Bible Query from
Ruth

Q: What is the main point of the book?
A: There are a number of "main points" of this factual novel.
Historically, it shows us the ancestry of David. This explicitly is one purpose, according to Ruth 4:18-22.
Conceptually, the word "redemption" is found 23 times in the book, and this concept would be useful later when the Messiah came.
735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.98 points out that the viewpoint of Ruth also serves as a counterbalance to the tragic pictures in Judges.
The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 3 p.511-513 gives many more possible reasons. See also The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.416-417 and the Believer's Bible Commentary p.287-288 for more info.
 

Q: In Ru, what is some of the literary value of the book?
A: Apart from the spiritual value, Ruth is also an excellent example of literature. The Believer's Bible Commentary p.287-288 relates the following.
Once when Benjamin Franklin was in the French Court, he heard some French aristocrats putting down the Bible. While Benjamin Franklin was not a Christian himself, he valued the Bible as literature, so here is what he did. Franklin wrote out the story of Ruth in his own handwriting, changing all the names to French ones. Then he read the story to the aristocrats. The asked him "But where did you find this gem of literature, Monsieur Franklin?" Franklin answered, "It comes from that book you so despise, la sainte [Holy] Bible!".
 

Q: In Ru and Dt 23:3, wouldn't Ruth be excluded from the assembly of the Lord?
A: First some background, and then two possible answers.
Background: A reason for this restriction is so that half-Israelite children would not grow up worshipping other gods. Ruth's Israelite husband disobeyed the law when he married Ruth the Moabite. However, God can use even disobedience in His plan. Beyond this, Christians disagree with two answers.
Yes, Ruth would be excluded from the assembly, but even if someone had this lesser status and is excluded from the assembly, she still can worship God and follow Him. Sometimes Christians are excluded from some ministry opportunities because of sin (divorcing their spouse, etc.), or simply because the target people are prejudice against their nationality. But they can still serve God in the role that God has now given them.
No: "Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God" (Ruth 1:16). If a person was classified as "a foreigner who bound himself with Israel" (Isaiah 56:6), such as Ruth, then she would be an Israelite by adoption. In fact, King David was Ruth's great-grandson (3 generations), according to Ruth 4:21-22, Matthew 1:5-6 and Luke 3:31-32. Likewise, Isaiah 56:3 also says that foreigners who have bound themselves to the Lord will not be excluded from God's people.
A Final point is that in these dark times in Israel, both Ruth and the villagers might have been unaware of this restriction. Sometimes God even uses our ignorance. For example, the Israelites made a treaty with the Gibeonites in Joshua 9.
 

Q: In Ru 1, was this book written in the fifth century to try to counteract Nehemiah's ban on marrying non-Jews, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.265 claims?
A: No, Asimov is making a claim with no evidence. There are four points to consider in the answer.
1. The fact of Boaz being the ancestor of David was prior to David's reign around 1010 B.C., was also recorded in a historical narrative of that time: 1 Chronicles 2:11-12.
2. While we do not know exactly when the book of Ruth was written, it most likely was written before David's death, since it makes no mention of David's famous son Solomon.
3. Also, Ruth being a Moabitess explains what would otherwise be a mystery: when the going got rough, David brought his parents to refuge in Moab in 1 Samuel 22:3-4.
4. Finally, the author does not seem prone to insert his own facts, because 1:7 it would have been easy to simply name a town in Moab. However, the author said they "she came from the place where she was". The author was not going to try to tell us where Naomi lived in Moab, since the author apparently did not know himself.
One could argue that we have no evidence except what people wrote in Ruth and 1 Chronicles. While that is true, we have no evidence of anything in history apart from artifacts and what people wrote. For example, we have no evidence that Julius Caesar even had a mother (was he hatched?) apart from what people wrote. Likewise we have no evidence that David had a great grandmother, apart from what people wrote.
 

Q: In Ru 1:1 was Elimelech poor because of the famine, or was Naomi "full" as Ru 1:21 says?
A: You do not need a lot of money to have a rich family life. They left Judah because of the famine. Naomi leaving "full" in Ruth 1:21 refers to her having her husband and two sons who later died. People can be monetarily poor, but still have a full life. See Difficulties in the Bible p.335-336 for essentially the same answer.
 

Q: In Ru 1:2 are the names Mahlon (meaning "sickness") and "Chilion" (meaning "wasting") more appropriate for fiction, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.263-264 claims?
A: One could conjecture that these might not necessarily have been their original names but what they were called later after they died.
However, a more likely answer is found by studying non-Western cultures. The Israelites, like many Africans in even the twentieth century, would give names whose meaning was based on current events, whether they be good or bad. So if the sons were born in hard times, it would be natural for the Israelites to name them appropriately.
As evidence of this, Rachel named her son Ben-Ammi (son of my sorrow) as she was dying, and Phinehas' wife named her son Ichabod (no glory, or the glory has departed) as she was dying in 1 Samuel 4:19-20. Hosea was told by God to name his first son Jezreel after the massacre at Jezreel, his daughter Lo-Ruhamah (not loved), and his second son Lo-Ammi (not my people). God told Isaiah to name his son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil) in Isaiah 8:1-4.
In conclusion, it was not out of character for people to be named after the time, even hard times. As for my children though, I think I will stick to simpler names.
 

Q: In Ru 1:2, why were people of Bethlehem called Ephrathites?
A: This is because there were two towns named Bethlehem, and they were born in the southern one. The southern town was called Bethlehem Ephrathah, as 1 Samuel 17:12 and Micah 5:2 show.
 

Q: In Ru 1:4, were they right to take Moabite wives?
A: Regardless of whether they were right, the Bible is simply recording what these common people did. While the prohibition against non-Israelite wives was not given until later, this would not be wise, as children of Moabites would be excluded from the religious congregation.
 

Q: In Ru 1:6, what does it mean that the Lord had visited His people to give them bread?
A: On the surface, the answer is simple: the famine was over. However, it is not clear whether
a) the famine was caused by lack of rain, or
b) the famine was caused by raiding and war, and God had delivered them from their oppressors.
Either way, the relevant point was that the famine was over.
 

Q: In Ru 1:8, why did Naomi try to persuade her two daughters-in-law not to return with her?
A: In Ruth 1:6, both daughters initially were going to follow Naomi. We can conjecture that she probably thought that was not best for two reasons.
Financially, she was no able to support her two-daughters-in-law. It would appear they would have a better chance of marrying, or at least finding support among their blood relatives in Moab. Famine and starvation were very serious realities.
Spiritually, there was no point in them coming to Israel, if they were not going to worship the true God.
This is at least the fourth example in the Bible of someone being a part of God's people by their own active choice, rather than simply by birth. See also the discussion on Ruth 1:15 for more info.
 

Q: In Ru 1:13, why did Naomi say God's hand was against her?
A: Naomi still followed God, but with the famine and deaths of her husband and two sons, and with no hope of descendents, she had definitely seen better circumstances. See also the discussion on Ruth 1:20 for more on her reaction.
 

Q: In Ru 1:13 and 1:20, do the Aramaic words in Ruth point to it being written in the seventh century?
A: No. The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.262 even claimed it was written in the fifth century B.C. The following first will discuss why the alleged Aramaic words are not relevant, and second why it was likely written earlier.
1. lahen in Ruth 1:13 does mean "therefore" in Aramaic, but it also means "to them" in Hebrew. Mara in Ruth 1:20 is spelled the Aramaic way, but the Hebrew has an identical sound and is only slightly different in spelling. Of course, as the book as copied through the years, scribes who knew Aramaic could easily have introduced the second change. See Survey of Old Testament Introduction p.286-287 for more info.
2. The author Gleason Archer also points out that it was probably written down between the time of David and Solomon. Though David is not a part of the story, David was specifically mentioned. Solomon probably would have been mentioned too, if he had been reigned when it was written down. Also, the book of Ruth clearly shows a time before the Moabites hated the Israelites because of their constant subjugation.
 

Q: In Ru 1:15, why did Naomi tell Ruth to go back to her [Moabite] gods like her sister did?
A: In this situation Naomi might have known what she was doing. Naomi compelled Ruth to make firm her decision. Naomi did not want Ruth to come with her for financial or emotional reasons. Having Ruth claim to want to serve the Living God would do no good either, if that were just a pretense. This conversation shows that it was not a pretense, and it was definitely Ruth, and not Naomi, who wanted to follow Naomi's God.
Sometimes in evangelism today, we need to give people room to make their decision, and to let them realize that it is really their decision. For a second example that has some similarities to this, see Joshua 24:14-25,
 

Q: In Ru 1:20, was Naomi right to want to be called Mara which means bitter?
A: With three deaths in her family, Naomi had no reasonable hope of descendents, which was important in that culture. She still followed God, but her wanting to be known as "bitter" is understandable. Understandable does not mean it was good though. Believers can fall short in different ways, and she was getting very discouraged. God graciously picked her up out of her despair, and gave her a great hope.
Today you might feel very discouraged at times; Paul did in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10. You may feel that "bad news" or "bitter" should be your name, too. God can pick you up out of that, and show you a real hope. 1 Peter 1:3-12 tells us of our great hope, as does Paul in Romans 8:18. Hebrews 12:1-3 speaks of the perseverance and hope of Jesus and others in the face of suffering, and how we need to have the same hope. Not a weak, timid hope, but a hope that gives us strength to withstand any trial.
 

Q: In Ru 2:3 (KJV), what is "her hap"?
A: This King James Version expression means "as it happened".
 

Q: In Ru 2:6-7, why did the chief servant permit Ruth to glean after the reapers without informing Boaz in advance?
A: Scripture does not say, but there could be two reasons.
Legal: In the Israelite law (Leviticus 19:10; 23:22; and Deuteronomy 24:21) the farmers were forbidden to go over the fields a second time, but to leave the gleanings for the strangers and the poor.
Relationship: Apparently the relationship was such between Boaz and the chief servant that the chief servant could take the initiative, prior to informing Boaz, without any question that Boaz would want to be stingy and disobey the law. In a boss/subordinate relationship, one of the most valued traits of a subordinate is that they can be trusted to do what the boss wants done.
As a side note, today in business relationships, one side in a relationship will often benefit more if it "leaves a little money on the table" for the other side. When both sides are in a win-win situation, both have incentive to continue the beneficial relationship.
 

Q: In Ru 2:19, why did Naomi say this?
A: When Naomi saw that the amount was an entire Ephah, she figured out what was going on. Someone had noticed Ruth and was being especially generous to her.
 

Q: In Ru 3:7-9, what did Ruth and Boaz do here?
A: While some try to read into this passage that they had sex here, the book of Ruth specifically does not say this. In the Bible, the term "lay with someone" means to have sex with someone, but Ruth did not do that. Ruth laying down only means that she laid down to sleep.
As Hard Sayings of the Bible p.199-200 says, Boaz was "startled" in the middle of the night when his feet were uncovered and Ruth was there. So obviously, prior to this, Boaz was not involved in any way with Ruth, or he would not have been surprised. Both this and 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.98 explain that Boaz spreading the corner of his blanket over her was a custom saying he would marry her. Hard Sayings of the Bible p.200 also mentions this it is still the practice of some Arabs today that a man would throw a garment over a woman he is going to marry.
Ruth coming at night would not put public pressure on Boaz to accept her. According to When Critics Ask p.153, Ruth uncovering Boaz's feet was a customary practice to demonstrate her submission to Boaz.
 

Q: In Ru 3:8 (KJV), was Boaz "afraid" here?
A: No, a better translation is "startled".
 

Q: In Ru 3:11, why did Boaz call Ruth a virtuous woman?
A: Because Boaz saw Ruth's loyalty to Boaz was greater than her desire to marry a younger man.
 

Q: In Ru 3:14, why did Boaz not want it known that a woman came to the threshing floor?
A: Boaz probably was afraid of the appearance of evil (2 Corinthians 8:22; 1 Thessalonians 5:22). Furthermore, if it was known that Boaz permitted Ruth to come, then other women, such as their wives, might want to come and visit the younger men.
 

Q: In Ru 4:3-8, was this against the laws of a man marrying his dead brother's wife in Dt 25:5-10?
A: Not at all. Six points to consider in the answer.
1. There was no surviving brother. Instead they were going by the nearest male relative.
2. Note that in Ruth 4:4, the closest relative initially was willing to buy the property, until he found out that Ruth would become his wife in the transaction. He was more concerned about his descendents all carrying his name, than in Ruth's well-being, or even the property.
3. Ruth was not an Israelite, but a Moabitess, so that might explain the closest male relative's reluctance.
4. The commands of Deuteronomy 25:5-10 were not applicable here, because the man was not a brother of the husband. However, they were trying to follow the principle and spirit of Deuteronomy 25:5-10.
5. Since Deuteronomy 25:5-10 was not a command here, they did not strictly follow the punishment either. The man took off his own sandal, Ruth did not spit in his face. Archer points out that Ruth apparently did not desire to embarrass the man.
6. The book of Ruth simply records what these people did.
See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.167-168 for more info.
 

Q: In Ru 4:6, why did the closer relative initially agree to buy the land, and then back out?
A: He gave the reasons as he could not marry Ruth, or he might endanger his own estate. Since polygamy was practiced then, the real reason is that if Ruth gave birth to his firstborn son, others might consider that this son would inherit both Ruth's husband's name and the man's property. Deuteronomy 25:5-10 specifies that a man must marry his brother's widow if the brothers were living together. However, in this case they were not brothers and they were not living together.
 

Q: In Ru 4:8, is there any other evidence of people witnessing a transaction by exchanging sandals?
A: Yes. Not only does Deuteronomy 25:7-10 say they were supposed to do this, the Nuzi tablets (late 14th century B.C.) also record renouncing property rights by transferring a sandal to the new owner according to The NIV Study Bible p.369.
 

Q: In Ru 4:10, why is Ruth a purchased wife? (A Muslim mentioned this as being so bad.)
A: Boaz "purchased" (i.e. paid dowry) for Ruth by buying the land from Naomi. Boaz took care of Ruth and his mother-in-law the widow Naomi, and why this Muslim has a problem with Boaz's loving act of compassion is unclear to me. I hope he was not just grabbing any verse from the Bible that he could.
If this Muslim has a problem with dowries for wives, note that Mohammed paid 4,000 dirhams for his wife Umm Habibah. Abu Dawud vol.2 no.2103 p.565. Also, 'Ali bin Abi Talib bought the daughter of Rab'iah for himself. She bore him a daughter named Umm Ruqayyah al-Tabari vol.11 p.66
 

Q: In Ru, who are the early Christian writers who referred to this book?
A: The only pre-Nicean Christian writer who referred to Ruth is Melito/Meleto of Sardis (170-177/180 A.D.). He lists all the books of the Old Testament, and he includes every book we have except Nehemiah and Esther. Fragment 4 From the Book of Extracts p.759.
After Nicea
Eusebius of Caesarea
(318-339/340 A.D.)
Anonymous Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae (350-370 A.D.)
Athanasius (367, 325-373 A.D.)
Ephraim/Ephrem (350-378 A.D.)
Aphrahat the Syrian (337-345) alludes to Ruth
Gregory Nanzianus (330-391 A.D.) gave all of the books of scripture in a poem, saying that any books beyond that are not genuine scripture. His list was the same that Protestants use today, except that he did not include Nehemiah, Esther, or Revelation. He did not mention Lamentation, but he might have thought it included in Jeremiah. He did not mention Paul's letters or Hebrews by name, but he said Paul wrote fourteen letters. Gregory's poem is (in Greek) in Gregory vol.37 of Migne's Patrologia Graeca, cols. 471-474 (Carmina Dogmatica, Book 1, section 1, Carmen XII) See http://www.bible-researcher.com/gregory.html for more info.
Epiphanius of Salamis (360-403 A.D.)
Ambrose of Milan (370-390 A.D.)
Rufinus (374-406 A.D.)
Jerome (373-420 A.D.) discusses the books of the Old Testament. He specifically discusses Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the Pentateuch, Job, Jesus son of Nave [Joshua], Judges, Ruth, Samuel Kings (2 books), twelve prophets, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai,, Zechariah, Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Letter 53 ch.7-8 p.99-101.
Council of Carthage (218 bishops)
Epiphanius of Salamis (360-403 A.D.)
 

Q: In Ru, what are some of the earliest manuscripts that still exist today?
A: Dead Sea scrolls: (c.1 B.C.) 4 separate copies according to The Dead Sea Scrolls Today p.30 and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.436-438. They are called 2Q16, 2Q17, 4Q104, 4Q105. (The Dead Sea Scrolls in English 4th ed. xxix to xlii) 2Q17 is actually two fragments, 4Q104 is three fragments, one of which is the beginning. 4Q105 is three very small fragments of another copy of Ruth. (The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated : The Qumran Texts in English 2nd ed. p.471,481)
4QRuth(a) 1:1=12; 2:13-23; 3:1-8; 4:3-4
4QRuth(b) 1:1-6, 12-15; 3:13-18
Overall, preserved in the Dead Sea scrolls are the following verses from Ruth: 1:1-5; 2:13-23; 3:1-8,13-18; 4:3-4. See The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls for more details.
Christian Bible manuscripts, from about 350 A.D., contain the Old Testament, including Ruth.
Vaticanus (325-350 A.D.) has preserved all of Ruth.
Alexandrinus (c.450 A.D.) has preserved all of Ruth.
We do not have any parts of this book from Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.).
 

Q: Which early writers referred to Ruth?
A: The only Pre-Nicene writer who referenced or alluded to verses in Ruth is Melito/Meleto of Sardis (170-177/180 A.D.), who referred to it by name.
Julius Africanus in his Letter to Aristides ch.5 mentions the genealogies of Achior the Ammonite and Ruth the Moabitess, but he did not mention by name to book of Ruth.
 

Q: In Ru, what are some of the translation differences between the Hebrew and Greek Septuagint?
A: Here are a few of the translation differences. To get a sampling of variations between the Hebrew Masoretic text (first) vs. the Septuagint Greek translation (second), this part focuses on chapter 1.
Ruth 1:1 "fields of Moab" vs. "land of Moab"
Ruth 1:2 the names are slightly different (Naomi, Mahlon, Chilion vs. Noemin, Maalon, Chelaion)
Ruth 1:3 Ruth's sister-in-law "Orpah" vs. "Orphah"
Ruth 1:6 "fields of Moab" vs. "country of Moab"
Ruth 1:13 "It is much more bitter for me than for you." vs. "I am grieved for you"
Ruth 1:14 "kissed her mother-in-law" vs. "kissed her mother-in-law and returned to her people". (The implication that she returned to her people is the same in both.)
Ruth 1:18 "ceased to speak to her" vs. "cease to speak to her anymore" (In both cases the context implies that she did not speak again to her on this subject.)
Ruth 1:19 "moved at them" vs. "rang with them"
Ruth 1:20 "bitterly" vs. "very bitterly"
Ruth 1:21 "set [His] eye against me, and the Almighty has done evil to me?" vs. "humbled me, and the Mighty One has afflicted me?"
Ruth 1:22 "fields of Moab" vs. "country of Moab"
Ruth 3:15 "then he went back" (many Hebrew texts) vs. "then she went back" (many Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Syriac) (Dead Sea Scroll 2QRuth(b) [=2Q17] is of Ruth 3:13-18, but unsure which it says.) Pre-Nicene church writers do not refer to this verse.
Ruth 4:4 "but if you will not" (most Masoretic texts, Septuagint) vs. "but if he will not" (many Hebrew manuscripts)
Ruth 4:5 "Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you acquire the dead man's widow" (Masoretic text) vs. "Noemin and of Ruth the Moabitess the wife of the deceased, you must also buy her" (Septuagint) vs. "Naomi, you acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the dead man's widow" (Vulgate, Syriac)
Ruth 4:20 "Salma" (most Masoretic texts) vs. "Salmon" (a few Hebrew manuscripts, some Septuagint, Vulgate)
Bibliography for this question: the Hebrew translation is from Jay P. Green's Literal Translation and the Septuagint rendering is from Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton's translation of The Septuagint : Greek and English. The Expositor's Bible Commentary and the footnotes in the NASB, NIV, NKJV, and NRSV Bibles also were used.
 
 

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