Law and Narrative in the Book of Ruth: A Syntagmatic Reading
University of Manchester
December 20, 2015
It is important to follow the plot line of the Book of Ruth, paying attention to who knows what when — both the characters in the story and its (ancient and modern) audiences. This is the syntagmatic dimension of the text, which should be viewed independently of its possible interpretation in terms of its possible intertextual references (which may not have been available to its ancient audiences). The article focuses on the developing issue of the fate of Elimelekh's original land, and its relationship to the marital history of his surviving family, and concludes with a new analysis of the legal dénouement in ch.4, which at last reveals what had happened to Elimelekh's land. The ultimate resolution does not accord with Pentateuchal legal norms, but also suggests that the pragmatics of the text (the author's purpose) may have been related to landholding disputes between "returnees" from the Babylonian exile, and "remainees" in ("exilic") Judah.