In our English Bibles the book of Ecclesiastes follows the book of Proverbs. But in some of the Hebrew orderings of the OT the book of Ruth immediately follows Proverbs. The original order makes theological sense. The Hebrew noun translated “excellent wife/woman” (אשת־חיל) is used only three times in the OT, twice in Proverbs (12:4, 31:10) and once in Ruth (3:11). Ruth is the living example of the Proverbs 31 woman, a connection our English OT arrangement makes difficult to see.
2 thoughts on “Ruth and the Proverbs 31 woman”
It is interesting that חיל is also used in Ruth 2:1 to describe Boaz. Most English translations translate it in that verse as something related to his wealth – a legitimate lexicon meaning. However, in the context of Ruth, I believe Boaz is a “man of virtue” an “excellent husband.”
Combine this with the idea of “Finding an excellent wife” in Proverbs 31:10. In Proverbs you never “find Wisdom” or anything of value by just stumbling across it – “Oh look, there’s an excellent woman, I think I will marry her.” Not to mention the woman in Proverbs 31:10-31 is not a newly married woman.
In Proverbs to “find” anything of value/wisdom/Lady Wisdom/an excellent wife takes effort, dedication, pursuit.
Proverbs 31 was originally written to a man, not a woman. A man who was probably approaching marriage or newly married. This poem (vs. 10-31) shows beautifully what a marriage looks like where a man is fully committed to the good of his wife – helping to “find” her – dedicated to being an instrument in God’s hand serving his wife helping her grow to be all God has created her to be. And a wife who is fully committed to her husband – dedicated to using all that she is, her gifts and abilities in serving her family and being that instrument in God’s hand helping her husband be all that God has created him to be.
Boaz & Ruth are two people of truly excellent character who love and serve each other in this way. They put flesh and blood on Proverbs 31.
Sorry to wax on here. I love the book of Ruth and Proverbs (particularly ch. 31.)
Blessings in Christ,
I read this same observation in the introduction to John Sailhamer’s just-published book The Meaning of the Pentateuch, which was recommended just this morning on Justin Taylor’s blog. It is amazing how things come from more than one source at the same time so often.