I. NAME OF THE BOOK – The book is named after one of its main characters, Ruth, the Moabitess, ancestress of David and Jesus, Matt. 1:5.
A. This book is part of the third division of the Hebrew canon called "the Writings."
B. It is also part of a special group of five small books called the Megilloth or "Five Rolls." Each of these five small books: Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and Lamentations are read at a different feast day. Ruth is read at Pentecost or Feast of Weeks.
C. The LXX places Ruth after Judges. Josephus in Contra Apion, 1:8, says there were only 22 books in the OT. This would mandate that Judges and Ruth were counted as one book. Therefore, its inclusion in "the Writings" section may be later (Jerome).
A. This book is clearly historical narrative, told through dialogue. The book is made up of 85 verses; of this number, 50 are dialogue. This author was a wonderful story teller.
B. Some scholars feel this book is drama, not history because of:
1. the symbolic meaning of the characters names
a. Mahlon = sickness
b. Chilion = wasting
c. Orpah = stiff-necked
d. Naomi = my sweetness
2. the uncharacteristic way that all of the characters are so noble
3. the strong religious faith expressed by the characters in the period of the Judges (which was so godless), 1:1
A. Like so many Old Testament books, it is anonymous.
B. Baba Bathra 14b says Samuel wrote his book and Judges and Ruth. Since Ruth 4:17,22 implies that David was well known, this seems unlikely but not impossible.
C. Ruth 4:7 shows a later author or editor by the phrase "this was the custom in former times."
A. The events of the story occur during the Period of the Judges, 1:1 (1350 or 1200 b.c. to 1020 b.c.). This is probably why the LXX places the book after Judges.
B. It must have occurred during a period of peace between Israel and Moab:
1. this is surprising in light of Judges 3:12-30
2. However, there must have been peace at times, I Sam. 22:3-4 (i.e., Saul).
C. When was the book written?:
1. The date of the writing is obviously during David's reign, 4:17,22. The historicity of the account is confirmed by the fact that a Moabitess in David's lineage was not a compliment to him! (cf. Deut. 23:3)
2. The style and vocabulary of Ruth is similar to Samuel but not Chronicles
VI. SOURCES CORROBORATING HISTORICAL SETTING – the only aspect of this book that has been found in archaeological discoveries is the transferring of the sandal as a legal sign of the transfer of inheritance rights. A similar custom has been found in the Nuzi tablets. These are Akkadian cuneiform tablets from the 2nd millennium b.c. period which we call the Patriarchal Period.
VII. LITERARY UNITS (Context)
A. Naomi's family flees God's judgement on Israel, moves to Moab where all the men die, 1:1-5
B. Naomi returns to Bethlehem with her Moabite daughter-in-law, 1:6-22
C. Ruth meets Boaz at the barley harvest. He is kind to her, 2:1-23
D. Naomi and Ruth plan to entice Boaz and they succeed, 3:1-18
E. Boaz takes the initiative to become the go'el for Naomi's surrogate, Ruth, 4:1-22
VIII. MAIN TRUTHS
A. The godly character of a Gentile believer, 1:16-17 (especially a Moabite, cf. Deut. 23:3)
B. The godly character of women, both Jewish and Gentile
C. The lineage of King David and King Messiah includes foreign women, Matt. 1:5, Luke 3:32, and it was by God's plan to show the inclusion of all people (i.e., Gen. 1:26-27)
IX. TERMS AND/OR PHRASES AND PERSONS TO BRIEFLY DEFINE
A. Terms and Phrases:
1. Ephrathites, 1:2; 4:11 (NASB & NIV)
2. Mara, 1:20 (NASB & NIV)
3. The Almighty (El Shaddai), 1:20 (NASB & NIV)
4. "under whose wings you have come to seek refuge," 2:12 (NASB & NIV)
5. ephah, 2:17 (NASB & NIV)
6. closest relative (go'el), 2:20; 3:9; 4:14, (NIV, "close relative")
7. (levirate marriage), Deut. 25:5-10
8. "uncover his feet," 3:4,7-8,14 (NASB & NIV)
9. "a man removed his sandal and gave it to another," 4:7 (NASB & NIV)
B. Persons to Briefly Identify:
1. Elimelech, 1:2
2. Jesse, 4:22
X. MAP LOCATIONS (by number)
1. Moab, 1:1
2. Bethlehem, 1:2
XI. STUDENT CONTENT QUESTIONS
1. What is the purpose of this book in the Hebrew canon?
2. Why did this family flee Israel?
3. Explain how the term go'el relates to levirate marriage customs.
4. Why was this book an embarrassment to David?