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Gleaning Ruth

A Biblical Heroine and Her Afterlives

Jennifer L. Koosed

Publication Year: 2012

The biblical story of Ruth celebrates the power to begin life anew, to gather what has been scattered, to glean what one needs. In this original approach to understanding an ancient love story, Jennifer L. Koosed crafts a multifaceted portrait of the Old Testament character of Ruth and of the demanding agricultural world in which her story unfolds. Highlighting the most complex aspects of the book—the relationships Ruth has with her mother-in-law, Naomi; sister-in-law, Orpah; future husband, Boaz; and infant son, Obed—Koosed explores the use of pairings to define Ruth's aspirational fortitude. Koosed also touches on the narrative's questions of sexuality, kinship, and law as well as the metaphoric activities of harvest that serve to advance the plot and illuminate the social and geographic context of Ruth's tale. From the private world of women to the public world of men, Koosed guides readers through the book of Ruth's revealing glimpses into the sociology of the ancient Hebrew world. The study concludes with a discussion of the postbiblical fascination with Ruth and her later representations in a variety of literary and visual media. Koosed's approach is eclectic, employing a host of methodologies from philology and theology to literature, folklore, and feminism. Thoughtful of the interests of both scholarly and lay audiences, Koosed presents inviting and compelling new insights into one of the Old Testament's most enigmatic characters.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Series: Studies on Personalities of the Old Testament


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-vi

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Series Editor’s Preface

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pp. vii-viii

Critical study of the Bible in its ancient Near Eastern setting has stimulated interest in the individuals who shaped the course of history and whom events singled out as tragic or heroic figures. Rolf Rendtorff’s Men of the Old Testament (1968) focuses on the lives of important biblical figures as a means of illuminating history, ...

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pp. ix-xii

The book of Ruth is about relationship, and the four main chapters of this work explore Ruth’s personality as she interacts with the other characters in the story. Not only is one’s character both formed and expressed through relationships, but one’s character is also embedded in social context and geographical location. ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

I would first like to thank James Crenshaw for suggesting to me that I write on a personality of the Old Testament. His support and encouragement, as well as his generous readings of my work, are more than a junior scholar could ever hope to expect from someone so admired. ...

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1. Gleaning

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pp. 1-16

I have harvested more than I have gleaned. The season would begin with the distinctive crank of the rusty orange-red tractor, which would shutter and spark into life then slowly clunk out to the back acres where we had the vegetable gardens. I would perch on the wheel rim, riding with my father as he performed his one agricultural task—overturning the soil, plowing the fields. ...

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2. Agricultural Interlude No. 1

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pp. 17-27

There are no famines in northeastern Ohio; want comes from other circumstances, not climate or soil. The plum trees came down first, infected by black knot. Then the pear trees had to go too. We abandoned the apples and the cherries to the worms. ...

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3. Ruth and Orpah

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pp. 28-49

Naomi and her family cross the border into Moab looking for food.1 While there her two sons find Moabite women to marry. Ruth and Orpah are introduced together and remain undifferentiated through the deaths of their husbands and the beginning of their journey with Naomi back to Judah. ...

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4. Ruth and Naomi

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pp. 50-63

Orpah turns and goes back to her own family, leaving Ruth and Naomi together on the road. It is their relationship that will now shape the narrative. Naomi is the first to speak in the biblical book, to both Ruth and Orpah, but Ruth is the first to respond with words of her own. ...

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5. Agricultural Interlude No. 2

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pp. 64-71

The root cellar held bushels of potatoes; the basement shelves with peeling paint held row upon row of tomatoes canned; applesauce, grape juice, strawberry jam, each in its mason jar; the freezer full of corn, beans, peas, blueberries; the honeycombs boxed and stacked.1 ...

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6. Ruth and Boaz

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pp. 72-93

Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.1 The fields and the threshing floor dominate the central two chapters of the book of Ruth. The woman Ruth moves in and out of the fields and on and off of the threshing room floor; the activities of the harvest structure the narrative time, ...

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7. Agricultural Interlude No. 3

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pp. 94-102

In the spring we planted; in the summer we tended. The first vegetables ripened by mid-summer and by August we reaped the full bounty of our toil. We would pull the red Radio Flyer wagon across the creek, past the apple orchard and grape arbors to the first vegetable garden. ...

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8. (Ruth) and Obed

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pp. 103-119

Questions of kinship dominate the daytime talk shows.1 So ubiquitous are shows that feature the problem of paternity that I would wager that there is no one currently reading this chapter who has not caught at least a few minutes of one and can picture the format perfectly—photograph of smiling baby is projected on the screen behind the protagonists in the paternity drama, ...

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9. The Story Begins Where It Ends

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pp. 120-134

Harvesters know secrets. They know how the green of the bean blends with the green of the leaf; how sometimes it is necessary to peek beneath a leaf and find a colony of beans, hidden by shape and shade. They know how to bend down and enter into the world of the plant, row by row, leaf by leaf, turning over, looking under, peering in to find the fruit. ...


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pp. 135-154


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pp. 155-162

Scriptural Index

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pp. 163-166

Subject Index

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pp. 167-172

E-ISBN-13: 9781611172058
Print-ISBN-13: 9781570039836

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Studies on Personalities of the Old Testament