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Getting to Know the Bible: Ruth Overview



Peace & Blessings Beloved,

TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.


Today we are going to visit our Getting to Know the Bible Series. In this series, our goal is to come to a comprehensive understanding of each book of the bible. At this point of the series we're going to focus on Ruth. But before we get to Ruth 1, I want to ensure we have a baseline understanding of the book of Ruth. This way we can have a full appreciation for the exquisiteness of the entire book, as well as each individual chapter.


And so, in that spirit, see below for a comprehensive overview of the book of Ruth, as we prepare to behold and discern Ruth, beginning with Ruth 1 in our next installment of this series.




Book Type: Writings (Hebrew); Historical (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox)


Authors: The Book of Ruth does not specifically name its author.


Date of Writing: The exact date the Book of Ruth was written is uncertain. However, the prevalent view is a date between 1011 and 931 B.C.


Audience: The book of Ruth was written to the Jewish people, likely during the time of David's reign as king. This audience was familiar with David, yet likely lacked the background of his family line beyond his father Jesse. The book of Ruth provides two benefits to that audience. First is a powerful relational account. Second is a theological narrative, connecting David with his ancestors in a manner reflecting God's love and divine plan.


Original Language: Hebrew


Genre: Narrative


Title: The book is named after one of its main characters, a young woman of Moab, the great-grandmother of David and an ancestress of Jesus (4:21-22; Matthew 1:1,5). The only other Biblical book bearing the name of a woman is Esther.


Timeline: The story of Ruth occurred in the days when the judges ruled Israel (1:1), possibly 1370 to 1041 BC. It bridges the time from the judges to Israel's monarchy. The book was written sometime after David became king in about 1010 BC.


Theme: Ruth, a Moabite woman, proves to be a model of faithfulness in Israel during the period of the judges.


The importance of faithful love in human relationships among God's kingdom people is powerfully underscored. The author focuses on Ruth's unswerving and selfless devotion to desolate Naomi (1:16-17; 2:11-12; 3:10; 4:15) and on Boaz's kindness to these two widows (chapters 2 - 4). He presents striking examples of lives that embody in their daily affairs the self-giving love that fulfills God's law (Leviticus 19:18; cf. Romans 13:10). Such love also reflects God's love, in a marvelous joining of human and divine actions (compare 2:12 with 3:9). In God's benevolence such lives are blessed and are made a blessing.


It may seem surprising that one who reflects God's love so clearly is a Moabites. Yet her complete loyalty to the Israelite family into which she has been received by marriage and her total devotion to her desolate mother-in-law mark her as a true daughter of Israel and a worthy ancestress of David. She strikingly exemplifies the truth that participation in the coming kingdom of God is decided, not by blood and birth, but by the conformity of one's life to the will of God through the obedience that comes from faith (Romans 1:5). Her place in the ancestry of David signifies that all nations will be represented in the kingdom of David's greater Son.


As an episode in the ancestry of David, the book of Ruth sheds light on his role in the history of redemption. Redemption is a key concept throughout the account; the Hebrew word in its various forms occurs 23 times. The book is primarily a story of Naomi's transformation from despair to happiness through the selfless, God-blessed acts of Ruth and Boaz. She moves from emptiness to fullness (1:21; 3:17; see notes on 1:1,3,5-6,12,21-22; 3:17; 4:15), from destitution (1:1-5) to security and hope (4:13-17). Similarly, Israel was transformed from national desperation at the death of Eli (1Samuel 4:18) to peace and prosperity in the early days of Solomon (1Kings 4:20-34; 5:4) through the selfless devotion of David, a true descendant of Ruth and Boaz. The author thus reminded Israel that the reign of the house of David, as the means of God's benevolent rule in Israel, held the prospect of God's promised peace and rest. But this rest would continue only so long as those who participated in the kingdom -- prince and people alike -- reflected in their daily lives the selfless love exemplified by Ruth and Boaz. In Jesus, the great son of David (Matthew 1:1), and his redemptive work, the promised blessings of the kingdom of God find their fulfillment.


Purpose of Writing: The Book of Ruth was written to the Israelites. It teaches that genuine love at times may require uncompromising sacrifice. Regardless of our lot in life, we can live according to the precepts of God. Genuine love and kindness will be rewarded. God abundantly blesses those who seek to live obedient lives. Obedient living does not allow for accidents in God's plan. God extends mercy to the merciful.


Summary: The book of Ruth is the Narrative of a love story, yet also has some important Genealogy. The timeline of this book is intertwined during the period of the Judges. The setting for the Book of Ruth begins in the heathen country of Moab, a region northeast of the Dead Sea, but then moves to Bethlehem. This true account takes place during the dismal days of failure and rebellion of the Israelites, called the period of the Judges. A famine forces Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, from their Israelite home to the country of Moab. Elimelech dies and Naomi is left with her two sons, who soon marry two Moabite girls, Orpah and Ruth. Later both of the sons die, and Naomi is left alone with Orpah and Ruth in a strange land. Orpah returns to her parents, but Ruth determines to stay with Naomi as they journey to Bethlehem. This story of love and devotion tells of Ruth's eventual marriage to a wealthy man named Boaz, by whom she bears a son, Obed, who becomes the grandfather of David and the ancestor of Jesus. Obedience brings Ruth into the privileged lineage of Christ.


Overview: This book consists of 4 chapters. Scholars often separate the text into seven sections. The first section provides the background of Elimelech and Naomi's downfall in Moab (Ruth 1:1–5). Naomi's husband and two sons die, leaving her with only two daughters-in-law.


Second, Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem (Ruth 1:6–22). Ruth refuses to return to her own people, but remains loyal to Naomi and her God.


Third, Boaz accepts Ruth as a worker in his field (Ruth 2:1–23). This action highlights the generosity of Boaz in addition to the hardworking attitude of Ruth. Both individuals seek to serve the Lord and show concern for others in need.


Fourth, Ruth suggests marriage with Boaz (Ruth 3:1–18). Boaz is flattered, realizing she could have sought a younger man. Instead, she sought marriage with a person of integrity who was also part of Naomi's family in accordance with the Mosaic law. However, Boaz also seeks to show discretion and proceed through the appropriate steps.


Fifth, Boaz redeems Ruth before the people of his community (Ruth 4:1–12). Everyone in the community accepts the decision and supports their marriage. Sixth, God honors Boaz and Ruth with a son (Ruth 4:13–17). He is named Obed and became the grandfather of David. Naomi's bitterness turns to joy as she becomes a grandmother and has a redeemer for her family line. Ruth is recognized as a godly woman despite not being of Jewish descent. Seventh, Ruth and Boaz's son becomes an ancestor in the line of Judah leading to King David (Ruth 4:18–22). The genealogy presents the connection between Perez, from the tribe of Judah, down to David, supporting his rightful status as the king of Judah.


Foreshadowing: A major theme of the Book of Ruth is that of the kinsman-redeemer. Boaz, a relative of Naomi on her husband’s side, acted upon his duty as outlined in the Mosaic Law to redeem an impoverished relative from his or her circumstances (Lev. 25:47-49). This scenario is repeated by Christ, who redeems us, the spiritually impoverished, from the slavery of sin. Our heavenly Father sent His own Son to the cross so that we might become children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ. By being our Redeemer, He makes us His kinsmen.


Application: The book of Ruth showed the Israelites the blessings that obedience could bring. It showed them the loving, faithful nature of their God. This book demonstrates that God responds to His people’s cry. Watching Him provide for Naomi and Ruth, two widows with little prospects for a future, we learn that He cares for the outcasts of society just as He asks us to do (Jeremiah 22:16; James 1:27).


Key Verses (ESV):

Ruth 1:16, "But Ruth replied, 'Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.'"


Ruth 3:9, "'Who are you?' he asked. 'I am your servant Ruth,' she said. 'Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.'"


Ruth 4:17, "The women living there said, 'Naomi has a son.' And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David."


*Note:

The book was written from Naomi’s point of view. Every event related back to her: her husband’s and sons’ deaths, her daughters-in-law, her return to Bethlehem, her God, her relative, Boaz, her land to sell, and her progeny. Almost without peer in Scripture, this story views “God through the eyes of a woman.”


Naomi has been compared to a female Job. She lost everything: home, husband, and sons—and even more than Job did—her livelihood. She joined the ranks of Israel’s lowest members: the poor and the widowed. She cried out in her grief and neglected to see the gift that God placed in her path—Ruth.


Summation:

The story is set in the time of the judges, a time characterized in the book of Judges as a period of religious and moral degeneracy, national disunity and frequent foreign oppression. The book of Ruth reflects a time of peace between Israel and Moab (contrast Judges 3:12-30). Like 1 Samuel 1-2, it gives a series of intimate glimpses into the private lives of the members of an Israelite family. It also presents a delightful account of the remnant of true faith and piety in the period of the judges, relieving an otherwise wholly dark picture of that era.


I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.

May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.


Love you much.


Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!


-Humble Servant


P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation.

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