Ruth is one of the most famous women in the Bible and one of the few who receives a whole book dedicated to them. Notably, the bulk her story takes place in Bethlehem, the future birthplace of Jesus (who is also a descendant of hers).
- Authorship and Date
- Date of Authorship
- Date of Events
- Message and Purpose
- Naomi and Ruth
- Boaz and God
- Christ and the Church
- Chapter by Chapter Breakdown
- Lessons Learned: 💍 The Perfect Marriage
- The Romance
- Relationship with Christ
- Important People
- Other Posts Relating to Ruth
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.
Authorship and Date
It is unknown who wrote the book of Ruth, though the Talmud credits Samuel. 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.
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 1040 BC and 970 BC.
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.
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
Message and Purpose
Often remembered simply for the "love story" aspect of Ruth and Boaz, the book of Ruth doesn't actually talk about romance 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 put 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 (also Ruth didn’t wait for Boaz, she took matters in to her own hand).
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.
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.
Chapter by Chapter Breakdown
Lessons Learned: 💍 The Perfect Marriage
The story of Ruth and Boaz always comes back to the idea of a perfect husband and a perfect marriage. Yet, reading back through the book of Ruth, one has to add a lot in to the story to get the story of romance people make it out to be. As I mentioned in the posts on each chapter, the story of Ruth and Boaz really tells the story of the Church and Christ. Personally, I think this is even more interesting.
Despite being unmarried, I'm well aware that any Christian marriage counselor will tell you that if God is not at the center of your marriage, you will not have a successful marriage. Amos 3:3 asks us the question "Can two walk together, except they be agreed." Generally this is used to confirm that we are not to be unequally yoked, but it also speaks about God being the center of a relationship—any relationship, really. If both people are walking together, they will end up in the same place, but who's to say that place is one of happiness? Two people could walk into adultery together for all we know.
In the movie Why Did I Get Married? there is a scene where a husband nervously reveals that he caught an STD from a woman he cheated with; his wife shocks the whole table by informing him that he didn't get the STD from the woman he cheated with but from his wife who acquired the STD from a man she had cheated with. Dizzying? That's a whole lot of drama, but it seems like these two people were walking in exactly the same direction, it just happened to be a bad direction. The solution to that is to let God do the steering. If I'm walking with God and my spouse is walking with God, then we're clearly walking together, but we also are guaranteed to end up in a positive place.
Ruth probably didn't know much about the God of Israel when she is introduced to us. However, she took a leap of faith and chose to follow Him when she decided to stick by Naomi's side. Boaz also chose to follow God when he decided to heed God's commands about providing for the poor and widows. In following God, they found each other.
I'm not particularly qualified to speak on relationships and marriage, being that I am perpetually single and unmarried, but one thing I know that is illustrated by the book of Ruth, is that God orchestrates the right pairing at the right time. Ruth did not go to Boaz's barley field with the intent of finding a husband, and Boaz did not check on his field with the intent of finding a wife.
There is a saying to be dolled up and prepared because you never know where you'll meet your husband, as well as another encouraging people not to cry/frown because "you never know who's falling in love with your smile." However, if a man or woman cannot accept you when you aren't dressed for the run way and they are not willing to comfort you when you are hurting, how is this the mate God intends you to spend your life with? Sure, first impressions go a long way, but does anyone think Ruth was Instagram ready and smiling as she struggled to harvest barley when Boaz first saw her?
God already knew that these two would meet and marry, just like He already knows who each of us will marry. He sets the stage and He brings the couple together when both people are ready. I know people who knew each other and were friends for a long time. Each person was dating someone else, and when their respective relationships crumbled they found their way to each other and are now happily married. One can always speculate what would have happened if they'd dumped their significant others earlier in life, would they have dated sooner, married sooner, etc.? Possibly, but the truth is, they weren't the same people when they first met. It was only after spending time alone and working on their relationship with God that they were ready to pursue the relationship God intended.
The concept of waiting for your Boaz (or waiting for your Ruth if you're a man) speaks of exercising patience while we grow in Christ. Just like my friends who found their way to each other later in their friendship, we have to be solid in our relationship with Christ first and foremost. It is only when we are rock solid in our connection to Him that we can fulfill the duties of a spouse.
This is why I think the underlying example of the love story between the Church (also known as the Bride of Christ) and Christ is what really establishes the book of Ruth. The problem is that so many people miss this underlying message
I've seen commentaries on the book that confuse Ruth's act of lying at Boaz's feet (Ruth 3:7-8) for the vulgar act of trying to seduce Boaz into consummating a marriage in his drunkenness. Pastor Deffinbaugh at Bible.org suggests that Naomi and Ruth schemed to wait for Boaz to be drunk, have Ruth slip into bed with him, and hope that he would sleep with her thus obligating him to marry her. This is the furthest thing from what is actually written. The act of lying at his feet is confirmed three—there's that holy number 3—times.
And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do.
7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down. 8 And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet.
Ruth wasn't playing the role of seductive temptress, she was declaring herself a servant of Boaz. This is confirmed in Ruth 3:9 when Boaz inquires as to who she is and she replies " I am Ruth, thine handmaid." It was common practice during that time period for servants to lie at the foot of their master, ready to aid the master should he (or she) need anything in the night. If any confusion enters from the use of the phrase "uncover his feet," which admittedly sounds like the euphemism for sex "uncover thy nakedness," it is cleared in Ruth 3:8 when Boaz wakes to find a woman literally lying at his feet. Notice that Boaz was afraid, then he turned himself and then he saw Ruth laying at his feet. Some suggest the word "feet" was a euphemism for male genitalia, but really if you start turning the word foot in the Bible to male genitalia, you're gonna get a really perverted reading of the scriptures... Which brings us back to logic. Let's say they're right that "feet" is a euphemism for Boaz's privates. Now that could be why he woke afraid, but if he turned himself, would not Ruth have been forced to move? Also, if Ruth was laying on his "uncovered" sexual organ, why did it take until he turned over for him to notice her? It doesn't make sense in the context of the scene!
This is just an effort to distract people from the real message. While people are entertaining lustful thoughts and trying to make the Bible out to be as pornographic as modern TV, they're missing the very real symbolism that Ruth was declaring herself as a servant to Boaz the same way we are to declare ourselves as servants to Jesus.
Luke 8:35 tells us the man whom Jesus cleansed of demons was found sitting at Jesus' feet; Luke 10:39 tells us Martha's sister Mary sat at the feet of Jesus. Think of the countless worship songs that reference falling at the feet of Jesus. This is a sign of servitude and committing ourselves to Him. In the context of Ruth and Boaz, this was the sign that Ruth was proclaiming herself a servant of Boaz.
10 And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.
Boaz's reply that she is a virtuous woman proves that Ruth was not in a compromising position!
Relationship with Christ
I digress back to the point of the love story between the Church (also known as the Bride of Christ) and Christ. In the New Testament we are told to go to our closet and pray in secret; Ruth went in secret to ask Boaz to redeem her. There parallels are endless! What you should leave the book of Ruth with is an example of how Christ acts as our Redeemer, how we approach him for redemption and He settles the matter.
The following people are also mentioned in the book of Ruth (many of these will eventually get a dedicated post in the list above).
- Mahlon (son of Naomi and Elimelech)
- Chilion (son of Naomi and Elimelech)
Other Posts Relating to Ruth
- Holman Bible Publishes. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg. 455-458. 2014
- MacDonald, William. Believers Bible Commentary. pg. 287-288. 1995
- American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. "King David". Jewish Virtual Library. 2016
- Annie. "When is a Foot Really a Penis? And Other Things the Bible Taught Me". AnnieGirl1138. 2011
- Davïd. "How does the act of “foot washing” lead to the act of “sexual intercourse”?". Biblical Hermeneutics. 2014