Book of Ruth Summary | Ruth in the Bible

The Book of Ruth is one of the short Old Testament books. It tells the story of a Moabite woman named Ruth who becomes an ancestor of King David and Jesus Christ. The story takes place during the time of the judges. It is set against the backdrop of famine and social upheaval in Israel.

The story begins with Naomi and her husband, Elimelech. They leave their homeland of Bethlehem to escape a famine and settle in Moab with their two sons. While in Moab, Naomi’s sons marry Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. Tragically, all three men die, leaving the three women as widows. Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem, and she urges her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab and remarry. Orpah agrees, but Ruth insists on staying with Naomi and pledging her loyalty to her. They return to Bethlehem where Ruth goes to glean in the fields. And she happens to come to the field of Boaz, a wealthy landowner and relative of Naomi.

Naomi comes up with a plan to secure Ruth’s future by having her approach Boaz at night and ask him to marry her. Boaz is pleased by Ruth’s faithfulness and agrees to marry her. But there is a closer relative who has the right to marry Ruth first. Boaz meets with the closer relative and offers him the opportunity to redeem Elimelech’s land and marry Ruth. But the relative declines. Boaz then redeems the land and marries Ruth, and they have a son named Obed. Obed becomes the father of Jesse, and Jesse becomes the father of David, who becomes king of Israel. The story is a powerful example of love, loyalty, and faithfulness. And it teaches us that God is at work in the lives of ordinary people, bringing about his purposes and plans.

Outline of the book of Ruth

Here is an outline of the Book of Ruth:

  1. I. Introduction (1:1-5)
    • The setting: a time of judges and a famine in Bethlehem
    • Elimelech and his family to Moab leaving Bethlehem
    • Elimelech’s two sons marry Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah
    • Elimelech and his sons die, leaving Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah as widows
  2. Ruth’s Loyalty (1:6-22)
    • Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem and urges her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab and remarry
    • Orpah agrees, but Ruth insists on staying with Naomi and pledging her loyalty to her
    • They return to Bethlehem where Ruth goes to glean in the fields
  3. Boaz’s Kindness (2:1-23)
    • Ruth happens to come to the field of Boaz, a wealthy landowner and relative of Naomi
    • Boaz shows kindness to Ruth and allows her to glean in his fields
    • Naomi recognizes Boaz’s potential as a kinsman-redeemer
  4. Ruth’s Proposal (3:1-18)
    • Naomi comes up with a plan to secure Ruth’s future by having her approach Boaz at night and ask him to marry her
    • Boaz is pleased by Ruth’s faithfulness and agrees to marry her, but there is a closer relative who has the right to marry Ruth first
  5. Redemption (4:1-12)
    • Boaz meets with the closer relative and offers him the opportunity to redeem Elimelech’s land and marry Ruth, but the relative declines
    • Boaz redeems the land and marries Ruth
  6. Epilogue (4:13-22)
    • Ruth and Boaz have a son named Obed, who becomes the father of Jesse, and Jesse becomes the father of David, who becomes king of Israel
    • The book concludes with a genealogy that links David to Judah and ultimately to Perez, the son of Tamar

Date and authorship of Ruth

According to traditional views, the Book of Ruth was written by the prophet Samuel. He also wrote the books of Judges and 1 Samuel. However, the date of composition is uncertain. Because there is no direct internal or external evidence to establish a specific date for the book’s writing. Some scholars have suggested that the book was written in the post-exilic period. While others believe that it may have been composed earlier, during the time of the judges. Ultimately, the authorship and date of the book remain matters of debate and speculation, with no definitive answers.

Background of Ruth

The Book of Ruth is set during the time of the judges in ancient Israel. It was a period of political and social upheaval characterized by cycles of apostasy, oppression, and deliverance. The socio-economic conditions in the book are shaped by a severe famine. Consequently, it forces Naomi and her family to leave their homeland in search of food and opportunities. This famine is likely indicative of wider economic problems in the region and the struggle for survival that many families faced.

In terms of religion, Ruth is significant for its portrayal of faithfulness and loyalty of Ruth. She was a Moabite woman who converts to the God of Israel and pledges herself to Naomi. Ruth’s confession of faith and her commitment to the God of Israel in Ruth 1:16-17 are powerful statements of the inclusive and universal nature of God’s grace. Which is not limited to any particular ethnic or national group.

Politically, the book takes place during a time of transition from the decentralized system of judges to the centralized monarchy of Israel. The book offers a glimpse of the social and economic conditions that characterized this period. And it also shows the role of kinship and land ownership in shaping people’s lives. The narrative also demonstrates the significance of the kinsman-redeemer. The role of kinsman was important in preserving family inheritance and providing for the needs of widows and other vulnerable members of the community.

Book of Ruth Summary by Chapter

Chapter 1:
The story begins with a famine in Bethlehem, which leads Elimelech and his wife Naomi to leave their home and travel to Moab with their two sons. While in Moab, their sons marry Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. Tragically, all three men die, leaving Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah as widows.

Chapter 2:
Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem and urges her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab and remarry. Orpah agrees, but Ruth insists on staying with Naomi and pledges her loyalty to her. Ruth gleans in the fields to provide for herself and Naomi, and she happens to come to the field of Boaz, a wealthy landowner and relative of Elimelech.

Chapter 3:
Naomi comes up with a plan to secure Ruth’s future by having her approach Boaz at night and ask him to marry her. Boaz sees Ruth’s faithfulness and agrees to marry her, but there is a closer relative who has the right to marry Ruth first.

Chapter 4:
Boaz meets with the closer relative and offers him the opportunity to redeem Elimelech’s land and marry Ruth, but the relative declines. Boaz then redeems the land and marries Ruth, and they have a son named Obed. Obed becomes the father of Jesse, and Jesse becomes the father of David, who becomes king of Israel.

Message of the Book of Ruth

  • Faithfulness and Loyalty: One of the central themes of the book is the importance of faithfulness and loyalty, particularly in the context of family relationships. The book portrays the steadfast devotion of Ruth to Naomi, and her commitment to remain with her even when it would have been easier to return to her own people. This loyalty is contrasted with the more fleeting loyalty of Orpah, who decides to return to her family and her gods.
  • God’s Sovereignty and Redemption: Another important message of the book is the idea of God’s sovereignty and his redemptive work in the lives of his people. Despite the difficult circumstances faced by Naomi and Ruth, God is at work behind the scenes, orchestrating events and bringing about his purposes. This is seen most clearly in the role of Boaz as a kinsman-redeemer, who provides for the needs of Ruth and Naomi and ultimately becomes the ancestor of King David.
  • Inclusivity and Hospitality: The book also emphasizes the importance of inclusivity and hospitality, particularly in the context of welcoming foreigners and strangers. Ruth, as a Moabite woman, would have been viewed with suspicion and even hostility by many in Israel, yet she is welcomed and embraced by Boaz and the wider community. This message is particularly relevant in a world that is often characterized by fear and division.
  • The Importance of Women: Finally, Ruth highlights the importance of women and their role in shaping the course of history. The book centers around the stories of Naomi and Ruth, and the actions of these two women have significant implications for the future of Israel. This message is a powerful reminder of the essential contributions that women make to society, even in contexts where their voices may be marginalized or overlooked.

Theology of the Book of Ruth

  • The Sovereignty of God: The book emphasizes the sovereignty of God and His ability to work through difficult and unexpected circumstances to bring about His purposes. This is demonstrated through the way that God provides for Naomi and Ruth during the famine, guides them to Bethlehem, and ultimately brings about the marriage of Ruth and Boaz. God is portrayed as a loving and faithful God who cares for His people and works for their good.
  • The Importance of Redemption: The idea of redemption is central to the book of Ruth. The concept of the kinsman-redeemer, who is responsible for redeeming family members who have fallen into poverty or hardship, is used to illustrate the way that God acts as a redeemer for His people. Through the actions of Boaz, who acts as Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer, the book demonstrates the way that God redeems His people and provides for their needs.
  • The Importance of Faithfulness: The book emphasizes the importance of faithfulness and loyalty, particularly in the context of family relationships. Ruth’s steadfast devotion to Naomi is contrasted with the more fleeting loyalty of Orpah. It highlights the importance of faithfulness in maintaining strong relationships. This theme is also reflected in the loyalty of Boaz. Boaz goes above and beyond his legal obligations to provide for Ruth and Naomi.
  • The Importance of Hospitality: Ruth also emphasizes the importance of hospitality and welcoming strangers. Ruth is a foreigner in Israel, yet she is welcomed and embraced by the people of Bethlehem. This message is relevant for contemporary readers, who are called to welcome and care for strangers and immigrants in their communities.

Book of Ruth and the New Testament

The Book of Ruth has several connections and parallels to the New Testament, particularly in terms of the themes and concepts that it explores.

Genealogy of Jesus: Ruth is notable for its connection to the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David and is therefore an ancestor of Jesus himself. This connection is highlighted in the New Testament, where Jesus is often referred to as the “son of David”.

Redemption: The concept of redemption, which is central to the book, is also a key theme in the New Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus is portrayed as the ultimate redeemer. He offers salvation to all people through his death and resurrection. The concept of the kinsman-redeemer in Ruth is a precursor to the idea of Jesus as the ultimate redeemer, who is able to redeem us from sin and death.

Inclusivity and Hospitality: The message of inclusivity and hospitality in the book of Ruth is also reflected in the New Testament. Particularly in Jesus’ teachings about loving and caring for all people, regardless of their background or status. Jesus’ interactions with marginalized and outcast individuals, such as the Samaritan woman at the well and the tax collector Zacchaeus, demonstrate his commitment to welcoming and caring for those who are often excluded from society.

Women in the Kingdom of God: Ruth highlights the important role that women play in the story of God’s redemption. This theme is also reflected in the New Testament, where women play a significant role in the ministry of Jesus and the early church. Women such as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna are mentioned as followers of Jesus. And women are also noted as being among the first witnesses to the resurrection.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Book of Ruth is a rich and complex narrative. It offers important insights into the character of God and the way that He works in the world. It explores themes of redemption, faithfulness, and hospitality, and highlights the importance of women in the story of God’s redemption. The book has several connections to the New Testament. Particularly in terms of the themes and concepts that it explores, and it serves as a precursor to the ultimate redemption that comes through Jesus Christ. Overall, Ruth offers a powerful message of hope and redemption that is relevant for readers today.

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