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I'm asking this on behalf of a friend. One of his favorite parts of the bible is that of Elisha, in 2 Kings. But he wanted to get more familiar with the bible as a whole, so in January he started a Bible In A Year reading program.

He got to the book of Ruth, and immediately made a connection to Elisha: Ruth and Elisha each set out to follow a mentor figure, the mentor tells them to go home, but Ruth/Elisha insists on following their mentor.

At first I was skeptical, but digging into the Hebrew, I found there were a few verbal parallels in the mentor/follower interactions:

  • Naomi and Elijah use similar wording when telling their follower to 'go return' home:

    • לכנה שבנה in Ruth 1.8
    • לך שוב in 1 Kings 19.20
  • The actions of Ruth and Elisha are described with similar phrasing:

    • Ruth does not 'return from following' (לשוב מאחריך) in Ruth 1.16
    • Elisha 'returned from following' (וישב מאחריו) in 1 Kings 19.21
  • Ruth and Elisha each refuse to separate from their mentor:

    • 'Do not persuade me to leave you' (אל תפגעי בי לעזבך) in Ruth 1.16
    • 'I will not leave you' (אם אעזבך) in 2 Kings 2.2,4,6

We also found this essay written by Ruth Walfish, appropriately titled Ruth and Elisha: A Comparative Study, which begins:

In this brief article, I will compare two biblical characters, Ruth and Elisha. On the face of it they seem to have little in common, yet it is my contention that the Bible purposely connects these two thematically. A study of these characters also necessitates an analysis of the two people most significant in their lives: Naomi on the one hand and Elijah on the other. I will argue that the two characters under discussion have several common characteristics, most strikingly the rejection of their former lives and the adoption of a new mentor or parent-like figure.

Walfish does mention a couple of other (coincidentally recent) studies on this subject, but we were hoping others might have more input. Is there more to this alleged parallelism between these two figures, Ruth and Elisha? How far back in history have people made this connection?

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The Book of Ruth is used as the basis for 'acceptance' of a Gentile into Judaism, one is asked 3 times, like Ruth, if it is her answer; in fact the question is put to 'dissuade' one, like Ruth. Ultimately one says, "I will go where you go, your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God." Elisha is interesting, as when Elijah 'threw his mantle upon him' then told him to "go back, what have I done to thee?" Here is a call by God, and the same act of surrender as Ruth, as well as servitude, for Elisha "poured water on the hands" of Elijah.(2Kings 3:11) –  user2479 May 22 at 5:01
Very interesting stuff, Mark. Great observations, user2479. I'm looking forward to the answers to this question. –  maj nem ɪz dæn May 22 at 14:25
@MarkEdward I really have been thinking about an answer to this question; I appologize for not posting sooner. And I'm very surprised there are so many apparently like myself-What's up with this? –  user2479 May 28 at 1:22

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