Role Of Ruth And Esther In The Bible
Length: 1327 words (3.8 double-spaced pages)
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Nevi'im( the Prophets) "…consists of narratives relating to Israel's …" (Harris, 3) history as a nation on its land and a "…collections of oracles" (Harris, 6) . Supporters of God's covenant do battle against the paganism of neighboring groups and among the Israelites themselves. The Prophets seem to have become a closed collection of books and status equal to that of the Law.
Kethuvim (the Writings) "…contains the most diverse material…" (Harris, 6), is a miscellaneous repository for all the books accepted later. It contains books of history, prophecy, wisdom, and poetry randomly tossed together in a mixed bag. Jewish books written in Greek such as the Apocrypha were not included as part of the canon of the Hebrew Bible. Apocalypses "…means an "uncovering" and "revelations"…(Harris, 6) symbolic visions to encourage the righteous to remain faithful despite persecution.
The visions often use graphic symbols such as animals with bizarre features to represent national and political groups.
This paper explains their role as women in the Book of Ruth and the Book of Esther, from the Hebrew bible. Ruth and Esther are stories of heroines; the contrast in the purposes of Ruth and Esther sharply distinguishes the books.
The Book of Ruth basic plot is as follows: The prologue tells us how Naomi, her husband and two sons went to Moab, where her sons married. Eventually, Naomi’s husband and sons died, and she decided to return to Bethlehem in Judea (Ruth 1:1-7).
In the first act, Naomi tells her Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to stay in Moab. Orpah eventually agreed, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi and accompanied her to Bethlehem (Ruth 1:8-22).
The next act sees Ruth gathering barley in the fields of Naomi’s relative, Boaz, who showed special concern for Ruth ( Ruth 2:1-23).
The third act takes place at the threshing floor where, at Naomi’s instigation, Ruth hides until Boaz falls asleep and then quietly lies down by his feet. When Boaz awakes, Ruth expresses her desire to marry him according to the custom of the kinsman-redeemer. Boaz tells her that another man has a prior claim (Ruth 3:1-18). Finally, at the city gate, the other relative renounces his claim, and Boaz marries Ruth (Ruth 4:1-12).
The Book of Ruth concludes with a genealogy that may be read either as integral to the story or as an external addition. The genealogy makes Ruth an ancestress of David and, therefore, of a Davidic messiah (Ruth 4:13-18).
Ruth was willing to forgo her future in Moab, her people, her gods and even her ancestral burial plot to be stay with Naomi. The theme of Ruth is the Lord's provident protection of the faithful (Ruth 2:12). Because of the faithfulness of a destitute young widow, the Lord brought Ruth and Naomi out of deep tragedy and sorrow to joy, prosperity, and honor.
The Book of Esther, basic plot is as follows:
Ahasuerus, the King of Persia, is married to Queen Vashti (Esther 1:3-8). He holds an opulent banquet for seven days to display his wealth, while Queen Vashti hosts a similar feast for the noble women (Esther 1:9). At the climax of the feasting the King commands the Queen to appear at the main banquet "…wearing her royal diadem, in order to show off her beauty." (Esther 10:11)." The Queen refuses, the King is angry, and he banishes her. The King then publicly declares a search for a replacement.
Hadassah (Esther) is selected to be the King Ahasuerus new wife. She does not reveal her background as a Jew. Her cousin, Mordecai overhears a plot against the king. Mordecai reports to Esther, who tells Ahasuerus, and gives Mordecai credit.
The King's prime minister Haman convinces King Ahasuerus to authorize him to deal with the Jews as he pleases. Using the king's own signet ring, Haman issues an edict ordering the Jews, including women and children, to be killed and their properties plundered.
Mordecai informs Esther of Haman's role in the plot, Esther agrees to help at the risk of her own life. Esther's scheme, in which she will save her people, but expose the evil Haman at the same time, is hosting a banquet and telling the King during the feast. (Esther Chapters 5-8).
King Ahasuerus has Haman hung on the high gallows that Haman had had built for Mordecai, and Mordecai becomes prime minister in Haman's place. King Ahasuerus authorizes Esther to write a new decree regarding the Jews, which he will authorize. The edict entitles the Jews to take up arms and fight to kill their enemies. The Jews institute a period of feasting and celebration. They then kill 500 of their enemies in Susa, hanging the ten sons of Haman. In the surrounding provinces another Jewish force killed another 75,000 of their enemies. The feast of Purim is a joyous celebration of their victory and their release from the edict of persecution. (Chapter 9-10)
Esther appears as a woman of deep piety, faith, courage, patriotism, and caution, combined with resolution; a dutiful daughter to her adopted father, docile and obedient to his counsels, and anxious to share the king's favors with him for the good of the Jewish people. In short, Esther was very different and this caused her to be elevated into the position of Queen.
The Book of Ruth and the Book of Esther elevates the picture of women in Scripture. There are few people in Scripture that are presented without their faults and failings.
Ruth is a pastoral idyll woven into the history of Israel. The treatment of land and of boundaries between lands 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 an antidote to Judges stories of slaughter. Ruth is a story about the possibilities of peace.
Esther, is unusual in the canon in that God makes absolutely no appearance. God does not come along to save anyone - instead, the Jewish people are saved entirely by human actions. The primary attempts to explain the absence of God in the story have included the argument that God is there, but hidden. Thus, when God is there, then God is there. But, when there is no sign of God, then God is really there but only making it look like we are affecting our lives.
Women in ancient Israel had their position in society defined in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the interpretation of those scriptures. Their status and freedoms were severely limited in that:
♦ Women were restricted to roles of little or no authority.
♦ Women were confined to the homes of their fathers or husbands.
♦ Women were to be inferior to men, under the direct authority of men, their fathers before marriage, or their husband after.
The role of women is sometimes misrepresented and misunderstood. The Hebrew Bible tells stories about women as war leaders (Judith), lovers (Jezebel), prophetesses (Deborah), and prostitutes (Gomer), as well as ordinary daughters. Two women, Ruth and Esther using their sexuality in varying degrees, managed to survive difficulties. The Book of Ruth presents an account, during a period of disunity and frequent foreign oppression, the remnant of true faith and piety in the period of the Judges. The Book of Esther, with no mention of God in her book, became queen of one of a powerful world empire amid the ongoing conflict and conspiracies.
They made such an impression as to have books named after them in the Bible.
Harris, Stephen L. Understanding The Bible. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007
The New English Bible with the Apocrypha: Oxford Study Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992