“All the City . . . Doth Know that Thou Art a Virtuous Woman” [Ruth 3.11; cf Prov 12.4; 31.10] Ruth; 1 Samuel 1; 2.1–2, 20–21.
This lesson invites us to look at the stories of two women. The Book of Ruth is a self-contained narrative that many commentaries label a “short story” (and it does appear to be a precursor of that modern literary genre); Ruth is also one of only two books of the Bible named for a woman, and Ruth is a Moabite and a convert to Israelite religion. The briefer story of Hannah’s dedication of her first son Samuel to the Lord’s service is a sort of prologue to the account of the transition from the reign of the Judges to the monarchy: Samuel is the last Judge, and as a prophet he anoints Saul as king. The Book of Ruth is so intricate and rich that we may do well to give our time to it alone.
In the Hebrew Bible Ruth belongs with the Writings and is the first of the megillot, the “Five Scrolls” (together with The Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and Esther) associated with important festivals in the Jewish calendar; Ruth is read liturgically during Shavuot or the Festival of Weeks, a spring harvest festival. In the Greek and Latin and Christian canons, Ruth becomes a kind of interruption or interlude in the Deuteronomic history, wedged between Judges and 1 Samuel because its story takes place “in the days when the judges ruled” [1.1] and includes a genealogy of David [4.17–22].