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Scene One: Ruth in the Fields (2:3-17)

2:3 "as it happened" in this book nothing just "happens" everything, even Naomi's undeserved suffering, comes from Adonai (though sometimes Naomi, Boaz and Ruth give him a helping hand!). It is typical of our author, and of the best Hebrew short story style, to speak overtly of chance while making clear that there is no such thing in God's creation.

2:4 "Just then" this translates the Hebrew vehinneh. This translation certainly captures the sense of divine providence which is present in this passage, however it fails to really suggest the other strong possibility: that we are being invited to "watch" Boaz' arrival through Ruth's eyes.

"Adonai be with you... Adonai bless you" this greeting and response does not mean that they were specially religious people, this was a natural way for such meetings to be marked.

2:5 "young woman" (na'arah) can also mean servant-girl, the word translated "servant in charge of the reapers" is the masculine equivalent na'ar. 

"belong" does not as strongly suggest servitude however in Hebrew "to whom is this young woman" - for a "young woman" (by implication - if inaccurately in this case - unmarried) must be attached to some male!

2:6 The reply indicates both that Ruth is attached only to another woman "with Naomi" and that she is foreign "the Moabite". These two verses remind us in several ways of Ruth's lack of position or status in Bethlehem.

2:7 Ruth's request is reported strangely "glean and gather
literally in modern English this would mean "gather small quantities and gather" the second "gather" seems redundant
a literal translation would also treat the two verbs differently: "may I glean, and I will gather in the sheaves". 
However the first word "glean" implies that she will gather up the fallen heads after the reapers have passed (see Lev 19:9). 
 
Crapon de Crapona (discussed more extensively in the conclusion section for this chapter) suggests that this seemingly redundant use can be explained, and in turn explain other small anomalies in this passage, if we understand Ruth to be asking to help gather the grain into bundles as well as "glean". (This would present her as an independent person who wishes to "pay her way".)

At the end of this verse there are textual problems, happily nothing too important depends on it.

2:8-9 Notice how Boaz speaks: 
"Now, listen, my daughter, 
   do not go to glean in another field 
          or leave this one, 
   but keep close to my maidens.
Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, 
   and follow behind them. 
I have ordered the young men not to bother you. 
If you get thirsty, 
   go to the vessels 
       and drink from what the young men have drawn" 
His style is somewhat solemn "Now, listen, my daughter". It is in fact rhythmic and parallelistic (like poetry).

There are other peculiarities to Boaz speech here and elsewhere compared with the narrator's own use of language. Boaz and Naomi for example both use the "paragogic nun" a form of politeness (in 2:21 Ruth uses it in words of Boaz' that she quotes).

The rather ponderous and maybe archaic style, full of kindly intentions suits Boaz and Naomi the two of the "older generation"!

2:10 The echo, in Hebrew between "take notice of" nakar and "(female) foreigner" nakriyah attracts attention to the word "take notice of" which will be repeated in 2:19 "Blessed be the man who took notice of you" and 3:14 where Ruth must leave the threshing floor before anyone can "recognize" that a woman has been there!

2:11 Again helping to build up Boaz' character is his claim that "all you have done... has been fully told me" while he only summarises briefly what we already know. 

2:12 The picture language "under whose wings you have come to take refuge" is the same as at 3:9 where it comes out as "spread your cloak over your servant" (some translations give "marry" here!) - in both cases the picture refers to protection - and provides an interesting example of the parallels that this book keeps making between humans and God.

Note too how this verse read with v.11 also correspond to the verse that follows 3:9 (2: 11-12 with 3:10) 
in 2:11-12 Ruth's faithfulness to her family-by-marriage (v.11) is followed by a blessing (v.12); 
in 3:10 the statement of Ruth's faithfulness follows the blessing, but is its reason.

2:13 "find favor in your sight" this phrase is a Leitwort in this chapter cf. 2:2, 10 & 13. 

How do these 3 verses trace the developments of the chapter?

"Servant" the word Ruth uses twice in this verse hxp#$ is different from the one Boaz used earlier hr(n. In biblical usage Ruth's word implies the status of a slave, while Boaz' word is used for young relatives as well as for servants.

2:14 "dip your morsel in the sour wine" literally "dip your fragment [of bread] in the vinegar" some commentators discuss reasons for using sour wine in such workers' picnics, I see this as Boaz acting the 'perfect host' - "share my humble repast". Either way this is one of few examples of litotes in the Bible. 

"parched grain" NRSV retains an old word for "toasted" grain.

Typical of biblical narrative poetics is the way we only discover later (v.18) why it is significant that "she had some left over".

2:15-16 "pull out some handfuls... from the bundles" Boaz makes sure Ruth will get results from her work!

2:17 "she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat [it] out" confirms the foreman's impression of her dawn-to-dusk (another translation of "morning" (v.7) and "evening" (v.17) determination.

"about an ephah" is between 20 and 40 litres, say about 10 - 20 Kgs.


© 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 http://www.hypertextbible.org/ruth/genre.htm [downloaded today's date].

If you want to reproduce large sections you should contact Tim. (tim at bible.gen.nz)

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)