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Naomi and Ruth, and non-genetic transmission of the line

Your Humble Blogger had meant to post a note about Shavuot, but it didn’t seem to happen. Ah, well. Shavuot is the celebration of the gift of Torah at Mount Sinai, as well as of the first summer harvest, and one of the traditional observances is to study the Book of Ruth.

Going through the book again, this time I was not so much struck by the stuff I have been associating with it for some time (particularly the treatment of the ger, the non-Jew in the community of Jews, as well as some odd and interesting things about economics and women), but by its placement in the series of stories about substitute children. Or, more accurately I suppose, the non-genetic transmission of the Blessing, the leadership of the covenant community. I have talked about this before: Eli passes the leadership not to his sons but to Samuel, Samuel to Saul, Saul to David. In Genesis, there is a sequence of younger children: Jacob, Joseph, and Ephraim. But those are (at least in the text) children of the body, while the later sequence is explicitly about the leadership passing over the children of the body and to someone else.

Naomi and Ruth, of course, are not Judges or leaders. But Ruth and Boaz are great-grandparents of King David (also a younger son, but never mind). I suspect that at some point there was trouble because King David had a Moabite great-grandmother, and the Ruth-and-Naomi story (which I assume was already around and not connected to David) was tied in to the Judah-to-Jesse line to make it right. I don’t have any evidence of that, of course, but that’s my instinct. I imagine that this was, oh, during the Return, when Ezra was on about exogamy—the Scripture is of course full of positive examples of intermarriage, but they became one of the great taboos of Judaism, alas. Ah, well. Some other year I will go into the idea of Ruth as convert or Ruth as foreigner; this year the thing that caught my eye is Ruth in the place of Samuel, not Hannah.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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