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by Arthur Peake
BY PROFESSOR JAMES STRAHAN
THE Book of Ruth is found near the end of the Heb. Bible. It is the second of the five “ Festal Rolls” ( Megilloth, p. 418), Ca., Lam., Ec., and Est. being the other four. Its transference by the LXX, followed by the Vulgate and the modern versions, to a position between Jg. and Sam. is due to its opening words, “ Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled.” But in spirit it differs entirely from Jg. It is like a pastoral symphony after a surfeit of martial music. Even the Bible scarcely contains a sweeter tale of love. Goethe characterised it as “ the loveliest little idyll that tradition has transmitted to us.” Only in later portions of the OT do we find somewhat similar pictures of pastoral peace and domestic love, e.g. in Job 1:1-5, Psalms 127, 128, 133, Proverbs 31:10-31. (See further, p. 22.)
Several facts indicate that the book was not written before, but probably a considerable time after, the Exile: the fairly numerous Aramaic words and forms which the writer uses; his allusion to a custom familiar enough in the seventh century B.C. ( Deuteronomy 25:9 f.), but obsolete in his own day ( Ruth 4:7) ; and his attitude towards mixed marriages, which points to a time subsequent to that of Ezra and Nehemiah. The writer was evidently a man of wide sympathies and warm affections. To him the laws of Israel were not as “ the laws of the Medes and Persians, which alter not.” For his book quietly ignores, if it does not deliberately oppose, the law in Deuteronomy 23:3: “ An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation shall none belonging to them enter into the assembly of the Lord for ever.” Ezra found it necessary to enforce the law, and demanded the divorce of foreign women married to Israelites (Ezra 9 f.; cf. Nehemiah 13:23 f.). But even Ezra would not have had the heart to divorce Ruth from Boaz. Their marriage was too manifestly made in heaven, planned by a God who educates His people by giving laws to one generation and modifying them for another, never destroying but always perfecting His work.
Literature.— Commentaries: ( a) Cooke (CB), Thatcher (Cent.B); ( c) Nowack (HK), Bertholet (KHC). Other literature: Gunkel, Reden und Aufsä tse, pp. 65– 92.
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany