RUTH, BOOK OF, in the Old Testament. The story of Ruth, the Moabitess, great-grandmother of David, is one of the Old Testament Hagiographa (see BIBLE, Old Testament, Canon). On the other hand, it follows Judges in the Septuagint, the Vul gate and the English version. But although a late rearrangement might transfer Ruth from the Hagiographa to the historical books, and place it between Judges and Samuel, no motive can be sug gested for the opposite change, unless it had been placed in the last part of the Jewish canon after the second (with the historical books) had been definitely closed. Moreover, the book is un touched by the "prophetic" or "Deuteronomic" editing, which helped to give the "Former Prophets" (Joshua-Kings) their pres ent shape after the fall of the kingdom of Judah. Nor has the narrative any affinity with the view that the history of Israel was a series of examples of divine justice and mercy in the suc cessive rebellions and repentances of the people of God. Finally, if the book had been known when Joshua-Kings was edited it could hardly have been excluded, since David's ancestry (iv. 17, 18-22) was of greater interest than that of Saul (given in I Sam. ix. I), whereas the old history names no ancestor of David beyond his father Jesse.
and although the language sometimes recalls the narratives in Samuel and Kings, it can be assumed, either that the book is the work of a late author acquainted with the earlier literature, or that an old narrative was rewritten. The fact that the language is in contrast to that of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, etc., has no force since writings evidently more or less contemporary did not necessarily share the same characteristics (observe, for example, the prose parts of Job).
Purpose.—Like the stories appended to Judges, the book of Ruth connects itself with Bethlehem, the birthplace of David. Some connection between Bethlehem and Moab has been found in I Chron. iv. 22 (where the Targum and rabbinical exegesis discover references to the story of Ruth), and is explicitly sug gested by the isolated I Sam. xxii. 3 seq., which knows of some relationship between Moab and David. Next, the writer claims the sympathy of his readers for Ruth, upon whose Moabite origin he insists, and this is noteworthy in view of the aversion with which intermarriage was regarded at a certain period (Deut. xxiii. 3 ; Neh. xiii. ; Ezra ix. seq.). The independent evidence for the present late form of the book has led many scholars to the con clusion that it was directed against the drastic steps associated with the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah, which, as is known, were not everywhere acceptable. Thus, not only have we a beau tiful portrait of a woman of Moabite origin, but she becomes the ancestress of David himself ; and in the days of these measures the simple story would raise the question whether the exclusive ness of Judaism was being carried too far.