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This book is about a Moabite woman named Ruth who lived during the time of the Judges, who would turn out to be the great-grandmother of King David. The book was probably written around 1000 BC and is one of two Old Testament books titled after a woman. But though nobody knows who actually wrote the account, Ruth is the subject. Her life exemplifies the highest standards of character: devotion, hard work, honesty, and sacrifice. And it shows that while Israel as a whole had largely sunk into idolatry and chaos, there were always people who remembered God and Moses. Though God never speaks to her or anyone else directly in this account, God’s hand is clearly evident.

Ruth 1

Ruth’s mother-in-law was Naomi, an Israelite who had to move from Bethlehem to Moab with her husband and their two sons during a famine. After her husband died there, her sons married Moabite women, one of whom was Ruth. But when both her sons also died, she was left without support or land title, so she decided to return to Israel, where at least she had some rights as a widow and the famine had ended.

But though her daughters-in-law came with her, Naomi stopped and told them to go back to their mothers, where prospects were better for them to find husbands. But Ruth refused to leave Naomi, and this is where we find Ruth’s statement of loyalty and her commitment to worship the God of Israel.

So off they went to Bethlehem. Being a small village, when Naomi returned they remembered her and were happy to see her. But she told them of the tragedy that had befallen her, and she took it as punishment from God, though there is no mention of anything she had done that would make her deserve it more than other people. Nonetheless, she never blamed God for any wrongdoing.

The end of ch. 1 states that the time of year was the barley harvest, which would have been in the spring. This was an early harvest or first fruits, meaning the greater harvest was still to come. This has obvious significance in Bible prophecy and the foreshadowing of the festivals to the eventual coming of the Messiah.

Ruth 2

This chapter opens with a note about a legal principle in Israel called the kinsman redeemer, who would be responsible for carrying on the line of any childless male relatives and for supporting anyone in the clan who was impoverished. In this case it was a wealthy and respected man named Boaz. Now it doesn’t appear that Naomi knew this at first, when Ruth volunteered to glean the fields so they wouldn’t starve. But God saw to it that she went to a field owned by Boaz; the phrase just happened is God working things out behind the scenes.

On top of that, it just so happens that Boaz comes to greet the harvesters when Ruth is working behind them. He is told her story, and though she’s a foreigner he treats her very kindly. When she returns home and shows Naomi the amazing haul of grain for the day, Naomi tells her that that Boaz is their legal guardian, so she should continue working there where she’ll be safe.

Ruth 3

Eventually Naomi knows that Ruth needs a home and family of her own, and that Boaz would be required by law to marry her. So she tells Ruth to do something very unorthodox to say the least: Dress up, wait till dark, sneak up to him while he’s asleep, lie down beside him (or at his feet), cover herself with his cloak, and then ask him to marry her! I think we’re all making the same face right now.

There are some good points in this source concerning Ruth and Boaz. First of all, there are no other examples in scripture of this being a normal or customary way to propose marriage. Second, it leaves little to the imagination: Wait for a man to fall asleep after he’s had plenty of food and drink, then lie down beside him in your best outfit. Though there is no expressed or implied basis for claiming anything actually happened, the intent was unmistakable.

Third, compared to Samson, Ruth’s actions were exemplary. And besides, she was only carrying out Naomi’s instructions, not bringing any customs from Moab. Fourth, the timing was meant to take advantage of Boaz being in a vulnerable state after celebrating the harvest, as only Naomi would know. Fifth, the reason Boaz didn’t want anyone to know she’d been at the threashing floor likely had to do with the fact that people would presume immoral behavior had taken place. It may be that Naomi thought something would happen and then Boaz would have no choice but to marry Ruth, since there seems to be no other explanation for the plan.

Though that article tries to fault Naomi on the grounds that she should have let Boaz take the leadership role, the other points seem valid. Ruth can be excused for not knowing the legal issues and social customs. But Naomi’s fault, in my opinion, was not in taking initiative but in the manner of carrying it out. After all, Tamar was considered the righteous one when she took the initiative to preserve the family line— and her methods were decidedly less defensible than Naomi’s!

As for the proposal itself in verse 9, the article makes a good case for translating it as the Greek does: Take me under your wing as next of kin. This idea of spreading a wing or corner of cloth over someone is common throughout scripture. She was more asking for security than expressing lust, which is proved by Boaz’s response. She came to him instead of chasing younger men, because she was honorable and devout, regardless of what Naomi may have had in mind. Ruth was selfless to a fault.

Ruth 4

The next day Boaz goes to the city gate to conduct the formal business of offering both the land and Ruth to the nearest kinsman, who exercises his option to pass the rights on to Boaz. But again we see that women were considered property to be bought and sold, though also again, they fared better in Israel than in many other societies of the time.

So they get married and have a son named Obed, who would be the father of Jesse, who would be the father of David. Thus we see that the line of the future king David already includes a prostitute (Rahab) and a Moabite. God is not a respecter of persons, and as we’ll see when we study the choosing of David as king, neither does God choose servants on the basis of the flesh. But again, don’t jump to the wild conclusion that this means God is finished with the people of Israel as a nation.


This story of Ruth is rich with symbolic meaning. The one who was in grief and poverty is redeemed and sheltered due to the mercy of the one in a position to help. This levirite law (kinsman-redeemer, not Levi) pointed to what Jesus would accomplish by stooping down and sacrificing for the world. Ruth modeled Jesus in her selflessness and humility, while Boaz modeled Jesus in his redemption of the helpless and vulnerable.

In scripture, God is never the one condoning the mistreatment of the poor or lowly; in fact, his laws put limits on abuse by the rich and powerful. The great error of modern Christianity is failure to recognize this characteristic of God, in spite of scriptures such as James 4:6 which says that God is opposed to the proud but gracious to the humble, and 1 Cor. 1:27 which says that God chose the foolish to shame the wise, and the weak to disgrace the strong. Cold-hearted hierarchy is why the church has been far less effective than it was meant to be.

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