Thoughts on the Book of Ruth

David’s Great Grandmother

“Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16, all citations from NASB).

by Ioan Hosu


The Book of Ruth has been said to be part of a Bethlehem Trilogy, incorporating the narrative of Ruth and the last two narratives of the Book of Judges (chapters 17-18, then 19-21). Bethlehem was the birthplace of King David, as it would be the birthplace of King Jesus centuries later (Micah 5:2).

The book of Ruth, illuminating the sweet and faithful qualities of this Moabite native, is an encouragement to many of us, from Gentile extraction, that are drawn toward the promises of God. Ruth pleased God and was rewarded by being one of the family of God’s chosen king. In this way the Book of Ruth relates to us who wish to be part of the family of God’s chosen Messiah.

This testimony by example is a pleasant lesson for us. As one of the “cloud of witnesses,” Ruth speaks to us of kindness, perseverance, gentleness, devotion, meekness, humility, and service — the qualities that should operate in us. God blessed Ruth to be one of the progenitors of King David, and thus of Jesus, and also by interleaving, in the narrative of her life, lessons that represent God calling the Bride class for his son Jesus. Thus, we have an exhortation, in this case by example, coupled with some deeper instruction by type and picture.

The Narrative

It appears that the  book of Ruth was written by Samuel, the prophet, between 1046-1035 BC. The book of Ruth is a narrative about how a Gentile woman came to be numbered among Jesus’ ancestors, as reflected in Matthew 1:5.

Due to a great famine that came over the country, a family from Bethlehem in Judah decided to leave the land of Israel and live for a while in the land of Moab. The name of the man heading that family was Elimelech. His wife was Naomi, and their two sons were Mahlon and Chilion (Ruth 1:2).

Naomi’s husband died and the two sons married Moabite women. One of them was called Orpah and the other one Ruth. Shortly after that, Naomi’s two sons also died. Then she heard that “the LORD has visited His people” and there was food again in the land of Israel. Naomi decided to return home, but the two daughters-in-law did not want to leave her. Naomi said to them, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband” (Ruth 1:8-9).

At Naomi’s supplication, Orpah returned back to her country but Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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 I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17). Hence, they traveled together to Bethlehem. After reaching the city, Naomi did not want to be called “the pleasant one” any longer, since as she declared, “the Almighty has afflicted me” (Ruth 1:13,20,21). Then she said: “call me Mara,” which means bitter.

One day Ruth asked her mother-in-law for permission to go and “glean among the ears of grain” (Ruth 2:2). She happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, a rich man, who was of the family of Elimelech.

When Boaz saw Ruth, he asked his servants, “Whose young woman is this?” A servant replied, “She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab” (Ruth 2:5,6). Boaz, the master of the field, encouraged Ruth to stay close to his servants during the entire harvest time, to work in his field and to drink water out of his jars (Ruth 2:8,9).

When Ruth saw Boaz’ care toward her, she fell on her face before him and was very amazed, not understanding why he should take such notice of her. Boaz replied, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge” (Ruth 2:11-12).

On returning home, Ruth told her mother-in-law all that happened to her and how she found favor in the eyes of Boaz. Naomi counseled Ruth on what to do to become Boaz’ wife, for he was a close relative and he had the right to redeem her.

When Boaz saw her, he said: “May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence. And now it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I” (Ruth 3:10-12). The very next morning, Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city and called upon the relative that had the right to redeem Ruth. Boaz said to him, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance” (Ruth 4:5). But that man, the closest relative, did not want to redeem Ruth, for fear of jeopardizing his own inheritance. Thus, Boaz redeemed Naomi and Ruth, the young Moabite woman, and everything that belonged to the family of Elimelech. According to a well-established custom of the time, the two men exchanged their sandals before the elders of the city. So, Ruth became the wife of Boaz and she gave him a son. They named him Obed. Obed was the grandfather of David.

Meaning

We notice that Ruth, the young Moabite woman, was blessed by God because she was an honest woman, humble, and faithful, who loved her mother-in-law very much. Out of this story we learn still more significant lessons. In Israel, people’s names had deep significance. The name Ruth means “friend, the one that gets close, friendship, beauty.” Further, we know that the name Naomi means “the pleasant one.” Boaz means “strength” (Young’s Concordance, 1 Kings 7:21 margin), perhaps meaning that through God he would be strong. Obed means slave, servant of God, worshipper. Ruth, according to the meaning of her name and according to her attributes of character, represents the bride of Christ. She became the wife of Boaz (Christ), because she listened to her mother-in-law, who typifies the prophets of the Old Testament.

In the same manner, the church of God will become the bride of the Heavenly Groom, for she looks up to and listens to the advice left to her by the prophets of old (Psalms 45:10-11). As with Naomi, the prophets began their ministries full of happiness and zeal for the name of the LORD. However, their ministries eventually brought them much sadness, bitterness, and suffering, as was the case of Jeremiah, Micah, Elijah, John the Baptist, and many others.

In the Biblical account we are also told about an unnamed individual (Ruth 4:1) who was Naomi’s closest relative. As stated above, this man did not want to redeem Ruth, a Gentile, but was interested only in the family of Elimelech. This man appears to represent the Law, which was given to the people of Israel. This law did not provide any promises or provisions to the Gentiles, but was intended only for the people of Israel.

From the word of God, we see that Jesus Christ, represented by Boaz in our lesson, did not provide redemption for any until he brought the Law to an end (Ephesians 2:1118, Romans 10:4). This is seen in the fact that Boaz would not take Ruth to be his wife until the next of kin was properly dealt with. The child that was born to Boaz and Ruth, and raised by Naomi, represents the human family during the times of restoration. The Lord Jesus with the church will bring forth from death the entire human race which, during the Millennial Age, will receive instructions from the Old Testament prophets.

As Naomi was finally very happy because her beloved daughter-in-law gave birth to a son for her, likewise the prophets will be very happy at the sight of mankind coming out of their graves, children of the heavenly bride and bridegroom.

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