Ruth Lesson 1

An Extraordinary God

In the Lives of

Ordinary People

Ruth was the great grandmother of King David. She is also one of only four women specifically named by Matthew in the lineage of Christ (Matthew 1:5). Jewish tradition credits Samuel as the author, which is plausible since he did not die (1 Sam. 25:1) until after he had anointed David as God’s chosen king (1 Sam. 16:6–13). However, neither internal features nor external testimony conclusively identifies the writer. This  story most likely appeared shortly before or during David’s reign of Israel (1011–971 B.C.).

 

For many years, Moab oppressed Israel during the period of the judges, if you read Judges chapter 3, at least 18 years of direct oppression by Moab against Israel during the period of the judges. So Moab, on and off again, was troublesome to Israel. Moab was idolatrous, rejected the true God, and was generally an enemy of Israel. This country originated when Lot fathered Moab by an incestuous union with his oldest daughter (Gen. 19:37).

 

 

 

 

 

Key Themes

  1. Kindness. Ruth shows kindness to her mother-in-law, Naomi, by leaving her homeland to care for her (1:16–17; 2:11, 18, 23). Boaz shows kindness to Ruth as he welcomes her to Israel, acts as her kinsman-redeemer (4:9–10), and marries her (4:13). Human kindness reflects the Lord’s kindness toward his people (see Ex. 15:13; Deut. 7:8–9; Psalm 136).
  2. Redemption. Redemption is linked to kindness and is at the heart of the story (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).

The word “love” is completely absent from the book of Ruth, though it is a story of love on several levels.This book also highlights the genealogy of King David and shows the reversal of the curse which had been laid on the people of Moab. (Deuteronomy 23:3)

Ruth 1:1–5

Jdg 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. This verse describes the time of the book of Ruth.

The book of Ruth neither commends nor condemns the actions of Elimelech and his sons. The point is not whether they sinned. The point is what God brought about in the midst of tragedy.

Spurgeon comments that…

Many are the afflictions of the righteous. Thus are they made like Jesus their covenant Head (cp Col 1:24). Scripture does not flatter us like the story books with the idea that goodness will secure us from trouble; on the contrary, we are again and again warned to expect tribulation (Acts 14:22) while we are in this body.

From: J.I. Packer and M.C. Tenney, Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1980, p 418:

The death of a husband always has far reaching consequences for his family.  The people of biblical times were no exception.  After a period of mourning, the widowed wife might follow several courses of action.

If she was childless, she was expected to continue living with her husband’s family, according to levirate law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  She was to marry one of her husband’s brothers or a near kinsman.  If these men were not available, she was free to marry outside the clan (see verse 9). Deu 25:5 

Widows with children had other options open to them.  From the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit we learn that some moved back to the family of their father or brother (Tobit 1:8).  If the widow were elderly one of her sons might care for her.  If she had become financially secure, she might live alone.  For example, Judith neither nor moved into the home of a relative, for “her husband Manasses had left her gold, and silver, and menservants and maidservants, and cattle, and lands; and she remained upon this estate (Judith 8:7).” 

Occasionally a widow was penniless and had no male relative to depend on. Such women faced great hardships (cf. 1 Kings 17:8-15; 2 Kings 4:1-7).

 

Ruth 1:6-18

Naomi and her Daughters exhibited 1804 George Dawe 1781-1829

 

Note not “god” but “gods” indicating the Orpah’s polytheistic paganism practiced in Moab with the despicable idol Chemosh being the chief Moabite false “deity”, one so vile that its “worship” was associated with child sacrifice (2Ki 3:27), which God says was tantamount to sacrificing one’s children “to the demons.” (Ps 106:37)

As Boaz reiterates in the next chapter, Ruth “left (her) father and (her) mother and the land of (her) birth, and came to a people that (she) did not previously know” (Ru 2:11) and sought refuge under the wings of “the LORD, the God of Israel” (Ru 2:12) Boaz’s declaration implies that Ruth’s parents were still alive, making her commitment to the “Chosen People” even more striking. Thy God, my God – Ruth makes this confession during the days of the judges when the majority of the “chosen people” chose to forsake the living God and cleave to dead idols.

 

 

 

 

Ruth 1:19-22

The first chapter of ruth reads much like the first chapter of Job. Naomi lost her husband and her sons, and apparently was without resources.

Rth 2:2  And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” Notice that Ruth is called “Ruth the Moabitess.” This title shall be used a total of 5 times throughout this book.Ruth’s request was considered acceptable among the poor of Israel. The Law actually provided for the poor to enter a field on the heels of the reapers.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, not gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 23:22).

The Law mandated that the leavings of the field reapers were to be left behind for the poor and the illegal alien to take. Ruth fit into both of these categories. She had no other means of caring for herself and Naomi.The significant point of the story is that she happened to pick the field which belonged to Boaz.

 

Ruth 2:3-17

In harvesting, the reapers would first, cut the barley stalks by the handful. They were followed by others who bound 8-10 of these handfuls into sheaves. Only after the sheaves were carted off were the poor permitted to pass over the field. But now Boaz permits Ruth to glean among his harvesters and instructs them not to bind every handful but to even leave some loose for her (Ru 2:15). The actions of Boaz clearly indicate he is taking more than a passing interest in Ruth.

Ruth 2:18-20

Naomi is beginning to see and understand the unfolding of God’s sovereign plan regarding her and Ruth the Moabitess and as she is reminded of the covenant loyalty of Jehovah, her emotions begin to shift from bitterness to blessing. (Ps 147:3)

Kinsman-Redeemer
Male relative who, according to various laws found in the Pentateuch, had the privilege or responsibility to act for a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need of vindication.

The Hebrew term designates a male relative who delivers or rescues ( Gen 48:16 ; Exod 6:6 ); redeems property ( Lev27:9-25 ) or person ( Lev 25:47-55 );avenges the murder of a relative as a guiltless executioner ( Num 35:9-34 ); and receives restitution for wrong done to a relative who has since died ( Num 5:8 ). The unique emphasis of the redemption/salvation/vindication associated with the kinsman-redeemer is the fact that this action is carried out by a kinsman on behalf of a near relative in need. This idea is most clearly illustrated in the Book of Ruth.