4.36 Ruth -- Loyalty Trumps Law
The final book of the post-Pentateuch "trilogy" is Ruth. And it is a breath of fresh air, a respite and a relief from the prior two books of incessant conflict. The Book of Ruth took place during the period of the judges (Ruth 1:1), three generations prior to King David. This puts it just prior to 1100 BC. However, since David is mentioned at the end of the book, the book had to have been written later than 1000. In the Jewish Bible, Ruth is not placed with the historical books, but is considered one of the Writings (Ketuvim).
Ruth is a counter-current to what we have just studied -- the division of Israelite from outsider, the insistence on racial purity (no intermarriage), the constant warfare against surrounding nations. In Ruth we enter a different world. In fact, the larger world really doesn't exist, it doesn't factor into the story at all. The events of Ruth could have happened almost any time in the Old Testament without much alteration in the setting.
This is not a heavyweight book -- it is only 4 chapters long. God does not "show up" in Ruth, no angels visit. In one respect, it is merely a love story in two dimensions -- woman and daughter-in-law, man and woman. But to a reader who is steeped in the Mosaic covenant and the history of Israel's conquest of Canaan, it has a powerful and unsettling message. It "pulls the rug out from under one's feet" by contradicting much of the Pentateuch's teaching on Israelite exclusiveness. By offering a different perspective, Ruth is of pivotal importance in understanding the racial teaching of the Bible.