Friend to Beloved: Ruth 1-4

Another structural point on Ruth: a chiasm.

A chiasm is a structuring element that grids portions of a book in such a way that certain points are emphasized by drawing them into a comparison with other points. For example, Genesis 11:


In this paradigm, the text is structured around the middle of the chiasm, showing the most important part to be “But the Lord came down”. The activity of the Lord (“come, let us go down and confuse”) is contrasted with the work of the people (“come, let us make bricks”). The name that the people chose for the city, Shinar, is replaced by God’s name: Babel. Though they spoke one language, the Lord truly controls the tongue, and warped their languages.

Ruth seems to have a similar structure:

A. 1:1-5
-B. 1:6-19
–C. 1:19b-22
—D. 2
–C’. 3
-B’. 4:1-12
A’. 4:13-22

Let’s break this down a bit:
A and A’ share a few commonalities, thematically. Both talk about Naomi’s situation, focusing especially on sons and families. In A, Naomi has a husband, two sons, and two daughters-in-law. At the end, she thinks she is left without anybody. In A’, Naomi gains a son through Ruth and Boaz, and she gains one who is in fact better than seven sons.

The B and B’ section is linked by gaining and losing. In B, Naomi loses her daughter-in-law Orpah, who decides to go home rather than remain with Naomi. Only Ruth remains in Naomi’s family, despite how badly Naomi seems to want to get rid of her. In B’, something similar happens: So-And-So does not want to take up the levirate law and take in Ruth (he is a new Onan). This is a reflection of Orpah’s rejection of Naomi. Now, Boaz takes up the role of Ruth by redeeming Ruth and staying with her in marriage.

The C’ sections are a bit harder to link, but thematically they are contrasted. In C, Naomi calls herself Mara and brings herself down low at the beginning of the barley harvest. She refers to herself as empty. At the end of C’, Ruth brings home food and a way to fill up the family.

The D section, as it should, shows the focus on the redeemer, Boaz. He is a gibborah, and he is a farmer. In these ways, we are already seeing the ways in which he is a new Adam. As he has his servants harvest his field, he notices a Gentile wander in and start gleaning the edges. The Lord of the Harvest takes in a Gentile woman into his family. Hm.
(Bonus: A reflects a reverse Sabbath, a failed Sabbath where God’s people leave his promised rest and try to work elsewhere. B is a Passover, where Orpah is separated from her mother-in-law while Ruth is joined to her. C is the firstfruits section when they arrive at the beginning of the barley harvest, but it is a reverse ascension, where Naomi/Mara makes herself low. D reflects the true Pentecost, because we meet the king of the book, Boaz, while this book actually takes place during Pentecost. C’ shows the redemption of God’s people in Boaz’s redemption of Ruth. B’ demonstrates how Boaz is a true Adam, making atonement for So-and-So while showing redemption for Ruth and Naomi alike. A’ is the true Feast of Booths as we see how God was with Israel in David.)

In this way, the book is structured around the reveal of Boaz, maybe even over Ruth’s portrayal. Thoughts?


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