Western Literature^2 lesson 50

“How important is the idea of covenant sanctions in the week’s readings?”

“Ruth Eats Dirty Fruit (Well, it was on the Ground!)”

Covenant sanctions are an ongoing theme throughout the entire Bible, but especially in the books of Ruth, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Matthew. This week’s readings were all from these four books in the King James Bible. The reason that the King James Bible is so important is because it was originally copied from many different versions of the Bible, so it is known as the most complete version of the Bible; and it retains beautiful poetry-like language while still being easily understandable. By 1769, Benjamin Blayney published the modern King James Bible complete with proper spelling and punctuation. It is in this Bible that the stories of Ruth, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and the Sermon on the Mount, are retold like poetry to remind its readers of the importance of covenant sanctions.

The story of Ruth is that of an Israelite family that moved to Moab due to hardships in their native land. One of the sons of the family married a young Moabite woman by the name of Ruth, who took a covenant to convert to the religion of Yahweh. Unfortunately, the son perished and Ruth was left a widow. When the mother, Naomi, returned to Israel, Ruth accompanied her despite the woman’s protestations to find a husband and stay and find a husband. Once back in Israel, Ruth worked tirelessly to keep them both fed by gathering leftovers from a farmer’s field. Boaz, the owner of the land, observed her hardworking attitude and took a fancy to her. Naomi practically threw Ruth at the farmer and the two were married. Because of Ruth’s ethical approach to life and acceptance of Yahweh, she was rewarded with extremely positive sanctions by becoming the future great grandmother to King David.

The story of Jeremiah is not as cheerful. Jeremiah the prophet observed that the Israelites were breaking their covenant to Yahweh made by Moses, and preached to them about why they should obey the lord, but they refused to listen. In Laminations, the Israelites finally received their negative sanctions and were driven from their homeland by the Babylonians. Despite the despair and hopelessness of their situation, there is still an element of hope in Lamentations that God may rescind his negative sanctions if only they truly repent and live ethically once more by the covenant that Moses made in the form of the 10 commandments.

In another story, Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount in which each Beatitude earns a positive sanction if performed. He reminds the people about the old Mosaic Law and commands people to follow it, although only the idea of the Laws, not the machinations. Giving many examples of what to do or to avoid (such as teaching about anger, judging others, the golden rule, and the narrow gate) in order to gain access to Heaven, Jesus ends by saying, “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” ~Matthew 7:26-27. And Jesus, being the Son of God, knew what he was talking about.

Covenant sanctions, favorable and dreadful (and shady), are the backbones for the stories of Ruth, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and the Sermon on the Mount. Without the basic ethical messages, the stories would be entirely pointless to read unless for historical analysis. The poetic language of the King James Bible helps deliver the message of the significance of covenant sanctions that are famous throughout this great book.

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