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Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 241 Reviews Iconographic Index to Old Testament Subjects Represented in Photographs and Slides of Paintings in the Visual Collections, Fine Arts Library, Harvard University [New York: Garland Publishing, 1987]). Izak Cornelius University of Stellenbosch Stellenbosch ZA-7600, SOUTH AFRICA ic@maties.sun.ac.za RUTH: A COMMENTARY. By Kirsten Nielsen. Old Testament Library. pp. 99. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1997. Cloth, $20.00. Kirsten Nielsen, Professor of Old Testament Theology at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, adds a competent and occasionally original volume to the Old Testament Library series. Emphasizing comparative biblical treatments about women in general and Tamar in particular, the function of the Book of Ruth as Realpolitik, and the narrative coherence produced by chiastic structure, repetition of key themes (I}esed, bread, seed, life, Moabite, etc.), and recapitulatory dialogue, she demonstrates the complexity of this deceptively simple tale. The slim commentary is traditional in format: minimal notes, a thirty-five page introduction attending to structure, genre, versions, intertextual resonances and literary contexts, recycling of the text through Rabbinic traditions but not early Christianity (e.g., only a passing reference to Matthew's genealogy), canonical placement, historical context, theological themes, references to uses of the Book of Ruth in "the church" (but not to contemporary Judaism: this is consistent with the series), and a section by section translation (Hebrew in transliteration) and commentary. Among Nielsen's contributions are her treatment of the genealogy as integral to the text and her translation of Ruth 3:4 concerning the events on the threshing floor; among the disappointments are her lack of attention to modem critical and ecumenical approaches. Nielsen argues that the genealogy is not, as many have claimed, an appendix , but the story's occasion. Positing the existence of arguments against the legitimacy of the Davidic dynasty, most likely arising at the division of the kingdom, as the motivation for the Book of Ruth, Nielsen sees the author as responding to charges against both David's Moabite ancestry and his connection with the incestuously conceived Perez. This hypothesis is compromised by the lack of evidence concerning this aspect of David's reputation; it also lacks reference to the folktale motifs of problematic de- Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 242 Reviews scent and sexual irregularities. Although historical reconstructions that require the existence of a negative event to explain a text are not uncommon, they are also difficult to support. More intriguing is Nielsen's insistence that on the threshing floor, Ruth did not-as most commentators argue-uncover Boaz's feet (i.e., genitals). To the contrary, she proposes that Ruth herself is naked. Nielsen correctly notes that most translations read either "ti"Plr;) as the object of "uncover," and thus see Ruth as exposing Boaz's feet (a euphemism for genitals), or they regard the object of the verb as implicit and locate """'Plr;) as a place indication, Le., the place at his feet. Appealing to Isa 57:8, and possibly Isa 47:2, and the Old Latin version as well as the lack of evidence elsewhere in the biblical tradition of a woman uncovering a man, Nielsen heightens the implications of Ruth's request to Boaz that he "cover" her. Appeal to a parallel use of clothes by Tamar is inconclusive, since it is not clear that Tamar "puts on the prostitute's veil"; rather, Genesis notes simply that she veiled herself (surely a respectable actJor a woman, as Rebecca's meeting of Isaac suggests) and that Judah mistook her for a prostitute. The uniqueness of the event is also not a strong argument: in no other text is the main character a Moabite widow. Nielsen's treatment of matters that may be coded "Jewish" causes some concern: there are vague, negative references to the "law" (e.g., Judah as "righteous in the sense that he demands that the law be upheld" in commanding Tamar be burned; "Hesed can require a person to choose the unexpected and not just to be satisfied with what the law declares"; "God is presented as being on the side of the marginalized, conducting their case even where the law is inadequate and they must resort to trickery to gain...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 241-243
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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