Dec 12, 2012
Review of Ruth: From Bitter to Sweet
Ruth: From Bitter to Sweet is part of the Welwyn Commentary Series, a series designed facilitate personal study, Bible class and sermon preparation. The author is John D. Currid is the Carl McMurray Professor of Old Testament at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.
Currid begins his volume with a very brief introduction. His discussion is fairly straightforward. There are four major themes: (1) the cost of disobedience, (2) God’s sovereignty, (3) faithful living, and (4) redemption and the book is divided by Currid into five “acts.” Concerning this latter point the author seems to be following Frederick Bush (who sees 4 “acts”) and others who utilize a dramatic approach. While this approach may be didactically helpful it might be anachronistic since drama as a genre does not appear until well after Ruth was likely written.
The commentary proper is divided into thirteen short chapters that generally appear to follow paragraph divisions. Each chapter contains an introduction, commentary, and points to ponder. The explanations are easy to read, fairly thorough for a commentary of this kind, and helpful. Currid interacts with the Hebrew text but proficiency in Hebrew is not required. There is minimal interaction with other commentaries but there is a lot of bang for the buck here. Although this work is not intended to be an in-depth exegetical commentary on Ruth, many of the significant issues related to this book are addressed. For example, Currid notes the importance and function of the character’s names in the book
My criticisms are fairly minimal and will be limited to three points. First, I wish that Currid had been clearer on some points. For example, the subtitle of the book, From Bitter to Sweet, suggests that Currid views the main character of the book to be Naomi (who asks to be called Mara or “bitter”) but this is not really explained in the commentary. While a relatively short commentary such as this one cannot be expected to discuss everything, who one understands to be the main character of the story seems to be fairly important. Second, while preaching paragraphs is a sound expository practice in some genres, it really does not fit as well with narratives such as Ruth. Dividing this short story into thirteen parts seems disruptive to the flow of the story and leads to unnecessary redundancy (e.g., the remarks concerning the morality of the threshing floor scene). I realize that thirteen can be a magic number of sorts for Bible study scheduling purposes, but I think that this commentary could be stronger and more helpful by reducing the numbers of chapters by at least a half. Third, there are a few typos. An en dash is missing on page 30 and the page numbers are absent from pages 136–37.
But these criticisms notwithstanding, Ruth: From Bitter to Sweet would be a good basic resource for laymen, Sunday school teachers, and preachers interested in the Book of Ruth.
Thanks to Shaun Tabatt and Cross Focused Media for the free review copy.