Brief Review of Daniel I. Block, Ruth, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament (ZECOT), 2015.
Some commentaries leave readers starving. Full of information but most of it distant from the practical needs of readers and preachers, they can be like a fruit with a hard shell that you can’t crack open. Not so with Block’s newer commentary on Ruth (he has another Ruth commentary in a different series).
Block has clearly employed rigorous exegesis and research, but writes in a very accessible manner. I appreciated Block’s interest in biblical theological themes and intertextuality, evidenced for example on page 227 when he explains how and why the Book of Ruth harkens back to Genesis 38, and even Genesis 3:15. These are the kinds of commentaries that are so helpful to preachers, for they provide hints, but only hints, at how the text points to Christ and provides application to new covenant believers. He also does give clear applications, such as, “From within the context of our own angry and litigious world, Ruth testifies gloriously to the power of blessing” (244). He adds that blessings “seem to flow so freely from people’s lips” in the story, and “herein we may find the seeds of the NT treating of blessing as an extension of the call for love,” even blessing those who curse (244). “Inasmuch as a blessing is a form of prayer, Ruth testifies to the power of prayer…” (245)
Block seems to have a wealth of knowledge from his years of Old Testament study and brings it to bear on the text of Ruth. At times he challenges traditional interpretations in interesting ways. As someone still new to discourse analysis, I didn’t utilize the sentence diagramming so much in my work, but the purpose is to help readers understand the flow of the biblical text, to help identity the main point of a pericope. I hope to come back to this book again sometime, for there is much biblical theological gold to mine—on page 247, for example, Block notes that Ruth and Rahab being in the genealogy of Jesus means he has “gentile blood coursing through his veins,” and we can tie this to the Abrahamic promise—the nations will be blessed through him. Block points us to how this also ties to the Davidic covenant – 2 Sam. 7:19, “This is the Torah of humanity!” This is picked up in Micah 5, which speaks of bearing a son in Bethlehem, a shepherd-king (248).
Block does offer some cautions that I’ll have to consider, such as the risk of illegitimate totality transfer. He writes, “To be sure Jesus redeems, he restores life, and he sustains us in our old age, but it is too much to say that the Bethlehemite womens’ blessing of Naomi anticipated, let alone foreshadowed any of this” (249).
This should be your go-to resource on the book of Ruth, and if preaching, I would also recommend Iain M. Duguid, Esther and Ruth in the Reformed Expository Commentary series.