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This book is evidently a supplement to the book of Judges, and an introduction to that of Samuel, between which it is placed with great propriety. In the ancient Jewish canon, it formed a part of the book of Judges; but the modern Jews make it one of the five Megilloth, which they place towards the end of the Old Testament. This book has been attributed to various authors; but the best founded and generally received opinion, and in which the Jews coincide, is that which ascribes it to the prophet Samuel; before whose time it could not have been written, as is evident from the genealogy recorded in Judges 4:17-Song of Solomon :. The time in which the events detailed in this book happened is involved in much obscurity and uncertainty. Augustine refers it to the time of the regal government of the Hebrews; Josephus to the administration of Eli; Moldenhawer, after some Jewish writers, to the time of Ehud; Rabbi Kimichi, and other Jewish authors, to the time of Ibzan; Bps. Patrick and Horne to the judicature of Gideon; Lightfoot to the period between Ehud and Deborah; and Usher, who is followed by most chronologers, to the time of Shamgar. The authenticity and canonical authority of this sacred book cannot be questioned; and the Evangelists, in describing our Saviour’s descent, have followed its genealogical accounts. To delineate part of this genealogy appears to be the principal design of the book; it had been foretold that the Messiah should be of the tribe of Judah, and it was afterwards revealed that he should be of the family of David; and therefore it was necessary, to prevent the least suspicion of fraud or design, that the history of that family should be written before these prophecies were revealed. And thus this book, these prophecies, and their accomplishment, serve mutually to illustrate each other. The whole narrative is extremely interesting and instructive, and is written with the most beautiful simplicity. The distress of Naomi; her affectionate concern for her daughter-in-law; the reluctant departure of Orpah; the dutiful attachment of Ruth; and the sorrowful return to Bethlehem, are very beautifully told. The simplicity of manners, likewise, which is shown in the account of Ruth’s industry and attention to Naomi; of the elegant charity of Boaz; and of his acknowledgment of his kindred with Ruth, afford a very pleasing contrast to the turbulent scenes described in the preceding book. And while it exhibits, in a striking and affecting manner, the care of Divine Providence over those who sincerely fear God, and honestly aim at fulfilling his will, the circumstance of a Moabitess becoming an ancestor of the Messiah seems to have been a pre-intimation of the admission of the Gentiles into his church It must be remarked, that in the estimation of the Jews, it was disgraceful to David to have derived his birth from a Moabitess; and Shimei, in his revilings against him, is supposed by them to have tauntingly reflected on his descent from Ruth. This book, therefore, contains an intrinsic proof of its own verity, as it reveals a circumstance so little flattering to the sovereign of Israel; and it is scarcely necessary to appeal to its admission into the canon of Scripture, for a testimony of its authentic character. Add to which, that the native, the amiable simplicity in which the story is told, is sufficient proof of its genuineness. There are several sympathetic circumstances recorded which no forger could have invented . t here is too much of nature to admit anything of art.
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17