People of the Promised Land: Ruth
Ruth is by far one of the most popular and favorite people in the Bible. If you’ve been around church at all, it’s likely you’ve heard told this wonderful, inspiring story of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, widowed and alone in a male-dominated society, and the blessings heaped upon them by the Lord for their faithfulness and goodness. But who is Ruth? Why is she so important? And why study her?
Who is Ruth of the Bible?
Ruth lived around 1100 BC in the time of the judges. When this book was recorded is up for debate among scholars. Some conjecture it was during David’s reign or shortly thereafter. Others say it was much later than that due to references from the writer himself such as “in the days when the judges rules” in Ruth 1:1. The author is unknown, but scholars do know this book was read at the Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost) so it was completed in its final form by the end of David’s reign.
Ruth was a Moabitess, an unbeliever, in Biblical Times. She was looked down upon as the Israelites did not like the Moabites and they were frequently at war with one another. She had married a Jew named Mahlon who was Naomi’s son. Naomi, her son, Elimelech, and her other son, Kilion, had moved to Moab due to a famine in Judah. Naomi’s husband died as well as her two sons, leaving all the women widows (Kilion had married as well).
Society in Biblical times had men as the primary caretakers of widows and women. Hence, Naomi decided to return to her homeland to find a relative to care for her. She had beseeched her two daughter-in-laws to return to their homeland, but Ruth had loved Naomi so much she refused to leave her. Both women return to Bethlehem.
The details of what happens next we will study, but suffice it to say what follows is one of the most heart-warming stories of devotion, love, and loyalty in the Bible. Ruth ends up marrying Boaz, a prosperous landowner and distant relative of Naomi’s.
Why is Ruth Important?
Ruth is so important she is one of only two women to have her own book in the Bible. Ruth’s great-grandson turned out to be David of the Bible, perhaps the greatest King God anointed to lead His people. The Book of Ruth also functions liturgically, as it is read during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.
What are the Themes of the Book of Ruth?
- The book of Ruth demonstrates the providence of God at work in the life of an individual.
- It exalts family loyalty.
- It shows how a Gentile became part of the Davidic ancestry; thus, Ruth is cited in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). This also shows the world (including the Jews who were resistant) that God had always planned to include the Gentiles in His plan of redemption.
But the heart of the book is the loving bond between Ruth and Naomi. Their love thrived in suffering and offers hope for others enduring hard circumstances.
Goethe described this book as the loveliest complete work on a small scale. Readable in 15 minutes, the book of Ruth is an encouragement to all.
Historical background for the Book of Ruth can be found in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 that describes the law on marriage of a widow with a member of the husband’s family, the kinsman-redeemer and Leviticus 25:23-28 gives background on a poor person’s property.