Book of the Month

February 2023
Ruth (NICOT)
Peter H. W. Lau

About Ruth (NICOT)

A Conversation with Peter Lau

Every Voice: What led you to start researching the book of Ruth?

Peter Lau: I had completed seminary training at Sydney Missionary and Bible College but realised I lacked confidence in teaching and preaching Old Testament narratives. I wanted to think more about how to teach ethics without falling into moralism and integrate biblical theology without falling back to the same Jesus ending every week.

EV: What are some of the primary themes that stand out to you from the book of Ruth?

PL: Some important themes in Ruth include God’s hidden providence, human initiative and action, the cycle of divine-human kindness, God’s blessing, applying the law, and Ruth’s ethnicity and Israelite identity.

EV: Who’s your target audience, and what’s distinctive about your commentary?

PL: My target audience is pastors and preachers, students and scholars, and educated Bible readers. The commentary’s distinctives reflect my experiences and interpretive interests. They include the following approaches:

  • Biblical-theological 
  • Literary-narratological
  • Social-scientific
  • Gender-based
  • Missional
  • Ethnic-contextual

EV: Did you have any “aha” moments while writing the commentary?

PL: One reason I was hesitant to write this commentary was that I had already spent over a decade thinking about the book of Ruth. But I’m pleased to report that I still learnt a lot from the discipline of writing this commentary, from zeroing in on textual matters to bringing it all together thematically. God’s word is indeed immeasurably rich! A couple of “aha” moments include sorting out in my mind what is going on with the field harvester’s reply (Ruth 2:7) and what is happening with the threshing floor rendezvous (Ruth 3). (I’m not spilling the beans. You’ll have to read the commentary to find out!)

EV: What was the most challenging part of writing it?

PL: The hard but satisfying work of textual criticism—a footnote sometimes took me hours!

EV: If Ruth was made into a movie based on your commentary, what actors/actresses would play the lead roles?

PL: (For inclusiveness’ sake!)

  • Naomi: Michelle Yeoh
  • Ruth: Zendaya
  • Boaz: Denzel Washington
  • Mr So-and-So: Daniel Craig

EV: Why should people consider preaching and teaching from the book of Ruth?

PL: It’s a great story depicting the highs and lows of human experience. It inspires us to be proactive, kind and generous in our daily lives because although it might sometimes feel as if God is absent, he is always working to fulfil his purposes. And the Ruth narrative ultimately points to God’s kindness in redeeming us, from all nations, through Jesus.

About the Author

Peter Lau (PhD, University of Sydney) is an Adjunct Lecturer at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia, Equip Gospel Ministries (Malaysia), and Sydney Missionary and Bible College.