Book of Ruth - Structure - Ethical Importance

Ethical Importance

1. Inclusivity: Ruth, a Moabite, voluntarily embraces Naomi's people, land, culture, and God. The book of Ruth portrays a perfect example of a true belief in the Creator God in that it propagates inclusion of all, even in the ancient world of the Israelites where separation is made obvious between Israelites and non-Israelites. This inclusivity transcends cultural or racial boundaries, with the objective of uniting the human race, as reflected in the present Jewish liturgies of the Day of Atonement. Yet Ruth is not any foreigner; she has embraced Israel's religion and way of life. Hence, the aim is unity under God.

2. Loving-kindness living: Boaz and Ruth are models of an altruism for which the word "loving-kindness" has been coined (approximately translating Hebrew hesed). They act in ways enjoined in both Jewish and Christian precepts, that promote the well-being of others. It is also at the same time believably spontaneous and human that Ruth should want to stay with the mother-in-law for whom she had built up an affection, and offer to undertake the back-breaking and humble work of gleaning (Leviticus 23:22) to support them. Boaz is also spontaneously kind in a way that is both humane and righteous. He enables Ruth to obtain more from her gleaning without offering the embarrassment of direct donation. Though no doubt also motivated by an affection towards Ruth, in marrying her he has to pay a cost in money and uncertainty. The nearer kinsman does not rise to these qualities.

3. God's providential care. Though Naomi was a destitute widow at the time she re-entered Bethlehem, yet by the end of the narrative, we see her embracing her grandson as her foster-child. From empty in chapter 1, she is filled again by God at the end of chapter 4. There is a parallel with the entry of Mary and Joseph, homeless, into the same town, Bethlehem, before the birth of Jesus. God's providential care also extends to Ruth. This is especially seen in chapter 2. Even though the author of the book states that Ruth "just happens" to find Boaz's field (Ruth 2:3), the reader may be led to accede to the notion that in Bible terms there is no mere chance, but that chance and God's providence amount to the same thing. By both chance and providence, Ruth, a destitute, widowed and childless outsider, becomes an ancestress of King David (Ruth 4:13).

4. Integrity: The book highlights the virtue of maintaining integrity in one's life. The example of Boaz, who is of high stature not only based on his wealth, but also based on his benevolence. His standing is underlined by his authoritativeness during the legal proceedings at the town gate (4:1–10). His integrity is also demonstrated on the threshing floor, when Ruth "visits" Boaz at night. Many scholars debate over what happened on the threshing floor; yet it seems unlikely Boaz and Ruth had sexual relations based on the narrative's portrayal of their character (esp. 2:1; 3:11). Establishing their good character then tarnishing it does not seem likely.

Read more about this topic:  Book Of Ruth, Structure

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