AUSTRALIAN BIBLICAL REVIEW
BOOK REVIEW Published in Volume 64, 2016
DANIEL I. BLOCK, Ruth (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament. A Discourse Analysis of the Hebrew Bible; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015). Pp. 304. Hardback. US$32.99.
In his scholarly study, Daniel Block describes the book of Ruth as one of the most delightful pieces ever produced (40). Helpfully placing his thoughtful translation of the Hebrew text at the beginning of his work, he reads Ruth as a drama of four acts and a genealogical postlude, and provides a script for dramatic reading. The book of Ruth fills the historical and theological gap
between the books of Judges and Samuel, explains Davids emergence as king and presents a positive interpretation of his Moabite ancestry. Block appropriately grounds Ruth within both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, identifying many allusions to their characters, laws, values and themes.
Block praises the work ethos of Ruth and Boaz. Having arrived in Bethlehem destitute, Ruth works long and hard gleaning in Boaz field to provide for Naomi and herself (2:27, 1718; cf. the industrious woman in Prov 31). As a manager, Boaz provides a workplace of reverence for God and respect for the workers. He and his harvesters greet each other with a blessing (2:4), and he provides them with water and food (vv. 9, 14). Leading by example, he winnows with the harvesters and sleeps at the threshing floor (3:24, 14). Though and/or because she is an alien, he treats Ruth with sensitivity, kindness and generosity; welcoming, protecting and feeding her (vv. 89, 15). As a paradigm for godly leadership, Boaz provides a secure environment and produces the earliest recorded workplace anti-sexual harassment policy (159).
In Chapter 3 Naomi hatches a daring but risky scheme to seek well-being for herself and Ruth. Following Naomis directions, Ruth prepares for her midnight encounter with Boaz. Acknowledging the use of several words with double meanings (galah uncover/uncover nakedness; shekav sleep/lie with; margelotyv, from regel feet/genitals; vv. 4, 78), Block rejects an overtly sexual interpretation of the scene. Though Naomi had instructed Ruth to act upon Boaz instructions (v. 5); ironically, Boaz promises to do everything Ruth asks of him (v. 11). Bloch interprets her request as marriage (v. 9). Rather than treating Ruth as a Moabite prostitute, Boaz praises her as a noble woman (hayil v. 11; cf. Prov 31:10). He thoughtfully sends a gift of grain for Naomi as a token of his determination to gain the right to Ruth (vv. 1417). In the morally suspect and practically dangerous scene, Boaz did not reject or dismiss Ruth, and did not take advantage of her sexual vulnerability. Instead, he showed her respect and generosity (Deut 14:29; 16:1017; 24:1922; 26:1113; 27:19), thus enacting hesed.
In Chapter 4 the scene shifts to the world of men at the city gate. The dialogue between Boaz and Peloni Almoni (a word play designating an unidentified closer kinsman-redeemer, vv. 38) deals with issues of the redemption of Elimelechs estate through the law of gōēl (Lev 25:2328) and the preservation of his lineage through a Levirate-type marriage (Deut 25:510). Block undertakes detailed discussions on these traditions, as well as Naomis entitlement to and intention for the land (and Ruths relationship to it). He concludes that Boazs primary concern was Ruths well-being, Peloni Almonis was the ownership of the land and the narrators was the preservation of Elimelechs (and Davids) line.
In a positive reading of their characters, Block argues that Naomi, Ruth and Boaz all exhibit goodness, righteousness and loyalty. Naomi is a destitute widow who is deeply wounded by her calamities yet still has faith in YHWH (1:13, 2021). Her concern is for Ruths well-being and an heir for Elimelech (3:1). Her lost family is restored through Ruths devotion and the birth of Obed, her redeemer (4:1415). Boaz is a prominent man of noble character (hayil 2:1) who acts as the wings of God in offering refuge to the poor and marginalized (2:12). Ironically the covenantal quality of ?esed is attributed only to Ruth the Moabitess who is integrated into the people of God and becomes an ancestor of the royal and Messianic line (Matt 1:36). In leaving her birth land, declaring her faith in YHWH and committing herself to Naomi, she is compared to Israels patriarchs and matriarchs (1:1617; 4:11). She contributes positively to King Davids line and provides a universal element to Jesus identity (Luke 1:2638). In his refreshingly hopeful reading of the text Block notes that the inclusion of Ruth in Gods covenant family and salvation plan demonstrates that divine grace and hesed are available to us all (261).
Whitley College, University of Divinity