RUTH

The book of Ruth is the third history book in the Old Testament. It is a beautiful account of a young Moabite woman who came to faith in God. We do not know who wrote the book, but it appears to have been written during or after the time of David (4:17-22). It is set in the period of the Judges, which was a dark time in Israel’s history. This book shines as a light in the darkness.

After Naomi’s husband and sons died in the land of Moab, she decided to return home to Jerusalem. She commanded her daughters-in-law (Ruth and Orpah) to return to their families. Ruth would not. Instead, she declared to Naomi,

“Entreat me not to leave you … for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16).

It appears there was a homestead to return to in Judah, but they had no resources. Of her own volition, Ruth went out to the fields to glean so they would have food (2:2-3). It may be a matter of divine providence that she ended up in the field of Boaz. Knowing of her devotion to Naomi, Boaz received her, blessed her and gave her protection in his fields (2:11-16).

Solomon (Ruth’s great-great grandson) wrote:

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”  (Proverbs 18:24)

Ruth was such a friend. When someone is the epitome of a particular attribute, we sometimes say, “If you look up {attribute} in the dictionary, there’s a picture of {person}.” That is very close to reality with Ruth. Her name means “friendly.”

Chapters 1 and 2 display Ruth’s love for Naomi. In 3:1, we see Naomi’s love for Ruth. She was concerned for Ruth’s future. She sought “rest” (KJV) or “security” (NKJV) for the young woman. The Hebrew word here has the idea of “a settled spot, a home; a place of rest” (Strong’s). It is the same word that was used in 1:9 when she implored both daughters-in-law to return to their family and eventually marry again. It seems Naomi interpreted the kindness of Boaz as interest in Ruth—she would not let such an opportunity to secure Ruth’s future pass them by. It was her hope that Boaz would perform the duty of a close relative (Deuteronomy 25:5) and redeem Ruth, which would also preserve the name of Ruth’s late husband, Mahlon, in Israel.

There was no impropriety in the instructions given by Naomi to Ruth, nor any indecency in the execution of them by Ruth as she lay at Boaz feet that night. As the Expositor’s Bible Commentary says, “Chastity was not an unknown virtue in the ancient world.” In our modern day, we would liken this to a marriage proposal—and so it was in a sense. It was a humble and private request for Boaz to give consideration to the duty of a close relative. Boaz was willing; more than willing. However, there was a closer relative than he. He would sort things out the next day and not rest until there was an answer for Ruth.

The closer relative was interested in the property to be gained, but not in the wife to be taken, nor in the idea of fathering a child to perpetuate the name of his deceased kinsman in Israel. We don’t know all the details of why he refused—but the closer relative forsook his right and gave it to Boaz.

By redeeming Ruth (and Mahlon’s name in Israel), Boaz became a type of Christ. Jesus is our redeemer. Boaz redeemed both Jew (Mahlon) and Gentile (Ruth) through this marriage; Jesus redeems both Jew and Gentile—all those who will come to Him as His bride (the church).

Next week we continue with 1 Samuel through 2 Chronicles…

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