Read Ruth 1-4.
Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers
Her Name is Woman Book Two by Gien Karssen
Faithful God by Sinclair Ferguson
The book of Ruth is short, only four chapters, but there is much in little. On the surface, it is a love story of an unlikely woman,a poor widow from Moab, with a wealthy, honorable Israelite, named Boaz.
Sinclair Ferguson describes how a personal ad would have appeared in the Bethlehem Star:
"Single Moabite woman, widowed, childless, with mother-in-law, seeks well-to-do Bethlehem businessman with view to marriage; must love mother-in-law."
The story is about the themes of returning/conversion, loving-kindness, loyalty and faithfulness. It shows how Ruth and her meddling mother-in-law, Naomi are saved by their Kinsman-Redeemer. It has an overarching theme of the Providence of God in difficult circumstances to advance his kingdom. It was written a few generations after the fact to show how God used an unlikely foreign woman to be the great-grandmother of King David. Ruth is also listed in the Gospel genealogy in Matthew to show that she is also in the family line of Christ. It shows the inclusion of the Gentiles (non-Jews) in the great plan of Redemption.
Ferguson also contrasts Boaz with Adam. They both seemed to have it all, but they were both alone, and that was "not good". They both went to sleep, and when they woke up, the woman of their dreams was there.
Ruth is always used as an example of loyalty and faithfulness. Her famous words (spoken to her mother-in-law) are often quoted at wedding ceremonies to show devotion. I don’t know if that means you’re pledging your love to your Mother-in-law...
“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And 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.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”
The Bible has a bit of everything in it. There is history, biography, poetry, prose, apocalyptic and even romance. The book of Ruth is a romance novella which plays an important part in redemptive history. God could have just thrown a couple together in an arranged marriage and the family line of Christ would have continued on. Yet he chose to give us a glimpse into the character of a young Gentile woman, in order to give hope to those of us outside of the nation of Israel.
Who are the players in this story?
-A wealthy businessman in Bethlehem; he was powerful and important in society.
-Older than Ruth by at least twenty years.
-Parents were Salmon and Rahab, the harlot. (Remember them from our last study?)
-Would he have grown up with any stigma due to his mother’s history? Perhaps. It would have made him more sensitive to the feelings of an outsider.
-He is impressed by Ruth as she works in the field, hearing a good report of her by his foreman.
-He has heard of her actions in following Naomi to a strange country. He may have thought of his mother, Rahab, who did the same thing.
-Although he is impressed by her and may even be attracted to her, he doesn’t pursue her as he probably feels their age difference is too great.
-If it were not for Naomi’s meddling and Ruth’s willingness to do as Naomi instructed her, Boaz may never have made a move.
-When she approaches him the night on the threshing floor and basically proposes to him, he is very humble, not even acknowledging that he is quite an eligible bachelor. Instead, he commends her for not running after the young men.
-He guards her reputation the night on the threshing floor by sending her away while it is still dark, lest someone assume something happened between them, and then he gives her grain to take with her in case someone was to inquire where she was at that hour.
-He remembers that there is another relative who is closer than he. This is the conflict, or complicating factor you see in all great romances. How will they overcome it? Will our hero and heroine find true love?
-He also tells her he’ll approach the other relative, so she doesn’t have to humble herself by proposing to someone else.
-He also indirectly promises to care for Naomi as well.
-He may have worried that the other relative would be greedy for the land, but was pleased that the man did not want to have a wife whose son would bear another man’s name. He would also have to share his inheritance. Similar idea to the story of Tamar, where Onan did not want to father a son for another man or share the inheritance.
-This transaction, done at the “city gates” where all business was transacted before witnesses,was done properly, so there would be no question as to the legitimacy of Boaz’s claim to Ruth and the inheritance of Elimelech.
-Although it sounds like Ruth is ‘purchased’ in a business transaction, you see from the interaction between them, that Ruth and Boaz do really love each other.
-Left home with her husband and two sons during a famine, and settled in Moab.
-Was she disappointed that her sons married foreign wives? Not ultimately.
-Her husband dies, then both her sons. A true tragedy. Now she is alone and destitute. There was no social assistance or life insurance plans. As a woman in that culture, she would have had no way to earn a living. A widow with no sons was truly destitute, as we learned from Tamar.
-She tells her daughters-in-law to return to their families and their gods, as she would return to Bethlehem. Orpah goes, but Ruth clings to Naomi.
-When they return to Bethlehem, Naomi is welcomed by friends, but she complains about her lot in life and feels God has dealt harshly with her. She is bitter. Much like Jacob after he thought Joseph died, when he said, “everything is against me.”
-They begin to glean. This was a practice put in place by God as a way for foreigners and the poor in Israel to have enough to eat.
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God.” Lev. 19:9, 10
“When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your god may bless you in all the work of your hands....And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this thing.” Deut. 24: 19, 22
-Things begin to change when she sees God’s providence in leading Ruth to glean in Boaz’s field. Although it seems like it was just a coincidence that Ruth ended up in Boaz’s field, we know nothing happens by accident. Naomi knows he is a near relative. Could this key from their past may also be a bridge to their future?
-She is a bit of a meddling mother-in-law, but she does what she does out of love for Ruth and a desire to see her looked after.
-She catches on that there is some interest on Boaz’s part towards Ruth, based on his treatment of her: he makes sure the workers don’t abuse her, he offers her the protection of staying in his field, he lets her eat with them, she can drink water drawn by the servants, he makes sure she can
gather enough food for her and Naomi, and he comments favourably about her character and conduct.
-Naomi hatches a plan based on the right to a levirate marriage. She doesn’t know if Boaz will go for it, but she instructs Ruth to prepare herself as if she was going on a date.
-Ruth trusts Naomi and follows her instructions, since she is unaware of the customs of the Jews.
-I’m sure she was aware that she was to entice Boaz in some way and seek out his protection in marriage. It just seemed like a strange way to go about it.
-When the story ends, the friends and relatives say, “...your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”
-A young woman, from the country of Moab.
-The Moabites were enemies of Israel.
-They are descended from the incestuous union of Lot and one of his daughters after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
-Unlike Orpah, Naomi’s other daughter-in-law, Ruth came to love her new family and trust in their God.
-Ruth’s pledge of undying faithfulness is commendable. Naomi probably doesn’t realize at this point just how much Ruth will mean to her future happiness.
-Ruth is very brave to leave everything familiar and stable and secure to go with Naomi to a new country and unknown circumstances. She is probably aware they will be poor, yet she trusts in God far more than Naomi at this point.
-Ruth follows Naomi’s instructions each day, as she is trying to adapt to this new culture as a foreigner.
-She understands that in spite of God’s commands to look after the foreigner, it was not always done.
-She appreciates the kindness shown to her by Boaz.
-They marry, and now Ruth has two mothers-in-law: Naomi, who is a proud grandmother to their son, Obed, and Rahab, who would have been a very understanding mother-in-law.
-Obed would have been considered to be Naomi’s son, because he would carry the name of her son, Mahlon. Yet, he would have been raised by Ruth and Boaz, and not handed over to Naomi in that sense.
-I love how this story relates back to our study of Rahab, and also farther back to Tamar, because when the townspeople bless their marriage, they say,
“May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this woman.” Ruth 4:12
-Like Tamar, Ruth is an ancestor of David, and of Christ, in an unexpected way.
-The idea of the Kinsman-Redeemer is that a near relative can redeem the property of an impoverished relative. These laws were in place to ensure that family members are looked after and the land stays in the family.
-A mile east of Bethlehem stands the “field of Boaz” which is where Ruth gleaned. The field next to it is called the “field of the shepherds”. Tradition holds that the angels first proclaimed the birth of Christ over a thousand years later. I love how the stories of these women in the
genealogy all tie together.