The Book of Ruth: An Alternative to the Hobbesian World of Judges

The book of Ruth, traditionally read on the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, contains no reference to sin, divine retribution, repentance, or other typical biblical themes. It is, Sarah Rindner writes, “unusually sweet,” its narrative built on acts of human kindness: the title character’s devotion to her former mother-in-law Naomi, Naomi’s devotion to her, and Boaz’s kindness to the two of them. Examining the numerous implicit references to other biblical books in Ruth, Rindner elucidates the message:

Goodness prevails in [Ruth], but not at the cost of totally effacing the tragic qualities that are present in both life and the Bible. . . .

[A]t the start of the book we learn that it takes place “in the days when the judges judged,” a direct allusion to the book of Judges. Judges depicts one offensive or ugly event after another, with increasing intensity, until the book concludes with [a] statement [that has appeared thrice in the preceding chapters] linking this state of affairs to a lack of central political leadership: “in those days there was no king in Israel, every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Although the book of Ruth is set in this historical moment, the lack of centralized political authority does not prevent its characters from displaying responsibility toward one another and fulfilling lofty ethical imperatives.

In the end, the book also invokes [the imminent arrival of biblical] kingship—due to Ruth and Boaz’s virtue they merit to be the progenitors of the Davidic dynasty. It thus represents a counter-narrative to the book of Judges—it presents kingship as a consequence of a chain of goodness, not as a Hobbesian solution to the people’s moral depravity.

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Read more at Book of Books

More about: Book of Judges, Book of Ruth, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays, Shavuot, Thomas Hobbes

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy