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Conclusion: Chapter 2 - Harvest Field Meeting

In this act we begin to get a real feel for the author's way of working. In two places verbal echoes draw our attention to similarity between two characters.
In v.1 Boaz is a man of renown in 3:11 he will declare that Ruth is a woman of renown, truly these two "deserve each other". 
In v.12 Boaz is placed, as we have also seen, in parallel to the Lord. Here he commends Ruth for seeking refuge "under the wings" of God, in the next chapter she seeks refuge under the "wings" of Boaz' garment!

Such a putting in parallel of human and divine is also a feature of the ambiguity of v.20, if Boaz' faithfulness were not like God's there would be no openness to such uncertainty of referent.

In one case the paralleling works at the level of story, showing us two people "made for each other"; in the other case it is theological, humans ought to reflect divine goodness and faithfulness, and it is in human goodness that we meet the maker.

There is a further theological message carried through echoes between 2:11-12 and 3:9-10. There is a correspondence between Ruth's faithfulness to her family-by-marriage and the blessing. This faithfulness which mirrors the Lord's leads to his blessing.

Two key phrases carry the major theme of this act: "find favour with" (vv.2, 10, 13) and "take notice of" (vv.10, 19). 
In v.2, during the abstract which introduces the act, Ruth speaks of her need of an unknown "someone" with whom she will find favour. 
By v.10 she will recognise that she has found this "someone", Boaz, and his goodness is underlined by the echo between "take notice of" and "foreign woman". 
In v.19 this goodness, like Ruth's faithfulness, receives its corresponding blessing, though the blesser still does not know his name or identity!
Picture of Bedoin tents from ******************

Verse 13 is a crux for our understanding of Ruth. Traditional interpretation sees here a repetition of her grateful remarks of v.10 and an expression of her humility towards Boaz. A model woman! "You have been kind to me even though I am not even one of your servant girls." It is possible however to read the text otherwise, as an interesting book by Crapon de Caprona does. In this case one will picture a young woman from a nomad society, used to the liberty which such peoples accord to their women (far greater than that accorded to peasant women in rural Judah). Even in her first reply to Boaz, Crapon de Caprona detects a trace of irony in her fulsome respect and elaborate ceremony:

Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favour in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?"

For already in v.7 differences of custom between the protected peasant girls of Bethlehem and the haughty Bedouin girl may have appeared. If we translate "Please let me glean and gather the sheaves behind the reapers", Ruth does not expect charity but rather the chance to earn her food by working.

Verse 13 can in this case be rendered "Be gracious to me, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your maidservant, however I am not like one of your maidservants." One can also even make a case for translating "But as for me, I shall never be one of your servants". Ruth is not attached to Boaz house, she is independent of him and of everyone. 

If we accept this last proposal there is a further layer of irony, this time "dramatic irony" for one day she will be part of Boaz household, not as servant but as mistress!

© Dr Tim Bulkeley, 2004.

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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)