Reading 0,14 - 4 Chapters - 85 verses - 2,578 words

Vital Statistics


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


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 Jdg 3:12-30). Like 1 Sa 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.

Author and Date of Writing

The author is unknown. Jewish tradition points to Samuel, but it is unlikely that he is the author because the mention of David (4:17,22) implies a later date. Further, the literary style of Hebrew used in Ruth suggests that it was written during the period of the monarchy.

Theme and Theology

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 (chs. 2-4). He presents striking examples of lives that embody in their daily affairs the self-giving love that fulfills God's law (Lev 19:18; cf. Ro 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 Moabitess (see map, p. 486) . 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" (Ro 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 (1Sa 4:18) to peace and prosperity in the early days of Solomon (1 Ki 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" (Mt 1:1), and his redemptive work, the promised blessings of the kingdom of God find their fulfillment.

Literary Features

The book of Ruth is a Hebrew short story, told with consummate skill. Among historical narratives in Scripture it is unexcelled in its compactness, vividness, warmth, beauty and dramatic effectiveness—an exquisitely wrought jewel of Hebrew narrative art.

Marvelously symmetrical throughout (see Outline), the action moves from a briefly sketched account of distress (1:1-5; 71 words in Hebrew) through four episodes to a concluding account of relief and hope that is drawn with equal brevity (4:13-17; 71 words in Hebrew). The crucial turning point occurs exactly midway (see note on 2:20). The opening line of each of the four episodes signals its main development (1:6, the return; 2:1, the meeting with Boaz; 3.1, finding a home for Ruth; 4:1, the decisive event at the gate), while the closing line of each episode facilitates transition to what follows (see notes on 1:22; 2:23; 3:18; 4:12). Contrast is also used to good effect: pleasant (the meaning of "Naomi") and bitter (1:20), full and empty (1:21), and the living and the dead (2:20). Most striking is the contrast between two of the main characters, Ruth and Boaz: The one is a young, alien, destitute widow, while the other is a middle-aged, well-to-do Israelite securely established in his home community. For each there is a corresponding character whose actions highlight, by contrast, his or her selfless acts: Ruth—Orpah, Boaz—the unnamed kinsman.

When movements in space, time and circumstance all correspond in some way, a harmony results that both satisfies the reader's artistic sense and helps open doors to understanding. The author of Ruth keeps his readers from being distracted from the central story—Naonis passage from emptiness to fullness through the selfless acts of Ruth and Boaz (see Theme and Theology). That passage, or restoration, first takes place in connection with her return from Moab to the promised land and to Bethlehem ("house of food"; see note on 1:1). It then progresses with the harvest season, when the fullness of the land is gathered in. All aspects of the story keep the reader's attention focused on the central issue. Consideration of these and other literary devices will aid understanding of the book of Ruth.

Ruth Interpreter Challenges

Ruth should be understood as a true historical account. The reliable facts surrounding Ruth, in addition to its complete compatibility with Judges plus 1 and 2 Samuel, confirm Ruth’s authenticity. However, some individual difficulties require careful attention. First, how could Ruth worship at the tabernacle then in Shiloh (1Sa 4:4), since Deuteronomy 23:3 expressly forbids Moabites from entering the assembly for 10 generations? Since the Jews entered the land ca. 1405 B.C. and Ruth was not born until ca. 1150 B.C., she then represented at least the 11th generation (probably later) if the time limitation ended at 10 generations. If “ten generations” was an idiom meaning “forever” as Ne 13:1 implies, then Ruth would be like the foreigner of Isa 56:1-8 who joined himself to the Lord (1:16), thus gaining entrance to the assembly.

Second, are there not immoral overtones to Boaz and Ruth spending the night together before marriage (3:3-18)? Ruth engaged in a common ancient Near Eastern custom by asking Boaz to take her for his wife, symbolically pictured by throwing a garment over the intended woman. (3:9), just as Jehovah spread His garment over Israel (Eze 16:8). The text does not even hint at the slightest moral impropriety, nothing that Ruth slept at his feet (3:14). Thus, Boaz became God’s answer to his own earlier prayer for Ruth (2:12),

Third, would not the levirate principle of Dt 25:5, 6 lead to incest and/or polygamy if the nearest relative was already married? God would not design a good plan to involve the grossest of immoralities punishable by death. It is to be assumed that the implementation of Dt 25:5, 6 could involve only the nearest relative who was eligible for marriage as qualified by other stipulation of the law.

Fourth, was not marriage to a Moabite woman strictly forbidden by the law? The nations or people to whom marriage was prohibited were those possessing the land that Israel would enter (Ex 34:16; Dt 7:1-3; Jos 23:12) which did not include Moab (cf. Dt 7:1). Further, Boaz married Ruth, a devout proselyte to Jehovah (1:16, 17), not a pagan worshiper of Chemosh— Moab’s chief deity (cf. later problems in Ez 9:1, 2 and Ne 13:23-25)


Ruth Horizontal

God's character in Ruth

  1. God is sovereign - 1:6; 4:13

  2. God is provident - 2:3

Christ in Ruth

Boaz, as a type of Christ, becomes the kinsman redeemer of Ruth. This account foretells the coming of Jesus as the Redeemer of all believers (1 Pet 1:18, 19)