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Hesed living

Ruth went the extra mile—and took her place in history as a result

From the June 2004 issue of The Christian Science Journal


The powerful Hebrew word hesed (or chesed in older sources) appears a number of times in the story of Ruth, and it expresses well the theme of this book. It indicates human actions that pattern the divine will for humanity. Going the extra mile, acts of kindness that come without being deserved, going above and beyond the call of duty, these are what hesed means, and Ruth's kindness to her mother-in-law is an example. The placement of the book of Ruth in the Bible is to counteract nationalistic exclusivity and to show that hesed living, the true test of Israelite character, knows no national or religious boundaries.

Perhaps one of the best testimonies to the enduring nature of hesed kindness is found in the surprising last verses of the story. In what constitutes a great punch line, the authors tell that Ruth's son was "the father of Jesse, the father of David." Ruth 4: 17. David, the great king of Israel, has a Moabite grandmother! So it is that Ruth, according to Matthew's genealogy, Matt. 1:5 . joins with other unconventional women—Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba—who acted outside generally accepted conventions and became ancestors of Jesus.

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