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Writing Discussions in the Book of Ruth, Chapter 2

  • August 21, 2019
  • By Ben van Noort
Writing Discussions in the Book of Ruth, Chapter 2

Writing Discussions in the Book of Ruth, Chapter 2

New examples of writing discussions, between Ruth and Naomi, and also between Ruth and Boaz.

Ruth Asked for a Favor
2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Na′omi, “Let me go to the field, and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” (Ruth 2 RSV, etc.)

Why is this a writing discussion? Well, Ruth needed an identification document to show who she was, and that she belonged to the Bethlehem community. That would give her access to the fields around the village. Naomi replied “Go, my daughter.” And certainly she put her sign or seal under the words. With this, Ruth could now go reaping grain in the fields, and she arrived at the field of Boaz.

Documentation: writing discussion
Motive: legal identification

Boaz on the Field
Boaz appeared at the field for a working visit, and he said to the reapers: “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” (v. 4)
These were certainly (meaningful) standard formulas used by Boaz and the people. Thereafter he had to speak about the work with the servant in charge, and certainly he made use of a secretary to provide orders in writing concerning the work on the field.
5 and Boaz said “Whose maiden is this?” 6 And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “It is the Moabite maiden, who came back with Na′omi from the country of Moab. 7 She said, ‘Pray, let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, without resting even for a moment.”

We have to reckon here with a work report by Boaz’s secretary. From the report is clear that Ruth had identified herself at the beginning with her tablet. It is not necessary to suppose that the servant in charge quoted exactly the request of Ruth to come and glean. The point of documentation is that this was what the servant in charge said to Boaz. It is possible that Ruth had given him her wax tablet for the time she worked on the field, and that he took it to read her request from it.    

Documentation: work report by secretary
Motive: informing Boaz

Boaz and Ruth
After the conversation with his servant in charge, Boaz went to Ruth for a personal interview with her. Maybe he took her tablet with him to give her some privileges. If Ruth had her tablet still with her she showed it when he came up to her. Having approached Ruth, and writing on her tablet he said:

8 Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my maidens. Let your eyes be upon the field which they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to molest you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”

Documentation: writing discussion
Motive: legal privileges

Boaz had put his sign or name behind the words he had written, and gave her the tablet. Ruth was overwhelmed by so much kindness. She bowed down for him. Of course, Boaz as a good Israelite helped her up. Then, writing, she asked:

“Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?”

And she gave the tablet to Boaz, who in turn expressed his appreciation for her. 

Boaz Knew what Ruth Had Done for Naomi

11 All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 The Lord recompense you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”

Documentation: writing discussion continued
Motive: unconditional approbation and a blessing

Finishing of the Writing Discussion
After these words of Boaz, Ruth received her tablet, and writing she expressed her gratitude, together with a final invitation of Boaz:

13 You are most gracious to me, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not one of your maidservants.”

14 Come here, and eat some bread, and dip your morsel in the wine.”

Documentation: writing discussion
Motive: finishing of the writing discussion

When Ruth got to work again after lunch, Boaz gave instructions to his workers, to be good for Ruth. This was certainly taken down by Boaz’s secretary (v. 15-16), so that all could see that it was serious.

Ruth Reported to Naomi What Had Happened
When Ruth came home, she had a lot to tell to Naomi. The full conversation has been preserved (v. 19-22). It has all appearances that this was a personal conversation, whispered and (therefore) sustained with writing on a tablet. Probably they lived in a women house of Bethlehem, and did not want everybody to know what had happened that day. It would only give gossip.

Documentation: writing discussion
: private interview

Shortly after these events Ruth married with Boaz. Their actual words still existed and could be used for the four chapters of the story how they found each other.

By Ben van Noort, August 21, 2019