Ruth upon the Threshing Floor and the Sin of Gibeah: A Biblical-Theological Study -- By: Warren Austin Gage

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 51:2 (Fall 1989)
Article: Ruth upon the Threshing Floor and the Sin of Gibeah: A Biblical-Theological Study
Author: Warren Austin Gage

Ruth upon the Threshing Floor and the Sin of Gibeah: A Biblical-Theological Study

Warren Austin Gage

I. The Relationship between Gibeah and Ruth

The record in Judges of the sin of Gibeah and the story of Ruth the Moabitess sustain several noteworthy interconnections. First, a broad chronological relationship between both accounts is indicated by the introduction to Ruth, which states explicitly that the story of Ruth and the family of Elimelech took place “in the days when the judges governed” (Ruth 1:1). This direct connection naturally explains the evidence of the most ancient sources, which list Ruth immediately following Judges in the canonical arrangement of Scripture, contrary to the order presently observed in the MT.1

Second, based upon thematic and grammatical considerations, Edward F. Campbell followed Robert C. Bowling in suggesting a literary relationship between the two accounts. Campbell observed “a series of verbal correspondences which, when taken together, may suggest a relationship between the two stories.”2 Campbell likewise noted a thematic contrast between the stories of Gibeah and Ruth that he felt might suggest an interdependence. He noted

that the contrast with Ruth was limited to Judges 19–21. “Here are covenant, custom, institutions gone awry, contrasted with a scene in which things go as they should, in which people make the right decision, in which Yahweh is anything but lost. It is enough to suggest that there may have been an original connection between Judges 19–21…and the Ruth story.”3

Third, a political purpose uniting both accounts may be suggested by the prominence of the dynastic cities of Gibeah and Bethlehem in these accounts. Within the context of premonarchic Israel it is significant that the stories of Gibeah and Ruth are both associated with Bethlehem.4 Gibeah’s offense was the ravishing of the Levite’s Bethlehemite concubine, and Ruth is the story of the family of Elimelech, an Ephrathite of Bethlehem. It is apparent that both accounts are written in anticipation of the monarchy. Judges ends with the refrain, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg 21:25; cf. 19:1; 18:1;

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