Ruth

An introduction to the book of Ruth. The book of Ruth is quite exciting; most people remember it as a love story about finding the perfect husband (Boaz), but really, it tells us the story of Christ and the Church--which, of course, is still a powerful love story!

Introduction

With only 4 chapters, Ruth is one of the shorter books of the Bible. It is named after one of the most well-known women of the Bible and the main person featured in the book. One of 2 women who have an entire book in the Bible named after them (the other being Esther), Ruth is clearly someone of great importance. Another factor that makes Ruth standout is the fact that she isn't an Israelite. How many other non-Israelites have a book in the Bible named after them? These key differences tell us that there's definitely something worth remembering inside this book.
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Authorship and Date

Authorship

It is unknown who wrote the book of Ruth, though the Talmud credits Samuel.[1] The only clue given in the book is about the time period of the author's life: David is listed as a descendant of Ruth in Ruth 4. Thus, whoever wrote the book must have lived after the birth of David. The genealogy does not continue after David, however, which suggests that the author was a contemporary, not a successor, of David. With this in mind, Samuel, who anointed David and served as the final judge, makes perfect sense as the author.[2]
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Date of Authorship

If we are right that a contemporary of David wrote the book, whether Samuel or someone else, the book had to be authored sometime during David's lifetime. This would place the date of authorship between 1040bc and 970bc.[3] While it is possible the book was written during the early years of David, I would guess that it was written after he became king. After all, why would we care about descendants of Ruth if it didn't lead us to King David, who in turn leads us to Jesus? God always knew that Ruth's lineage would be important, but whomever wrote the book of Ruth would not have been privy to that information until David's rise to fame.
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Date of Events

The events of the book, however, occur somewhat earlier in Israelite history, still during the era of the judges. Unlike the book of judges, which focuses on the troubles and failures of Israel, Ruth focuses on redemption. We see its relationship to Judges only in the fact that the catalyst for the events is a famine brought on by the disobedience of the Israelites. Ruth is the bright light in the sea of darkness for that era.
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Message and Purpose

Often remembered simply for the "love story" aspect of Ruth and Boaz, the book of Ruth doesn't actually talk about romantic the way one would guess. In fact, other than simply helping out someone in need, Boaz seems pretty distant. In fact, technically Ruth propositions him to marry her. I'm pretty sure the focus on this aspect of the story stems from societies expectations of women. Many of us have heard the saying about waiting for Boaz; with the invention of the internet there are countless memes centered around Ruth and Boaz. They are often but forth as the perfect couple, or the couple you should aspire to be. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful story, but the narrative is about so much more than a damsel-in-distress story. To reduce the whole book to a love story is a gross injustice.
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Relationships

At the heart of this story is relationships, and I don't mean the eventual romantic relationship between Ruth and Boaz. I'm talking about all the relationships that led up to their union.

Naomi and Ruth

The first relationship that plays a role is that of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. Imagine, you're living in the United States and you marry into a Mexican family who have just moved to the States. Your husband, his father, and his brother all die. Upon these deaths, your step-mother decides to return to Mexico. As a woman during the time period in question, you couldn't work or own anything so your choices are to cleave to your mother-in-law and sister-in-law in poverty or return to your parents house where you will be cared for until you find another husband. What do you chose to do?

Ruth chose the former. She could have taken the easy way out like her sister-in-law, but Ruth clearly had a special relationship with to Naomi. This mother-daughter, familial protection proves to be in both Naomi and Ruth's favor. In this relationship, we see the importance of taking a risk like moving another country simply because a member of your family needs you there.

Boaz and God

The next important relationship is Boaz' relationship with God, because that effected his relationship with servants and the poor. While most of Israel was eschewing the law, Boaz was upholding the laws about providing for the poor. He is friendly with his servants and makes a point to ease the burden of those around him. I think we can all agree that God would want us to mirror this compassion in our relationship with those around us.

Christ and the Church

The final important relationship is that of Christ and the church. You thought I was going to say Ruth and Boaz, didn't you? Well, them too. The relationship between Ruth and Boaz is actually symbolic of Christ and the church, which is the most important take away from the book. Not only does Boaz's actions for Ruth mirror Christ's actions for the church, Boaz is an ancestor of Jesus as well.
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Faithfulness

The other key point in Ruth is faith. Ruth commits herself to God even though she didn't grow up with Him and wasn't a member of His chosen people. She follows her mother in law and God to a place she knows essentially nothing about. She would have seen Israel as a nation that her in-laws left due to famine and a people that were at odds with her people. It takes some strong faith to decide to follow someone in to hostile and unfamiliar territory.
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References

  1. Holman Bible Publishes. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg. 455-458. 2014
  2. MacDonald, William. Believers Bible Commentary. pg. 287-288. 1995
  3. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. "King David". Jewish Virtual Library. 2016

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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