8

The setting of Ruth is in the time of the Judges.

Ruth 1:1 During the time of the judges there was a famine in the land of Judah. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah went to live as a resident foreigner in the region of Moab, along with his wife and two sons. [NET Bible]

It must have been written after the time of King David as it points out he is descended from the principle characters twice in the last few verses.

4:17 The neighbor women named him, saying, "A son has been born to Naomi." They named him Obed. Now he became the father of Jesse – David’s father!

4:22 Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of David.

This link to David serves to show why the book is important enough for inclusion in the canon. The fact that David was descended from Moabites would also explain why he sought refuge with them when being pursued by Saul (1 Samuel 22:3).

However, most scholars now date the book much later than the time of David. There are three time periods generally given for the book of Ruth.

  1. The time of David - based upon the absence of Solomon in the genealogy and the fact that the customs presented in Ruth are different from the later period.1
  2. During Josiah's reforms - as Ruth is said to betray a knowledge of Deuteronomy 25 which they claim was not written until the time of Josiah.2
  3. After the Exile3, specifically as a counter to Nehemiah's edict to put away foreign wives.4

What evidence shows the date for the Book of Ruth?


1Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 307. Malick, David. An Introduction to the Book of Ruth.

2Mentioned by Archer but no scholar holding the view cited.

3Grabbe, Lester L. (2004). The History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period, Volume 1: Yehud, the Persian Province of Judah.

4Jewish Encyclopedia, sv. Book of Ruth.

  • "Likewise, if the book were written after the time of Solomon, that king would be included in the list." -- I upvoted, but I also think this is not a logical necessity for the question to assume. (For example, if the book of Ruth was written to be propaganda for a David, then mentioning Solomon would be superfluous since everyone already knows he is David's son.) If someone could argue the lack of mentioning Solomon as a necessary detail in their answer that would be fine, but to place this assumption in the question itself seems to be leading. What do you think? – user2910 Aug 5 '14 at 19:42
  • @MarkEdward, I agree. Now that I think of it, I can come up with a couple of reasons to skip Solomon if written afterwards. – Frank Luke Aug 5 '14 at 19:52
4

According to the Babylonian Talmud, Bava Basra 14b, Samuel was the author of the Book of Ruth. While the rabbis, there, equivocate about the authorship of other books of the Hebrew Scriptures, there is no debate there that Samuel authored the book.

Modern non-Jewish authorities, however, believe that the book had to be written during or after David's kingship, but after the death of Samuel. See Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, by William Sanford La Sor, David Allan Hubbard, Frederic William Bush, at 521.

Regarding your specific questions:

With regard to question 1, either theory -- Samuel or someone during David's kingdom -- would explain why Solomon is not mentioned in the geneology.

With regard to #2, I do not accept the theory that Deuteronomy was not written until Josiah. In Ruth, we see a law, conveyed at Deuteronomy 23:4, which banned Jews (at least Jewish females, we'll discuss this below) from marrying Moabites or Amorites. So, I think you're correct in saying that this would have to be post-Josaiah if, in fact, it Josiah did not "rediscover" Deuteronomy (as Jewish tradition holds), but rather wrote it or had it written. I think with point 1, this is a good rebuttal of the Biblical critics' theory.

As to the issue #3, regarding foreign wives, lets be clear; we've got two issues here: First is whether the ban discussed in Deuteronomy 23:4 applies to Boaz marrying Ruth, who originally was a Moabitess; and two, Nehemiah's efforts to make would-be Jewish returnees to Judea to divorce the foreign wives they married during their exile.

If you recall, Boaz gives a closer relative to Ruth's late husband a chance to obtain rights to land he owned by marrying Ruth. The cousin (or whatever he was) apparently decides that it would not be good for him to marry a Moabitess based on the teaching in Deuteronomy. Yet Boaz, who knows a bit more than the other relative, about the Law understood (as the rabbis later explain) that the reason for the ban against Moabites was "because they met you not with bread and water in the way, when you came out of Egypt." Deuteronomy 23:5. Boaz understood that the slight recorded there was a decision of the male Moabites and Ammonites only, not the females, and therefore the ban on converstions to Judaism only applied to male Moabites and Ammonites. See Babyl. Talmud Yevamos 76b. Ruth, howeveer, is the Bible's model for the sincere Jewish convert, implied by the fact that she asks to "return" to Israel (a place she'd never been). Return is a spiritual concept. She doesn’t only want to travel back to the land of Canaan; she wants to repent, to return to God.

Now, regarding Nehemiah, and Ezra for that matter, it should be said that the foreign women that they wanted the Jews to divorce were not converts, had no interest in Judaism or Israel, and would undermine Jewish tradition and values. Ezra and Nehemiah did not invent the concept -- indeed, Ezra 10:3 says that the rule against mixed-marriages (without conversion) is not "according to the Torah." We see in Deuteronomy 7:3-5 an exhortation against intermarriage "...you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they [the foreign women] will turn your sons away from following Me" (translation is my own). But Ruth, being a righteous convert to Judaism, and committed to God and His commandments, was not a threat to cause Boaz to turn Boaz's heart from God, and she was accordingly fit to be the direct ancestor of the Messiah.

  • Thank you very much, Bruce. I, too, disagree with dating Deut to the time of Josiah. And thank you for the information regarding the ban! – Frank Luke Aug 6 '14 at 16:21
  • I've asked another question about the word shub in Ruth 1. If you would like to explain more of the concept of shub there, it would be greatly appreciated. – Frank Luke Aug 8 '14 at 16:59

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