Field of golden barley

Loyal Ruth and God’s Providence

The book of Ruth is a wonderful story showing God’s faithfulness to Naomi’s family. It is also a story of a loyal Ruth who was a Moabite. Moabites were enemies of Israel. Despite the tragedy in the family, God restores joy to this family. It’s interesting how the narrator doesn’t mention God once. However, God is in the background orchestrating all the events of this story. This is a story of redemption that reminds us of our own redemption by the Lord Jesus. The author of the book is unknown, but the genealogy at the end suggests that it was written during or after the time of David.

Video Summary

Below is a good video from the Bible project summarizing the book of Ruth.

Introduction

The events of this book happen during the time of the judges. Below is Ruth’s family tree.

Ruth's Family Tree taken from the ESV Global SB Notes
Ruth’s Family Tree taken from the ESV Global SB Notes

Timeline

Timeline for the Event in the Book of Ruth
Timeline for the Event in the Book of Ruth from the ESV Global SB Notes

Outline of the Book

  1. Introduction: Naomi’s Family Dies (Ruth 1:1–5)
  2. Naomi Returns to Bethlehem with Ruth (Ruth 1:6–22)
  3. Ruth Gleans in Boaz’s Field (Ruth 2:1–23)
  4. Ruth, at the Threshing Floor, Asks Boaz to Marry Her (Ruth 3:1–18)
  5. Boaz Arranges Redemption at the Gate (Ruth 4:1–12)
  6. Conclusion: Naomi Blessed with a New Family (Ruth 4:13–17)
  7. Genealogy: Extended Blessing (Ruth 4:18–22)

Israel and Moab

Map of Israel and Moab

The Moabite nation was the result of the incestuous relationship between Abraham’s nephew Lot and Lot’s older daughter (Gen. 19:30–37). The Moabite people were therefore related to Israel. This is why, as Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, the Lord commanded them not to go to battle with Moab. He was not going to give any of the land of Moab to Israel, for he had given it to the descendants of Lot (Deut. 2:9).

Although the Moabites refused to show the hospitality due to members of their extended family, they did permit Israel to cross through their territory on the way to the Promised Land (Deut. 2:26–29). However, Moab hired Balaam to curse Israel. Moab determined that Israel was their enemy (Numbers 22–24). When that failed, Moabite women seduced Israelite men into immorality and idolatry (Numbers 25).
The Lord thus excluded Moabites from the temple, and Israel was not to seek Moab’s peace or prosperity (Deut. 23:3–6). Consequently, Ruth’s ethnic identity is what makes Boaz’s redemption of Ruth—and, more significantly, the Lord’s redemption of Ruth—so amazing. Ruth was a Moabite who worshiped Moabite gods.

An Important Lesson from the Book of Ruth

This is a good note from the ESV Global SB Notes. The dominant theme in Ruth for global Christianity is Gentile inclusion into the people of God. Ruth is a classic example within the Old Testament of how an individual outside the covenant community becomes a member of the people of God by faith alone (see Rom. 3:29–30). Ruth is a foreigner and part of a despised people who had treated Israel with inhospitality and hostility. Nevertheless, through her faith, the Lord welcomes Ruth into his covenant community as a full member. In fact, by her unswerving loyalty to Naomi, Ruth matches the great matriarchs of ancient Israel. The genealogy of Jesus in (Matt. 1:1–16) mentions Ruth as one of only five women.

Tragedy Strikes

The family moved to Moab from Bethlehem due to a famine in the land. Soon after that, Elimelech died. Chilion and Mahlon married Orpah and Ruth and lived 10 years in Moab. Then both Chilion and Mahlon died. Poor Naomi was devastated. The family escaped famine for fear of death, yet death still occurred.

Loyal Ruth and Her Character

Naomi had nothing left in Moab, so she decided to return to Israel. Naomi knew what kind of hardships her two daughters-in-law would experience in Israel as widows. Therefore, she asked them to go back to their parents’ houses and remarry. Orpah went back. However, Ruth was loyal to Naomi and clung to her (Ruth 1:14). Then loyal Ruth uttered the most famous quote in the book:

‘But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where 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. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” ‘

Ruth 1:16-17

The Return to Bethlehem

Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem. The whole town was stirred because they were concerned to see Naomi returning without her husband and sons. Then Naomi reveals her pain and belief that God is punishing her by saying:

‘She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” ‘

Ruth 1:20-21

The meaning of Naomi is lovable or my delight. She didn’t feel loved or joy at this point. She asked to be called Mara instead. Mara means bitter or sad. This reminds me of the waters of Marah where the Israelites were thirsty and they found bitter water (Ex 15:23, 24).

Loyal Ruth Gleans in Worthy Boaz’ Field

According to the ESV Global SB Notes: Gleaning was the Hebrew practice of allowing the poor to follow behind those harvesting crops to gather any food or grain left by the harvesters. Gleaners often worked from morning to evening, to gather enough to sustain themselves and their families. After sundown they would take the gathered grain and thresh it to separate the edible portion from the husk.

‘So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. ‘

Ruth 2:3

The above verse is interesting in that it says: “she happened to.” Of course, it’s God orchestrating the circumstances in the background.

A Foreigner Finds Favour

Ruth wonders why Boaz would act so kindly toward her. Ruth calls herself a foreigner, but because of her loyalty to Naomi and to the Lord she has become a sojourner, who can enjoy many of the rights of an Israelite (Lev. 24:22; Num. 9:14; Ezek. 47:22–23). It’s fascinating to see how the Lord cared for the sojourner in Israel and asked for them to be treated as an Israelite. This even includes worship (Num. 15:14–16).

‘Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” ‘

Ruth 2:10

Boaz instructed his servants to make sure that Ruth gets enough barley. That day, she ended up with an ephah of barley which is about 5.5 gallons (22 liters)—at least a two-week supply for the two women (Ruth 2:17-18).

The Threshing Floor Meeting

This is what the ESV Global SB Notes says about threshing floors. Threshing floors were places where workers separated the grain from the chaff. The floor was usually packed clay soil that had been worn smooth. The workers would spread the sheaves of grain out on the floor. They would then trample upon them, ideally by oxen. The oxen would also drag notched wooden sleds which would help pull the grain from the sheaves. Thieves would often try to steal grain during harvest time. Thus, it was not uncommon for the workers to sleep at the threshing floor.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines Winnowing as follows: Corn was winnowed,

  1. By being thrown up by a shovel against the wind. As a rule, this was done in the evening or during the night, when the west wind from the sea was blowing, which was a moderate breeze and fitted for the purpose. The north wind was too strong, and the east wind came in gusts.
  2. By the use of a fan or van, by which the chaff was blown away (Ruth 3:2 Isa 30:24; Jer 4:11, 12; Matt 3:12).

Loyal Ruth is also called a worthy woman in Ruth 3:11. The Bible also described Boas as worthy in Ruth 2:1. The same Hebrew expression was used in Prov. 31:10 of an “excellent wife.”

What is a Redeemer?

This is from the ESV Global SB Notes. Redemption is a key theme in the book of Ruth. The words “redeem,” “redeemer,” and “redemption” appear 23 times. Redemption is linked to kindness and is at the heart of the story (Ruth 2:20). The book of Ruth describes two legal practices combined into one: property redemption by a near kinsman, and levirate marriage. Property redemption by a relative assured that land would not remain outside the family (see Lev. 25:23–25). Levirate marriage involved a childless widow marrying her husband’s brother to provide an heir for the deceased husband (Deut. 25:5–6). Boaz, a close relative of Ruth, redeemed the family property for her (Ruth 4:9), married her (4:10, 13), and fathered Obed (4:13, 17), who became heir to the property of Ruth’s deceased first husband. The order of redemption was: brother, uncle, cousin, or another close relative (Lev. 25:48–49; Num. 27:11)

Redemption at the City Gate

The city gate served as a combined town hall and courthouse ( 2 Sam. 15:2; Job 29:7–17; Prov. 22:22; 31:23; Amos 5:10). Elders witnessed transactions (Ruth 4:4, 9–11; see Deut. 25:7) and decided legal cases (Deut. 21:19; 22:15). You can also read about Samson and the city gate of Gaza.

When the nearer redeemer learns that Ruth will become his wife as part of the transaction, he changes his mind. Apparently he was concerned that any son born to him and Ruth would share the inheritance already planned for his present children.

Passing of the Sandal

‘ Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. ‘

Ruth 4:7-8

The writer uses the term “in former times” because this practice must be explained since the readers of the book of Ruth no longer did this. They used a sandal as a symbol of transferring the right of redemption (Ps. 60:8; Amos 2:6; 8:6).

Genealogies of David and Jesus

‘Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.’

Ruth 4:21-22

It’s interesting to see that Salmon married Rahab, a foreign godly woman. Then Boaz, his son, married Ruth who was also a foreign godly woman. Jesus’ genealogy includes three foreign women—Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth.

‘ The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham… and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, ‘

Matthew 1:1,3,5-6

Conclusion

The Lord finally blessed Naomi with a new family. The conclusion serves as the reversal of the introduction. The Lord, through Ruth’s love, restored Naomi’s life. Naomi had complained that the Lord had “brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:21). But now, he will be a restorer of life for her. Ruth’s love for Naomi has been steadfast throughout the book (Ruth 1:16–17). On one hand, this is a story of a faithful and loyal Ruth. On the other hand, this is a beautiful story of redemption that reminds us of our great redeemer Jesus Christ. He adopted (Eph 1:5) us into His family. We were once hostile (Col 1:21) and enemies (Rom 5:10) of God. Now we are called sons and daughters of the king of Kings (Rev 19:16).

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