Ancient History, History, King of Hopelessness: A Study of Ruth

King of Hopelessness, pt 12 (3:16-18)

וַתָּבוֹא אֶל־חֲמוֹתָהּ וַתֹּאמֶר מִי־אַתְּ בִּתִּי וַתַּגֶּד־לָהּ אֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה־לָהּ הָאִישׁ׃
וַתֹּאמֶר שֵׁשׁ־הַשְּׂעֹרִים הָאֵלֶּה נָתַן לִי כִּי אָמַר ֵ ַ אַל־תָּבוֹאִי רֵיקָם אֶל־חֲמוֹתֵךְ׃
וַתֹּאמֶר שְׁבִי בִתִּי עַד אֲשֶׁר תֵּדְעִין אֵיךְ יִפֹּל דָּבָר כִּי לֹא יִשְׁקֹט הָאִישׁ כִּי־אִם־כִּלָּה הַדָּבָר הַיּוֹם׃

And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ” She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.” (3:16-18, ESV)

Not empty-handed. The Hebrew רֵיקָם (reyqam) means “empty” and is translated elsewhere as “vanity.” The idea is something that rings hollow. Boaz knew that Ruth could not return to Naomi without some kind of promissory gift. She needed assurance.

While six measures of barley was a substantial amount, it was hardly a bride price. Boaz instead sends a surety, a partial gift in lieu of the larger one to come. This echoes the shavuot festival when the Jews were to bring the first fruits of their barley harvest, before they took any for themselves. You can see how deeply entwined the Ruth story is with what was, at the time, an evolving faith in YHWH.

The man will not rest. How else do you describe a redeemer? Through the passages I mentioned yesterday (Leviticus 25, 27, Numbers 35) the ga’al was to pursue all means necessary to enact the redemption.  Accepting the role was accepting all of the responsibilities it entails.

I have mentioned before that the worship of YHWH was largely restricted to the Judean highlands. This would mean that much of what we know as Torah was also restricted to that region. In a subtle way, Naomi’s words confirm that Boaz (and therefore David’s family) observed the righteousness of Torah even before the nation of Israel was formed. (Remember that this takes place “in the time of the judges”.)

This adherence to righteousness to Torah will become vital in validating the right of the House of David to rule all of Judah and Israel, although this will not become important until the monarchy period.

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