Overview of Ruth
It’s a dark and troubled time for Naomi: a famine drives her and her family from their land in Israel, and her husband and sons die in a foreign country. But when she hears that there is food in her homeland again, she makes her way back. One daughter-in-law leaves Naomi to find a new husband; the other swears an oath of loyalty to Naomi:
Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me. (Ru 1:16–17)
This woman’s name is Ruth.
Even though Ruth is a foreigner in the land of Israel, a wealthy farmer named Boaz takes interest in her. Boaz is also related to Naomi, making him eligible to redeem Naomi’s family, that is, to purchase her late husband’s field and continue her late husband’s bloodline. Boaz is impressed by Ruth’s character, and marries her. Ruth and Boaz have a son, and the book closes with a surprise: Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David, whom we meet later in the book of 1 Samuel.
The story of Ruth takes place during the time of the Judges: it’s a bright story of hope during a very dark period in Israel’s spiritual and political history.
Theme verse of Ruth
“Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed is the LORD who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel.'” (Ru 4:14)
Ruth’s role in the Bible
The book of Ruth is a love story, but it is far more than a romance. Ruth’s devotion to Naomi and Boaz’ devotion to Ruth provide two compelling portraits of love among the people of God. But the greatest love displayed in this book is God’s love for Naomi (and all of Israel):
- Naomi claims that God has dealt bitterly with her (Ru 1:20), but the story ends with the women recognizing God’s provision for her (Ru 4:14)
- Naomi blames God for the loss of her two sons (Ru 1:21), but the book concludes with Ruth being praised as better than seven sons (Ru 4:15).
Just as Boaz redeemed Naomi, David will go on to deliver Israel from her enemies and bring about security for the nation of Israel.
The book of Ruth shows us a picture of Christ in Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer. Boaz was a qualified redeemer to Naomi: he was a family member, he had the means of purchasing her land, he had the willingness to buy the land and marry Ruth. Jesus has done this for us:
- He became one of us (Jn 1:14; He 2:14).
- He was capable of buying us back (1 Pt 1:18–19).
- He was willing to buy us back, setting an example of a self-sacrificing husband (Eph 5:25–27).
Jesus Christ is the great Redeemer, and the book of Ruth foreshadows His work.
Quick outline of Ruth
- Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem (Ru 1)
- Ruth gleans in Boaz’ field (Ru 2)
- Ruth proposes to Boaz (Ru 3)
- Boaz redeems Ruth and Naomi (Ru 4:1–15)
- King David’s genealogy (Ru 4:16–22)