Love stories have a way of making the world seem small.
All the conflict in the world, the pain and uncertainty, the unjust circumstances, they all seem to fade into the background. The reader’s focus moves from the incomprehensible to the simple: one man, one woman. And rather than worry about the world’s problem’s, for a moment, all that matters now is the fate of these two. Love stories are the microcosms of hope in a dark world.
John Currid in his book Ruth: From Bitter to Sweet does justice to the truth of love stories. In his commentary on Ruth he captures the “smallness” of the story as well as grappling with its more profound elements. He does the job well of explaining the significance of each passage, how it ties into the story as a whole, how it ties into the larger frame of Scripture, and ultimately how it points to Christ.
First, Currid handles the linguistic elements quite well. He displays an ample knowledge of the Hebrew language and is able to make connections most readers would miss even in the best English versions. Especially when it came to the main characters, Currid did not leave any stone unturned and dedicated sufficient time to give each character’s name meaning and context.
Second, there was an element of biography I had not seen before in a commentary. In the NIVAC commentary series each volume drives home applicable points to put into practice. Currid takes it one step further by showing historical figures who have themselves put them into practice. His knowledge of Church History in this respect was impressive. And these additions turned out to be one of my favorite parts of his work.
Third, as far as the most basic duty of a commentary – to assist the reader in understanding the book – Currid also performed this duty well. My only complaint would be that the pace was uneven at points. Whereas Currid dedicated plenty of pages to the first chapter, taking careful steps towards unraveling all the intricacies of the time period and geography, by the time the fourth chapter is reached the work seems much shorter. Also, I felt there was a comfortable balance between academic/pastoral/devotional elements within the first half of the book, but that the latter two became dominant in roughly the last quarter of the book.
I understand that may be due to the fact that much of the academic ground which needed to be covered was done so already. However, I was still left with questions and the size appropriated to each reveals the discrepancy (60 pages to explain chapter 1 and only 20 for chapter 4).
All in all, this was a fantastic work. My troubles with this particular work do not in any way subtract from the treasure it has to offer. Further, what is missing from this volume can easily be found in another commentary entry dealing with Ruth. But the unique elements, such as the biographical information, makes this work stand out from many like it.