The Book Of Ruth
And Ruth said, intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest I will go; and whither thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also if aught but death part thee and me. (Ruth 1:16-17)
There are two books in the Bible that are named for women. They are the books of Ruth and Esther.
This book is named for Ruth, the Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi, who was a Jew. Moabites were descendants of Lot and were heathen people. Ruth is one of four women mentioned in Matthew 1 as ancestors of Jesus who were part of the Messianic family line. The other three women are Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba.
The time of the events of the book of Ruth is identified in the first verse of the first chapter. The story occurred during the period of the judges of Israel which was a time of trouble in the history of God's people, Israel. There was no king in Israel and the people turned away from God to live as they pleased:
In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6)
The book of Judges records this dark period in Israel's history. The people sinned repeatedly, experienced God's judgment, and turned back to God for deliverance. Each time God raised up a judge (a Godly leader) to deliver them.
The events of the book take place in two locations:
Moab, where Naomi and her family fled to escape a famine in Israel (chapter 1, verses 1-18).
Bethlehem in Israel, where most of the story occurs (chapter 1:19-22 through chapter 4).
The book was written for Israel as part of the historical record. It is also recorded for all believers to illustrate the kinsman-redeemer relationship of Jesus Christ.
The main characters in the book of Ruth are:
Naomi: An Israelite woman who migrated to Moab with her husband and two sons to escape a famine in Israel.
Elimelech: Husband of Naomi who died in Moab.
Mahlon and Chilion: Sons of Naomi who died in Moab.
Orpha: The Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi who chose to remain in Moab.
Ruth: The Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi who returned to Israel with her.
Boaz: The son of the harlot Rahab. He was the near kinsman who redeemed Ruth and became her husband.
The unnamed kinsman: A nameless man who legally had the first right to redeem the property of Naomi and make Ruth his wife, but who chose not to do so.
There are several purposes for the book of Ruth:
It demonstrates God's concern for all people. Ruth was a Gentile Moabites, yet God chose this beautiful heathen girl to become part of the family line from which the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would be born. Ruth was the great grandmother of King David and an ancestor of the Messiah.
This is a type or example of how God adopts into His family the "Gentile" (heathen) people of the world through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation He that heareth Him and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him. (Acts 10:34-35)
It documents the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The final chapter traces the family history to King David.
The relationship between Ruth and Naomi is a type of the commitment which should exist between the Church and Jesus Christ.
The life of Naomi illustrates how God takes the bitter experiences of life and transforms them into beauty.
The relationship of Boaz to Ruth is a type of the redemption relationship between Jesus and His Church.
Journey To Moab (Ruth 1:1-2):
Verse one identifies the time of the events of the book of Ruth during the period of the Judges. It also locates the events of chapter 1 verses 1-18 as occurring in Moab.
Moab was about 50 miles from Bethlehem on the opposite side of the Dead Sea. Elimelech took his two sons and his wife Naomi to this region to escape a famine in Israel.
Famine was one of the methods of judgment God used in Old Testament times to punish Israel when they sinned and served other gods. (See II Kings 8:1, Jeremiah 16:3-13; and Ezekiel 5:11-17).
Elimelech should not have gone to Moab because it meant he was fleeing from God's correction. God's land is better in famine than Moab in the time of plenty. The Moabite people served a God called Chemosh who they honored by sacrificing children (see Judges 11:24).
Tragedy In Moab (1:3-5):
While in Moab, Elimelech died and Naomi's two sons married Moabitess women named Ruth and Orpha although marriage by Jews to Moabites was forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 7:3; Nehemiah 13:23,25). Tragedy struck again and both sons of Naomi died. (It is possible they had always been sickly as the name of Mahlon means "sick" and Chilion means "pining.”)
Return To Bethlehem (1:6-18):
When the famine in Israel was over, Naomi planned her return to Bethlehem. She encouraged her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpha to remain in Moab.
The decision she presented to them was actually spiritual.
They could remain in Moab and return to their own people and their own gods if they desired. Naomi did not want Ruth and Orpha to come with her on the basis of their relationship or any reason other than a spiritual decision for God.
Naomi pointed out that there would be a better opportunity for Ruth and Orpha to remarry if they remained among their own people. Sometimes there appears to be no future if you go God's way, but as you will learn, Ruth was blessed because she chose the way of least opportunity.
Orpha was persuaded to remain in Moab, and kissed Naomi goodbye. Many people have affection for Jesus Christ but come short of salvation because they cannot forsake the old life. Like Orpha, they go back to the world seeking rest.
Naomi gave Ruth the option of returning with her sister-in-law, but Ruth clung to Naomi with a beautiful promise of commitment to her and God. Verse 18 records Ruth's resolution which shut the door on her old life. True commitment to Jesus requires that you shut the door on the old life of sin.
Note the elements of Ruth's commitment which are a type of your relationship to Jesus:
Accept: She accepts the way of Naomi: She will go with her. The first step in commitment to Jesus is accepting His way of salvation.
Abide: She will dwell with Naomi and become settled and stable. After accepting Jesus, you must progress on to stability in your relationship.
Align: Ruth aligns herself with Naomi in terms of her people, precepts, position and problems.
People: Ruth aligns herself with Naomi's relatives just as believers should align themselves with the people of God.
Precepts: She aligns herself with the precepts of Naomi, the faith and the God upon which these precepts are based. As a believer, you must align yourself with the precepts in God's Word.
Position: Wherever Naomi dwells, Ruth will dwell. You must likewise position yourself with the cause of Christ.
Problems: She will be with Naomi in good times and hard times, even in death. Your commitment to Jesus should be a dedication unto death, not a short term commitment for good times only.
Arrival In Bethlehem (1:19-22):
Upon arrival in Bethlehem, Naomi's old friends hardly recognize her. They question, "Is this Naomi?" Perhaps the years of sorrow in Moab had dealt harshly with her appearance. She certainly was not the same person who left Israel. Note the contrasts:
She went out "pleasant,” but came back "bitter": Naomi told them to no longer call her "Naomi" which means "pleasant," but to call her "Mara" which means "bitter."
She went out full, but came home empty. Naomi did not accuse Satan of causing her plight. Naomi recognized the correction of the Lord which came to her in the heathen environment in which she placed herself.
Many times we do not progress spiritually because we blame Satan instead of recognizing the correcting hand of God and changing our sinful ways.
The purpose of God's correction by God is given in Hosea:
Come, and let us return unto the Lord; for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten and He will bind us up. (Hosea 6:1)
Correction drew Naomi back to God. It would not be long and the Lord would heal Naomi's bitterness and make her part of a beautiful plan for the redemption of all mankind.
Naomi's use of the word "Lord" ("El Sadday" in Hebrew) demonstrates she had not lost her faith in God. The word speaks of the sufficiency of God. Although she was empty and bitter, she still acknowledged the sufficiency of God to meet her need. She was saying,"I am in need, but God is sufficient."
She left in time of famine, but returned in time of harvest: This third contrast is not readily apparent but is found in verse 22. Naomi left Israel in a time of famine, but returned to reap a harvest in both the spiritual and natural realms.
Ruth In The Fields Of Boaz (Ruth 2:1-17):
Ruth went to glean in the fields of Boaz which was an acceptable occupation for young women of that day. Land owners were commanded by God to leave a portion of the crop for the poor to glean.
Ruth showed initiative as she set out to work. You cannot just sit and wait for God to work in your life, but you must cooperate and work with Him. Ruth did what needed to be done. Even the details of life necessary to provide a living are profitable when done for the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).
There is no fate in the life of a Christian, neither was it fate that Ruth chose to work in the field of a kinsman of Naomi's, named Boaz. God is at work and guides you in the routine, even the desperate circumstances of life. Boaz looked with favor on Ruth and told her to remain in his field throughout the harvest. He also made special provisions for her at mealtime.
The Return Of Ruth To Naomi (Ruth 2:18-23):
Ruth returned home shared the events of the day with Naomi who recognized the hand of God at work. Boaz was a near kinsman and as such had certain obligations by law towards Ruth and Naomi.
Naomi's Plan (Ruth 3:1-5):
Recognizing the hand of God, Naomi shared a plan with Ruth. Being a near kinsman, Boaz had a responsibility to redeem property belonging to Naomi, to marry Ruth, and to raise up children to carry on the family name (Deuteronomy 25). Instead of bringing Boaz before the public and forcing him to redeem her, Ruth quietly provided him the opportunity to accept or reject her by going to him in secrecy at night.
The Results (Ruth 3:6-13):
Ruth was within her right asking Boaz to "redeem" (marry) her. Boaz was willing and eager to perform his responsibility, but said there was a kinsman closer than he who had the first right. It is not enough to work God's plan, but it must be done by His methods. Boaz must first approach the other kinsman and give him his rightful opportunity to redeem Ruth. He told Ruth to wait until morning, then return home and wait for him to settle the matter.
The Return To Naomi (Ruth 3:14-18):
Ruth returned to Naomi and told her all that happened. Naomi told her to be patient, for Boaz would not rest until he concluded the matter. God did not rest until redemption was accomplished for all mankind through Jesus Christ. He will not rest in arranging the circumstances of your life until redemption is accomplished in you personally. Note that Ruth did not return to Naomi empty handed (verse 18). Naomi's "empty" days, to which she referred in chapter one, were about to be over.
The Redemption Process (Ruth 4:1-12):
Boaz met with the near kinsman, who is unnamed. The meeting was at the city gate in the presence of the elders, which was the center for business and legal transactions. The other kinsman refused his right to redeem Ruth because if he claimed Naomi’s property, he must also marry Ruth. If they had a son, then a portion of his property would go to Elimelich's house instead of his own children.
Boaz redeemed Ruth according to custom, in the presence of witnesses. His redemption is a type of Jesus Christ redeeming us from sin. According to the law the redeemer had to be:
A near kinsman (Deuteronomy 25).
Willing to redeem (John 10:18; Isaiah 53:7, Galatians 2:20).
Have the ability to redeem (John 10:11-18).
Be free himself, just as Jesus was free from sin.
Have the price of redemption, which was the blood line. We are redeemed by the blood of Jesus (I Peter 1:18-19 Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 10:4).
Just as Boaz met these requirements in the natural redemption of Ruth, Jesus met them in the spiritual redemption of man.
The Union Of Ruth And Boaz (Ruth 4:13-17):
Ruth and Boaz were married and had a child. Naomi was no longer bitter, but blessed of the Lord. Her blood line was continued and her property redeemed. She took the child and became nurse to it. It is Naomi, not Ruth, that is featured in the closing scenes of the book. Naomi's life has changed from bitter to pleasant.
No matter what your circumstances of life, God wants to change you from bitter to pleasant. He wants to change your name, so to speak from "Mara" to "Naomi." He is working in your circumstances to restore all that has been lost and then use you as part of His plan.
The Genealogy Of David (Ruth 4:18-22):
The book of Ruth closes by recording the genealogical link between Ruth and David, who was part of the Messianic line of Jesus Christ. This final note demonstrates God's purpose and plan in history and that life is not just haphazard. God is at work in all the circumstances of life to bring forth His plan of salvation to the nations of the world.
Character Traits Of Ruth
Several beautiful character traits are evident in the personality of Ruth. Read the references on the next page and study the beautiful nature evidenced by this woman of God. Ask God to build these qualities into your own life:
Reference & Trait
1:16-17 Love, commitment
2:2 Humility (to glean); industrious; respect (she asks permission of Naomi)
2:14 Temperance (ate only enough to suffice)
2:18-19 Accountable (to Naomi with her work)
3:10 Submissive to law of God (not seeking young men, but God's plan)
3:10 Eternal values, not wealth in mind
3:14 Concerned about the "appearance of evil" (left before daylight)
3:18 Patient (after she had done what she could, she left the results to
Read the story of the harlot Rahab in Joshua 2. Then turn to Hebrews 11:31 and note that she is included in the list of Old Testament characters credited by Paul as having demonstrated great faith.
Rahab was the mother of Boaz, and as such is included in the ancestry of Jesus Christ. Isn't it wonderful that God includes all races (Ruth who was a heathen Moabite) and all backgrounds (Rahab who was a harlot) in the earthly family of Jesus?
It is the same in the spiritual family of believers. No matter what your race, culture, or background, you can become part of the family of God through faith in God, repentance of sin, and accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.
For further background on the period during which the events of the book of Ruth occurred, read the book of Judges. Note the seven cycles of sin, punishment, and deliverance experienced by Israel.