Introduction to Ruth: Genealogical and Chronological Difficulties



[In verse 1, it affirms these things to have happened in the days of the Judges, but it is a weighty and intricate question, under which Judge, or at what time, this history of Ruth took place. Authors vary.] 1. Some authors: in the time of Eli: thus Josephus,[1] the Teacher of the Scholastic History, and Zonaras[2] (Bonfrerius). But these are manifestly refuted, because the times of the generations are too constricted. To the principate of Eli are attributed forty years, 1 Samuel 4:18; to the principate of Samuel and Saul conjoined forty years, Acts 13:21. The famine (which we suppose to have begun in the beginning of the principate of Eli) endured for ten years, Ruth 1:4, after which Boaz will have married Ruth. Thus, from the birth of Obed, the grandfather of David, to the birth of David was only thirty-nine years. To these things add that David was the youngest son of his father, 1 Samuel 16:10, 11; and that he was going to join battle with Goliath at around twenty years of age; and that Jesse was an old man in the days of Saul, 1 Samuel 17:12 (Bonfrerius). 2. Others: in the time of Boaz, whom they make to be the same as Ibzan the Judge, Judges 12:8-10 (Lyra, Estius, Rabbis in Serarius). But this is hindered, 1. by a reckoning of the time; for then Boaz would have been about two hundred and seventy-two years of age: for Ibzan was made Judge in the two hundred and seventy-second year after the capture of Jericho by Joshua, Joshua 6, when Salmon married Rahab, and begat Boaz from her[3] (Lapide). 2. Because Ibzan had thirty sons, but no Obed is recorded (Serarius). 3. Others maintain that these things were conducted under Gideon (Tostatus in Serarius), or under Abimelech (Salian in Bonfrerius, Lapide). 4. Others: in the time of Ehud (Seder Olam in Bonfrerius), or rather of Shamgar (whom nevertheless the Hebrews include in the years of Ehud [Ussher’s Chronology]); or, in the time of Deborah and Barak (Junius, Malvenda, Tostatus, Torniellus in Bonfrerius). But here no slight difficulty is objected, which led some to other opinions. For thus in four generations were taken up three hundred and eighty years, that is, from Salmon unto David, and so Salmon, Boaz, Obed, and Jesse all begat in old age, and (which increases the difficulty); indeed, Salmon, being ninety-five years of age, begat Boaz of Rahab, who was also just so many years old: which is easily proven. For, from the exodus to the foundation of the Temple were four hundred and eighty years, 1 Kings 6:1. From which subtract the forty years in the desert, and the seventy years of David, 2 Samuel 5:4, and the four years of Solomon before He began the building of the Temple, 1 Kings 6:1: three hundred and sixty-six years remain. To these add fourteen years, to which Rahab (to whom let us make Salmon equal in age) had already arrived at the entrance into the land of Canaan (but she was not able to be younger, since she was giving herself meretricious loves), and there shall be three hundred and eighty years from the birth of Salmon to the birth of David. And so those four each begat after the age of ninety-five (Bonfrerius). This difficulty is yet increased by those that maintain that the building of the Solomonic Temple was not begun, with the Sacred Text, in the four hundred and eightieth year, but either the five hundred and twentieth with Petavius[4] and Petrus Possinus,[5] or the five hundred and twenty-seventh with Nicholas Abram,[6] or the five hundred and eightieth with Nicolaus Reimers[7] or Louis Cappel,[8] or the five hundred and ninety-second with Michael Mæstlin,[9] or the five hundred and ninety-eighth with Laurentius Codomannus,[10] or the six hundred and twentieth with Johannes Waltherus, or the six hundred and eightieth with Nicholas Serarius, after the exodus. It appears absurd to Salian to place painstakingly, as it were, such drawn out generations in one and the same family; that is (says he), to have recourse to miracle without necessity, indeed, repeated four times in the same family (Ussher’s Sacred Chronology 200). So that they might avoid this disadvantage, some postulate three men by the name of Boaz: one the grandfather, born of Salmon; another, the son of the former; the third, the grandson, to whom Ruth was married (certain interpreters in Bonfrerius). Neither is it strange that two generations are omitted here. 1. Because it would be tiresome to repeat Boaz begat Boaz so many times. 2. Similar examples of omitted generations, indeed, even in persons of greater fame, occur. Thus in Ezra 7:2 it is said that Zadok begat Shallum: But before this Shallum are omitted here seven generations, which flow from this Ahitub and Zadok to another Ahitub and Zadok, as it is evident from 1 Chronicles 6:8, 12. Thus in Matthew 1:8 Ahaziah,[11] Joash,[12] and Amaziah[13] are passed over (certain interpreters in Serarius). [Concerning which see on that place.] But this comment concerning three men named Boaz is ridiculous (Ussher), and without any foundation in Scripture (Bonfrerius, Ussher): or it is produced from some other place, indeed, contrary to Scripture, which everywhere mentions just one Boaz, the son of Salmon, the father of Obed. Thus in this passage, and in 1 Chronicles 2:11, 12; Matthew 1:5; Luke 3:32. But if occasionally, as in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew, some generations are omitted, Scripture supplies them elsewhere in the books of Kings; would not one that from his own head will to forge new generations, and to insert them among others, be thought to be completely rash (Bonfrerius)? Since absolutely no vestige of any intermitted name in this genealogy is extant wherever it is found, I prefer to abstain from that divination, than to open a window for a new λεπτογενέσει, little lineage (Junius). [Therefore, they bring in other solutions.] 1. The longevity of these fathers does not surpass the order of nature and strength (Ussher); nor that aged men might beget (Bonfrerius); since there are many examples of both from ancient and later ages (Bonfrerius, Ussher). Concerning the ancient Fathers before the flood it is certain: and what hinders that vivacity from being active in some as a witness and sign of this face, as it were (Serarius)? Abraham begat sons in his one hundred and fortieth year, Genesis 25; Jacob begat Benjamin in his one hundred and seventh year, Genesis 35. Caleb in his eighty-fourth year was strong and thoroughly vigorous.[14] Jehoiada the High Priest lived one hundred and thirty years, 2 Chronicles 24 (Bonfrerius). That on the summit of mount Tmolus[15] men lived for one hundred and fifty years, Mutianus relates. At that same age, T. Fullonius of Bononia enrolled his name: Pliny’s Natural History 7:48. In a census conducted by Vespasian[16] there were many of one hundred and twenty, or one hundred and thirty, years: Pliny’s Natural History 7:48 (Ussher). In the territory of Thuringia[17] there was an old man that received confirmation from the Bishop in his one hundred and fiftieth year (Bonfrerius). Thomas Ravenna, in the fifth chapter of his book, Concerning Prolonging Man’s Life beyond One Hundred and Twenty Years,[18] affirms that he saw two men of Lacedæmonia,[19] and two others on the Ægean sea, of one hundred and thirty years. In the year of our Lord 1600, the English Duke Jacobus Weston, born one hundred and thirty-one years previously, finished his course. In Ireland, the Countess of Desmond, in the fourth year of Edward’s reign in England, married to a Count, lived for one hundred and forty years. A certain Lawrence, a Scotsman, in the one hundred and fortieth year of his age appeared fishing, as Buchanan[20] testifies in his History of Scotland 1. We are able to produce men that we know, have seen, remember to have fulfilled one hundred and twenty, one hundred and twenty-five, one hundred and thirty years. There was also one old man, to the amazement of our friends, at Paris, in the year of our Lord 1584, who, being over one hundred and forty years old, with all of the functions of his members intact, had brought himself to Paris to pursue a certain lawsuit, says Scaliger, in his elenchus of the first chronological oration of David Pareus.[21] And, so that I might now conclude, Thomas Parr, son of John, lived in Winnington in the country of Shropshire. He, having been born in the year of our Lord 1483, when he was eighty years old, took his first wife, with whom he lived for thirty-two years, and under whom, having been convicted of adultery with another woman, the old man at one hundred and five years old made public repentance in the Church of Alberbury. Afterward, when he was one hundred and twenty-two years old, he took a second wife. And finally he, etc., was brought in a litter to London by the care and at the expense of the Earl of Arundel toward the end of September, 1635, and there exhibited to King Charles, when he had completed one hundred and fifty-two years and a number of months of living (Ussher’s Chronology). Baldus writes, Conferences 437, that a woman conceived in her fiftieth year, and bore a son. Speronius[22] writes in his Dialogues that some women that were older than sixty or sixty-five begat: indeed, Schenckius the physician[23] committed this to memory of women seventy or sevety-five, Observations[24] 4:121. Why should not then Salmon, Boaz, Obed, and Jesse, with optimal constitution of body, be able in those ancient times, in those place of Judea, when and where fecundity and longevity were reckoned as great blessing, to beget sons in old age? especially when Scaliger at this time also in Arabia, and parts of Morocco, Fez, and tracts of Atlas Mountain,[25] and elsewhere, shows men prolonging life to one hundred and twenty, one hundred and thirty, and beyond, in both Elenchi against David Pareus. But in Java itself it was seen in these former years that there was a King who went forth to battle at one hundred and fifty years of age, and, fighting with strength, died (Serarius on Ruth 4). In the Palatinate a few years ago, I myself was present while a certain woman of more than fifty-six was giving birth, who brought forth two males at one birth (Junius). Therefore, as we willingly confess that in the longevity of these fathers there was not a little rarity, and in the continuation of the same (for three or four generations) there was much of the Divine blessing; so we acknowledge no miracle here, since in the following ages (as has been shown) there were men like unto them in age (Ussher). You will say, Although an old man is able to beget from a younger woman, yet not from an elderly woman, of which sort Rahab certain was (as has been mentioned) when Salmon begat Boaz of her; for it appears that she was ninety-five years old at that time. For that number is required for each, if the three hundred and eighty years are going to be taken up in four generations. Responses: 1. What would be strange, if what was repeatedly granted by Divine miracle to holy women, that they, being barren or elderly, might conceive, was also granted by God to that holy woman, so highly commended by the Apostle?[26] 2. The following generations to David are able to be prolonged to one hundred or one hundred and five years; and thus Rahab, in her eightieth year, or even sixty-fifth, bore Boaz (Bonfrerius). Certainly Rahab, if she had been twenty (when the Israelites entered into Canaan), and had borne Boaz forty-two year later, would not have exceeded sixty-two years of age: after which there are not wanting even in our age examples of old woman bearing (Ussher). Or Rahab bore Boaz at the age of fifty-five (if fifteen are attributed to her when she received the spies, Joshua 2), and in the twenty-third year of Othniel, whence there were ninety-seven to the beginning of Deborah; to which, if you add the twenty prior years of Deborah, Boaz will be one hundred and seventeen years old when he received Obed from Ruth: Obed and Jesse also begat being of a hundred years. If the age of Rahab should appear to be too great for childbirth, I allow somewhat less of age be attributed to her, somewhat more to the others (Junius).



[1] Antiquities 5:9.


[2] John Zonaras (twelfth century), native of Constantinople, was a historian and theologian. His Extracts of History covers the period from the Creation of the world to his own time.


[3] See Ruth 4:21; Matthew 1:5.


[4] Dionysius Petavius (1583-1652) was a Jesuit scholar and theologian. He served as Professor of Theology at Paris (1621-1643). Petavius wrote De Doctrina Temporum.


[5] Pierre Poussines (1609-1686) was a French Jesuit scholar.


[6] Nicholas Abram (1589-1655) was a French Jesuit theologian. He wrote Pharus Veteris Testamenti, sive Sacrarum Quæstionum.


[7] Nicolaus Reimers Baer (1551-1600) was a German astronomer, mathematician, and chronologer.


[8] Probably from his Templi Hierosolymitani Delineatio Triplex.


[9] Michael Mæstlin (1550-1631) was a German astronomer and mathematician


[10] Laurentius Codomannus (1529-1590) was a German Lutheran pastor, educator, and chronologer. He wrote Chronographia and Annales Sacræ Scripturæ.


[11] 2 Kings 8:24.


[12] 2 Kings 11:2.


[13] 2 Kings 14:1.


[14] Joshua 14:10, 11.


[15] Mount Tmolus is in Lydia of Asia Minor.


[16] Vespasian was Roman Emperor from 69 to 79.


[17] In Germany.


[18] De Vita Hominis ultra Centum Unum et Viginti Annos Protrahenda.


[19] In Greece.


[20] George Buchanan (1506-1582) was a Scottish humanist and Reformer. Buchanan’s political theory was pivotal in shaping Scottish resistance to the tyranny of kings.


[21] David Pareus (1548-1622) was a German Calvinist, serving the Reformed Church as a minister, churchman, and professor. He wrote a commentary on the whole Bible, and it was held in high estimation among the Reformed. His Commentarius in Epistolam ad Romanos was burned publicly at Oxford and Cambridge in 1622 by order of the Privy Council of James I because of his comments on Romans 13, in which he upholds the right of resistance to tyranny.


[22] Sperone Speroni degli Alvarotti (1500–1588) was a Renaissance humanist and dramatist.


[23] Johannes Schenck von Grafenberg (1530-1598) was a German physician.


[24] Observationum medicarum rariorum.


[25] On the western coast of Africa.


[26] See James 2:25; Hebrews 11:31.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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