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Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 110 Reviews .-,ro rMrw Me ".c'D ilJ1~fUC l' il~'t!) ~'n 'fU~" n" n:ln~ [RUTH AND NAOMI: LITERARY, STYLISTIC AND LINGUISTIC STUDIES IN THE BOOK OF RUTH]. By Athalya Brenner. pp. 168. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1988. Paper. The book of Ruth has always aroused the imagination and attracted thought. To the long list of studies has now been added Athalya Brenner's study which focuses upon the female figures Ruth and Naomi. The central male figure, Boaz, dwindles in comparison, a fact that together with the opinions reflected makes this a work of feminist criticism,1 a recent trend in general literature which now has several representatives in the field of biblical studies. The book also contains more traditional discussion as in its diachronic-genetic reconstruction of the formation of Ruth, its consideration of the work's social background, and its attempt to fix on linguistic grounds its fmal date of composition. The first chapter examines the literary form which deals with the life of the mother of a hero and the circumstances of his birth. A characteristic of such stories is a struggle between two women-Sarah and her maid Hagar, the sisters Rachel and Leah, or Hannah and Peninah. What these have in common is the women's inability to cooperate and to rise above their opposing interests, particularly when the struggle is over the question as to which of them shall bear children or an heir to their joint husband. The story of Ruth and Naomi constitutes an exception inasmuch as these women work together to ensure the continuity of the family. In Brenner's opinion there is a marked contrast between the usual description of women and the presentation of men, who in numerous passages are depicted as capable of putting aside incompatible interests in order to cooperate. The most notable instance is the sublime friendship of David and Jonathan. Brenner concludes that the biblical authors display prejudice in distinguishing between "feminine" and "masculine" conduct in such matters. Anyone acquainted with the Bible, however, must ask whether such a generalization about the superior male capacity to rise above opposing interests can be sustained in face of Cain's murder of his brother Abel, Joseph's brothers' attempt at murder (which they commute to enslavement), Joab's murder of his 1For a review and illSlallCeS of this uend in general criticism, and further reading, see R. C. Davis and R. Schleifer, 005., Contemporary Literary Criticism.' Uterary and Cultural Studies, 2d cd. (New York and London: Longman, 1989) pp. 118·141,449·530. Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 111 Reviews nephew Amasa, Absalom's murder of his brother Amnon, Solomon's execution of his brother Adonijah, and many other such narratives. In chap. 2 Brenner inclines to a view of Ruth as a combination of two sources, the originally separate Ruth and Naomi stories having been passed down orally until formed into a single narrative by a late author. This diachronic-genetic reconstruction rests upon some difficulties in the text, particularly in its fmal paragraphs, and upon the suggestion often made in biblical studies (especially as to Genesis) that parallel stories have been fitted together. While conceding that her reconstruction is hypothetical, Brenner thinks it a better solution of Ruth's problems and inconsistencies than any other (p. 45). It will certainly arouse controversy: should every biblical text containing real or artificial difficulties be reconstructed in terms of a combining of separate stories or sources, and (specifically) can this technique be applied to Ruth? Chap. 3 grapples with the question of the attitude of the biblical authors to alien women in different periods. The chapter is too short to treat all the manifestations of this topic and its vicissitudes in the biblical writings, especially as it is bound up with wider issues like mixed marriage and the integration at different times of proselytes into Israel's social and political framework. Nevertheless, Brenner is right to include such a discussion, brief as it is, since it provides a comparative tool in assessing the attitude of the book of Ruth to Ruth the Moabitess. In Part 2, which comprises the rest of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 110-112
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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