The book of Ruth has been historically claimed to be written by the prophet Samuel. It dates back to the 1011 and 931 B. C. It was a message of the love of God directly to the Israelites. With the main theme of sacrifice, it was essential for them at that time to hear such words of love. In the heathen land of Moab, located North of the Dead Sea, Ruth is resides for a period of time and them moves further into the town of Bethlehem, during the era of the judges which occurred directly after the Pentateuch books which are the first five biblical books.
Ruth was the daughter-in-law of Naomi and Elimelech, who were an Israelite couple with two sons. Mahlon and Chilion were their names and both married Ruth and Orpah. Sadly, all three men in the family died, firstly Elimelech and then later on his two sons, leaving three widowed women. The actual period is not actually stated. However, most scholars have attributed its authorship to the pre-exilic era; the period after the enslaved Israelites were freed and permitted to return back to their homeland of Israel.
As a historical book of the Bible and an excellent piece of literature, it has challenged the conception of the era and the norms of the periods as recording the attitudes and conducts between people. It demonstrated tremendous practicality and dealt with serious relational issues and we can learn a lot from it today. Its authorship is unknown. It clearly begins by alluding to the period of the judges and it is perceived by some to have been written around that time. The prophet Samuel has been given the credit for its authorship by many scholars.
In recent times however, there have been speculations as to the real author of this book. It has been recognised as having been written by a female author. According to an ancient Beraithato the Talmudic treatise it stated that the prophet Samuel did write the book of Ruth. As it is does not provide strong evidence concerning the authorship, several authors in recent times have refuted the prophet Samuel as the actual author of this phenomenal book. Does it really matter whether it was written by a male or female author?
This has been a question in the minds of many because in its entirety, the content of the book is very positive and has a lot of moral, social and legal coverage, which has provided a lot of insight into the way the Israelites interacted amongst themselves as well as among foreign nations, like the Moabites. In this essay, various perspectives of scholars will be addressed and references to the actual text will also be made to support and refute arguments which have been put forth by various intellectual minds. In a recent book entitled the Widow’s plea, a group of authors cited a number of key points about the book of Ruth.
Central to their arguments were factors that provided an insight to the gender identity of the author. Firstly, they referred to a deliberate attempt by the author to strengthen the plight of widowed women in this book, by the avoidance of dealing with the Leveriate marriage, a popular custom that existed during that period. Lawson Younger in made inference to this point by referring to the book ‘Three Shekels’ by H Shanks: The inscription is puzzling. According to the law of levirate marriage, a man must marry his brother’s widow if his brother died childless (see Deuteronomy 25:5–6).
Why wasn’t the husband’s brother, who had already received the wheat ? eld in Nacamah, required to do his duty by marrying his brother’s widow? Alas, the ostracon does not tell us(p 32) The laws relating to marriage and redemption were strongly intertwined and since it was not completely applicable in this case because Ruth did not marry her direct next of kin, these scholars have speculated that it might have been authored by a female. Furthermore, H Avolos backed this argument by purporting the deliberate exclusion in this case.
(Avolos 616) In an attempt to further prove this point Young referred to various Hebrew texts and phrases used to give a better view point. For instance, the use of the words ‘Amah’ and ‘siphah were used at different times, suggestive of various points regarding the nocturnal influence of Ruth in Chapter 3:9. This is what he noted: Amah seems to be used to emphasize a slave’s feminine qualities (need for protect weakness, sexual attractiveness, etc. ), while siphah seems to be used when the female is viewed as a possession and a laborer.
41 Both terms can be used as self-designations. When it is used this way, amah appears to suggest a female petitioner’s weakness and need for help or protection when presenting a request before a more powerful male, never before another female. When siphah is used as a self-designation of obeisance, it seems to signify the woman’s subservience and readiness to serve or obey instructions. (p127) With the usage of the term amah, despite the fact that she was a labourer or indirectly in servitude, she was still able to realize her feminity even in hardship.
It was suggestive of her need for protection and dependency on the one who is stronger than herself, especially when requesting a favour from an influential male figure. This point alludes to the kind of writing by a male author, realizing the need of the woman for protection and a bulwark. The usage of the term siphah suggested the readiness of the woman to adhere to instructions from the male and obey and to do is bidding. In both cases, there is a strong suggestion of a male authorship based on this viewpoint. Further Hebrew terms used indicate more usage of feminine forms of verbs.
For instance, the word hyrja, meaning ‘them’ was used to refer to bodies of individuals. Its frequent usage indicated that the author made reference to a wide range of people who were female. Perhaps this could have been suggestive of a male author appreciating the role of the women or in actual fact, a woman who sought to enhance the role of the female in that era? The Feminist Companion of the Bible addressed several points that alluded to an obvious female authorship. (pg 34) It was argued that this book presented various points which gave credence to the importance of women in the Holy Bible.
For instance, several women were identified who played excellent roles in biblical event, including Deborah, Dorcas, Esther and Miriam just to mention a few. It was also admitted that there were also major indications to the book of Ruth being authored by a male because of its superscription, just as the case was in other books like the book of Ecclesiastes. An interesting point to note was that there was a chance that although it may not have been written by a woman, the male author certainly had a profound respect for women and valued their contribution to the society.
Interestingly, this book under the ‘Unconventional Life Partnership, Women Do Go Unconventional Ways’ heading also referred to the instruction by Naomi to Ruth, to use her natural female charm to win the heart of Boaz. (Athalya 29). This could very well have been a masculine viewpoint, in the sense that Naomi did recognize that Ruth needed a man in her life and hence was giving her advise on how to make Boaz notice her. During that period, it was generally expected that the women realized that they were being prepared for marriage at some stage and it would have been the role of an experienced woman like Naomi to share this with Ruth.
This is a very feminine disposition which could have been expressed by the author. In the second chapter of the book of Ruth, she was portrayed as a hardworking lady who went to ‘glean with the reapers’. In Hebrew, the word ‘reapers’ refers to masculinity. Hence, irrespective of this fact, she was able to go and work with the men, gathering enough food supply for herself and for Naomi. As a matter of fact, it was emphasized that she worked through to the period of harvest. By so doing, she was able to gather more than sufficient rations to tend to the needs of a whole family.
This was a progressive woman who knew that it was essential that she managed the home front successfully. In other words, she was a traditional homemaker – the major role of the woman. A female author would not have put this point any better. In his comparative study of the book of Ruth, Younger suggested that to a large extent, it seemed that a woman’s economic well-being was directly related to her link with some male. (p 129) From a feminine perspective it could be argued that this exhibited self-reliance and independence of the woman. On the contrary, there is also the aspect of the masculinity portrayed.
The head of the reaper, when approached by Boaz who had not yet met Ruth at the time to ask about who she was, the reaper made excuses on her behalf, as she was a foreigner ( a Moabite girl) who did not the customs and modest requirements of the women of Israel. This impled that she was gleaning with the wrong set of people, in other words, the men. Hence, when Boaz eventually spoke to her, he advised her to glean with the girls or young ladies (Chapter 2:8). This was indicative of the male dominance and belief in the distinct and separate roles of the woman and the man.
The geneological account in Chapter Four included women in it and this has made people suggest its female authorship. It was uncommon to have women included in the genelogical chronology. Especially in this instant, this geneology led all the way down to David, from whom the expected lineage of the Messiah was from. The character of Boaz was one of a generous and extremely loving individual. He saw the needs of Ruth and Naomi and took the necessary steps to ensure their happiness. By so doing, he tremendously brought a lot of benefits to himself.
Eventually, he got married to Ruth. His numerous character traits are worthy of further study. Ruth was described as a virtuous woman. From the beginning of the book, she displayed loyalty and love, even to its end. When Naomi was bereaved of three members of her family including her husband and sons, Ruth did not seek out her own gain but decided to remain with Naomi, always. It took superhuman power to make such a profound statement in Chapter 1:16, entreating Naomi to let her (Ruth) remain with her. There was nothing that Naomi had to offer her.
Both her sons were now dead, including the husband of Ruth. As was pointed out by Naomi, she had nothing to offer Ruth. Notwithstanding, Ruth made a selfless commitment to stand by Ruth, through times of sorrow and happiness. Naomi was a wise lady whose experience was of great benefit to Boaz and Ruth. In essence, she took the practical steps to facilitate their union. In all three characters, excellent themes of relational interactions have been displayed. Humility, sacrificial love, generousity and empathy just to mention a few, are required in everyday dealings with people.
Regardless of the authorship, these character traits spread across boundaries and are pertinent in dealing with practical real-life matters. Especially today, these attitudes are still required and go along way in boosting human interactions.
Works Cited Brenner, A. The feminist companion to the Bible (Second Series) Sheffield Academic Press Avalos, H. Legal and Social Institutions, 616 Malick, D. An Argument of the Book of Ruth from < http://www. bible. org/page. php? page_id=952> Shanks, H. (1997). Three Shekels pg 32. Younger, K. L. (1998). Two Comparative Notes on the Book of Ruth. Trinity International University
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