November 24, 2017

Lady Wisdom’s Five Fair Daughters

Story of Ruth I, Rooke

By Chaplain Mike

Ordinary Time Bible Study 2011
The Book of Ruth (2)

Series Introduction (in case you missed it last time)

During Ordinary Time this summer, we will have a weekly Bible study on the Book of Ruth. I think this especially appropriate, for Ruth is a story about ordinary people in ordinary settings, in and through whom God did extraordinary things.

For our text, we will be using the NetBible, so that you can make use of their online study tools, including the ability to view parallel translations, study notes and articles, and the ability to download the text to your computer or mobile device.

Review Study One

Study Two: Lady Wisdom’s Five Fair Daughters

In our first study we noted that the Book of Ruth is found in a different location in the Hebrew Bible than in our English versions.

Our English Bibles derive from the tradition of the Greek Septuagint (LXX) translation, which organized the books according to historical chronology, then added the wisdom books and writing prophets. In this tradition, Ruth is placed in its historical context, after the book of Judges, and before the narratives of Samuel that introduce us to King David.

The Hebrew Bible, on the other hand, coming through the Masoretic tradition, organizes the books into three major sections: Torah, Prophets, and Writings. In the Hebrew Bible, Ruth is among the writings and considered both a Wisdom book and a story that has a great deal to say about the Davidic King, a major theme of this section that is dominated by Psalms.

Ruth is one of the Five Scrolls that are read at Jewish festivals each year:

  • Song of Songs, read at Passover
  • Ruth, read at the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)
  • Lamentations, read at the Fast of Ab (commemoration of fall of Jerusalem)
  • Ecclesiastes, read at the Feast of Tabernacles
  • Esther, read at the Feast of Purim

These Scrolls, known in Hebrew as the Megilloth, follow the three books of wisdom in the Hebrew Bible: Psalms, Job, and Proverbs. The positioning of the Scrolls after Proverbs is especially interesting and suggestive.

Woman of Valor, Braun (info below)

The Book of Proverbs uses the metaphor of a woman to portray both wisdom and folly. The readers (originally young men) are pictured as young males searching for a satisfying love relationship.

In Prov 1-9, these “simple”youths are encouraged over and over again to “embrace the woman of wisdom” and to “avoid the woman of folly.”This emphasis, in fact, frames the whole book, for Proverbs ends with the acrostic poem paying tribute to the excellent woman (31:10-31), the ultimate example of wisdom. This poem is not simply a description of a particular woman of virtue, but a highly artistic presentation of an archetype of God’s Wisdom.

The wise teach that the companion you want to have for the rest of your life is God’s Wisdom. She will “do you good and not evil all the days of your life” (31:12). “She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her” (3:15).

The Five Scrolls pick up on this symbolism. Their placement in the Hebrew canon right after Proverbs shows that the ordering of the books in this way is more by theme than chronology. If a “woman of excellence” is the model of divine wisdom, then these books will give us stories and sayings to help us get to know her better.

  • Each of the five books has a title that is feminine in form.
  • All except Ecclesiastes have women as primary characters (note: in Lamentations, this is the mother city of Jerusalem). Even in Ecclesiastes, one may note the repeated refrain to rejoice in the wife of one’s youth.
  • The Book of Ruth has a specific verbal connection with Proverbs 31. The exact phrase in Prov 31:10 (“excellent woman”  Heb: eset chayil) is used to describe Ruth herself in Ruth 3:11, which is the central verse in the book. Ruth is the narrative example of the ultimate wise woman.

The Five Scrolls, then, serve as extensions and illustrations of the wisdom teaching in Proverbs. We might call them the “Five Fair Daughters of Lady Wisdom.” These are the women that God is encouraging us to meet, embrace, and delight in.

Here is a summary of how the Five Fair Daughters teach us God’s wisdom:

  • Songs of Songs is a canticle celebrating the pleasures of love and intimacy in marriage. As a metaphor for wisdom, it shows us that God’s wisdom is the source of ultimate pleasure and joy.
  • Ruth is the story of how a woman of wisdom built the house of David. As a metaphor for wisdom, it shows how wisdom is found in those who faithfully practice extraordinary love (Heb: hesed).
  • Lamentations is a song that expresses the grief of God’s people over the fall of Jerusalem. As a metaphor for wisdom, it teaches that wisdom is found in those who wait for God and trust his faithfulness, even as they voice their grief and sorrow.
  • Ecclesiastes is a book of wisdom sayings that ponder wisdom’s limits and the importance of enjoying God’s gifts while keeping an eternal perspective.
  • Esther is the story of how a woman of wisdom saved Israel in exile. As a metaphor for wisdom, it shows how God works in hidden ways to put things right and make his people a light to the nations.

So, one reason for studying the Book of the Ruth is to learn to love and live God’s wisdom, ultimately seen in the One who was born in her family, the Son of David, our Lord Jesus Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3)

Prayer for the Week
God of Wisdom, we humbly thank you for speaking our language and revealing yourself and your truth to us in terms we can see and understand. May we learn to love and delight in your wisdom as a husband does in the bride of his youth. May Christ himself be our Wisdom, the treasure of our souls. We can offer you only our hunger and our folly. Take us, empty as we are, and make us like Ruth, who took refuge under the shadow of your wings, and showed true wisdom and love toward her neighbors. Amen.

NOTE: The piece “Woman of Valor” is from: Hebrew Micro-Calligraphy Art from Israel, by Ellen Miller Braun

Comments

  1. Thank you, Chaplain Mike. This was truly informative and refreshing.

  2. Damaris says:

    I’m enjoying these Bible studies a lot. Ruth has always been one of my favorite books.

  3. Really adds a lot to see the connection between Ruth (and the other books you mentioned) and the personification of wisdom. Thanks.

  4. David Cornwell says:

    “The wise teach that the companion you want to have for the rest of your life is God’s Wisdom. She will “do you good and not evil all the days of your life” (31:12). ”

    This verse is so rich in eternal, unchanging truth, as are the five books. May we learn to hear in new ways.

  5. “Ruth is the story of how a woman of wisdom built the house of David. As a metaphor for wisdom, it shows how wisdom is found in those who faithfully practice extraordinary love (Heb: hesed).”

    Hesed is an extraordinary word, in and of itself. Extraordinary love is a good translation; also compassion, or mercy. I love the way William Barclay framed it…He said that hesed couldn’t be easily translated into one English word, but that it was an emotion or feeling deep inside one’s gut, or womb…such as Jesus looking on the crowds, and having “hesed”, or compassion…a gut feeling that causes one to have the thought “I have to do something in this situation…it may be painful or cost me everything….”. Extraordinary love is the motivating factor, the source, behind the feeling.

    Great series, CM. Enjoying it.