` Dialogue
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Ruth: Dialogue

The book of Ruth contains direct speech in 50 of its 85 verses (59%). Even by the standards of biblical narrators (who commonly use direct speech frequently) this is a high level. Jonah has a similarly high level (58%) unless one ignores his psalm in ch.2 in which case only 50% of verses have direct speech.

Conversations are described in ways which give the reader the impression of "listening in" while the characters talk. In this way the narrator does not tell us how to judge them, but requires us to make up our own minds. While occasionally this leads to widely divergent readings, on the whole it means we hold to our evaluation of the characters more strongly. This gives to such narrative more power to change its readers!

The characters' choice of words and speech patterns tell us about them. They speak differently one from another. Boaz speech-patterns are more repetitive, and longer-winded. He speaks like an "older" person, it is no surprise to find him among the elders at the gate.

Naomi too sounds older, and they both "fuss over" Ruth. There is a nice contrast between Naomi and Ruth in 1:15-17.

Naomi says: "See, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law!" Repeating "your sister-in-law" and the verb "return" (which NRSV changes using "go back" as well as "return" since English does not like repetition) she reinforces her concern.

Ruth, by contrast (though her speech too does not translate literally) uses varied wording to give even her repetition of intent to "remain" a feeling of urgency: "Don't ask me to leave you, or return from following you, for where you go I go, where you lodge I lodge. Your people my people. Your God my God. Where you die I die - and there I'll be buried." Only at the end does she start to blurt as her words tumble over eachother. "May Adonai do this to me, and this as well, if death divides me from you."


© 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)