20. All the City…Doth Know That Thou Art a Virtuous Woman

The scriptures on Ruth and Hannah are not just stories of righteous women. These chapters tell of God’s care for the poor and disenfranchised. For example, Mosaic law instructed gleaners to leave some grain in the field so the poor could gather it.

“Ruth, Redemption, Covenant, and Christ,” Kerry Muhlestein, The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, Sperry Symposium 2009
The book of Ruth carries within its pages some of the most fundamental and powerful doctrines of the kingdom. It speaks of and symbolically demonstrates God’s redeeming power; it teaches us of how we can access that power and exemplifies how we should emulate our Redeemer. Numerous elements of the story serve as a type of Christ. It is about hope in Israel. I believe that some of the reason we love the story so much is because, whether we realize it or not, our souls intuitively resonate with the redemption of Ruth; we long for what happened to her on a mortal level to happen to us in both a mortal and eternal way. Ruth satisfies some of our soul’s yearning for deliverance.

“Ruth,” by Francine R. Bennion, Encyclopedia of Mormonism
The heroine of the biblical book of Ruth has been both a formal and an informal model of ideal womanhood for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints: loyal, hard–working, converted, courageous, she makes the best of what is available.

“‘The Lord . . . Bringeth Low, and Lifteth Up’: Hannah, Eli, and the Temple,” Julie M. Smith, Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the Old Testament, Sperry Symposium 2013
Just as Hannah brought her sorrows to the temple in 1 Samuel chapter 1, she brings her joy to the temple in chapter 2. In fact, we can read the entirety of Hannah’s story as a chiastically structured commentary on temple vows:

  • A Hannah takes her sorrow to the temple (1:10)
  • B Hannah makes a covenant (1:11)
  • C Hannah defuses a potentially contentious interaction with a high–status man (1:12–16)
  • D Her desire is granted (1:17–20)
  • C’ Hannah defuses a potentially contentious interaction with a high–status man (1:27–28)
  • B’ Hannah keeps her covenant (1:27–28)
  • A’ Hannah takes her joy to the temple (2:1–10)

Note that the centerpiece of this structure is the Lord granting Hannah’s desire for a child. The fulfillment of this desire is literally and metaphorically surrounded by the making (1:11) and keeping (1:27–28) of covenants.

“Birth and Calling of the Prophet Samuel: A Literary Reading of the Biblical Text,” Steven L. Olsen, BYU Studies Quarterly, vol. 56, no. 1
Samuel is rightly considered to be one of the preeminent personalities of the Hebrew Bible, and his remarkable ministry makes the brief narrative of his birth, childhood, and divine calling worthy of serious examination. Steven Olsen argues that the literary craftsmanship of the text is as expressive of its meaning as are its descriptive contents. He focuses on several recurrent literary conventions that so thoroughly unite the biblical account of Samuel’s birth and divine calling that its craftsmanship aptly serves as a vehicle of its meaning. This study claims that the significance of the story cannot be fully apprehended without an in–depth understanding of the expressive qualities of the text. Recurrent literary conventions that form the interpretive fabric of this account include parallelism, characterization, key words (Leitwörter), type scenes, patterns of customary behavior, and structuring devises like Sternberg’s “play of perspective.”