The Purpose Of The Book Of Ruth -- By: Louis B. Wolfenson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 069:274 (Apr 1912)
Article: The Purpose Of The Book Of Ruth
Author: Louis B. Wolfenson


The Purpose Of The Book Of Ruth

Louis B. Wolfenson

The purpose of the Book of Ruth depends largely on the time of composition. Many views of its purpose have been proposed. All of these, practically, are intrinsically impossible on other grounds besides that of date. It is the purpose of the present article to show this for a number of the most widely accepted views. Most of the recent views of the purpose have as a basis a late date of composition. In an article by the present author in the July, 1911, number of the American Journal of Semitic Languages, entitled “The Character, Contents, and Date of Ruth,” it was shown that the assumption of a late date rests upon: (1) the opening words of the book, and the quiet and peace which pervade it, but which are supposedly incongruous with the age of the Judges and an early date of composition; (2) the genealogy in 4:18–22, which is in the style of the Priestly Code, and hence late; (3) the passage 4:7 relating what was customary “formerly” in Israel; (4) the place of Ruth among the Hagiographa, or last division of the Hebrew Bible, in the Jewish arrangement; and (5) the language of the book, which is supposed to be late and Aramaic. It was pointed out that the first four of these grounds can be most satisfactorily explained with an early date, and that the one word which has been considered irrefutably late, “therefore” (1:13), must be Hebrew in this meaning. All five grounds for a late date are refuted.

On the other hand, it was shown: (1) that the language of the book is early; (2) that the graphic peculiarities are early; (3) that the internal evidence proves, conclusively, an early date, since (a) there is no mention of the Passover festival at the time of the barley harvest, (b) the, manner of conducting the harvest is contrary to Deut. 24:19, hence pre-Deuteronomistic and early, (c) the lack of mention of Shebhu’oth, or Pentecost, at the conclusion of the harvest, is likewise early, (d) the acquirement of Ruth as property in iv. 5 is again pre-Deuteronomistic, — is, indeed, confined to the most early times,’—and (c) the absence of objection to intermarriage between a Hebrew and a Moabitess is conclusively early. All this, together with the vigor and consummate art of the book, compels us to adopt a pre-Deuteronomistic date.

Lastly, it was shown that Ruth was originally a part of the early Judaic popular David-Bethlehem stories, and stood in the JE-history before...

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