Appendix 3 To Judges
What makes Ruth unique in scripture is she is the only known Moabite to trust in the Lord God.
The Bible doesn’t have much good to say about the Moabite people. The nation was formed as a consequence of a vile misdeed (Genesis 19:37). And the descendents have been consumed by idolatry since the beginning. But Ruth accepted the God of Naomi (Ruth 1:16). And God adopted the Moabite woman as belonging to Him.
Moab had invaded the land of Judah about the year 1316 BC, and held that invasion for 18 years (Judges 3:12). It seems logical to think that since Moab was occupying Judah – Moab even perceiving they had annexed part of Israel, that travel back and forth between Israel and Moab would be fairly easy. Naomi’s two sons lived in Bethlehem, but traveled to Moab for ten years. This sojourn could have begun and ended during the 18-year occupation. It makes it tempting to place the events of Ruth in this time period. And as God directs the affairs of man, they may be right.
But if Ruth took place during Moabite occupation, Obed and David (grandfather and grandson) have an age difference of at least 2501 years. Perhaps Obed and Jesse were both 125 years old when they became father to Jesse and David, respectively. If Jesse is born any later, then Obed becomes too old to become father to Jesse; any earlier, and Jesse becomes too old to become father to David. In fairness, 1 Samuel 17:12 says Jesse was an old man in the days of Saul.
Estimating birth years isn’t easy anyway. There is an 850-year age difference between Jacob and David, and Matthew is clear that there are 14 generations between Abraham and David – or 12 generations between Jacob and David. This means that the AVERAGE age of fatherhood for those 12 generations is age 71. Some were older, and some were younger, but the average age was 71. By contrast, David was only 70 when he died. Superannuation seemed to phase out during the Judges era.
But I short-change the importance of the book of Ruth. Ruth can actually be seen as a third Appendix to the chronological account of the Judges. It is probably set apart in its order to highlight the beauty of the Appendix, as opposed to the vile of Appendices A and B.
Ruth 1:16 makes for good wedding script: “May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” The beginning of the quote is a common idiom in scripture, and it fairly clearly means “May the Lord send a curse on me.” But since the Hebrew mind cannot accept the curses of God2, the vaguer oath becomes an idiom for God’s curses.
I have no problem with the quote being used as a wedding vow. I do have a problem with believers who postulate a wedding in the Bible, and do not recognize that as beautiful as the quote is, it is being taken completely out of context when used at a wedding.
Nonetheless, the book of Ruth does feature a wedding. And the proposal/engagement scene occurs in Chapter 3:
Boaz goes to bed drunk one night. A foreign woman came into his bedroom, and lay down at his feet. At midnight, Boaz wakens, and asks Ruth who she is, and why she is there. Without Boaz having any previous knowledge, Ruth replies, “Ask me to marry you3, for you are my redeemer4. (Ruth 3:9)
Boaz was actually interested. But he researches the matter and finds he is second in line. In order for Boaz to marry Ruth, the first-in-line first had to waive his rights. The Bible declines to tell us his name. Ruth 4:1 refers to him as “friend” according to most modern versions. Or “Ho! Such a one” in King James based versions. Personally I wouldn’t have translated it. It reads Ploni Almoni5 - meaning Mr. So-and-so. But I think Ploni Almoni has a cooler sound to it.
Boaz explains to Ploni Almoni his desire to marry Ruth. Ploni Almoni has no interest in Ruth, for redeeming Ruth might cost him his inheritance. So in front of witnesses, Ploni Almoni handed Boaz his shoe, symbolic of handing Boaz the rights to marry Ruth.
There was plenty of excitement in Bethlehemjudah that day. And we similarly rejoice today. For the bloodline to Jesus Christ remained intact that day.
1Derivation of the age differences are available on request.
2The scribes actually changed Job 2:9 from “curse” to “bless,” the concept of God’s curse seemed too foreign to deal with. These scribes are the same people who count the letters of the manuscript to insure accuracy.
3“Spread your wings” or “… your cloak” (depending on your version) was the way a woman of the times proposed marriage.
4When a man left a widow, there was a priority of order for who had next rights to marry the widow. Boaz was second in line. Marriages according to this priority is called a redemption.
5Both words rhyme with baloney.
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