The Book of Ruth–Introduction
August 16th, 2020

In the book of Ruth, we’re going to see how God provides for us in hard times and in good times, how He can take bleak circumstances and turn them to joy. 

The book of Ruth is a story of love and redemption, which points, over and over again to God’s love for us, despite the way circumstances look, and how He looks for opportunities to bless us, as we return to Him.

  • Who’s who
    • Authors:
      • The Holy Spirit
      • Human Author unknown–likely the prophet Samuel (who also likely wrote Judges).
    • Audience:  Written to the Israelites as a historical narrative of how God had worked in the lineage of King David long before he was born.
    • Main persons in the Narrative
      • God—Mentioned, and working unseen in the narrative.
      • Naomi—“pleasant one”—a Jewish former resident of Bethlehem, wife of Elimilech, and mother of two sons, Mahlon and Chilion.
      • Orpah-“Neck”—wife and widow of Chilion
      • Ruth—”Friendship”—widow of Mahlon, who later marries Boaz
      • Boaz “In him is strength”—a wealthy Bethlehemite land-owner, who was a distant relative of Mahlon, and marries Ruth. 
      • Unnamed Nearest Kinsman
    • Place in God—are they Jews, Gentiles, Saved-Church, Unsaved, Mixed?
      • All are Jewish, except Ruth and Orpah.
    • Passions—what are they excited about.  What are their motivations?
      • Naomi is passionate about family—it’s the continuing of her family that is put in jeopardy at the beginning of the book, and is resolved at the end.
      • Ruth—wants to serve God and serve Naomi, and she wants a husband and a family.
      • Boaz is passionate about helping Ruth and Naomi, and loves and marries Ruth by the end of the story.
    • Perplexities—what are they struggling with?
      • Should Ruth return with Naomi, or stay with her own people?
      • Should Ruth continue to worship the gods of the Moabites, like Chamoth, or should she worship the One True God?
      • What will Ruth and Naomi do to live, since they have no income?
      • How to make Boaz notice Naomi
    • Problems—what are their stated problems?
      • Famine—nothing to eat in Israel
      • Barren–lost only two sons
      • Death of sons/husbands of Naomi and Orpah
      • How is Ruth going to provide for Naomi and herself?
      • Nearer relation wants to redeem the land
  • Where? Places
    • Where written—Likely either Ramah, Samuel’s hometown if written by him, or in Jerusalem, if written by one of the scribes.
    • Location of audience written to:  Israel
    • Places mentioned
      • Moab- Moab was located on a high geographical plateau directly east of the Dead Sea, between Edom and Ammon. Moab was known for its rich pastureland for sheep and other livestock (Numbers 32:1; 2 Kings 3:4).
      • Judges 3:12–31 gives an account of the 18-year oppression of Israel under King Eglon of Moab until God raised Ehud to deliver the people.
    • The city of Bethlehem, located about six miles southwest of Jerusalem, is the birthplace of our Savior Jesus Christ. Meaning “house of bread,” Bethlehem was also the renowned City of David. It was there in young David’s hometown that the prophet Samuel anointed him to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 16:1-13).
  •  When was it written?
    • Years
      • Ruth was likely written just before the reign of King David (1011 to 971 B.C.). 
    • Historical background.  What else was going on in their world at that time?
      • The book is written from the perspective of looking back to events during the last part of the time of the judges, so about 1,100 BC or so. 
      • We’re going to learn that this was not the brightest of times for the nation of Israel.  The book begins in a time of famine.
  • Why? What was (H)his Purpose
    • Inferred purpose.  What is accomplished, in spiritual terms, by the book of Ruth?
      • David was supposed to be King in Israel—Samuel had been sent by God to anoint David King.  He also knew that Saul wasn’t relinquishing the throne to him as God had intended. 
      • Nowhere else in the Bible is the concept of the kinsman-redeemer illustrated so beautifully.  This concept of a relative who buys back what we could not is used by God in the Old Testament to point us to Jesus as our Kinsman Redeemer.
  • What? Genre/Structure
    • Themes
      • At it’s heart, the book of Ruth is a love story
        • A story of sisterly supportive love between Ruth and Naomi
        • A story of romantic love between Ruth and Boaz
        • Most of all, a story of God’s love in graciously rescuing of Elimelech’s family from starvation, and from extinction, by providing them an heir.
      • Famine to fullness/darkness to light
        • To the way the ancient Hebrews thought of things, Darkness comes first, then the light
      • The revelation of God working in the background, unseen
      • There are a lot of problems to overcome in this short 4-chapter book. 
      • God rewards those who seek refuge under His wings.  
      • Elevation of Ruth from lowly Moabitess foreigner. 
      • The Kinsman Redeemer.  The book of Ruth is a story of redemption; of buying back what was lost, of restoration, and future glorification.  It presents a picture of Jesus, our Kinsman Redeemer in the person of Boaz.
      • Ruth, the Gentile bride—the Church
        • This story presents Ruth, the Gentile Bride as a picture of the Bride of Christ, the Church. 
        • Ruth, is not only the courageous Moabitess who won over the people of Bethlehem because of her Hesed
      • Naomi—as a type of Israel
        • Naomi was the closest relative, and so had a prior claim upon the go-el redeemer to redeem the land for her, but gave it up in favor of Ruth.
      • Answered prayer—Every prayer in the book is answered during the course of these 4 chapters
    • Genre—Hebrew historical short narrative.
  • How? Structure—how is Ruth organized?
    • Four chapters
      • Naomi is bereaved of loved ones in chapter one, helps Ruth in chapters 2 and 3 and rejoices over Obed in chapter 4.
      • Ruth Chooses to follow Naomi back to Israel in chapter 1, seeks a way to help Naomi in chapters 2 and 3 and receives a husband and the inheritance in chapter 4. 
      • Boaz seeks Ruth in chapter 2, loves Ruth in chapter 3 and Marries Ruth in chapter 4.
    • Main ideas/themes
    • Repeated words, phrases
      • Return—shoob—to turn back, to return.  Occurs 12 times in the first chapter.
      • Travel—to go, to walk
      • Kinsman
      • Redeemer
      • Rest
      • Glean Hebrew Laqat—2:2. 2:7, 2:15, 2:17-19, 2:23—means “to gather together” or “to pick up”.  Interesting facts:
        • This book is the only one in the Old-Testament named for a Non-Jewish person. 
        • This book is the only book in the Old Testament named after an ancestor of Jesus.
        • This book is one of only two books, together with the Book of Esther, named after a woman, and in each case, they are the central person in the narrative.