Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges











at the University Press



by the


The present General Editor for the Old Testament in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges desires to say that, in accordance with the policy of his predecessor the Bishop of Worcester, he does not hold himself responsible for the particular interpretations adopted or for the opinions expressed by the editors of the several Books, nor has he endeavoured to bring them into agreement with one another. It is inevitable that there should be differences of opinion in regard to many questions of criticism and interpretation, and it seems best that these differences should find free expression in different volumes. He has endeavoured to secure, as far as possible, that the general scope and character of the series should be observed, and that views which have a reasonable claim to consideration should not be ignored, but he has felt it best that the final responsibility should, in general, rest with the individual contributors.



List of Principal Abbreviations


§ 1.  Contents and aim of the Book

§ 2.  Date of the Book

§ 3.  Place of the Book in the Canon




Ber. Rab.  The Midrash Rabbah, Bereshith (Genesis).

Bertheau  E. Bertheau, Das Buch der Richter und Ruth, und edn., 1883.

Budde  K. Budde, Das Buch der Richter, 1897, in Marti’s Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Alten Testament.

Buhl  F. Buhl, Geographie des Alten Palästina, 1896.

CIS.  Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum.

COT.2  E. Schrader, The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old Testament, 2nd edn., 1885.

D  Deuteronomy (7th cent. b.c.) and Deuteronomist.

Driver, Introd.8  S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, 8th edn., 1909.

Driver, Schweich Lectures.  S. R. Driver, Modern Research as illustrating the Bible, 1909. The Schweich Lectures for 1908.

E  Elohist, Hexateuchal source, written probably in the Northern Kingdom, 9th–8th cent. b.c.

Encycl. Bibl.  Encyclopaedia Biblica, edited by T. K. Cheyne and J. Sutherland Black, 4 vols., 1899–1903.

EV.  English Version or Versions (AV. and RV.).

HDB. or DB.  Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, 5 vols., 1898–1904.

J  Jehovist, Hexateuchal source, written probably in Judah, 9th cent. b. c.

KAT.3  Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament, 3rd edn., 1903, by H. Zimmern and H. Winckler.

KB.  E. Schrader, Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek (transliterations and translations of Babylonian and Assyrian texts, by various scholars), 6 vols., 1889–1900.

Ḳimḥi  The commentary of David Ḳimḥi of Narbonne (a.d. 1160–1235), printed in Rabbinic Bibles.

Lagrange  M. J. Lagrange, Le Livre des Juges, 1903.

LXX.  The Septuagint in Swete’s edition, The Old Testament in Greek, vol. i., 1887. (3rd edn., 1901.)

LXX. cod. B,

LXX. mss.,

LXX. cod. A  A Two Greek versions of Judges exist; the one represented by codex B (Vaticanus) and a considerable group of cursives designated N by Moore; the other represented by codex A (Alexandrinus) and the majority of mss. both uncial and cursive. Codex B is printed as the text of Swete’s edition, with the readings of codex A below; the latter has been edited separately by Brooke and McLean, 1897.

LXX. Luc.

LXX. mss.  Among the cursive mss. which belong to the version represented by codex A is a group which furnishes the text published by Lagarde, Librorum Veteris Testamenti Canonicorum pars prior, 1883, and is thought to give the recension of Lucian. Another set of cursives, belonging also to the version of codex A, forms a second group, designated M by Moore.

Moore  George F. Moore, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges, in the International Critical Commentary series, 1895. Also Judges in the Polychrome Bible, English translation and notes, 1898; Hebrew Text and critical notes, 1900.

Nowack  W. Nowack, Richter und Ruth, 1900, in Nowack’s Handkommentar zum Alten Testament.

NSI.  G. A. Cooke, A Text-book of North-Semitic Inscriptions, 1903.

Onom. or OS.  Paul de Lagarde, Onomastica Sacra, 1870; written in Greek by Eusebius, and translated into Latin by Jerome. This edition is cited by pages and lines.

OTJC.2  W. Robertson Smith, The Old Testament in the Jewish Church, 2nd edn., 1892.

Pesh. or Syr  Peshiṭṭo, the Syriac Version of the Bible.

Rashi  The commentary of R(abbi) Sh(ĕlômoh) Y(iṣḥâḳi) of Troyes, a.d. 1040–1105, printed in Rabbinic Bibles.

Rd  The Deuteronomic Redactor.

RVm  The Revised Version marginal notes.

Syro-Hex.  The Syriac version, ascribed to Paul of Tella, of the Septuagint column in Origen’s Hexapla, representing the Hexaplaric LXX. as it was read at Alexandria in the beginning of the 7th cent. a.d.

Vulg.  Vulgate, Jerome’s Latin Version of the Bible.

ZDPV.  Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palaestina-Vereins.

A small ‘superior’ figure attached to the title of a book (e.g. Introd.8) indicates the edition of the work referred to.

In citations, e.g. Jdg 2:1 b, 5 a, the letters a, b (sometimes c, d) denote respectively the first and second (or third and fourth) parts of the verse cited.

The citations always refer to the English Version; occasionally, where the Hebrew numbering differs from the English, attention is called to the fact.

In the transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic words or proper names the following equivalents are used: ʾ = א; ʿ = ע; gh = غ; ḥ = ה, ح; kh (in Arabic words) = خ; dh = ذ; ḳ = ק, ق; ṣ = צ, ص; ṭ = ט, ط.

Bertholet’s commentary, Das Buch Ruth (1898) in Marti’s Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Alten Testament, is referred to by the name of the author.

A German translation of the Midrash Ruth Rabbah has been published by A. Wünsche (Leipzig, 1883).



The ancient narratives of the Book of Judges carry us back to a half-barbarous age of struggle and disorder, memorable chiefly for the deeds of Israel’s heroes: the Book of Ruth, although the scene is laid in the same age, gives us a very different picture. It introduces us to the peaceful life of the home and of the village, with its sorrows and joys, its wholesome industry and kindly virtues; a life which is by no means barren of heroic qualities, but they take the form of unselfish affection and generosity and loyalty to the ties of kindred; a simple community, tenacious of long established customs, and penetrated throughout by a spirit of unaffected piety. No doubt the picture is idealized; but the author, so far from inventing facts which never existed, is evidently describing a life with which he was familiar. How true to nature are his incidental touches! the excitement of the women-folk over Naomi’s return and their interest in the birth of the child, the grave approval of the elders sitting in the gate, the cautious prudence of the ‘near kinsman.’

Other parts of the Old Testament create a far less favourable impression of the religion of the people; their superstitions and crude beliefs, even their wilful unfaithfulness which stirred the indignation of the prophets, confront us again and again. But in the later literature, especially in the Wisdom Books and in some of the Psalms, we find plenty of evidence to shew that there must have been many homes in Israel beside those of Naomi and Boaz which were hallowed by the fear of God and love of family, many a village beside Beth-lehem in which an act of disinterested charity would win approval ‘in the gate.’ For such companion-pictures to Ruth we can point to Job 1:1-5; Job 29, Psalms 127, 128, 133, Proverbs 31:10-31, Tobit 2, Jdt 8:1-8, Sir 40:18-27. The religious homes of which we catch a glimpse at the beginning of the New Testament, homes like those of Elisabeth and Zechariah and of the Holy Family, could trace an ancestry of many generations in ordinary Jewish life.

But the aim of our author was not merely to give an idyllic description of a God-fearing, pastoral community. This forms only the background from which his principal persons stand out: it is their characters, and the events of their lives, which make up the substance of his story. The sorrows of Naomi, which have not deprived her of that rarest of gifts, “a heart at leisure from itself To soothe and sympathize”; the devotion of Ruth, which leads her to forget her own people and her father’s house, and fulfil her duty by the family of her dead husband; the generosity of Boaz, shewn by his compassion for the young widow, and then by taking upon himself the redemption of Naomi’s property, and, crowning act of all, by his marrying Ruth as part of the kinsman’s obligation: these are the author’s chief concern, and his way of handling them gives its charm and value to the Book. At the same time the story afforded him an opportunity to bring out certain further points. One was the fact that a Moabite woman, the daughter of an alien race and faith, could be a pattern of the highest virtues, and faithful to the customs of her adopted country (Ruth 2:11, Ruth 3:9 f.). Another was the commendable piety of a next of kin marriage with a childless widow (ch. 4); not necessarily a levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5 ff.), for Boaz was not the levir or brother in law of Ruth’s dead husband, but a marriage analogous to it in principle and object. Finally, the author intended to shew how by this particular marriage Ruth became the great grandmother of David (Ruth 4:17), a matter of special interest to all Jewish readers.

From what has been said about its contents, it will be manifest that the Book of Ruth cannot be described as history in the sense in which the early narratives of Judges, Samuel, and Kings are history; in the Hebrew Bible it is not classed among the historical books, and it was written long after the time with which it professes to deal. Yet we may feel certain that the story is based upon historical truth; the scene and the characters which fill it are unmistakeably true to life; the author drew upon facts of experience, and at the same time, we may well believe, made use of certain family traditions relating to David1[1]. Out of these he wove his tale, which he intended to be “an example to his own age as well as an interesting sketch of the past” (Robertson Smith and Cheyne, Encycl. Bibl., col. 4172).

[1] It has been suggested that some of the traditional elements in the story were drawn from mythology or folk-lore; Winckler, Altorient Forschungen, iii. pp. 66f., KAT.3, pp. 229, 438. It would be rash to deny the possibility that such was the case, but the evidence alleged is not very convincing.

This, however, is not the view of the author’s purpose which is taken by many modern scholars2[2]. Ruth is supposed to have been written as a protest against the rigorous measures adopted by Ezra and Nehemiah when they discovered the danger of mixed marriages (Ezra 9, 10, Nehemiah 10:30; Nehemiah 13:23-27). It is true, of course, that the author represents a Moabite woman as a pattern of all that an Israelite wife should be, and tells how she was admitted to a place of honour in an illustrious Hebrew family; but it argues a singular lack of imagination and literary insight to treat the Book of Ruth as a counter-blast or manifesto. “Surely no one who thoroughly appreciates the charm of this book will be satisfied with the prevalent theory of its object. There is no ‘tendency’ about the book; it represents in no degree a party programme” (Encycl. Bibl., l.c.). Had the author written with any such intention, why did he disguise it so artfully? We may question whether Jewish readers in the time of Nehemiah would have detected a protest against his policy any more readily than we do in such a guileless piece of literature.

[2] E. g. Geiger, Urschrift u. Uebersetzungen, pp. 49 ff; Knenen, Religion of Isr., ii., p. 242f.; Graetz, History of the Jews, i., p. 381f.; Kautzsch, Lit. of O.T. p. 129 f.; Bertholet, comment., p. 52f.; Nowack, Comment., p. 184f.


While it is impossible to accept the Rabbinic tradition that “Samuel wrote his book and Judges and Ruth” (Talm. Baba Bathra 14b), modern opinion is not entirely agreed about the date of Ruth; we can only attempt to indicate generally the period to which the Book seems to belong.

(a) Though the writer professes to deal with the ancient times in which the immediate ancestors of David flourished, and gives to his story a certain archaic colouring, this is only a literary device, like that which lays the scene of Job in the days of the patriarchs. For, as has been said above, the state of society which Ruth describes is very different from the conditions presupposed by the early narratives of Judges. The author looks back upon that rough and stormy age through a twilight of fancy; and in fact the very phrase “when the judges judged” (Ruth 1:1) reproduces the view of the period which was formulated by the Deuteronomic editor, and may well imply that the author was acquainted with the Book of Judges, at any rate in its Deuteronomic form. Moreover, the way in which David is brought into the story shews, quite apart from the pedigree in Ruth 4:18-22, that he has become the king of later imagination and legend; the climax is reached when the story arrives at the name of David (Ruth 4:17). Whether any indication of date can be found in the explanation of an old custom given in Ruth 4:7 is not certain, for the verse may be a gloss inserted into the text (see note in loc.); on the other hand, the verses before and after do not form a natural sequence without it; and supposing that it comes from the author’s hand, we may conclude that in his time the custom, which was well understood in the age of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 25:9 f.), needed explanation; the great cleavage in social life caused by the exile had intervened.

(b) An examination of the style, i. e. of the idioms and syntax, of the Book seems to point to a comparatively late period. We must admit that the style on the whole is classical, and “palpably different not merely from that of Esther and Chronicles, but even from Nehemiah’s memoirs or Jonah”: hence so good a judge as Dr Driver cannot satisfy himself that the Book is as late as the 5th cent. b.c. (Introd.8, p. 454), and considers it to belong to the pre-exilic period. Certainly the writer uses expressions which occur in literature of the classical age, but these may only shew that he was familiar with the Books of Samuel and Kings: e.g.

Jehovah do so to me, and more also Ruth 1:17; 1 Samuel 3:17 and ten times in Sam. and Kings.

was moved (‘rang again’) Ruth 1:19; 1 Samuel 4:5, 1 Kings 1:45.

hap, chance Ruth 2:3; 1 Samuel 6:9; 1 Samuel 20:26.

such a one Ruth 4:1; 1 Samuel 21:2, 2 Kings 6:8.

uncover thine ear Ruth 4:4; 1 Samuel 9:15 and six times in Sam.

the seed which Jehovah shall give Ruth 4:12; 1 Samuel 2:20.

The older form of the 1st pers. pronoun (אנכי) occurs seven times, the later form (אני) twice.

Again, we find certain grammatical forms which are not decisive as to age, but occur most frequently in later books: e.g.

the impf. 2nd. fem. in ׳יו Ruth 2:8; Ruth 2:21, Ruth 3:4; Ruth 3:18; 1 Samuel 1:14, Isaiah 45:10, Jeremiah 31:22.

the perf. 2nd. fem. in ׳חי Ruth 3:3-4; often in Jer., Ezekiel 16., Micah 4:13.

Other forms and expressions distinctly point to a post-exilic date: e.g.

take wives (נשא אשה for the earlier לקח אשה) Ruth 1:4; Ezra 9:2; Ezra 9:12, Nehemiah 13:25, 1 Chronicles 23:22 etc.

therefore (להן) Ruth 1:13 is pure Aramaic; Daniel 2:6 etc.

tarry, hope (שׂכרּ) Ruth 1:13; Psalm 119:166, Esther 9:1.

stay, be shut up (ענן) Ruth 1:13; elsewhere in Jewish Aramaic.

Mara Ruth 1:20 has the Aram. fem. ending (מִדא = Hebr. מרה).

Almighty (Shaddai, not El Shaddai) Ruth 1:20; Numbers 24:4; Numbers 24:16, and often in Job.

confirm (קים) Ruth 4:7; Ezekiel 13:6, Esther 9:21; Esther 9:27; Esther 9:29; Esther 9:31 f., Psalm 119:28; Psalm 119:106, Daniel 6:8 (Aram.).

Thus on the whole the language and style of Ruth appear to indicate that the Book was written after, rather than before, the exile. As we have seen, the author deliberately goes back to early times for the setting of his narrative, and it is in keeping with this that he has adopted certain phrases from the older historical books; but now and again he could not avoid using expressions which reveal the period to which he belonged.

(c) A more promising clue to the date is the fact that Ruth shews no signs of the influence of the Deuteronomic school, which profoundly affected all the historical writings which have come down to us from pre-exilic times; and since the author seems to have known Judges in its Deuteronomic form, we may infer that he lived later than the age of Jeremiah. But it may be questioned whether the period just before the exile, or the early years of the struggling community which built the Second Temple, would have been favourable to the composition of such a work as Ruth, so serene in its outlook and tone of gracious piety. And if we cannot fairly detect in the Book a protest against the policy of Ezra and Nehemiah, there is no reason to suppose that it was contemporary with the latter (432 b.c. is the date of his second visit to Jerusalem). By the time that Chronicles was composed, shortly after 333 b.c., the past history of Israel was interpreted from a peculiar point of view; the legalist temper had become predominant, and Ruth is as free from the rigid spirit of legal orthodoxy as it is from the Deuteronomic pragmatism. At some time, then, in the century following Nehemiah it seems probable that the story was written; and if we are at all near the mark in this conclusion, the Book of Ruth acquires an additional interest, as proving that in an age which was becoming more and more absorbed in the ideals of legalism, the spirit of Hebrew literature was not extinct, but capable of producing a fresh and lovely work, remarkable especially for a large-hearted charity which could welcome, for her goodness, a Moabite woman into a Jewish home; so that the Book, like Jonah, may be called in the words of Dr Cheyne, “a noble record of the catholic tendency of early Judaism.”


In the Jewish Canon Ruth is placed among the Kethûbîm or Hagiographa (Psalms—Chronicles), and in printed Hebrew Bibles follows the Song of Songs as the second of the five Megillôth or Rolls, which were read at certain seasons in the synagogue1[3]. If Ruth had been known at the time when the historical books, Joshua—Kings, were collected, its account of David’s ancestry, a matter of such great interest and not recorded in the older histories, would certainly have secured for it a place among them. Moreover, the historical books have all passed through the process of Deuteronomic redaction, while Ruth differs from them in this respect, and therefore, most probably, was not inserted into the older collection.

[3] Song of Songs at Passover; Ruth at Pentecost; Lamentations on the 9th of Ab (the day of the destruction of Jerusalem); Koheleth at Tabernacles; Esther at Purim. The arrangement of the five Megilloth is due to post-Talmudic liturgical usage. According to the Talmudic order (Baba Bathra 14 b), which is probably the most ancient, Ruth comes before the Psalms, the genealogy of David before his writings. See Ryle, Canon of the O. T., pp. 232 ff., 281 f.

In the English Bible, as in the Septuagint and Vulgate, Ruth has been moved from the place which it holds in the Hebrew Bible, and is made to follow the Book of Judges. The reason for this transference is obvious enough; the opening words of Ruth suggested it. Some scholars have even thought that the LXX. and Vulgate have preserved the true order, and that originally Ruth was written as an appendix to Judges; for only by counting Judges and Ruth as one2[4], and Jeremiah and Lamentations as one, can the books of the Old Testament be made to number 22, according to the reckoning of Josephus (contra Apionem i. 8; so Origen, Epiphanius, Jerome). This argument, however, cannot bear much weight when we find that Jewish tradition gives the total as 24 (Apocalypse of Ezra xiv. 44–46, Talm. Baba B. 14b, 15a): indeed the number is counted in various ways. Finally, it is easy to see why Ruth was placed after Judges in the Greek and Latin Bibles; but we cannot account for its position among the Hagiographa if that was not its original place in the Canon, and no hint of any other place has reached us from Jewish tradition.

[4] So Jerome (Prol. Gal.), in agreement with Origen and Melito of Sardes: (Hebraei) in eumdem (librum Judicum) compingunt Ruth.

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Top of Page
Top of Page