Ruth is one of "the little books of the Bible," only four chapters long. Katharine Doob Sakenfeld has written a commentary of unusual sensibility and discernment that makes very clear why this book has such great importance as literature and as scripture. Ruth is a very human book; its subject matter is the stuff of everyday life: family, marriage, children, homes, food, departures, deaths, good times, and bad times. The narrative is a drama of ordinary human affairs, but the drama unfolds against a background of the providence and purposes of God. In this excellent commentary Sakenfeld does justice to both the human and divine dimensions of the text. Her interpretation is both sociological and theological, a synthesis reflective of the simple profundity of the story itself.
“This commentary therefore takes as its starting point the primary alternative suggested by many commentators from the rabbis onward: an emphasis on instruction concerning the community’s view of outsiders. David is foregrounded as the storyteller’s means of legitimizing an inclusive attitude towards foreigners, perhaps especially toward foreign women.” (Page 4)
“This portrait of the community may be regarded as a microcosm of the peaceable kingdom envisioned by the prophetic tradition. It is a human community in which the marginalized person has dared to insist upon full participation, in which the one in the center has reached out beyond societal norms to include the marginalized. It is a community in which children are celebrated and the elderly are attentively cared for. It is a community in which all are fed, a community in which joy is the dominant note. Thus the story offers to its readers ‘a memory of the future’ (Russell, p. 27), a vision of future hope couched in the form of a story from the past.” (Page 10)
“Ruth is implicitly portrayed as a barren woman in this stage-setting introduction. The narrator’s comment toward the end of the story that ‘the Lord made her conceive’ (4:13) suggests that Ruth should be viewed in the line of Sarah, Rachel, Manoah’s wife (Judges 13), and Hannah, each of whom bore a child of significance for Israel’s story after God removed her barrenness.” (Page 20)
“It is not a private tryst but a gesture of inclusion into the larger community” (Page 45)
“Boaz has in effect established himself in their eyes as Ruth’s male protector” (Page 43)
The Interpretation series from Westminster John Knox Press is clearly established as a rich source for teaching and preaching. They have tapped the talents of a varied and esteemed group of contributors, resulting in what is clearly the essential comprehensive commentary series on the Bible.
—W. Eugene March, A.B. Rhodes Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
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—Brian K. Blount, President and Professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary