The Book of Ruth teaches us about love, loyalty, faith, and redemption. Ruth’s story takes place in the time of the “judges.” This period in Israel’s history was some of their darkest times.
Judges 17:6, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
Although their culture was evil, God had a plan for two women, Ruth and Naomi. He will always take care of His faithful people in perilous times.
Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him."
Although their path was tragic and not easy with the loss of their family, Ruth and Naomi lived out the greatest commandment that the Almighty has given us.
Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
They were not only faithful to one another, but to God as well.
Ruth 1:1-5, "Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land of Israel. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion—Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there. Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.”
This story begins with Ruth, her mother-in-law, Naomi, and her sister-in-law, Orpah, who are widows. The country of Moab was the land east of the Dead Sea (Jordan), and was hostile toward Israel. (They did not allow the Israelites to pass through their land during their exodus from Egypt, nor would they give them food or water. (Deuteronomy 23:3-6) God remembers and will judge ALL nations on how they treat Israel, whether past, present, or future.
Joel 3:1-3, “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Armageddon); And I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land. They have cast lots for My people, have given a boy as payment for a harlot, And sold a girl for wine, that they may drink.” (Also see Matthew 25)
This is a future event at which time the Lord will return to the earth. This is simply known as the Second Coming. Notice how He stated all nations. In the Book of Judges, God allowed Moab to defeat Israel because of Israel’s apostasy (Judges 3:12-14). With the history of Moab and Israel, the famine must have been extreme for Elimelech to move his family to Moab. With the severe famine in the land of Israel, which was caused by their sins, Elimelech had no choice but to move his family to Moab.
Ruth 1:6-13, “Then she (Naomi) arose with her daughters-in-law (Ruth and Orpah) that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread. Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her, “Surely we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!”
Widows in the ancient world were poor, taken advantage of, ignored, and mistreated. In the Torah, God’s law and instructions give specifics on how widows were to be treated in those days. The nearest relative of the dead husband would care for the widow. Since Naomi did not have any relative in Moab, she traveled back to Israel to find out if she had relatives there. Naomi shows a selfless attitude toward her daughter-in-laws, Ruth and Orpah. She wanted Ruth and Orpah to go live their lives, and find husbands, instead of worrying about her since she had no other sons to marry them. Naomi is a great example of how we have to consider the needs of others in all situations in life. In doing so, the humility will encourage others to follow Naomi’s great example.
James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
When Naomi stated, “Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands,” refers to Levirate marriage, which obligates the dead man’s brother to take care of the widow (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). God created this law to protect women like Naomi from poverty and provide a way for the family name of the dead man to continue.
Ruth 1:14-17, “Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after 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. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”
Ruth teaches us what true love and true loyalty really is. Just as Naomi was selfless in her actions towards Ruth, Ruth was just as selfless in her actions towards Naomi. She loved her mother-in-law, and she loved Naomi’s God as well (Your God will be my God). This is a great example of how God uses us to “win” over people for him, just as Naomi did Ruth.
Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
2 Corinthians 2:14, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place."
In Hebrew, Ruth means “friend,” and Orpah means “turn away,” as we see both names were fitting of their actions. Unlike Orpah, who went her way to serve her “gods,” Ruth chose to stay with Naomi and go wherever Naomi went, live wherever she lived, take Naomi’s people as her people, die wherever Naomi died, be buried wherever Naomi was buried, and worship Naomi’s God! Ruth’s love and loyalty to Naomi is truly beautiful! She was willing to sacrifice her own happiness and the possibility of remarrying and having children, to be with and to take care of Naomi, her mother-in-law. Even though Ruth was a Gentile (non-Jewish), it did not stop her from loving and worshipping the True Living God. Also, it didn’t stop God from loving and blessing Ruth. God loves all people, Jew and Gentile.
Romans 3:29, “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too."
Ruth 1:18-22, “When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her. Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.”
Naomi was not rejecting God, but expressing the mourning and sadness of her pain. She was a poor widow who had no idea how her life was going to work out, and her faith was being tested by God.
James 1:1-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
God wants us to express to Him our true feelings, while remembering His faithfulness, love, and strength to get us through trials and tribulations. Although Naomi thought the future was bleak, God was in control and had a different plan. We should always remember not to allow the current circumstances to blind us of future opportunities. God wanted Naomi and Ruth to move to Bethlehem. In the move to Bethlehem, God’s mighty hand was working, even though Naomi and Ruth did not understand this at the time. How were they to know that not only would King David be born there, but our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would too!
1 Samuel 16:1, “Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons (David).”
Also, the King of all kings would be born there.
Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel (Messiah), Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”
God had a plan for Ruth to be a part of these wonderful prophecies. Bethlehem is a couple of miles southwest of Jerusalem. The harvests were abundant, and there were plenty of fields for work. There are two harvests in Israel every year, spring and fall. The barley harvest was in the spring during Passover, and Naomi and Ruth returned during this time. There was plenty of “leftover” grain for them. This could have been “gleaned” to make food. The Torah demanded the four corners of the field not to be harvested. They were left for the poor who would pick it up for food. “Gleaning” is described in Leviticus.
Leviticus 19:9, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.”
Deuteronomy 24:19, “When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands."
Its purpose was to feed the poor and prevent greed from the owners. Ruth was poor and a widow, so she was able to take part in the “gleaning” of the field.
Ruth 2:1-23, “There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who :was of the family of Elimelech. Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered him, “The Lord bless you!” Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.” Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.” So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” Then she said, “Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.” Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, “Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back. And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.” So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied. And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work? Blessed be the one who took notice of you. So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.” Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also said to me, ‘You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.” So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.”
Ruth left her homeland and made her home in Israel with Naomi. Like Ruth, sometimes God wants us to take action, and once we do, He will provide our needs. Ruth was poor, and the only person she knew was Naomi. Nevertheless, she went to work to do her part, and God did the rest.
Deuteronomy 10:12-13, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good."
Sometimes God waits for us to take that leap of faith, and then He does His part. Although “gleaning” the fields was hard work, Ruth showed her Godly character and performed her duty for her employer and for Naomi. Like Ruth, God may want to see if we will follow Him first, no matter what, and then He will reveal His ultimate plan.
Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
In return, God took care of Ruth when Boaz noticed Ruth’s hard work. If she had not worked hard or done all she could, she might have missed the opportunity to meet Boaz. This encounter changed her life forever. Boaz welcomed Ruth because of her reputation and kindness to Naomi and others. As we see, God’s plan for Ruth was starting to show. The result of her loyalty, love, faith, kindness, and strong character, was starting to pay off for her. This is not the reason she did it, but God blesses people who do His will. Like Ruth, God wants us to be consistent with our values instead of worldly values. When Naomi first got to Bethlehem, she was frustrated, but she still trusted and obeyed the Lord. When Ruth told her about Boaz’s kindness towards her, Naomi praised the Lord! Like Naomi, we must remain faithful no matter what, and the Lord promises He will deliver us. Ruth and Naomi might not have noticed God working in their life, but He placed them exactly where they needed to be for His will to be done. God is also working for you and me in our lives, even when we do not notice. Everyday, every week, every year, He is working for us. Our job is to trust and obey, and He will place us where He wants us to be for His glory. The events that happen to Ruth and Naomi were not coincidence or luck. It was God’s mighty hand at work, because they loved Him, trusted Him, and obeyed Him.
Ruth 3:1-18, “Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.” And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.” So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her. And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet. And he said, “Who are you?” So she answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.” Then he said, “Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman. Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you—good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the Lord lives! Lie down until morning.” So she lay at his feet until morning, and she arose before one could recognize another. Then he said, “Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” Also he said, “Bring the shawl that is on you and hold it.” And when she held it, he measured six ephahs of barley, and laid it on her. Then she went into the city. When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “Is that you, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her. And she said, “These six ephahs of barley he gave me; for he said to me, ‘Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” Then she said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.”
When Naomi heard the news about Boaz being her relative, her hope was renewed. Again, in a selfless manner, Naomi thought about her best friend Ruth first. She told Ruth to see if Boaz would take the responsibility of being a “kinsman-redeemer” to her. A kinsman redeemer was a relative who took the responsibility for an extended family member, in this case, a widow. When a women’s husband died, the Torah stated she could marry a brother of the dead husband (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). However Naomi had no sons left alive. So, according to the Torah, the nearest relative to the dead husband could become a “kinsman redeemer” and marry the widow. Boaz did not have to marry Ruth. If he chose not to, then the next relative in line could, and so on and so forth. If no one chose to accept this responsibility, she would have to live in poverty the rest of her life. We are blessed to have the ultimate redeemer, Jesus Christ, who helps us throughout our life if we call upon Him.
1 Peter 1:18-19, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
The Threshing floor was where the grain was separated from the harvested wheat. Boaz spent the night out there to prevent theft and to wait his turn to thresh grain. Naomi’s advice wasn’t a romantic act. She was telling Ruth to act within the Israelite law with the “kinsman-redeemer.” In Ruth’s time, it was common for a servant to lie at the feet of his master and even share coverings. By doing this, Ruth let Boaz know that he could be her “kinsman redeemer.” Ruth followed the advice of her beloved Naomi, because she knew Naomi loved her, and would do anything to make her happy as the story shows. God always puts a “Naomi” in our life to teach us, so we need to trust them and learn from their wisdom. We should be open and willing to take their knowledge and apply it to our lives. Boaz’s generosity and unselfishness can’t be overstated, where Ruth is concerned. Ruth and Boaz did right by God, and they were blessed because of it. Whenever we are faced with right or wrong , we should always choose right, and God will bless us, as He did Boaz and Ruth. Although there was another man who was a closer relative to Naomi’s relative, he had declined to marry Ruth. This prepared the way for Boaz, as the Torah taught. God had a plan for Boaz and Ruth. Obviously God’s will was at work for this to happen.
Ruth 4:1-17, “Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend, sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’” And he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.” And the close relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel. Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” So he took off his sandal. And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day.” And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. The Lord make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the Lord will give you from this young woman. So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
In Ruth’s days, Bethlehem was a small town where everyone knew each other. The “city gate” was a place everyone conducted business. Boaz knew where to find his relative at the city’s “town square,” so he could speak with his him about Ruth. Also, this was a good place to have witnesses to confirm his “transactions.” Boaz clearly wanted to marry Ruth, so he presented the case to the “nearest relative,” as to how it would work, since the relative had the first right to buy the land. (Leviticus 25:25). However, in doing so, by the Torah, that person had to marry Ruth, which the relative declined. He did not want to complicate his inheritance. He knew that if he married Ruth and they had a son, it would complicate the inheritance. Whatever the case, it allowed Boaz to marry Ruth, and this was confirmed by the witnesses at the gate. Why did the Holy Bible state, “May your house be like the house of Perez, and not Abraham?” Perez was an example of the “Levirate” practice (above) where the brother or relative of the dead husband married the widow. (Genesis 38). Boaz was following the Levirate practice by marrying Ruth. Also, the descendants of Perez included Boaz, King David, and all the Judean kings. Once again, we see the love between Ruth and Naomi. After Ruth conceived, she shared her joy with Naomi, who had trusted God through tough times and did not turn her back on God. In return, in His time, God blessed her. Like Naomi, we should trust the Lord when we go through tragedy and all the storms of life.
Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.” Amen.
Ruth 4:18-22, “Now this is the genealogy of Perez: Perez begot Hezron; Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab; Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon; Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed; Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.”
This beautiful, amazing story of Ruth teaches us about love, loyalty, faith, and redemption. Ruth and Naomi truly loved each other, and without exception, they were very loyal to one another. Naomi loved God and her faith never wavered through her tragedy, and God, in His perfect timing, redeemed Naomi and Ruth. Also, Naomi was a great example to Ruth, and she converted her faith to the True Living God, the Almighty. Although Naomi and Ruth went through trying times, God was in control! Ruth became the great grandmother of King David, who we all know was, a direct ancestor to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself! So Ruth, a Gentile, was one of Jesus’ direct descendants. It is truly incredible how God works His master plan. Naomi and Ruth did not know why they had endured tragedy, but God’s ultimate, sovereign plan was at work the entire time. Like Naomi and Ruth, we might not understand the full purpose of God’s plan for us until we reflect back from the perspective of eternity. Furthermore, this story is a perfect example of God’s impartiality (Romans 11). Although Ruth was a Gentile and a Moabitess, God blessed her because of her faith in Him. So, remember, it does not matter what race, creed, color, sex, or national origin you are, God’s salvation is for everyone who believes in Him. Trust in Him, and He will use you to help build His kingdom, and He will give you eternal life, so that where He is, we too shall be. Amen, Amen, and Amen