The German poet Goethe described the book of Ruth as “the loveliest complete work on a small scale”. Told in just 85 verses this little diamond sparkles against a bleak backdrop of hard times and apostasy in Israel when the Judges ruled and “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6)The story tells of a young Moabite widow, and her widowed Jewish mother-in-law who return to Bethlehem during the barley harvest. Ruth's loyalty and impeccable character captures the heart of Boaz, a prominent Hebrew kinsman redeemer. This book became so treasured that it's part of the Megillot (The Five Scrolls) which are read publically in synagogues throughout the year. Ruth is read during the Passover which is connected to the barley harvest.The book, classified as a historical work, is nestled between Judges and First Samuel and Jewish tradition has it that Samuel was the author because he didn’t die until after David was anointed King. (I Sam 16:13; 25:1).Since David is the last one mentioned in the closing genealogy of chapter 4, we can assume it was written between 1011-971 BC and that one of the purposes of the book is to show Ruth's place in the Messianic lineage.Surely such a legendary tale would have been a topic of discussion among the royal family in Solomon’s day. The ancient Jewish rabbis believed that King Lemuel (who was perhaps Solomon) was referring to Solomon’s great-great grandmother Ruth when he wrote about the excellent wife in Proverbs 31.
“The fact provides an even more beautiful perspective of the Proverbs 31 woman when we think about all that happened to her, as recorded in Ruth. … Ruth’s distant forefather was Abraham’s nephew Lot who lived in the depraved city of Sodom (Gn 19). [his] ...daughters tricked him into fathering their firstborn children (Gn.19:36). That sin produced the Moabites, a tribe of people forever under God’s judgment. Because of God’s curse, Ruth had to live with the fact that no Moabite could enter God’s assembly to the tenth generation. (Dt.23:3-4). … After a short and sad marriage, she was widowed during a time of great famine. So, she was not a woman who had everything together, but, amazingly, by God’s grace she lived as if she did. He gave her favor in the eyes of Boaz who, recognizing that she was a virtuous woman, took her to be his wife. From her life’s testimony God wrote one of the sweetest Old Testament stories of grace.”1 – Dr. John BarnettRuth and Esther are the only two books in Scripture bearing the names of women and as a side note, no Scripture was ever penned by a woman. These two books have some interesting contrasts in that Ruth is a Gentile woman who goes to live with the Hebrews and marries a prominent Jew in the royal line of David. And Esther is a Hebrew woman who was brought in to live with the Gentiles and marries a Gentile king who sits on the throne of a great empire. Both are women of exceeding virtue and both stories strongly demonstrate God's sovereignty and the ultimate blessing of His people following a period of great trial.Ruth is also one of only five women listed in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew. The other four women are Tamar—the Canaanite who posed as a prostitute in order to bear Judah’s son; Rahab—the prostitute who sheltered the spies in Jericho; “the wife of Uriah”—Bathsheba, who committed adultery with King David; and Mary the mother of Jesus.The themes of the book of Ruth encompass numerous subjects including God’s sovereignty in times of covenantal disobedience; Love and loyalty; God’s sovereignty in redemption; God’s inclusion of those outside of Israel; God’s mercy and provision for widows; A colorful portrait of an excellent woman; Typology reflecting Christ the Redeemer through Boaz; and the role that seemingly unimportant women have placed in the Messianic line of David.Truly, the book of Ruth is beautiful in every respect and provides for us today a wealth of application to our lives.
“The Old Testament book of Ruth is a flawless love story in a compact format. It’s an epic tale, but a short story. … it runs the full range of human emotions, from the most gut-wrenching kind of grief to the very height of glad-hearted triumph.Ruth's life was the true historical experience of one genuinely extraordinary woman. It was also a perfect depiction of the story of redemption, told with living, breathing symbols. Ruth herself furnished a fitting picture of every sinner. She was a widow and a foreigner who went to live in a strange land. Tragic circumstances reduced her to abject poverty. She was not only an outcast and an exile, but also bereft of any resources – reduced to a state of utter destitution from which she could never hope to redeem herself by any means. In her extremity, she sought the grace of her mother-in-law’s closest kinsman. The story of how her whole life was changed is one of the most deeply touching narratives in the whole of Scripture”2 - John MacArthur
I’m excited to begin blogging through this delightful book and Lord willing, I hope to post each week. If you’d like to join in please consider reading through the book of Ruth and I’d love to hear your thoughts as we go along.___________________________
Studies in Ruth
Painting: “Ruth in the Fields” by Hugues Merle (1823-1881)(1) Word Filled Families: Dr. John Barnett; Mullerhause Publishing; pg 46-47(2) Twelve Extraordinary Women: John MacArthur; Thomas Nelson; 2005 pg 69
STUDY REFERENCES & INDEX FOR THIS SERIES LISTED HERE © Diane Bucknell – Theology for Girls - 2013