The scene in the Book of Ruth is set “in the days of the Judges” and covers about ten years (1:1). Although this period in Jewish history is one of immorality and rebellion, this beautiful drama validates all is not lost. It is a brief romance novel, a true story of self-sacrifice, devotion, and faithfulness. It is a biographical interlude which provides hope during national challenges. It proves some of David’s ancestors had their priorities in order.

As this unfolds, we see a small family, facing starvation, forced to relocate from Bethlehem to Moab. There they do not prosper, for all three husbands die.

It is important to understand how the Moabites fit into the history of Israel. The Moabites are the product of Lot’s incest with his own daughters. Because the Moabites attempted to hinder Israel’s movement from the Wilderness of Sinai to the Promised Land, the Lord does not allow them to become Jewish proselytes (Num. 22:5 & Deut. 23:3). They are not heirs of God’s promises and His covenants do not include them. The Hebrews are forbidden to marry those outside the nation of Israel. They are warned such marriages will turn their hearts from the Lord.

The names of the characters provide us with insight:

“Naomi” means “pleasant.”
“Mahon” means “sickly or weak.”
“Chilion” means “one who is pining or ill.”
“Orpha” means “stubborn.”
“Boaz” means “in Him is strength.”
“Ruth” means “friendship, companion, or friend of God.”

The name of Ruth is found only in the book that bears her name, except for Matthew where she is listed as a great ancestress of Christ (Mt. 1:5). It is a perfect short story of the devotion and faithfulness of a Moabite widow who leaves her homeland to accompany her widowed mother-in-law to Bethlehem.

The setting for this drama is established when Orpha returns to her gods, having traveled only a short distance. Ruth, however, is determined to stay with Naomi. Like the patriarch Abraham, she boldly journeys into an unknown future (Gen. 16).

Before the rich treasures found within the book of Ruth can be discovered, a basic timeline is essential:

~ A famine in Judah forces Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons to go to Moab.
~ Elimelech later dies in Moab.
~ Their two sons marry Moabite women - Orpha and Ruth.
~ The two sons, Chilion and Mahlon, also die in Moab.
~ Impoverished, Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem with her two daughters-in-law.
~ Probably somewhere near the borders of Canaan, Naomi cautions them both to consider what they will face when they arrive.
~ Orpha decides to stay in Moab with her false gods and is never heard from again.
~ Ruth vows never to leave Naomi and accepts Jehovah as her God.
~ They travel to Bethlehem.
~ Naomi has a relative there named Boaz and Ruth gleans grain in his fields.
~ Boaz asks his workers her identity.
~ He invites Ruth to glean in his fields whenever she pleases.
~ He instructs his workers to leave extra grain for her.
~ Naomi tells Ruth this a sign of God’s favor because Boaz is a close relative and may be a prospective husband for Ruth.
~ Naomi instructs Ruth to respectfully lay at the feet of Boaz one night as he is sleeping.
~ At midnight Boaz awakes and discovers Ruth who tells him everything.
~ He expresses admiration for Ruth’s integrity and morality.
~ Boaz knows any closer relative can purchase the land Naomi has inherited from her deceased husband and can also claim Ruth as his bride (Deut. 25 & Lev. 25).
~ A closer kinsman does agree to purchase the land.
~ Boaz reminds him if he does, according to law, he must also marry Ruth.
~ This man, who already has a family, respectfully declines.
~ Boaz has ten elders witness the purchase the land.
~ He takes Ruth to be his wife.
~ The people and elders call upon God to richly bless this marriage.
~ Boaz and Ruth have a son and name him Obed.
~ Obed is the father of Jesse.
~ Jessie is the father of King David, the greatest king of Israel.

Some 1,300 years before Jesus is born in Bethlehem, these brave women arrive. They have walked 120 miles to get there. Ruth is pictured as modest, kind, meek, respectful, courteous, loyal, responsible, gentle, loving, and decisive. She ventures out in faith and reaps the rewards of faith.

The story is about ordinary people. There is no giant and a boy with a slingshot. No whale swallows a prophet. We see no men walking in a fiery furnace. No lions are killed barehanded. No Red Sea nor Jordan divides for God’s people to cross. People are not raised from the dead. Within the book of Ruth there are no miracles…except the miracle of love between a man and a woman.

Boaz is depicted as godly, honest, upright, considerate, clever, and discrete. He wants to ensure all things are done decently and in order. Naomi is the rightful owner of her deceased husband’s land.
Boaz begins negotiations with a kinsman by stating the laws regarding real estate purchases (4:1-12). When a man dies, the closest relative is required to marry his widow. Buying the land would involve marrying Ruth since she is the widow of one of the former landowners.

Only after this relative agrees to make the land purchase does Boaz remind him this includes the legal obligation to wed Ruth. The relative already has a son and states he does not wish to complicate any future inheritance issues (4:6). Land acquired in this way must be passed on to the first son Ruth conceives. In Israel, land is not the primary issue but propagation of the family name.

This closer relative surrenders his interest in the land and waves his right to buy it. Taking off a shoe and passing it to another is akin to a handshake or a contract. It legalizes a verbal agreement (4:7). By sealing this transaction publically, he makes a definitive statement of his love and affection for Ruth. He protects her character while honorably dealing with this situation. Although the law requires only two or three witnesses to affirm this, Boaz has ten. He does not take the chance anyone might later claim this settlement is unfair or illegal.

Boaz becomes a type of Christ in several aspects:
~ He extends undeserved favor and grace (2:10).
~ He rewards faithful service (2:15-16).
~ He redeems a Gentile (2:20).
~ He gives a family financial freedom (3:1-2).
~ He is seen as a faithful husband (4:13).
~ He provides a promising future (4:15).

Boaz is responsible for bringing a Gentile into the chronological history of Israel. He honors Ruth for honoring Jehovah, for “under His wings you have come to trust” (2:12). The book of Ruth is seen historically as a simple godly story. It can also be viewed dispensationally – showing how the Gentiles are included in God’s promises. There is also much typology in the narrative. Ruth is a type of an unworthy person who finds grace in the eyes of the only One able to extend it.

Numerous lessons can be gleaned from the Book of Ruth:

~ Ruth’s husband dies, and she puts her trust in God during a horrific time of bereavement (1:5).

~ Ruth is not a prisoner of her past and does not allow it to define her future (1:6).

~ Ruth makes a lifelong commitment to follow God and His people (1:17)

~ Ruth is industrious and immediately goes to work in the fields (2:3).

~ Ruth is obedient and takes Naomi’s advice (3:4).

~Ruth is willing to take a risk which results in a global legacy
(4:13 & 21).

When we first meet Ruth, she is a Gentile and not under the protection of God’s covenant. In the end, she is brought into the family of God. A story that begins with death and poverty ends with new life and wealth. It is a portrait of God’s plan of salvation. It shows how a gentile becomes the great-grandmother of King David.  With crystal clarity, the book shows how the non-Jewish world is grafted into God’s family. In Ruth, we see God’s plan has always been to include all nations. The book proves God can work through anyone, regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, or social status.

The book moves us from the miseries of Moab to the blessings of Bethlehem. It is a story of grace. Ruth trusts Boaz will extend grace to her (2:2). She later affirms she has found grace in his sight (2:10). Though unworthy, Boaz declares her worthy. A Redeemer must know the price, have the resources to pay the price, and be willing to pay the price. Ruth demonstrates a person must make a clean break with their past, utterly forsaking the former life, in order to become part of the family of God.

When the people tell Ruth they hope her children will be like the offspring of Rachel and Leah (4:11), they are trusting Jehovah will bless her as He did the mothers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Since these are Israel’s most beloved and respected women, it is one of the most wonderful compliments found in God’s Word.

As the story draws to a close, Boaz is renowned for his actions and his position in the future genealogy of David (4:21). Boaz is listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the commencement of Matthew’s Gospel (1:5). His contribution to this divine lineage is also reflected in Matthew’s conclusion where Christ commissions us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19). Praise God for our Kinsman-Redeemer who came from Bethlehem.


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