Ruth 1

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap. You can read all my New Testament notes in my book New Testament: Chapter by Chapter.

Introduction
The book of Ruth is a short, but important, story about the history of Israel and, more specifically, the family line of David. The date of the story and the date of its writing may have been separated by up to a few hundred years. The story itself took place “during the time of the judges” (Ruth 1:1; c. 1374-1054 B.C.), but the family tree would not have been linked to David (one of the major themes of the story) until during or after his reign in 1010-971 B.C.

Ruth’s story illustrates the great truth of the Kinsman-Redeemer. In a similar way that Boaz claimed Ruth for himself when she had nowhere else to go, Jesus has claimed believers for himself because we have nowhere else to turn to receive forgiveness for sin and eternal life. In the same way that Boaz was required to be a relative to redeem Ruth, Jesus had to become human to redeem humankind. Additionally, since Jesus is the long-anticipated “son of David” (the Messiah), it is significant that Ruth appears as one of four women (not including Mary) recorded in his genealogy (Matthew 1:5).

Although the book is one continuous story, the chapter divisions serve like acts or scenes in a play, each one revealing or hinting at the next part of the story’s progression.

Chapter one sets the stage for the story. At some point during one of the famines “during the time of the judges,” a family left Bethlehem to find food in Moab (Ruth 1:1-6). Elimelech and Naomi had two sons, each of whom married a Moabitess. 1 Over the course of time, all three of the men died in Moab, leaving behind the women as widows. When Israel finally returned to God in one of their cycles (see the introduction to Judges for more information), he allowed the harvest to return, ending the famine. Noami, the mother-in-law of the other two, decided that she would return to her family home in Bethlehem.

There is no mention of children from either of the Moabite wives, so it seems as if they may have been young widows. Naomi, however, was old, so Orpah and Ruth offered to return with her (Ruth 1:7-13). Naomi insisted that they return to their own homes. She had nothing left to give to them, including more sons to marry. They would be better off under their fathers’ care until they could marry again. No matter how much they pled with her, she insisted that they stay with their families in Moab.

Finally, Orpah did return home, but Ruth refused (Ruth 1:14-17). In what has become the most famous statement of the book, Ruth declared her loyalty: “Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you live, I will live. Your people will become my people, and your God will become my God.” Naomi finally conceded, and the two of them journeyed to Bethlehem together. Upon their return, Naomi responded to the village women’s welcome by asking them to call her “Mara,” which means “bitter,” because the tragedy she had suffered, apparently at the hand of God, was bitter to her (Ruth 1:19-22). Setting the scene for act two, the writer noted that the summer barley harvest had just begun.

Notes:

  1. The Moabites were descendants of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his oldest daughter (Genesis 19:36-37). Since Lot was the nephew of Abraham, the grandfather of Jacob (Israel), the Israelites and Moabites were distant relatives.

Galatians 3

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap. You can read all my New Testament notes in my book New Testament: Chapter by Chapter.

Chapter three begins the second of three sections, this time with a question of accusation against Paul’s readers. Based on their movement away from faith toward works, Paul believed that they had been put under a spell of sorts. Galatians 3:1-5 is a figurative snapping of Paul’s fingers or shaking them awake from a spiritual trance. Had they so quickly (Galatians 1:6) forgotten that they were saved through faith so that they were now willing to require circumcision for new converts in their churches, from their communities?

Using his favorite example (see also Romans 4), Paul pointed them to Genesis 15:6, where Abraham – the great father of the faith – simply believed, centuries before the Law was given (Galatians 3:6-14). At the same time, Paul introduced Abraham’s spiritual family, consisting of those, and only those, who simply believe as he did. This family included Gentiles, as God had promised in the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:3). Paul also pointed out that one cannot obey only parts of the Law to be declared righteous. In fact, when one places himself under any part of the Law, he places himself under the entire Law and is subject to every part of it. Yet even that cannot provide eternal salvation because the Law could never accomplish that. This is why Christ had to die, becoming a curse under the Law so he could free people from the Law and receive the promised Spirit.

In Galatians 3:15-22 he used classical Greek logic to unquestionably show the difference between the physical promises (plural) that God made to Abraham and his physical descendants and the spiritual promise (singular) that he made to Abraham and everyone who believes. Because the Law came after God made these promises, it could not invalidate the promises. Instead, God designed the Law to protect the Israelite people from defecting from him so they could one day receive the promised Spirit through faith in Jesus. Under the Law, neither a Gentile, a slave, nor a woman could receive an inheritance. In Christ, however, all people can receive the Spirit through faith, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female (Galatians 3:28). No believer is left out of this spiritual inheritance because we “ARE ALL SONS OF GOD THROUGH FAITH” (Galatians 3:26).

Sadly, many today who attempt to use this passage to eliminate functional roles in the home or church (female elders, feminist theology, etc.) completely miss the context of spiritual inheritance and are bringing their false theology to the passage for their own purposes. Others go so far to teach that God has even removed the distinctions between male and female to support their depraved belief that God approves of homosexuality in the Church.

 

Proverbs 8

Chapter eight finally gives wisdom a voice to speak for itself, by personifying it as a woman. 1 In direct contrast to the adulterous woman, who stands on a dark corner waiting for a young man to seduce (Proverbs 7:8-12), Solomon portrayed wisdom as standing on high places and at city gates, calling to all people to accept and embrace her (Proverbs 8:1-4). Wisdom is especially interested in the attention of the “naïve” and “fools,” because her words are “excellent… right… truth… righteous…straight…clear…upright,” and they provide knowledge (Proverbs 8:5-9). One should seek to acquire wisdom because it is more valuable than gold, silver, or rubies (Proverbs 8:10-12).

Proverbs 8:13 finally offers a definition for “the fear of the LORD,” which Solomon pointed to in Proverbs 1:7 as the source of knowledge: “to hate evil.” The phrase “fear of the LORD” is used only eight times in the NET Bible and is defined here and in Job 28:28: “The fear of the LORD—that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.” A biblical fear of God is the intentional choice to reject or hate evil. One who does not reject evil does not fear God.

There are several benefits of gaining wisdom (Proverbs 8:14-21). It provides “counsel” so one can lead or rule others well. Those who exercise wisdom tend to receive honor from others and, as Proverbs will show later, acquire long-term wealth. 2

The subject of Proverbs 8:22-31 is debated. Some see wisdom simply as one of God’s eternal characteristics or attributes, but how, then, could it be “created” or “born”? Others have suggested that Jesus, the Eternal Son, is said to be wisdom here, but his eternality has the same problem. Probably the best understanding is to not give wisdom too much personification and simply state that God used wisdom during the creation, at which time wisdom itself was revealed (e.g., created or born). Outside of Genesis 1, this chapter is one of the clearest descriptions of God’s intentional, active, immediate creation of all things. Every part of the creation was crafted with God’s own wisdom, and God himself formed the heights and depths, the waters and dry ground, and the people.

The chapter closes with a plea from wisdom that people seek her (Proverbs 8:33-36). There are four results listed in the final verses. The one who “listens” to wisdom is “blessed.” The one who “finds” wisdom “finds life and receives favor from the LORD.” However, the one who “does not find” her “brings harm to himself,” and those who “hate” (or reject) wisdom instead “love” (or choose) “death.”

Notes:

  1. The Hebrew word for wisdom is חָכְמָה (chakemah), which is a feminine noun; thus, the use of “she, her” throughout Proverbs.
  2. Of course, this is no guarantee that one will necessarily become wealthy, but a wise person will tend to hold onto his wealth longer than a fool, which puts him in the position of keeping what he has and potential for increasing it.