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Scene Two - Birth and naming of Obed 4:13-17

4:13 As we have seen things now move very fast. In contrast to the childless, ten-year, marriage with Mahlon, here in 13 words we move from marriage to child, compare also 2 Sam 11:26b-27. There too a couple marry and a son is born, there as here words are not wasted (18 in v.27 which tells the same facts), but aside from the fact that both are in the lineage of the Kings of Judah what a difference in the rest of the story!

4:14 "may his name be renowned in Israel" to whom does this refer (cf. 2:20)? Is it:
the "son" or 
the Lord 
whose name is to be renowned?

4:15 "who is more to you than seven sons" cf. 1 Sam 1:8 - Ruth is, while poor Elkanah is not this sort of substitute!

4:16 "became his nurse" this is not what the text probably means, though it is a natural translation and perhaps the easiest, yet 
a male version of the phrase exists! 
and Naomi is too old cf. 1:12; 
better read "took care of his upbringing".

Nor should "A son has been born to Naomi" be read as formal adoption, here son = inheritor.

4:17 "named him" (literally "called to him a name") cf. 4:11,17 where also "a name" is proclaimed, cf. v. 17b "They called him Obed" (NRSV also "named him" obscures this slight difference) is the more usual formula. "Proclaim a name" often has the sense of celebrate Dt 32:3; Jer 44:26; Ps 99:6; cf. Gen 4:26.

4:13-17: Conclusion

Here the women speak, and only the women speak. By contrast with 1:19-21 where they only say two words (contrast Naomi's quite lengthy complaint), here they speak at length.

Naomi's complaint fitted with those of other righteous sufferers Elijah, Job, Jeremiah who complain to God of his injustice and of his seeming to be "against" them. God never justifies himself, but in each case the complainant is given a new task (1 Kgs 19:1+14 cf. 19:15-18; Jer 15:10-18 cf. 15:19-21 for Job in a sense the task is the whole book and it begins before his complaints cf. 42:8+10).

Ruth is worth seven (perfect number) of sons, and note the importance of sons in this story! Although in some sense it is a "love story", Ruth is also the only subject of the verb "to love" in the story (v.15).

© Dr Tim Bulkeley, 2004.

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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)