This is a story of a Moabite woman who forsakes her pagan heritage in order to cling to the people of Israel and to the God of Israel. God places Ruth in a position to become the great-grandmother of David through a husband named Boaz and a son named Obed.
The setting of the first eighteen verses is Moab, a region northeast of the Dead Sea. The Moabites, descendants of Lot, worshiped Chemosh and other pagan gods. This is a time of apostasy, warfare, decline, violence moral decay, and anarchy. Ruth provides a cameo of the other side of the story-the godly remnant that remains true to the laws of God.
Christ in Ruth
The word goel, (close relative, kinsman-redeemer) used thirteen times in this story, presents a clear picture of the mediating work of Christ. This word goel is the Hebrew word for kinsman. By buying back the land of Naomi, as well as marrying Ruth and fathering a son to keep the family line alive, Boaz acts as a redeemer.
Although the book of Ruth was probably written during the time of David, the events take place during the time of the Judges. Ruth is “a virtuous woman” (3:11) who shows loyal love to her mother-in-law Naomi and her near –kinsman Boaz. In both relationships, goodness and love are clearly manifested. Her love is demonstrated in chapters 1 and 2 and rewarded in chapters 3 and 4.
Ruth Chapter 1
Verses 1, 2 – Moab was one of the nations that oppressed Israel during the period of Judges. This famine must have been severe in Israel for Elimelech to move his entire family there.
Verses 3-5 – Marrying a Canaanite was against God’s law (Deuteronomy 7:1-4). Moabites were not allowed to worship at the tabernacle because they had not let the Israelites pass through their land during the exodus from Egypt. Israel, as God’s chosen nation, should have set the standards for the other nations. Ironically, it was Ruth, a Moabite, whom God used as an example of genuine spiritual character.
Verses 6-9 – In the ancient world, being a widow was just about the worst thing that could happen. They were often taken advantage of or ignored. They were almost always stricken with poverty. God’s law provided that the nearest relative of the dead husband should care for the widow. However, Naomi had no relatives in Moab, and she didn’t know if any of her relatives were alive in Israel. Although Naomi had decided to return to Israel, she encouraged her two daughter-in –laws to stay in Moab and start their lives over. Naomi had a selfless attitude.
Verse 11 – Naomi’s only two sons had died so she encouraged Orpah and Ruth to remain in Moab to remarry. Orpah agreed, but Ruth was willing to give up the possibility of security and children in order to care for Naomi.
Verse 16 – The Jews were not the only people God loved. God chose the Jews to be the people through whom the rest of the world would come to know him. This was fulfilled when Jesus Christ was born as a Jew. Through Him, the entire world can come to know God. The book of Ruth is a perfect example of God’s impartiality. No one should feel disqualified to serve God because of where you came from. God can use every circumstance to build his kingdom or whomever He chooses.
Verses 20, 21 – Naomi was not rejecting God by changing her name. However, because she felt such loss, she may have lost sight of the relationship she had with Ruth. We need to be very careful in severe hardships not to allow bitterness and disappointment to blind us in other opportunities.
Verse 22 – Ruth and Naomi’s return to Bethlehem was part of God’s plan because in this town David would be born (1 Samuel 16:1), and, as predicted by the prophet Micah (Micah 5:2), Jesus Christ would also be born there. Just as in this story, our God’s purpose for allowing certain things in our lives, is accomplishing a much bigger purpose. Bethlehem was a farming community, and because it was the time of harvest, there was plenty of leftover grain in the fields left along the edges.