Poetry: Ruth, Chapter 1

The author of this poem is John Bunyan (1628-1688), an English Protestant minister and author of The Pilgrim’s Progress. He versified the Book of Ruth in the Bible just for the fun of it. The Book of Ruth tells the story of king David’s great-grandmother who followed her mother-in-law Naomi back to the Land of Israel after the deaths of their husbands. I am tempted to summarise the story, but you will have to either read the account in the Bible or the narrative poem presented here. So, here is Chapter 1.

CHAP. I.

In ancient times, e’er Israel knew the way

Of kingly power, when judges bore the sway:

A certain man of Bethlehem Juda fled,

By reason of a famine that o’erspread

The land, into the land of Moab, where

He and his wife, and sons, sojourners were.

His name Elimelech, his eldest son

Was called Mahlon, t’other Chilion,

His wife was Naomi, Ephrathites they were:

They went to Moab and continued there:

Where of her husband Naomi was bereft,

And only she and her two sons were left:

Who took them wives of Moab in their youth.

The name of one was Orpah, t’other Ruth:

And there they died ere twice five years were gone;

And Naomi was wholly left alone.

Then she arose, and her step-daughters with her,

To leave the land of Moab altogether:

For she had heard the Lord had visited

Her native country, with increase of bread,

Wherefore the land of Moab she forsook,

And to her native place her course she took,

Her daughters with her: whom she did desire,

That to their mother’s house they would retire.

The Lord, said she, be kind to you again,

As you to me, and to the dead have been.

God grant you each may be with husbands blest,

And in the enjoyment of them both find rest,

Then she embraced them, and there withal,

Down from their cheeks, the tears began to fall.

They wept aloud, and said, Most surely we

Unto thy people will return with thee.

But Naomi replied, Wherefore will ye,

My daughters, thus resolve to go with me?

Are there yet any more sons in my womb,

That may your husbands be in time to come?

Return again, my daughters, go your way,

For I’m too old to marry: should I say

I’ve hope? Should I this night conceive a son?

Would either of you stay till he is grown?

Would you so long without an husband [‹1.3›] live?

Nay, nay, my daughters, for it doth me grieve

Exceedingly, even for your sakes, that I

Do under this so great affliction lie.

And here they wept again. And Orpah kiss’d

Her mother, But Ruth would be not dismiss’d

But clave unto her: unto whom she spake

And said, Behold, thy sister is gone back,

With her own gods, and people to abide,

Go thou along with her. But Ruth replied,

Intreat me not to leave thee, or return:

For where thou goest, I’ll go, where thou sojourn,

I’ll sojourn also. And what people’s thine,

And who thy God, the same shall both be mine.

Where thou shalt die, there will I die likewise,

And I’ll be buried where thy body lies.

The Lord do so to me, and more, if I

Do leave thee, or forsake thee till I die.

And when she saw the purpose of her heart,

She left off to desire her to depart.

So they two travelled along together

To Bethlehem, and when they were come thither,

Behold! the people were surprised, and cried,

What, is this Naomi? But she replied,

Oh! call me Mara, and not Naomi;

For I have been afflicted bitterly.

I went out from you full, but now I come,

As it hath pleased God, quite empty home:

Why then call ye me Naomi? Since I

Have been afflicted so exceedingly.

So Naomi return’d, and Ruth together,

Who had come from the land of Moab with her:

And unto Bethlem Judah did they come,

Just as the Barley Harvest was begun.

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Book Review – Witness: a fresh look at the New Testament

Have you ever read a book that was better the second time round? Well, that’ what it felt like reading Witness: a fresh look at the New Testament church (Autumn House ® Publishing). Jack J. Blanco picks up the Biblical narrative just before the ascension of Christ in Acts 1 and follows the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire during the time of the apostles. He retells the events St. Luke recorded in the Book of Acts using simple English and little melodrama. 

Witness: Acts through Revelation

Witness: a fresh look at the New Testament Church

Witness was written to help theology students understand the New Testament by placing the events and the letters in chronological order. To this end, he discarded with chapter and verse numbering; instead he concluded each section with Scripture references. Furthermore, he included major Christian doctrines leaving out those portions of Scripture that impeded the flow of the narrative and tended to confuse readers. I did not notice these gaps nor did they offend me because I knew that the work was intended for one’s reading pleasure and clarification. Sometimes too much information bogs you down.

The author intended the book to be a simplified, flowing version of the Bible narrative which I believe he succeeded in creating. The letters Sts. Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude wrote to their respective audiences were placed in chronological order. Jack Blanco vividly describes the shipwreck Sts. Paul and Luke experienced on the shores of the island of Malta (Acts 25,26). Portions from St. Paul’s letters were used to complete the narrative since the Book of Acts does not contain all the details of St. Paul’s imprisonment.

It was with great eagerness that I turned to the final chapters of Witness to see how Jack Blanco would simply the Book of Revelation. I was impressed with how he maintained the use of simple language. I was, however, disappointed by the portions of Scripture he left out in his paraphrasing of Revelation 1. He handled the description of Revelation chapters 10-14, 19-22 well, I think. I noticed that Witness does not include the time prophecies reminding the reader of its purpose to inform.

Overall, it was a good read. Witness answered some questions I had as it placed events and letters in context. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a plain explanation of the New Testament without the possibility of getting sidetracked by or lost in the complexity.

Below you can compare the rendering of 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 by Witness (WIT), The Message (MSG) and the No Greater Love (NGL). All three books are paraphrases of the Bible.

WIT: You need to think of us as servants who have been entrusted with the secret things of God. What is expected of servants? They must be faithful to their master. It doesn’t matter what you think of me or what a human court decides about me. I don’t even make decisions about myself. I let God do that. Even though I don’t know of anything that I’m doing wrong that doesn’t justify me before God. That’s why I leave everything about myself in the Lord’s hands. He’s the One who reads motives and brings everything to light. In time we will each receive praise from God, not from someone else.
NGL: So Appollos and I should be looked upon as Christ’s servants who distribute God’s blessings by explaining God’s secrets. Now the most important thing about a servant is that he does just what his master tells him to. What about me? Have I been a good servant? Well, I don’t worry over what you think about this, or what anyone else thinks. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but even that isn’t final proof. It is the Lord Himself who must examine me and decide. So be careful not to jump to conclusions before the Lord returns as to whether someone is a good servant or not. When the Lord comes, he will turn on the light so that everyone can see exactly what each one of us is really like, deep down in our hearts. Then everyone will know why we have been doing the Lord’s work. At that time God will give each one whatever praise is coming to him.
MSG: Don’t imagine us leaders to be something we aren’t. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God’s most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them. The requirements for a good guide are reliability and accurate knowledge. It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion. I don’t even rank myself. Comparisons in these matters are pointless. I’m not aware of anything that would disqualify me from being a good guide for you, but that doesn’t mean much. The Master makes that judgment. So don’t go ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with your judgments before all the evidence is in. When he comes, he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dream of—inner motives and purposes and prayers. Only then will anyone of us get to hear the “Well done!” of God.