First-time posting, but long time reader. Found this site some years back, but I left the Witnesses in 1995. This whole subject reminded me of uneducated the Watchtower kept me, so I was moved to finally sign up and post. What the Witnesses taught us about the Book of Ruth is so different from what anyone can learn from opening the introduction to this book in any study Bible on the market.
Ruth may appear in Christian Bibles between Judges and 1 Samuel, but that is following the placement given to it by the Septuagint and later editions of the Vulgate. If you crack open a Jewish Bible, Ruth appears at the end of the canon, in the section called “Writings,” following Proverbs.
The Book of Ruth is not meant to be a historical document. It was designed specifically to carry the traditions of the main character into the liturgical readings of Jewish worship. This was a way of keeping the memory of Ruth alive, albeit through poetic license. In other words, the book is a legendary retelling of someone the Jews claimed was historical.
The book appears to be the product of the Second Temple era, written to deal with the controversy that arose regarding interracial marriage during the time period that is generally associated with Ezra and Nehemiah. The place the book holds late in the Jewish canon is one reason this is suspected (it is theoretically believed to have been composed after the time of the Jewish prophets and not immediately prior to or during the dynasty of King David).
Another point to note is that the heroine’s gleaning activities are placed in a setting reflecting an advanced development and application of Mosaic Law. The author appears to have purposely placed the ancient Ruth in an anachronistic setting, taking advantage of law that historically developed during the era of the Temple of Solomon. Israel was not applying such laws during Ruth’s time, and Solomon was supposed to still be several generations away.
The incorrect setting is taken as purposeful, as Ruth is the subject of much mercy and acceptance due to her great loyalty to the people of Israel and their God. The suggestion may be the application of mercy toward non-Jewish wives in Ezra’s time despite the Mosaic Law’s demands on intermarriage.
Jews adopted this book as one of the Megillot, the five scrolls read on different Jewish holidays. Ruth is liturgically proclaimed during Shavout (the Festival of Weeks). The inclusion of Ruth into Matthew’s generations narrative may be a similar invention playing off of this novela. The many holes between the generations contain skips, and the fact that the numerical value of King David’s name is fourteen (the three groups of generations don’t always add up to fourteen) shows it is a stylized motif, not an actual genealogy. The inclusion of Ruth, Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba seem to prefigure Mary’s marital dilemma, that God uses women who some might view conceived in a questionable manner.