Ruth 1:8 (Hebrew Text) וַתֹּ֤אמֶר נָעֳמִי֙ לִשְׁתֵּ֣י כַלֹּתֶ֔יהָ לֵ֣כְנָה שֹּׁ֔בְנָה אִשָּׁ֖ה לְבֵ֣ית אִמָּ֑הּ ׳יַעֲשֶׂה׳ ״יַ֣עַשׂ״ יְהוָ֤ה עִמָּכֶם֙ חֶ֔סֶד כַּאֲשֶׁ֧ר עֲשִׂיתֶ֛ם עִם־הַמֵּתִ֖ים וְעִמָּדִֽי׃
Ruth 1:8 (NASB) And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me.
Introduction: Not one word shall be lost
The reader may note in the above verse the two words colored in blue and read. Both words represent two variations of spelling of the Hebrew verb translated “deal” in the NASB. In Hebrew manuscripts and modern day Hebrew Bibles, copyists were careful to preserve any reading or variation of spelling that occurred over the history of the hand-copying of the text. Scribes would note these variations by two words in the margins of the text: “qere” or “that which is to be read”; and “ketib” or “that which is to be written”.
Whenever the text would be read aloud in a Jewish house of worship (called a synagogue), the reader would know what was written in the text and then how to pronounce what was to be read aloud. Thus, in our example above, we see in read the word that is found written in most Hebrew manuscripts and which would had been received by scribes (our red word or what which is written “ketib” and which was handed down from one manuscript to the next). The other word is what one would read aloud if doing a scripture reading in a synagogue (the word in blue or the “qere” reading).
Either reading conveys the same meaning “may he deal”. The variations on spelling between the two represents technicalities in Hebrew sentence structure that we won’t deal with in this post. The point of showing this to the reader is to demonstrate how carefully copied the Hebrew text of the Old Testament was copied over the course of its centuries and millennia of existence.
Even if a word may had appeared oddly spelled to scribes copying the text (as in the case of the ketib (׳יַעֲשֶׂה׳), they still would keep that reading in the text and have the right pronunciation (the qere reading יַ֣עַשׂ). This was to ensure that not one word would be lost. As Jesus reminds us in Luke 16:17 “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.”
As we close out today’s post, we can consider Naomi’s instructions to her daughters-in-law as urgent appeals to go in the kindness and grace of the Lord. As the Book of Ruth begins with a tone of tragedy, Naomi is wrestling to keep hold of God’s promises. She lost her husband and her two daughters-in-law lost theirs. As the Book of Ruth unfolds, Naomi will discover that not one word of God will fail. Little did she nor they realize how important of a part they would play in God’s overall promise and purpose to bring the Savior into the world. Thanks be to God we can trust God’s Word. Whether we are dealing in the Hebrew or English text, the point of the matter is this: not one word of God is lost. They are with us. God keeps His Word!