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General comments (Ruth 1:1-5)

These five verses do not simply present the characters (except Boaz who will appear at the right moment in the action) and the problem of the story. They also begin to point up some of the themes and motifs which will recur. In terms of the story-line Naomi is shown as a woman who "is left" (vv. 3 & 5) and the motif of fullness (the family is complete in v. 2 with two sons) versus emptiness (vv. 1, 3 & 5 - famine, exile and bereavement).

Already too the careful structuring of the story is prepared, for links are made to the conclusion:
1:1 "when judges ruled" - 4:17b "David"
1:4 ten years no child - 4:13 Marriage, blessing and birth
1:5 "left without her two children" - 4:16 "Naomi took the child"

The case of the word "child" which occurs only at these two places in the book, despite the fact that the absence of children is precisely the core of the problem, alerts us to one of our narrator's techniques. There are a number of words which recur only two (or a few) times but which carry a strong content of motif or theme. Already in this section we have seen "remain", which occurs twice and nowhere else in the story carries the motif of emptiness.

© Dr Tim Bulkeley, 2004.

You may quote and use these study notes, subject to the usual provsions of fair use - like giving proper credit e.g.
Tim Bulkeley, "Ruth: Genre" in Study Notes on Ruth [downloaded today's date].

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Tim teaches Hebrew Bible (First or Old Testament) at the University of Auckland, New Zealand and at Carey Baptist College his other sites include:
Amos - Postmodern Bible commentary
Study Notes on Jonah
Images of Archaeological Sites in Israel (Focusing on the Iron Age)