Humour in the Bible: 8 Ruth: Ruth is from Moab, Boaz is from Bethlehem

Who is that girl? Gustave Doré (1832-1883) from Wikimedia

Ruth is a lovely story, it’s humour is 1 Chapter three is a possible exception  – and the humour there, if there is humour, is disguised and sexual, so very difficult to spot with confidence across cultures! gentle and subtle. Part of the subtlety is that most (though not all) of the signs of humour are missing. However, I think we are intended to smile in at least two ways in the portrayal of the characters.

For this entry in the humour series I am repeating my podcast on chapter 2, where I think several of the signs are present, if subtly:

  • incongruity: found I’ll claim in the disparity of cultures between peasant farming Bethlehem and semi-nomadic herding Moab
  • lighthearted mood – it’s harvest time and there’s a meal
  • surprise – Ruth “happens” on the field of a suitable husband
  • ingenuity (cleverness is often a mark of humour think of puns) – if it’s present it is in Ruth’s possible playing with words for servanthood, but that’s too technical for this post 😉
  • inferiority – Ruth is a foreign, young, woman; Boaz is a wealthy, older, man
  • “inelasticity” (following Bergson) – does Boaz’ slight pomposity count?
  • human pretension revealed in all its lack of glory! – not at all present 🙂
  • hyperbole – not present, except perhaps in the quantity of grain Ruth gleans

The other candidate is the use of direct speech to characterise, and since it is even less overt I’ll just point to the file for those who want to listen: Anyway here’s my candidate for humour in Ruth: Direct speech in biblical narratives

Notes   [ + ]

1. Chapter three is a possible exception  – and the humour there, if there is humour, is disguised and sexual, so very difficult to spot with confidence across cultures!

1 Comment

  1. another nice coincidence – our Bible study decided in my absence to do Ruth – so I just updated my very literal translation today. If I can figure out how to get the podcast to my laptop they might even get to hear your voice too.

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