ADONAI, WHO HAS NOT ABANDONED HIS HESED

We have already noted that Ruth is a story about extraordinary hesed (lovingkindness) between people and also between God and his people. The acts of hesed between people and from God to his people in this book transform the lives of a community in the days of the Judges, but also point to a better way for any generation. Foreigners are brought near. Widows are saved from poverty. The world receives the kingly line of Messiah. Hesed is powerful.

In Ruth 2:20, there is some ambiguity in the wording. One rendering could be, “May he who has not abandoned his hesed with the living and the dead be blessed by Adonai.” In this rendering, the one who has not abandoned hesed is Boaz. But several arguments can be made in favor of, “May he [Boaz] be blessed by Adonai, who [Adonai] who has not abandoned his hesed with the living and with the dead.” In the JPS Commentary, Eskanazi notes several arguments in favor of the hesed here being Adonai’s: the story has said nothing about Boaz giving hesed prior to this for Naomi’s family and in Genesis 24:7 we find the same theme of not abandoning hesed referring to God’s faithfulness. To this Holmstedt (Ruth: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text) adds: Adonai is the closer antecedent than Boaz in the sentence.

What does it mean to contemplate God abandoning his hesed? Naomi has already contemplated it, “the hand of Adonai has struck out against me,” and “Shaddai has made my lot bitter . . . Adonai has brought me back empty” (1:13; 1:20-21). During the interval of time in which we suffer before there is healing or rescue from whatever has happened to us, it seems from our perspective as if we have been abandoned. The kindnesses of God disappear in those intervals as far as we are concerned.

The whole statement in 2:20 is a bit of a wordplay. The last word in vs. 19 (artfully done by the writer who kept Naomi in suspense until Ruth last word in her explanation) was Boaz. Keep in mind that the “v” and “b” sound in Hebrew are related and consider the wordplay: Boaz . . . Adonai has not azab his hesed. As Eskanazi comments, Naomi’s sense of misfortune has been reversed from azab (“he abandoned”) to Boaz. So it is with the life of faith, in this present world we have intervals of abandonment but in the coming world we go from strength to strength.

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One response to “ADONAI, WHO HAS NOT ABANDONED HIS HESED

  1. Pingback: Lesson 9, Ruth 2:18-23 | A Close Reading and Translation of Ruth

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