Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Book of Ruth: Introduction

   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 Barnett 
    Ruth 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
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Kim Shay said...

I'm going to be putting together a study on Esther for the women of my church over the summer, with intentions to teach it in the fall. I'll be following along with this study, Diane!

EJN said...

I definitely be following along. SO enjoyed the intro - there are a lot of tibits I hadn't considered. Thanks so much.

jean said...

The book of Ruth is such a lovely picture of how our Saviour redeemed His people. I will be reading it again, Diane.

Anonymous said...

Diane - Your encouragement to continue to learn from the Word of God is a bright spot in my life. Thank you for being willing to be used by Him! Praying for you and looking forward to this study. - Esther in NJ

Becky said...

Definitely following along.


Diane said...

Thank you all. I look forward to hearing your observations!

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