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Old Testament Notes


Ruth 1:16 - with this declaration, Ruth renounces the gods of her people, and swears faithfulness to the God of Israel.
Ruth 1:20 - "Marah" means bitter; it was also the name of the place of bitter water in the Sinai peninsular (Exodus 15:23).
Ruth 2:2 - according to the Law, the corners of fields were to be left for the poor to go and glean for food (Leviticus 19:9-10, 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:19-21).
Ruth 3:7 - "corn" in the Middle East and Europe is a grain similar to wheat and barley. Sweet-corn (maize) was not known until America was discovered.
Ruth 4:1-12 - the Gate of a city or town usually had alcoves or small rooms in the wall, where the guards were stationed and where the elders of the town sat to discuss current affairs. It also functioned as the court-house, where contracts were witnessed (eg. Genesis 23:7-20).
Some students have asked what the "Kinsman/Redeemer" was in this chapter.
Remember that at the time of Joshua and the Judges we are dealing with nomadic, tribal societies which are just beginning to settle into villages and towns. In most cases a woman could not "own" any property (she could not defend it against marauders or other enemy invaders), and indeed even men "owned" property on behalf of the whole clan or tribe - so the head man or elder of a family generally decided and spoke for the whole family.
Society was also complicated by the fact that if people were really poor, they could sell their children as bond-servants (really slaves) to someone else. However, there was also a legal provision that another richer member of the tribe could buy back the servant and set him/her free - this person was known as the redeemer.
If, as in the case of Naomi, a widow had "inherited" some land, it had to be kept in the family, and the way that was done was to have her marry some other member of the family (usually her dead husband's brother) who was referred to as the "Kinsman". In Naomi's case, there was no husband's brother, and she herself was regarded as too old to marry and have more children, so her daughter-in-law Ruth was the natural choice for the marriage. Either way, the land was kept in the family/tribe, and the oldest son of the marriage was counted as a child (and inheritor) of the dead man.

Copyright © 1999 Shirley J. Rollinson, all Rights Reserved

Dr. Rollinson

Department of Religion
Portales, NM 88130

Last Updated: May 23, 2008

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