Translation Notes, Ruth 1:8-18


  • וַתֹּאמֶר This is a vav conversive (see lesson 1) from the root alef-mem-reish and it is 3fs (3rd person feminine singular). One of the delightful things about Ruth for Hebrew students is the frequency of feminine forms of various verbs which are uncommon and sometimes rare in the Bible.
  • נָעֳמִי is the name, Naomi, and it derives from a root meaning pleasant. Think of modern Hebrew and the expression נעים מאד na-eem me-oad = very pleasant [to meet you]. The vowel under the ayin is the rare Kametz Hatuph (kametz with sh’va) which is pronounced as a long “o”. Continue reading

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The updated syllabus is available here as a PDF. Ruth Syllabus Updated

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Translation Notes, Ruth 1:1-7


When a grammatical issue comes up for the first time, I will note it more carefully. As the class progresses, the “Translation Help” notes will grow shorter. I will be rather detailed concerning vs. 1 and more sparse with notes on vss. 2-7.

Vs. 1. Begins with the common Hebrew narration וַיְהִי which is the vav-conversive (a.k.a. vav-consecutive, consecutive imperfect, or preterite) form of היה. See below, “Narration Verbs and Vav-Conversive.” Continue reading

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Special Vocabulary in Ruth 1-2

This list is somewhat arbitrary. I included on it either words used multiple times which are convenient to memorize or words sufficiently strange to warrant advance notice to students who will be translating. Memorizing these will make translating Ruth 1-2 easier.

מֹאֲבִיּוֹת Moabitesses
כַּלָּה daughter-in-law, bride
מֵעֶה inner parts
זָקֵן be old, grow old
תּקְוָה hope, cord
שַׂבָּר wait, hope for
נעגן shut oneself off
מַר be bitter
חָמוֹת mother-in-law
יְבֵמֶת sister-in-law
קָצִיר harvest time
שְׂעֹרָה barley
לַקָּט glean
קֹצֵר reaper, harvester
הַכִּיר regard, recognize, observe
מוֹלֶדֶת kindred
שִׁלְשׁוֹם three days ago
עֹמֶר sheaf, bundle of grain
צֶבֶת bundles of grain
אָנָה where
הִטָה wheat

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April-May 2013 Class Schedule


  1. 1:1-7, Prologue: The Departure from Bethlehem
  2. 1:8-18, The Turning Point on the Road to Bethlehem
  3. 1:19-22, Return to Bethlehem
  4. 2:1-3, Home Alone: Starting Over
  5. 2:4-16, In the Field: Finding Food and Favor
  6. 2:17-23, Home Again


WEEK 1: Ruth 1:1-7, translate. Days of the Judges and a midrash, Elimelekh’s character and a midrash, Hebrew grammar (narration verbs, vav conversive, possessive suffixes). Hesed in Ruth, Hebrew grammar (cardinal numbers in absolute and construct, imperatives). Reading: Eskenazi (JPS Commentary), xv-xxxii and 3-10.

WEEK 2: Ruth 1:8-18, translate. Tikvah as the cord of hope, Hebrew grammar (interrogatives). Reading: Esekenazi xxxii-xxxviii, 10-23.

WEEK 3: Ruth 1:19-22, translate. Shaddai, Hebrew grammar (Hiphil and Niphal verbs). Reading: Esekenazi xxxix-xlviii, 23-26.

WEEK 4: Ruth 2:1-3, translate. Get head start on next section translating, Ruth 2:3-17. Chance and Divine purpose, Gleaning and Holiness, Hebrew grammar (particle of entreaty). Reading: Esekenazi xlviii-liii, 27-31.

WEEK 5: Ruth 2:4-16, translate (hopefully you got a head start last week). Wordplay in the Tanakh, Hebrew grammar (Hophal verbs, jussive forms of the verb). Reading: Esekenazi lii-lv, 31-42.

WEEK 6: Ruth 2:17-23, translate. Holiness beyond obligation, Adonai who does not abandon hesed, Hebrew grammar (relative clauses, complements and adjuncts of verbs). Esekenazi lvi-lxx, 42-47.

REQUIRED TEXTS (The publication dates indicate the required edition.)

  • Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Tikva Frymer-Kensky, The JPS Bible Commentary: Ruth. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2011).
  • William L. Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971 or later).

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES (not required for this course)
Ruth Rabbah (in the Midrash Rabbah collection).


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Video: Ancient Bible

Shalom, everyone. This is a short video (less than 2 minutes) I made to introduce what I will be doing with the Ancient Bible project — videos, self-paced online courses, daily tidbits of Hebrew Bible goodness, and more. I will be very thankful for any who share this video on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.

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Lesson 10, Ruth 3:1-5

*I will add an article soon which is referenced here in the notes (“Ruth 3:7: Did She or Didn’t She?”) and add some tips for translating verses other than vs. 4. Here is a start to Lesson 10 and I will add more shortly.

וִיהִי בְשָׁכְבוֹ וְיָדַעַתְּ אֶת־הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב־שָׁם וּבָאת וְגִלִּית מַרְגְּלֹתָיו וְשָׁכָבְתְּ וְהוּא יַגִּיד לָךְ אֵת אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשִׂין:

(Ruth 3:4, we have followed the Qere [read aloud] form וְשָׁכָבְתְּ).


  • The first word can easily fool you. It is not the usual וַיְהִי vav-conversive. Rather note that וִיהִי is the Imperfect 3ms of היה but with a Jussive (modal) sense (a complicated idea, but the lead verb can set the tone for verbs that follow — so this “and it should be” colors the next verb וְיָדַעַתְּ, rendering is modal also: “you should note”).
  • בְשָׁכְבוֹ Note that the ב preposition can mean “when.” שָׁכְבוֹ is a kind of Infinitive Construct worth noting and learning the pattern. An infinitive is a verbal noun. In many cases the infinitive has the ל prefix, making it a “to” verb (“to lie down”). But this Infinitive Construct has no ל prefix, but rather a pronominal suffix וֹ. When an Infinitive Construct has a pronoun suffixed to it, use “-ing” with the verb (“lying down”) and then add the meaning of the suffix (“his lying down”).
  • וִיהִי בְשָׁכְבוֹ on the whole could be rendered “and it should be in his lying down…” No translations go for this awkward a rendering, but smooth out the meaning as this clause runs into the next verbal clause.
  • The ו conjunction does not merely mean “and,” but following a modal (Jussive) clause means “that.”
  • The “it should be” which opened vs. 4 is answered by the “that” of וְיָדַעַתְּ vav-conversive (which in this case makes it Jussive like the lead verb of the sentence) 2fs of ידע.
  • We might expect the final letter in בָאת to have a sh’va under it (בָאתְּ) but even without it, this is easily recognizable as the Perfect 2fs form. It has a ו attached, making it a vav-conversive (still carrying the Jussive-modal meaning from the lead verb).
  • וְגִּלִּית is the same in form as וּבָאת and is from the root גלה.
  • מַרְגְּלֹתָיו is a noun, מַרְגְּלֹת, in construct (genitive) form with the 3ms suffix attached. The meaning of this noun is somewhat in doubt. The usual word for foot is רֶגֶל and the plural feet is sometimes in the dual form often found with body parts that come in twos, רַגְלָיִם, and sometimes in the regular plural, רַגְלִים. But מַרְגְּלֹת is found only in Ruth and Daniel 10:6. It is another way to make a noun from the root רגל. It’s exact meaning could be “feet” or “place of the feet.” The distinction could be important in the question of exactly how sexual was Ruth’s action with Boaz on the threshing floor (see “Ruth 3:7: Did She or Didn’t She?”).
  • There are some convoluted explanations for why the written and handed down (Ketiv) text says וְשָׁכַבְתי and the text to be read aloud (Qere) says וְשָׁכַבְתְּ. The bottom line is that the meaning follows the Qere here. Note that this is still vav-conversive as are the verbs in this chain of “shoulds” which are all Jussive (modal) because the tone was set by the lead verb.
  • יַגִּיד from נגה Imperfect 3ms (the vav-conversive chain has been broken now by the word order, since the ו in this clause was attached to the subject, וְהוּא).
  • תַּעֲשִׂין from עשׂה and it is 2fs Imperfect. The extra (technical term is paragogic) נ on the end can be ignored.

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