Lesson 6: Ruth 2:1-7

See the bottom of this post for an audio file from the live class.

וַתֹּאמֶר רוּת הַמּוֹאֲבִיָּה אֶל־נָעֳמִי אֵלְכָה־נָּא הַשָּׂדֶה וַאֲלַקֳטָה בַשִּׁבֳּלִים אַחַר אֲשֶׁר אֶמְצָא־חֵן בְּעֵינָיו וַתֹּאמֶר לָהּ לְכִי בִתִּי
(Ruth 2:2)

READING TUTOR:
Note that the “a” sound in general is “ah” — when “e” ends a syllable it is “uh” as in “maroon” (MUH-roon) — “e” with a consonant after it rhymes with “bed” — “ie” here should rhyme with “pie”:

va-toe-mer root ha-moe-avee-yah el-na-oe-mee ayl-kha-nah ha-sa-day va-alakoe-tah va-shee-boe-leem akhar asher emtza-khayn be-aynav va-toe-mer lah le-khee vee-tee:

See “Chance and Divine Purpose” for some extra insight into Ruth 2:3.

COHORTATIVES AND THE PARTICLE OF ENTREATY:
In English, we might say, “I will go” or “may I go?” We have certain words for permission (the optative mood as some grammarians call it, or the Jussive or Cohortative use of the verb). In Hebrew, an Imperfect verb in the 3rd or 2nd person can sometimes be Jussive, expressing a wish (“may he go,” “may you go”). Sometimes, with some roots, there is a spelling difference between the Imperfect and the Jussive, whereas at other times they look perfectly the same.

In the 1st person, however, there is marker, a suffix added to the end of Imperfect verbs to indicate a Cohortative sense. In Ruth 2:2, Ruth uses the verb אֵלְכָה, which is not the same as the Imperfect 1cs of הלך, which would be אֵלֵךְ. The difference between the two words is the suffix ה. Thus, אֵלֵךְ means “I will go” and אֵלְכָה “may I go.” Some call this the Cohortative ה.

Furthermore, Ruth adds another word, a particle, to the verb: אֵלְכָה–נָּא. The נָּא is called by some the particle of entreaty. I can be added to an Imperative (command verb) turning the command into a wish. הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא (hoe-shee’-ah nah) is at first a command to God (“save us”), but the addition of נָּא makes it a request or wish (“may you save us” or “please save us”). It is from this expression (see Psalm 118:25) that we get the English word hosanna.

VERSE 2, DETAILED TRANSLATION NOTES:

  • וַתֹּאמֶר vav-conversive 2fs אמר
  • רוּת הַמּוֹאֲבִיָּה Ruth the Moabitess.
  • אֶל–נָעֳמִי Is the preposition אֶל making Naomi the indirect object.
  • אֵלְכָה–נָּה Imperfect 1cs הלך with cohortative ה ending and particle of entreaty or courtesy נָּה attached. See article on “Cohortatives and the Particle of Entreaty.”
  • הַשָּׂדֶה noun with definite article.
  • וַאֲלַקֳטָה This is not a vav-conversive because the verb form is cohortative (asking permission). The vav here simply means “and.” Imperfect 1cs לקט with cohortative ה ending. Note the vowel under the ל, that it is pronounced “o” as in “low”.
  • בַשִּׁבֳּלִים The preposition ב prefixed to the masculine plural form of the noun שִׁבֹּלֶת
  • אַחַר has several meanings but is used here in the sense of “after” or “behind.”
  • אֲשֶׁר is the relative particle which can mean “that” or “which” or “who” to begin a clause. Ruth is asking permission to glean after “[one} who . . .” or “whomever . . .”
  • אֶמְצָא–חֵן Imperfect 1cs מצא with חֵן noun ms as the direct object of the verb.
  • בְּעֵינָיו The preposition ב is prefixed, followed by עֵינֵי (the plural construct (word pair form, genitive) of עַיִן), with the 3ms suffix ו attached.
  • וַתֹּאמֶר vav-conversive 2fs אמר
  • לָהּ The preposition ל with the 3fs suffix.
  • לְכִי Imperative (command verb) fs הלך
  • בִתִּי The noun בַּת with the 1cs suffix.

TRANSLATION COMMENTS, 2:1, 3-7.

VERSE 1: וּלְנָעֳמִי is “and to Naomi.” Depending on what sort of Hebrew Bible you are looking at, you may notice that the next word has an alternate spelling. Most Bibles list מְיֻדָּע in the sentence and in the margin have מוֹדַע (the first is the Ketiv or written and the second is the Qere or spoken). Both mean “a relative” (not specific about what relation). לאִישָׁהּ has the 3fs suffix on the end (don’t confuse with אִישָׁה). The next three words (אִישׁ גִּבּוֹר חַיִל) are a parenthetical saying more about Naomi’s relative. Literally they might be rendered “a man, a hero of valor” but חַיִל also tends to mean “wealthy” in addition to “brave, valiant.” The JPS Commentary suggests that in Israelite life after the exile, wealth distinguished a person more so than combat prowess (and the JPS Commentary dates Ruth to the time of Ezra).

VERSE 2: See detailed translation notes above.

VERSE 3: וַתֵּלֶךְ וַתָּבוֹא וַתְּלַקֵּט is a series of three vav-conversives in a row, all 3fs with the subject being Ruth and from the verbs הלך and בוא and לקט respectively. אַחֲרֵי has the same meaning as אַחַר in vs. 2. הַקֹּצְרִים is the mp Participle (being used as a noun) from קצר with the definite article (remember it is plural). וַיִּקֶר מִקְרֶהָ is a very unusual expression with מִקְרֶהָ (“her chance”) as the subject of the verb וַיִּקֶר (“chanced upon”). The JPS Commentary notes that “chance” in the Bible often refers to the unseen power of God influencing human events (i.e., Providence). Ruth’s “chance chanced upon” the part of the land that was Boaz’s, which is a hint that God mysteriously brought her to the right place for what will happen next. חֶלְקַת is the construct (word pair, genitive) of חֵלֶק or חֶלְקָה.

VERSE 4: יהוה עִמָּכֶם is a verbless clause (so the verb “is” is understood) and could be rendered “the Lord is with you.” Since the context is a blessing, it is reasonable to understand it as: “May the Lord be with you.” יְבָרֶכְךָ is the Imperfect (in a Jussive or “may he” sense) 3ms of ברך with the 2ms suffix and “the Lord” is the subject (with Boaz as the implied object).

VERSE 5: לְנַעֲרוֹ is the preposition ל before the noun נַעַר with the 3ms suffix. הַנִּצָּב is a Niphal Participle (being used as a noun) with the definite article from נצב. The idea is “he who was given charge.” עַל־הַקּוֹצְרִים means “over the” קוֹצְרִים (a word you should know now from vs. 3). לְמִי is לְ plus מִי (“to whom, whose”) and is a question word. הַנַּעֲרָה is the feminine singular of נַעַר with the definite article. הַזֹּאת means “this” (feminine form) and Hebrew uses demonstratives (“this, these”) the same way it uses adjectives (thus, זֹאת has the definite article to match the noun it modifies).

VERSE 6: וַיַּעַן is the vav-conversive 3ms of ענה. In the phrase נַעֲרָה מוֹאֲבִיָּה הִיא there is an understood “is” between the second and third word, so that “she” is the subject. הַשָּׁבָה is a Participle fs (used as a noun) with the definite article, from שׁוב.

VERSE 7: וְאָסַפְתִּי is a vav-conversive 1cs (but this kind is the Perfect form with the ו, and so a “past” becomes a “future”) from אסף. Ruth has asked to gather בָעֳמָרִים, which is the preposition ב attached to the plural of עֹמֶר. There is a description of a duration of time which begins with מֵאָז and continues with וְעַד and means “from” such and such time “until” so and so. הַבֹּקֶר is a noun with the definite article. עַתָּה means “now.” As for the זֶה, even scholars do not understand what it is doing here. Does it go with the previous phrase (“until this now”) or with the final phrase (“this [one] has rested [in] the house a little”)? שִׁבְתָּהּ is also unusual and scholars debate whether the vowels have been wrongly placed. It is the Infinitive construct from ישׁב (used as a noun, “sitting”) with the 3fs suffix (“her sitting”). Since the entire final phrase is awkward, I suggest the beginner simply go with “she has rested in the house a little.”

Ruth Lesson 6

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