Judges and Ruth
J. M. Davies, Canada
Tins book of only four chapters is unique in that it is the only one in the sacred volume dedicated to the name of a Gentile woman.
Allegorical]y it is an idyll that illustrates and typifies the long drawn out drama of Israel's history.
Doctrinally it affords us a wonderful illustration of the work of our Lord as Kinsman-Redeemer, more especially in relation to Israel.
But it is on its historical and practical value that we wish to focus attention in this brief article. Historically it is a supplement to the record of Judges, and introductory to Samuel. The interrelationship of these hooks along with Joshua is both interesting and instructive. especially when compared with certain portions of the New Testament.
JOSHUA is the history of the first 30 years of Israel in the land. In the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles is its counterpart. Ft gives us the history of the first 30 years of the Church. There are many points of similarity between them, such as the evidence of the miraculous at the commencement of both, but decreasing gradually until at the end it almost ceases. Then again the tactics of the enemy as seen in the sin of Achan and that of Ananias and Sapphira are the same. Joshua's farewell message to the nation and Paul's to the elders of Ephesus are both characterized by the important fact that neither appoints a successor, God and His word were to be the resource of His people.
JUDGES AND RUTH These continue with the history and together give us three parallel pictures of concurrent events in the life of the nation. They may be tabulated as follows:
(a) National and governmental declension. External conflicts (chaps. 1-16).
(b) Spiritual and moral declension. Internal confusion (chaps. 17-21).
(c) Individual and family failure and faithfulness.
(a) The National (chaps. 1-16).
Like the ebb and flow of the tide these chapters record the relapses and recoveries, the departures and deliverances, the apostacies and awakenings, the servitudes and salvation of the nation. The curtain falls with the suicidal death of Samson, the Nazarite, who was robbed of both his power and his vision. He wist not that the Lord had departed from him.
(b) The Levitical (chaps. 17-21).
Tin's section records the failure of two Levites. One, the grandson of Moses, became the " father and a priest " of an idolatrous worship to the tribe of Dan. What departure this third generation witnessed! Here was the grandson of the man who had spurned the throne of Pharaoh, selling his soul for his sustenance, his suit and his salary! His name stands high on the roll of dishonour in the hall of infamy. The other man is nameless. The sad episode connected with his sin revealed the Sodom-like moral condition of Gibeah and led to civil war. Envy and strife are but the evidence of some deep-seated trouble. The men who, as Levites, were the custodians of the Law and should have been its exponents were the ones to break both its tables! The secret and cause of the national failure is given to us in these chapters.
(c) The Individual failure and faithfulness. Ruth. It is the memorial of three wealthy men.
1. Elimelech. Wealthy but self-willed. In a day of testing lie left for Moab, at the time when Moab was oppressing Israel, only to find graves for himself and his sons among those of the 24,000 of his grandparents that bad fallen there in the days of Baal-Peor.
2. Ho-such-a-one! Such is the way he is described. He represents the self-righteous Pharisee. He was wealthy but utterly selfish. The law allowed the widow to spit in Ills face!
3. Boaz. He was wealthy and strong. At a time when nationally everything was crumbling, and religiously the leaders were corrupt, and individually carnality ruled as all seemed " to seek their own things," each one doing what was " right in his own eyes," this son of Rahab stood pillar-like for God. In him are delineated the characteristics of the (rue remnant. He walked in priestly nearness to God. He sought the restoration of Naomi with her wasted and blighted years, and he had a heart for the stranger. In view of Moab's aggression the natural feeling would have been against allowing Ruth a place, but he was one who had an ear for the word, and thus obeyed the injunctions found in the law which were to govern his attitude to such (Lev. 23: 22).
As the history of Joshua foreshadows the account given in the Acts, that of Judges and Ruth prefigure post-apostolic days. The preview of the Church's witness as given in Rev. 2 and 3 is their New Testament counterpart. As the last Judge was blind, blinded by the Philistines, and likewise Israel's last king was blinded by the Babylonian power, so with Laodicea. She is ignorant of her state and visionless, only fit to be spued out!
The structure of each of the seven letters to the Churches of Asia would seem to correspond to the pattern followed by the inspired historian in Judges and Ruth.
L They are messages to the Churches.' -Collective testimony.
2. They are addressed to the Angels.-Governmental and Ministerial stewardship.
3. They appeal to the individual " He that hath an ear." -Individual responsibility.
Thus the Old and New Testaments correspond and contribute to the understanding of each other.
As an introduction to the Book of Samuel, Ruth furnishes us with the genealogy of David, the " man after God's own heart" and " the man that was set on high," who was to be Israel's greatest monarch, after the sad failure of the Priesthood in Eli, the Prophet in Samuel, and the King in Saul.