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.
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.