Ruth, RBSem 36

R. Meynet, Ruth, RBSem 36, Peeters, Leuven 2022 (175 p.)

With its four chapters, the book of Ruth is one of the shortest in the Bible. It is also one of the most loved and commented. It tells the story of how a foreigner became the great-grandmother of King David. The story was most likely written in reaction to the ethnic cleansing policy of Ezra and Nehemiah, who, upon returning from exile, demanded that the Jews send away their foreign wives. After 2,500 years, this book is therefore very relevant.

The composition of this writing is not specular (ABB’A’), as most commentators claim. It is concentric, like so many other Biblical and Semitic texts. The focal point of the construction is the moment when Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, learns that the man who has so kindly welcomed Ruth to glean in her field is called Boaz: he is a close relative, one of those who have the right and the duty to “redeem” them. The story then shifts to a solution that will end Ruth’s widowhood and lead to the birth of a son, Obed, David’s grandfather.

The same attitude is common to each of the four major characters in this story: discretion, withdrawal that waits for the other to express his desire before responding and committing himself. Respect for others, for their freedom and dignity. Such is the conduct of Naomi, of Ruth her daughter-in-law, of Boaz too, who ends up marrying Ruth, accepting her desire to give a son and heir to her deceased husband. Such is also the conduct of the God of Israel, who does not impose himself, leaving all his place to men, while remaining ready to intervene when necessary and when they have expressed their desire.