And so ends Ruth
And so ends Ruth
In the climax of Ruth, Boaz agrees to redeem the fortunes of two widows, Naomi and Ruth, and to also marry Ruth, an impoverished foreigner. This act of Boaz makes no sense in terms of his personal well-being: it is a sheer act of grace (just as Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi comes at great personal cost and also demonstrates great grace). How are we to understand this action?
What reading did the author put on this act of redemption by Boaz ? Did he realize that if a mere man, a creature of God, could behave in the manner described, and had indeed by his action exhibited the power to redeem an outcast and bring her into fellowship with the living God, then two things could be said of the creator of Boaz? (1) God must feel at least as compassionate towards all the Ruths of Moab and of Babylon and of every other land as his creature Boaz felt towards Ruth; (2) God must actually be a God of redemption with the desire and the power to redeem all outcasts into fellowship with himself.
G. A.F. Knight, quoted in Leon Morris, Ruth
Most preachers and Bible teachers have great difficulty when presented with a historical narrative. The sermon often becomes an extended set of historical observations about the text and perhaps bootstrapping it into a strange illustration (five hints for slaying the Goliath in your life).
Daniel Block provides a set of five questions which can help direct one’s understanding and use of narrative texts:
In the Scriptures historiographic compositions are primarily ideological in purpose. The authoritative meaning of the author is not found in the event described but in the author’s interpretation of the event, that is, his understanding of their causes, nature, and consequences. But that interpretation must be deduced from the telling. How is this achieved? By asking the right questions of the text: (1) What does this account tell us about God? (2) What does it tell us about the human condition? (3) What does it tell us of the world? (4) What does it tell us of the people of God—their collective relationship with him? (5) What does it tell us of the individual believer’s life of faith? These questions may be answered by careful attention to the words employed and the syntax exploited to tell the story. But they also require a cautious and disciplined reading between the lines, for what is left unstated also reflects an ideological perspective. Having described the problem and set the agenda, we may proceed to answer the questions raised.
Daniel Isaac Block, Judges, Ruth, vol. 6, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 604–605.