Ruth 2:17-23 Translation Notes

VERSE 17: אֲשֶׁר־לִקֵּטָה uses אֲשֶׁר in the sense of “that which ___.” לִקֵּטָה is Piel Imperfect 3fs. כְּאֵיפָה is the preposition כ in front of the noun אֵיפָה, with the כ in this case meaning “approximately” (its general meaning is “like” and context gives us the sense).

VERSE 18, Potential Difficulties…

  • וַתִּשָּׂא Vs. 18 continues a thought from vs. 17. What did she “carry” (one of the meanings of נשׂא)? The ephah of barley from vs. 17. It is very strange that there is no object for the verb here, but the context supplies the answer.
  • וַתָּבוֹא הָעִיר Why is there no אֶת (definite direct object marker) here? In normal usage there should be one and this in an unusual example where אֶת is omitted.
  • וַתֵּרֶא חֲמוֹתָהּ The subject of the verb is חֲמוֹתָהּ (i.e., the one acting now is Naomi, but the POV is still Ruth’s).
  • אֵת אֲשֶׁר־לִקֵּטָה The אֵת here marks the whole phrase אֲשֶׁר־לִקֵּטָה as the object (accusative complement) of וַתֵּרֶא.
  • וַתּוֹצֵא וַתִּתֶּן־לָהּ The subject has switched back to Ruth and the לָהּ refers to Naomi. Note that only the context clues us to the changing subject. It makes more sense (because Ruth had already eaten her fill in the field) that the one giving the leftover is Ruth to Naomi.
  • הוֹתִרָה Is the root יתר Hiphil Perfect 3fs. The subject of this verb is אֲשֶׁר which refers back to the grain that Ruth had gleaned.
  • מִשָּׂבְעָהּ This is extremely difficult. The מ is מִן in prefixed form which causes a dagesh to appear in the שׂ. But what is שָׂבְעָהּ? The mappiq in the final ה (like a dagesh, but is usually used to clarify that a final ה is the 3fs object suffix) tells us this is not the noun form שָׂבְעָה (which would cause the phrase to be rendered “from the plenty”) but perhaps (?) it is the Infinitive Construct שְׂבֹעַ with the 3fs (“from her satiety” or “from her plenty”).

VERSE 19 , Potential Difficulties…

  • The verse has two interrogatives meaning approximately the same thing: אֵיפֹה and אָנָה (both mean “where?”).
  • עָשִׂית is the common עשׂה but has the less common meaning “work” in this context.
  • יְהִי here has a Jussive sense (“may he be”) and not Imperfect (“he will be”).
  • מַכִּירֵךְ is bound to give the student fits as the root is נכר and this is a Hiphil Participle ms with the 2fs ending (“he who recognizes you”).
  • יְהִי מַכִּירֵךְ בָּרוּך as a phrase is “may he who recognizes you be blessed.”
  • The two uses of אֲשֶׁר in the narration of Ruth revealing what had happened to Naomi should both be rendered “whom.”
  • The name Boaz is artfully withheld to the very last word (Holmstedt notes this in his comment on the text).


  • וַתֹּאמֶר נָעֳמִי לְכַלָּתָהּ Naomi is the subject and the indirect object (adjunct prepositional phrase) is לְכַלָּתָהּ (the preposition ל followed by כַּלָּה in construct [word pair] form with the 3fs suffix added).
  • בָּרוּךְ הוּא The “he” here is Boaz from vs. 19. It could be rendered “Blessed be he” or “may he be blessed.”
  • בָּרוּךְ הוּא לַיהוָה Now we are faced with an indirect object of the verb (an adjunct prepositional phrase, לַיהוָה). While in English it might seem this should be rendered “blessed be he to Adonai,” how does the ל preposition function with בָּרוּךְ usually? This s where a lexicon can help. Holladay notes the clauses with ל following בָּרוּךְ mean “blessed by Adonai.” So “may he be blessed by Adonai” is a good rendering (see example of Genesis 14:19).
  • אֲשֶׁר means “who” (or “which” or “that”) and points back to the noun. But which noun? Does this “who” point back to Boaz (from בָּרוּךְ הוּא where the הוּא means Boaz) or to יהוה? Just as in English a sentence like this can be ambiguous, so it is in Hebrew. “May he be blessed by Adonai who . . .” makes us ask if the who means Boaz or Adonai. Our translation of the verse into English does not need to solve this ambiguity. We can leave it to the reader of our translation to decide. Many modern translations do not follow this principle and tend to resolve ambiguities for the reader.
  • אֲשֶׁר לֹא־עָזַב חַסְדּוֹ Here we run into another grammatical ambiguity. Is אֲשֶׁר the subject of the verb or is חַסְדּוֹ the subject? This is important because it affects how we translate the next clause as well: אֶת־הַחַיִּים וְאֶת־הַמֵּתִים. The particle אֶת can be a marker for a definite direct object (and these would be definite direct objects if the subject of the verb is חַסְדּוֹ). Or אֶת can mean “with” and make an indirect object (an adjunct prepositional phrase, which would be the case if אֲשֶׁר is taken as the subject of the verb).
  • EXERCISE: write out two translations of אֲשֶׁר לֹא־עָזַב חַסְדּוֹ אֶת־הַחַיִּים וְאֶת־הַמֵּתִים, one assuming אֲשֶׁר is the subject and the other that חַסְדּוֹ is the subject of לֹא–עָזַב.
  • קָרוֹב לָנוּ הָאִישׁ Here is an example of a time translating word-for-word can lead to a solution: “near to us is the man.” We realize that “the man” is the subject of the unwritten verb “is,” and we can translate more clearly, “the man is near to us.” What does this mean? In context we realize “near” means by relation (“the man is a relative of ours”).
  • מִגֹּאֲלֵנוּ הוּא The מ is the frequently shortened prefix form of מִן and the noun is possibly the singular גֹּאֵל or the plural גֹּאֲלִים in construct [word pair] form with the 1cp suffix. The fact that מ is here suggests it has to be plural (since “from our redeemer is he” makes no sense and it must mean “from our redeemers is he”). One might expect it to be spelled גֹּאֲלֵינוּ if the noun is plural, but as Robert Holmstedt says (Ruth: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text), the presence of the י is actually optional in ancient usage.

VERSE 21, Potential Difficulties…

  • גַּם כִּי־אָמַר אֵלַי Most printed Hebrew Bibles place a vertical line (called a “paseq”) between גּם and כִּי to note that they are not to be combined (as they are in other uses) but understood separately (Holmstedt). It is an unusual expression, but a way of saying that Ruth is adding to the generosity Naomi has already noticed (“also, that he said to me”).
  • עִם־הַנְּעָרִים אֲשֶׁר־לִי “with the young men that are to me” which might better be rendered “with my underlings.” The use of נַעַר “young man” here is not about age here, but inferiority in the social scale. Perhaps field workers tended to be young, or perhaps “youths” is a sort of idiom for “underlings.”
  • תִּדְבָּקִין is דבק Imperfect 2fs. The imperfect can be used in an imperative (command) sense. The final נ is unnecessary and need not be translated (a paragogic nun).
  • עַד אִם־כִּלּוּ The אִם need not be translated, but simply marks the clause explaining the עַד (“until”).
  • אִם־כִּלּוּ אֵת כָּל־הַקָּצִיר אֲשֶׁר־לִי The verb is כלה Perfect 3mp and the phrases which come after the אֵת are the direct object of the verb (the accusative complement).

VERSE 22, Potential Difficulties…

  • טוֹב בִּתִּי כִּי תֵצְאִי עִם־נַעֲרוֹתָיו Could be rendered as rough speech (“good, my daughter that…”) or as a complete sentence (“[it is] good, my daughter, that…”).
  • נַעֲרוֹתָיו Ruth, in quoting Boaz, had used the masculine (or mixed) form נְעַרִים whereas Naomi specifies feminine underlings, נַעֲרוֹת. There are many theories, ancient and new, about why in vs. 21 Ruth used the masculine form. One theory is that Ruth’s view makes less distinction between genders whereas Naomi may be conventional in understanding male and female social stations as distinct.
  • וְלֹא יִפְגְּעוּ־בָךְ The וְ works best here as “that.” The verb is פגע Imperfect 3mp and it takes the oblique complement (in English it would be a direct object, so render בָךְ as simply “you”).

VERSE 23, Potential Difficulties…

  • עַד־כְּלוֹת קְצִיר־הַשְּׂעֹרִים וּקְצִיר הַחִטִּים The clause is about time (“until”) and כְּלוֹת is the Infinitive Construct of כלה (so it is a verbal noun here).

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