SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Ruth 1:1 through 4:22
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
Ruth is one of two women in the Old Testament to have an entire Book devoted to them. (Esther is the other.) The Book provides a wonderful historical metaphor of the plan of redemption. It bridges the historic time between the period of the judges and when God granted the Children of Israel their request for a king. It also establishes the ancestry of Israel’s most famous king, David. This was a dark time in the history of Israel. We read, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
The setting for the beginning of the Book of Ruth is the land of Moab, which was located east of the southern part of the Dead Sea. The Moabites were descendents of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his oldest daughter (Genesis 19:30-38). The Moabites refused to give Israel passage through their land to Canaan during the Exodus from Egypt. For this refusal, they and their descendents for ten generations were excluded from gathering with the congregational assembly of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3-4).
The relationship between Boaz and Ruth is a developing theme in the narrative. The Hebrew word ga’al is translated as kinsman in most of the account. Implied in the translation is the responsibility of the kinsman, which was redemption. (See Leviticus 25:23-34 and Deuteronomy 25:5-10.) This act of redemption took on several forms: marrying a kinsman’s widow, freeing family members from bondage, purchasing a mortgaged piece of family property, and avenging the loss of family. Some translators have used the phrase “kinsman-redeemer” to show the fullness of the Hebrew meaning. Others have simply used the word redeemer in places.
The story begins in sorrow with a family fleeing a famine, three funerals, and the grief of separation. As the process of redemption beautifully unfolds throughout the account, it ends with great joy, the provision of needs, an unexpected marriage, and the hope in a new baby’s birth.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- Why did Elimelech and Naomi leave Bethlehem Ruth 1:1? Do you think this was a wise choice? Why or why not?
A famine had arisen in Israel. Since God had promised rain and provision as long as His people served Him (Deuteronomy 11:11-17), one possible reason is that Israel was not fulfilling their part of the covenant and the famine was part of God’s judgment (Judges 21:25). The word Bethlehem means “house of bread.” They left the “house of bread” because there was no bread.
The text does not indicate whether or not they were following God’s instructions in leaving. We do know that God always provides for those who follow Him. In this case, moving out of the Promised Land was costly for this family. Besides the difficulty of the journey and separation from extended family, their sons married Moabite women and eventually all the men in the family died without leaving any heirs. Naomi’s comments in Ruth 1:13 and 20 suggest that she felt her hardships were God’s chastisement because they had left Israel.
Discuss how we should earnestly seek the Lord before making any life-altering decisions. The discussion could include:
• Ways we can find the Lord’s will and receive clear direction.
• Possible results of a wrong decision, and how God might discipline us.
• Personal examples from the class of how they found God’s will and the results of following it.
- After the death of her husband and sons, Naomi determined to return to Israel. Why do you think she discouraged her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, from accompanying her?
Students’ thoughts might include several of the following ideas: In her grief, perhaps Naomi thought they would be better off staying in Moab with their parents. While acknowledging their kindness to her family, perhaps the younger women were painful reminders of the difficulty and loss that followed the choice to come to Moab. Maybe Naomi felt it was unfair to thrust the economic difficulties, which were sure to face her as a widow, upon her also widowed daughters-in-law. These difficulties would only be multiplied by going to Israel where Moabites were not accepted. Naomi even mentioned the futility of waiting for future sons for the daughters-in-law to marry.
Verse 1:13 seems to give insight into Naomi’s state of mind at the time. She was grieving and felt as if God was judging her. Certainly this hampered her ability to offer a sustained invitation. Ask your class how grief, loss, or the discipline of God could limit our attempts at spreading the Gospel. Discussion could bring out that grief and loss can make us emotionally numb, cause our focus to be inward rather than outward, and absorb all of our emotional energy. If we feel we are being disciplined by God, we may feel inadequate or unworthy to reach out to others.
- Ruth was not deterred by Naomi’s comments. Which of Ruth’s actions showed a spirit of willingness?
Ruth’s confession of faith, in Ruth 1:16-17, is classic in all of Scripture. On a board, make two columns listing “Ruth” above one and the word “Us” above the other. Have the class list areas in which Ruth was willing. Her willingness to leave extended family, country, and Moabite religious teachings, and to embrace Naomi, Israel, and the God of Israel are wonderful indeed. She was willing to glean in the fields for their sustenance and to follow the instructions of Naomi concerning Boaz. Next have them list areas and ways in which we can show willingness. Specific answers will have more impact and lead to a more effective discussion.
- Did Ruth just “happen” to glean in the fields of Boaz? Explain your answer. Ruth 2:3
Based on the phrase “and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz,” your students may initially respond that Ruth just happened to glean on the property belonging to Boaz. However, additional discussion should bring out that for the child of God, there are no “accidents.” The divine providence of God led Ruth to the right fields even when she did not know it. Discussion should include the fact that God will always lead a hungry and honest heart toward Himself and to His will for that person’s life.
- One component of the Book of Ruth is the theme of redemption. Define the word redeem and explain how Boaz became a redeemer to Ruth.
The definition of redeem is, “to buy back; to free from what distresses or harms: as to free from captivity by payment of ransom, to release from blame or debt, or to free from the consequences of sin.”
Redemption requires a value or price paid to purchase something back that was sold, mortgaged, lost, etc. Redemption also implies that the one paying the price has a “right” to redeem what needs to be bought back. That right is usually original, inherited, or transferred ownership. Boaz fulfilled the role of kinsman-redeemer by purchasing land and marrying Ruth.
- The Book of Ruth can be used as a picture of how Jesus Christ came to redeem all of us from sin. What similarities are there between Boaz in this account and Jesus Christ? In what ways are they dissimilar?
The class should develop a list in response to both questions. Results could include:
• Both were kinsman (Jesus became part of the human family)
• Both provided redemption for their potential brides (Boaz for Ruth and Jesus for the Church)
• Both made their plans privately but paid the price publicly
• Both did what they did because of their love for their brides
• Boaz redeemed out of his wealth but Jesus redeemed by giving His life on the Cross
• There was one with a higher claim to redeem Ruth than Boaz but there is no one with a higher claim to redeem us than Jesus
• Boaz redeemed that he might preserve and raise offspring in the name of one man (Mahlon, Ruth’s deceased husband) but Jesus redeemed that He might raise many people as spiritual offspring who will glorify His own living Name
- During the time of Ruth, Israelite custom combined the laws of the kinsman-redeemer and the law for levirate marriage (marrying a deceased husband’s brother). Why do you think Naomi started the kinsman process by sending Ruth at night to the threshing floor? Ruth 3:1-4
Naomi realized that Boaz was not only eligible as a potential husband for Ruth but also bore some obligation as a close male relative to purchase the mortgaged property and to marry Ruth to raise children to inherit the land in the stead of Mahlon, her deceased husband. Naomi instructed Ruth to perform actions that were a customary way of indicating to Boaz that he should act as the kinsman and bring her under his protection.
Because of Boaz’s reputation and his actions toward Ruth when she gleaned, Naomi also realized that Boaz cared about Ruth and would honorably fulfill the customs in this area. Note in verse 4:6 that the relative who was closer than Boaz desired the land but not the responsibilities of another wife and children. Commentators point out that acceptance of this responsibility would have diminished his personal resources and thus that of his own heirs.
- Following the instructions of Naomi, who was taking the initiative to arrange for a possible marriage, Ruth made great preparation before presenting herself at the feet of Boaz. What were those preparations (Ruth 3:3)? Compare them to preparations we must make to qualify as part of the Bride of Christ.
Ruth washed and anointed herself, changed her clothing, followed the instructions given to her, and then promised to continue her obedience. She asked for redemption according to the law.
We also need to be cleansed (made holy) and anointed (filled with the Holy Spirit). Our spiritual clothing should be that of righteousness. We need to follow the directions given to us in the Bible and also the leading of the Holy Spirit. While we cannot earn or deserve redemption, it is vital that we allow God to prepare our hearts so we are ready for Christ’s return.
- Redemption is the key theme of Ruth, specifically the fourth chapter. The words “redeem,” “buy,” and “purchase,” are used at least fifteen times. What was the cost to redeem Ruth (Ruth 4:9-10)? Compare that to the price God paid to redeem humanity.
Boaz publicly announced his intention to remove any financial hindrances from the inheritance of Naomi and her offspring (Mahlon and Chilion) and to take Ruth as his own wife. He was obliged to raise children in the name of Ruth’s deceased husband, his near relative. This assured that the lineage would be continued and the inheritance would not be lost.
While salvation is offered freely to humanity, it was very costly from God’s perspective. Heaven’s brightest Jewel willingly offered His own life to satisfy the requirements for the redemption of humanity. No greater price could be offered to secure our redemption.
Because of Ruth’s choice to identify with Naomi’s people and Naomi’s God, she was rewarded not only with a godly husband and a son, but also with the privilege of being the great-grandmother of David, Israel’s greatest king. Ultimately she was included in the lineage of the Savior of all humanity, Jesus Christ.
The story of Ruth provides a beautiful parallel to how we come to faith in God. We begin as aliens with no part in His Kingdom. Then, as we risk everything by putting our faith in Christ, God forgives us, saves us, rebuilds our lives, and gives us blessings that reach forward into eternity.