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THE BOOK OF RUTH AND THE LOVE OF THE LAND

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The book of Ruth may be read as a countertext, that is a text embedded within the scriptural text that forms a counter-current to its prevailing concepts or motifs, thereby enriching the Scripture as a whole. Ruth deviates from dominant biblical norms in four interlocking ways, producing a radical vision while remaining seamlessly attached to the prevailing traditions that it implicitly transforms. It is essentially a pastoral idyll yet it is woven into the history of Israel. It is strongly gynocentric, though framed by an androcentric closure. It represents God as uniquely associated with fertility and invokes the presence of God primarily through the chesed, kindness, of the story's characters. Lastly, the treatment of land and of boundaries between lands, in Ruth, does not entail conquest. Elsewhere in biblical narrative, land is associated with nation and empire; here it is associated with fertility and benevolence. Ostensibly taking place during the time of the Judges, the book of Ruth is a virtual antidote to its sagas of slaughter. It is a story about the possibilities of peace.

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