grave, her brother-in-law's grave. Orpah returns to the dead-land of her dead relations, her dead gods, her dead idols and their cult of death.

But Ruth returns from death to life. With Naomi, Ruth sojourns to the land of the living God and to the life of clinging to him, embracing him, holding fast to him—loving him. She detaches herself from death (her dead husband; her dead father-in-law; her dead brother-in-law) and Ruth attaches herself to life—to the land of life, to the bread of life, to the community of life.

And as she gleans in the fields of Boaz, she gleans from the life-abundance left for the stranger and the widow and the poor. And as she eats with Boaz and his servants, she receives the refreshment of life under the wings of the Lord God and his servants. And as she ventures to the threshing floor of Boaz, she pleads for the life-fruition of a redeemer, a husband, an heir, a child. And Boaz assures her that he will undertake the life-extension of Ruth in the levirate role of raising up life from her in the life of a son. And as Ruth waits for Boaz to fulfill the law; as Ruth waits for his kindness and favor to fill her life to the full with God's kindness and favor, so God gives to Boaz the life of Ruth as his own precious possession—his own precious bride. And God gives to Ruth the love of Boaz as her own precious possession—her precious bridegroom. And God gives in Ruth through Boaz, the life of a son—a child new-born in the land of the living. And now Ruth and Boaz sit at the feet of their son's greater Son—a Son of God—a Son of Life Everlasting—an Eschatological Son of Eschatological Life for Jews, for Gentiles, for male, for female, for rich, for poor—for all who hunger and thirst for life in a land of death—who hunger and thirst for Ruth's Lord—Jesus Christ—for Boaz's Lord—Jesus Christ—for Jesus Christ—son of Ruth, son of Boaz, Son of God. He is the end of the story—the end of the story begun in the beautiful book of Ruth.


1 D. F. Rauber, "Literary Values in the Bible: The Book of Ruth." Journal of Biblical Literature 89 (1970): 27-37.

2 Cf. my review—Ruth: A Continental Commentary (Andrè LaCocque). Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 20/3 (December 2005): 48-50.

3 "A Human Comedy: The Book of Ruth," in Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis, ed., Literary Interpretations of Biblical Narratives, Volume II (Abingdon, 1982) 161-90.

4 Murray Gow, "The Significance of Literary Structure for the Translation of the Book of Ruth." Bible Translator 39/3 (1984): 309-20.