Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: Ruth: From Bitter to Sweet

Dr. John D. Currid is Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has a PhD in archaeology and has authored several commentaries (e.g. The Pentateuch, Habakkuk). In his introduction, Dr. Currid breaks up the book of Ruth into five sections: Part one—Setting the scene (1:1-5), Part two—Naomi and her Moabite daughter-in-laws (1:6-22), Part three—In the fields of Bethlehem (2:1-23), Part four—The scene at the Threshing Floor (3:1-18) and Part five—Redemption (4:1-22). These sections encompass the majority of the commentaries’ brief 136 pages. Also, the introduction contains the author’s valuable thesis statement, “Thus the book is serving a greater purpose than merely being a moral story of human goodness: it points to the future reality of the coming King”.

I would label Professor Currid’s commentary somewhere between an exegetical commentary and a devotional one. To be clear, both elements are beautifully integrated throughout. The exegetical component is not only seen in the author’s commitment to the literary / historical context but also in his detailed explanation of key words and phrases of each verse. As to the devotional feature, Currid incorporates in each chapter the orthopraxical Points to Ponder, which helps the reader be not just ‘a hearer of the Word, but also a doer’ (James 1:22).

For those readers who love Reformation history, you are in for a treat. Every chapter is woven with either Puritan anecdotes or quotes from the spiritual giants of previous times. Admittedly, Dr. Currid’s affection for the past may not connect the young or modern reader, but what else would you expect from a professor who received his doctorate in archeology, the study of old stuff?

One of the most important concepts of the book of Ruth is the goel (Heb.) which means literally, kinsman-redeemer. Here Dr. Currid is at his literary best. His clear, engaging exegesis of this Israelite societal provision is eye-opening. In just three pages, the author describes the four duties of the goel, which all revolve around the concept of redemption. Though most readers will automatically perceive the link to the coming Messiah, Currid leaves no room for blindness and states, “Jesus claims (in Luke 4) to be the one who will bring release and liberty to His people; He is the goel for the believer” (p. 92).


If you were to ask any pastor or scholar, “What is the most provocative part of Ruth?”, the answer is always, “The scene of the threshing floor, of course!” This scene is the apex, the crescendo of the story. Ruth, by the advice of Naomi (her mother-in-law), dolls herself up and sneaks into the bed of Boaz and lies down at his feet. Provocative, indeed!

Dr. Currid argues strongly that not only was this act culturally appropriate, but there was no sexual activity between Ruth and Boaz. He does admit that the term “uncover” is often used to describe sexual activity in the OT, but the connection to Boaz’s feet speaks to redemption, not sexual conduct. He states on page 104, Ruth ‘is asking that Boaz would be willing to take her under his redemptive wings to protect her……the placing of the blanket over her is symbolic of that protection and security’. Though I agree with the author’s conclusion, I think this issue required direct interaction with those views critical of his, of which he did not do.

Finally, I continue to be unsettled with the need for Ruth’s nightly encounter with Boaz. Dr. Currid gives no cultural precedence for such an interaction and his application of Ezekiel 16, though original to this reviewer, is not convincing. I am left wondering if Naomi’s advice reveals impatience, rather than godly discretion.

In my opinion, this resource is a wonderful addition to the short list of Ruthian commentaries. Currid’s work is brief, readable and from the reformed tradition (though it doesn’t feel that way). If you are just starting to build your library, I would start with this work.  

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Cross Focused Reviews as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

1 comment:

  1. Great review Clint! Thanks for being a part of the blog tour.

    Shaun Tabatt
    Cross Focused Reviews