4.44 Ruth -- The Legacy of Ruth

The sad fact is that Ruth has no legacy in Scripture, apart from her being a predecessor of David.  The only other place her name is mentioned in Scripture is in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew:

           Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth  (Mat 1:5).

            In this genealogical list, Matthew lists other female "exceptions":  Tamar, Rahab, and (Bathsheba), called Uriah's wife.    

          

Paul, in his extensive commendation of the faith of Abraham, makes no mention of Ruth's equally courageous decision to leave her homeland with Naomi.  She is not listed as one of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews.  The message of the book and the example of her life, exceptional as they both are, are unremarked in the Bible. If it were not for the New Testament and occasional verses in the prophets, it would be possible to see Ruth as a "dead end" in Scripture, a "liberal" voice that was overpowered by the Mosaic tradition.  Here is a bold precedent laid down in Holy Writ for an entirely different way of relating to outsiders -- but there are no takers.  The dominant responses to non-Israelites were varying degrees of superiority, exclusivity, rejection, and fear (of a threat, or of contamination).

         

Yet Ruth is not the voice of compromise, of amalgamation of nations and cultures, nor of any modern notion of relativism.  The God of Israel alone is supreme, and the historic community of Israel is intact.  Ruth gave up her entire previous life:  she left her nation and her parents, and pledged her very life to Naomi.  But having done so, she was granted full privileges in Israel, not second-class citizenship.  There was no probationary period of several generations, as in Deuteronomy 23.  To the shock of the traditionalists, the book's message is that not only can a non-Israelite love and serve the one true God wholeheartedly,  but that neither the Law nor the sacrifices are required for effective piety!   Perhaps this is why the book never found its way out of the kitchen or the women's quarters --  its message was too strong a challenge to the religious establishment.