Ruth and Biblical Theology

Few books are as rich a playing field for biblical theology as Ruth. Thanks to Tim Bertolet for typing this up:

In the book [of Ruth] we hear numerous echoes from and allusions to the narrative of Genesis (Gen 2:24 and 12:1 in Ruth 2:11; Gen 12:10 and 26:1 in Ruth 1:1; Gen 19:30-38 in Ruth 3:1-9; Gen 24:27 in Ruth 2:20)…[T]he only two occasions in which the narrator attributes specific actions to Yaheweh are Ruth 1:6; 4:13. Remarkably, both references recall Genesis 3:16 [sic 3:19]. Adam is promised “bread” (lehem) as a reward for hard work in a fallen world; Yahweh gives “bread” (lehem) in Ruth 1:6. Ruth 4:13 and Genesis 3:16 are linked by the rare nominal forms of the root har? (“conceive, be pregnant”), herayôn and herôn, respectively.

If this is the case, Yahweh’s work in Ruth points to the reversal of the curse and consequences of sin and brokeness, This reversal is the end result of God’s hesed: fruitfulness, fulfillment, festal joy.

It appears from the use of the ‘elleh tôledôt formula in Ruth 4:18 that the book of Ruth is to be interpreted as a continuation of the narratives of Genesis, where the formula [JH note: "these are the generations”] occurs eleven times. Specifically, by reducing the genealogy to ten entries, the author presents the lineage of David as the third phase of history, preceded by phases that extend from Adam to Noah (Gen 5), and Noah to Terah (Gen 11:10-26). . . . by identifying Boaz as the seventh link in the chain, the author recognizes in him a watershed of human history, analogous to the periods represented by Enoch (Gen 5:21-24) and Peleg (Gen 10:25).

D.I. Block “Ruth 1: Book of” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Writings and Poetry (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2008), 680.

Tim goes on to make some comments tying Ruth to Jesus and Israel’s later story. I’m not convinced that we should negatively evaluate Naomi-they left the land because of famine. Even if marrying foreigners is a tough one, but perhaps that is more on her husband than on her? Regardless, I think an Exile theme still works, both from the Garden and from Israel.

It’s important to tie Ruth and Boaz to Jesus (see the excellent Story of Love from Brook Hills). But there’s no need to “look past the example of Ruth”-she is simply a prime example of the sort of response redeemed people should show…

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Jason Hood
Jason is a graduate of Rhodes College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Highland Theological College and the University of Aberdeen. Jason works as Scholar-in-Residence and director of Christ College Residency Program at Christ UMC. He's trying to figure out the twitter thing, twitter.com/jasonbhood.

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