Not Just A Love Story
Its a story about God and how he restores those who look to him with hope. Its about Gods covenant faithfulness and it contributes to the overall covenantal storyline that unifies the entire Bible. The author has gone to great care to honor Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz through the development of their characters in the story. They are character studies of how God works in mundane, everyday events in the lives of his people .
Ruth is an outsider, a Moabite of all people, who breaks social conventions to do right by Naomi. Ruth trusts in Yahweh and commits herself to his people . She makes the offer of marriage to Boaz in an upstanding way in chapter 3:14, which is culturally honorable at the time, not scandalous. God honors Ruths integrity and diligence by weaving her into the big story of salvation.
Boaz is a no-nonsense man of character, principle, and responsibility. Boaz is offered as a model of obedience to the Torah in his treatment of the poor. In Ruth 2, Boaz follows Leviticus 19:910 by leaving work in his fields for the poor widows in his community. He follows Deuteronomy 24:19 in redeeming Naomis endangered lineage, according to the family-marriage law in Deuteronomy 25:510. He catches the closer kinsman trying to defraud Naomi of the land and redeems Naomi and Ruth, to his own economic disadvantage . God uses his integrity to save a widows family and he becomes the ancestor of the Messiah.
Lessons From The Book Of Ruth
The Book of Ruth is the kind of high drama that would have played well in Jewish oral tradition. A faithful family is driven by famine from Judah to the non-Jewish land of Moab. Their sons’ names are metaphors for their misery .
The loyalty that Ruth shows Naomi is richly rewarded, as is her fealty to the one true God of her mother-in-law. Bloodlines are second to faith . When Ruth becomes the great-grandmother of Israel’s heroic king, David, it means that not only could a foreigner be completely assimilated, but he or she might be God’s instrument for some higher good.
The placement of Ruth alongside Ezra and Nehemiah is interesting. In at least one aspect, Ruth acts as a rebuke to the others. Ezra and Nehemiah demanded that Jews divorce foreign wives Ruth shows that outsiders who profess faith in Israel’s God can be fully assimilated into Jewish society.
Love As A Matter Of Feet
Naomi told Ruth to make a note of where Boaz slept and to quietly uncover and lay at his feet. In the culture of the day, this act was understood as one of total submission.
At midnight Boaz awoke, startled to discover a woman lying at his feet. Ruth presented her request humbly enough by saying she was his servant, but was also bold in that she asked Boaz to take her in marriage: I am your servant Ruth, she said. Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family. The phrase “spread the corner of your garment over me” was a culturally relevant way to say, “I am a widow, take me as your wife.”
Attracted to her virtuous character, Boaz readily agreed, but there was still one more obstacle to get past.
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Summary: Ruth Naomi & Boaz
Ruth and Boaz were married, and she had a son, Obed. Eventually Ruth would be the great-grandmother of King David.
The marriage of Ruth and Boaz created a family with a good chance of success, because Naomi was shrewd, brave and persevering Ruth was intelligent, loyal and level-headed Boaz was a good manager of people, and not afraid to get his hands dirty
What are the main themes of Ruths story?
- Friendship: Ruth was poor and a foreigner, but she listened to the advice of an older, wiser woman. In turn, Naomi was rewarded by Ruths unfaltering loyalty. The message? Courage and loyalty triumph over misfortune.
- Family: The story of Ruth celebrates the family and the way it continues through many generations. Ruth, a childless widow at the beginning of the story, became the great-grandmother of Israels great king, David.
- Gods plan: The story of Naomis family and the way it endured is a universal theme. Even Ruth, a foreigner from the despised Moabites, could move Gods plan towards fulfillment.
A Widow An Immigrant And A Future King
You can read so many of the books of the Old Testament in search of a great childrens tale, suitable for bedtime stories. If this is all youre looking for, its all you will find. But there is so much more below the surface. Edward Campbell says it best in the Anchor Yale Bible Commentary,
The Book of Ruth is an intricately woven, magnificently crafted story. It is the work of a person standing in the mid-stream of Israelite life and thought, a person wishing to communicate to his audience things very close to the heart of the Old Testament.
There is more to this story than meets the eye, which is why were doing a blog on it!
Introduction & Prologue: The Book of Ruth begins by highlighting the Judges theme of Israel needing a king and exploring the misery and emptiness a singular family might experience during these dark times . All the males of this Israelite family leave Bethlehem and die in Moab, leaving Naomi without a male relative to care for her.
Act 1: Naomi returns . Ruth the Moabite is loyal to Yahweh and Naomi.
Act 2: Ruth and Boaz the Judahite meet in the fields . Boaz is presented as a man of character . Naomi hatches a plan to join Ruth and Boaz for good .
Act 3: Ruth and Boaz are at the threshing floor . Ruth is then presented as a woman of character . Naomi furthers her plan to join Ruth and Boaz for good .
Act 4: Boaz arranges to marry Ruth . Boazs loyalty to God, his commandments, and his family is highlighted.
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The Ordinary Can Do The Extraordinary Work Of God
What is so fascinating about Ruths story is the fact that shes just an ordinary woman. Maybe this is why so many are drawn to her story and find it so compelling. She may not come from a famous family. She also may not have great wealth or position. Shes simply a widow from an enemy nation. Yet, shes brave and her faith doesnt waver. A woman who has nothing has a story that becomes so important that it is mentioned in the Bible and her name is recognized in the lineage of Jesus. How incredible is that?
Ruth showed remarkable faith for such a young believer. Faith that there was still a purpose for her ahead. Faith to believe that God was who He said He was. And faith to believe that God would provide for her and Naomi. Her bravery, faith and obedience can encourage us to be better followers of Christ.
Lesli White is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth with a Bachelors degree in Mass Communications and a concentration in print and online journalism. In college, she took a number of religious studies courses and harnessed her talent for storytelling. White has a rich faith background. Her father, a Lutheran pastor and life coach was a big influence in her faith life, helping her to see the value of sharing the message of Christ with others. She has served in the church from an early age. Some of these roles include assisting ministry, mutual ministry, worship and music ministry and church council.
Naomi Loses Her Husband And Sons
1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.2 The mans name was Elimelek, his wifes name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
3 Now Elimelek, Naomis husband, died, and she was left with her two sons.4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years,5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
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The Unfolding Of A Divine Pattern
The Scroll of Ruth is not a legal document giving instruction on levirate marriage and land redemption. As Jack Sassoon has pointed out, it is a folk tale, with the structure and logic of the storytellers art. It takes the legalities of the time for granted, as incidental to the unfolding of a Divine pattern within human lives, in the creation of a family tree for King David, with possible intimations of a messianic kingdom. It began with the suffering of Naomi, and ends with her joy. The declaration of Ruth is fulfilled: The destinies of Naomi and Ruth are interlocked, they are now one family and one faith. Boaz has fulfilled both of their hopes he has been the redeemer to Naomi, the true husband to Ruth. And the community rejoices.
Lesson #4 Sharing Openly About Our Relationship With God Brings Intimacy To Relationships
The story of Naomi and Ruth are woven together closely that their stories are nearly inseparable. In fact, we know more about the relationship between these two women than we know about them individually. Their relationship offers a beautiful model of a good relationship a stunning look at a blending of lives.
The two women shared great sorrow, but they also shared great affection for one another. We also see the freedom in their relationship. Naomi loved Ruth, but she was willing to let her go back to her family. But it was Ruths love for Naomi that made her willing to leave her country to return to Israel. Even though Naomi knew that a new marriage for Ruth would change their relationship, she still played an important part in arranging the marriage of Boaz and Ruth.
It was their faith that was at the center of their relationship and intimate communication. Through Naomi, Ruth learned about the God of Israel and chose to put her trust in him. Naomis ability to be open and honest with Ruth about her relationship with God is inspiring.
Naomi was open with Ruth about the joy, the fear, the pain, and the anguish that came with her faith in God. She admitted that she felt that God had dealt with her bitterly. And yet it was that sharing and intimacy that was the foundation of the deep relationship these two women shared.
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Chapter 3 Bible Theme: Ruths Proposal
Over a period of several months, Ruth willingly works in Boazs fields to provide for her and Naomi. Naomi repays Ruths kindness by devising a plan that will force Boaz to make a more serious decision about Ruth.
Ruth is instructed by Naomi to engage in a common, ancient Near-Eastern custom of asking Boaz to take her for his wife in the place of her dead husband because he is a close relative . This takes place at night on a threshing floor during the harvest.
Ruths proposal is accepted when Boaz throws a garment over her. Even though Ruth sleeps at Boazs feet through the night, there is no hint of improper behavior.
Ruths Declaration Of Loyalty
Ruth remains with Naomi, while the realistic Orpah accepts Naomis reasoning that the daughtersinlaw need not become refugees in turn. The text needs no embellishments:
Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you. For wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die and there will I be buried
It is a statement of loyalty and faith which endures through all generations. And the loyalty is soon put to the test, as Ruth goes out to glean in strange fields. There, in the field of Boaz, several patterns converge. Naomi has a plan which will obligate the kinsman to support her. Ruth has her own ideas which will, if realized, change her own position as well. And Boaz moves from an initial position of utter correctness and minimum courtesy to a granting of extra privileges which reflect a change within himself of which he is not fully aware at this point.
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Naomi Conceives A Plan
When Ruth returned to her mother-in-law that night, she told her where she had worked in the fields that day. Naomi responded with joy, saying of Boaz:
May he be blessed by the Lord, who never fails to show kindness to the living and to the dead. This man is a near relative of ours, one of our redeemers. Ruth 2:19-20
Then Naomi instructed Ruth to go see Boaz on the threshing floor that night. So Ruth did as Naomi bade her to, and went down to the threshing floor and uncovered his feet where he lay. Boaz awoke at midnight to see Ruth laying at his feet and was startled:
Who are you? he asked. She replied, I am your servant Ruth. Spread the wing of your cloak over your servant, for you are a redeemer. He said, May the Lord bless you, my daughter! You have been even more loyal now than before in not going after the young men, whether poor or rich. Now rest assured, my daughter, I will do for you whatever you say all my townspeople know you to be a worthy woman. Now, I am in fact a redeemer, but there is another redeemer closer than I. Stay where you are for tonight, and tomorrow, if he will act as redeemer for you, good. But if he will not, as the Lord lives, I will do it myself – Ruth 3:9-13
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Names Of The People In Ruths Story
Ruth means lovely friend.Naomi means pleasant, but the name she called herself later was Mara, meaning bitter.Boaz means powerful or strong.Mahlon is sickness. Chilion is used up.Orpah means back of the neck she turned her back on Naomi.Elimelech means my God is king.
The full Bible text of the Book of Ruth is available here.
The Story of Ruth, Thomas Matthews Rooke, 1876
Lessons From Ruth And Naomi
The Book of Ruth is a beautiful example of how God can take a hopeless situation and turn it into something glorious. The story begins in tragedy with famine, and the death of Ruth and Naomis husbands. But because Ruth is loyal and faithful, God rewards her. Not only is Ruth redeemed by Boaz, but she also becomes an ancestor to the future king of Israel. What is particularly important to note in this story is Ruths heritage: she was a Moabite, a detail that is reiterated frequently in the book. In Ruth and Naomis lifetimes, the Israelites looked down upon the Moabites, considering them to be an inferior people. In selecting Ruth, God chose one of the least of these as the basis for the lineage of not only the future king of Israel, but for the Messiah who would save the world. Gods choice to include Ruth in the story of divine redemption shows that his grace is for all people, and that no person is too insignificant to be used for his glory.
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He Takes Care Of Business
Before getting too taken by emotions and excited about Ruth’s interest in him, Boaz made sure that the right thing was done first. Naomi wanted to sell a piece of land that belonged to Elimelek and whomever bought the land would also acquire Ruth’s hand for the land in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property. Although Boaz was in line for the rights of the land, there was another guardian-redeemer that had first dibs. Boaz talked to guardian-redeemer himself and, as it turned out, that man did not want the land and Ruth. So this gave Boaz the go-ahead and he declared there to buy the land and take Ruth as his wife!