At the beginning of Ruth (1:1, 1:2, and many others), the place that Elimelech, Naomi and their sons settle in is referred to as שדה/שדי מואב, literally "field(s) of Moab". Why would this usage appear here as opposed to ארץ מואב, the land of Moav? Are they distinct geographical locations?

Some other sources to consider are below

Field of Moab:

  • Genesis 36:35
  • Numbers 21:20
  • etc.

Land of Moab:

  • Deuteronomy 1:5
  • Deuteronomy 28:69
  • Judges 11:15
  • etc.

I don't know if there is a distinction geographically. A speculation on my part has been that the narrator intended to contrast Moab with Bethlehem. If you recall Bethlehem means "house of bread" so the writer may have been contrasting the moving of Elimelech's family from one place of bread to another through the use of the "fields of Moab."

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  • Thanks for your answer - it's certainly an interesting theory. I'm not sure that it fits in with the other usages of "fields" (even "fields of Moab") in the Bible, but my question didn't specifically ask for that. +1 – רבות מחשבות Apr 16 '18 at 21:32
  • books.google.ca/… – רבות מחשבות Apr 17 '18 at 3:18

Note: Reply moved, for better fit, from https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/posts/32797/edit

Interesting catch of the two forms in one verse (Ruth 1:6). In doing a study last night and this morning, I began to see an underlying distinct pattern.

Possible connection between Sarai/Sarah?

ShRI - Sarai - the barren one.

ShRH - Sarah - fruitful/fertile one.

ShDI - barren field ?

ShDH - fruitful plain ?

Naomi turned from shdi of Moab and then 'heard' in shdh of Moab that Yahweh gave bread to Beth-Lehem.

In many cases, there is another distinction between beasts and animals:

"Beast (bhmth) of shdi"

"Animal (chith) of shdh"

(Found two exceptions thus far – one was 1Sam. 17:44 – bemth of shdh)

Did not recall Moab being divided, so did a Google search. Rather than two divisions, there appears to be three.

Tenatively, will use field-shdi / plain-shdh / artz-land of (as incorporating both) of Moab. Wilderness is mdbr.


The land of Moabites

Their territory of Moab was divided into three parts, one of them being the field of Moab. This portion was enclosed by natural fortification and was bounded by the gorge of Amon River by the North, the Dead Sea cliffs on the south and a semicircle of hills on the east and south. The next one was the Land Of Moab, which was a more open country that extended from the Amon north to the hills of Gilead. The third portion was the plains of Moab, a ‘sunken’ district in the tropical depths of the Jordan River.


The territory occupied by Moab at the period of its greatest extent, before the invasion of the Amorites, divided itself naturally into three distinct and independent portions:-- (1) The enclosed corner or canton south of the Arnon was the "field of Moab." ( Ruth 1:1 Ruth 1:2 Ruth 1:6 ) etc. (2) The more open rolling country north of the Arnon, opposite Jericho, and up to the hills of Gilead, was the "land of Moab." ( 1:5 ; 32:49 ) etc. (3) The sunk district in the tropical depths of the Jordan valley. (Numbers 22:1 ) etc.

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  • "Animal" (as חיתו) also appears in Isaiah 56:9 and Psalms 104:11 so I'm not sure your beast-shdi/animal-shdh dichotomy works – b a Apr 23 '18 at 21:19

Elimilech and his family were Jewish immigrants because of famine in Israel. Their concern was an opportunity to find a place to grow food. Hence they were focused on the fields of opportunity. "Land" has the double meaning of "country" so perhaps the author was stressing that it was the fields that drew them to Moab.

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