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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

Ruth - Introduction

The book of Ruth opens with a crisis: While living in Moab, an Israelite woman named Naomi loses her husband and sons. In a society in which property is passed down through males, she thus is left destitute in a foreign land. The book works toward this problem's solution, as her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth secures for both women land and offspring, with the help of a wealthy Judean landowner named Boaz. The genealogy * that closes the book reveals that the child born to Ruth and Boaz is the ancestor of none other than King David.

Scholars who focus on the narrative * quality of the book (calling it an “idyll” or a “novella” or a “short story”) believe the genealogy was added to the book to encourage the book's acceptance into the canon. * Other interpreters see the genealogy as a key to the purpose of its composition: to celebrate David or to give Davidic authority to marriage between Judeans and non-Judeans. If the genealogy is original, then the book was likely written close to the time of the Davidic monarchy. If the primary concern is to authorize intermarriage, then the book may have been part of the larger discussion of intermarriage in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 8 ).

In the Jewish canon, the book is found in The Writings, * at the close of the Bible. There, Ruth is clustered with Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations, and together they are called the megillot (singular, “megillah” * )—the scrolls read in annual Jewish festivals. Because of its agricultural setting and concerns, Ruth is linked with the festival of Shavuot * (also called The Feast of Weeks, * or Pentecost * ), a harvest celebration. At least by the eighth century CE, Shavuot was also identified as the time during which Moses received the Torah * at Mt. Sinai. The compilers of the Christian canon grouped Ruth with the historical books, putting it there because of its chronological setting “when the judges ruled” (Ruth 1.1 ).

Both explicit allusions and similarities in theme link Ruth with other narratives of the Hebrew Bible. Like Tamar (Gen 38 ), Ruth goes to extraordinary measures to procure a son; like Abraham (Gen 12 ), she leaves her family to go to a foreign land; like Sarah and Rachel (Gen 12–30 ), she and Naomi struggle with the absence of sons in a society in which land and authority are male prerogatives.

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