Who is in Ruth?
Three people are featured in this book. Ruth is a Moabite widow, who pledged faithfulness to her Israelite mother-in law named Naomi, including Naomi’s land and God (Ruth 1:16). The second chapter introduces Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s husband, who ends up as a redeemer to marry Ruth and continue the family line.
What is in Ruth?
Ruth is the eighth book in the Bible, and a change of pace from the previous books in the Bible. While past books have dealt with the entire nation of Israel, Ruth is a small, more personal story, yet one just as worthy as inclusion in the Bible as any other. The book of Ruth describes the story of Naomi and Ruth. The two widows decide to go to the land of Judah upon hearing that the Lord was providing for his people there. Ruth stays with Naomi even though Naomi wishes for Ruth to stay and not share in the misfortune that she has, having lost her husband and two sons. Furthermore, Ruth is a Moabite, but pledges herself completely to Naomi (an Israelite), her land, and her God. Upon arrival in Bethlehem, Ruth met Boaz who shared his grain with her and showed her kindness, knowing that she in turn showed kindness to Naomi in traveling with her to a foreign land. After telling Naomi that she got the grain from Boaz, Naomi reveals that Boaz is actually a close relative of hers! Being a close relative of Naomi’s, Boaz is a kinsman-redeemer (see Other Notes). Boaz agrees to fulfill the role by marrying Ruth, and together they continue the family line by birthing Obed, the grandfather of King David, who in turn is an ancestor of Jesus.
Who wrote it?
According to Jewish tradition, Samuel wrote the book of Ruth. The family line given at the end of Ruth goes to David (Ruth 4:17-22). This implies that David was known to be of renown at the time of writing. While Samuel was dead when David assumed the throne, Samuel DID anoint David for the kingship while David was a boy.
When was it written?
The presence of the genealogy ending in David means that the book was written after David was known to be king. The birth of David is typically dated at 1040 B.C., and his anointing and revelation of kingship was when he was a boy, able to tend sheep.
When does it take place?
Proceeding logically from the above, Boaz was the great-grandfather of David. The book references that it took place during the time when the judges ruled (Ruth 1:1), which meant before 1050 B.C., likely earlier around 1100 B.C.
Why was it written?
Ruth and Boaz an important part in the genealogy of Jesus, but an even more important role in displaying God’s love and faithfulness to others. Ruth is another example of how God’s grace is not limited to any particular subset of people. Ruth was a Moabite, a pagan, but she dedicated herself to Naomi, Israel, and God, and by the grace of God, gained redemption for her family in her lifetime and eternal redemption in her family line through Jesus.
How does Ruth apply to me today?
Ruth’s actions in traveling with Naomi exemplify the kindness that comes from the Lord. Similarly, Boaz’s actions in acting as kinsman-redeemer exemplifies the actions of God in redeeming His people. By the end of the book, Ruth and Naomi experience an unexpected reversal of fortune brought on by Boaz’s kindness, and Boaz and Ruth’s marriage, although they may not have known it, continued the family line that would lead to the ultimate redeemer, Jesus.
What is a kinsman-redeemer? As the Bible Project video linked below explains, a kinsman-redeemer was someone within the family that, in the event of a male death, would assume responsibility over the land and marry the widow in order to preserve the family. In this case, Boaz married Ruth, securing the future of both Ruth and Naomi.
As for all posts in this series, a book introduction in a good study Bible will provide more information than listed here. The ESV Study Bible is one recommendation.
The Bible Project has a great overview video of Ruth.
Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0