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Book by Book - Ruth

Throughout the history of Israel, God has always provided a redeemer for His People. In Egypt, he provided Moses to rescue His People from slavery. In the wilderness, as the people wandered toward the Promised Land, God provided Joshua to lead them across the Jordan River. After Joshua through the book of Judges, the God provided a series of warlords to judge the peoples. But at the end of Judges, we find Israel in a dark period. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). As we turn the page in our English Bibles, we come to the book of Ruth. God is going to raise up another Redeemer.

The book of Ruth is the story of how God’s unfailing love will bring about Israel’s greatest leader, David. Great persons in Scripture have a birth narrative. A birth narrative is the story of how a person’s birth came about. 1 Samuel begins with the story of Hannah’s prayer for a child and the Lord’s answer to that prayer with the birth of Samuel. The beginning of Exodus is the story of the circumstances that gave rise to the birth of Moses and his remarkable childhood. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give the details surrounding the birth of Jesus. The book of Ruth is a birth narrative for Israel’s greatest leader. It provides the background and family history of David. This explains why Ruth appears just before 1 Samuel in our English bible. But in the Hebrew canon, it actually appears after the book of Proverbs. This is probably because the book of Ruth is a real-life fleshing out of the excellent and virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. What does this Proverbs 31 woman look like? The Hebrew canon says, “Here is the story of Ruth.”

The book of Ruth can be outlined with four major sections. 1) Ruth emigrates from Moab to Bethlehem. 2) Ruth gleans in Boaz’s field. 3) Ruth meets Boaz on the threshing floor. 4) Boaz redeems Ruth.

The book opens in the time of Judges during a famine. Naomi’s husband dies. Her two sons die. She is left with two foreign daughters-in-law in the foreign land of Moab. Naomi hears that there is food in her hometown of Bethlehem. She decides to return, but before she warns her daughters. She tells them there is no future with her. Orpah decides to leave Naomi, but Ruth pledges to stay with her. “For where you go I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). So they set off to Bethlehem together. Upon arriving in Bethlehem, Naomi changes her name to Mara, which means bitterness. She is a broken woman.

The second act occurs in the wheat fields of Boaz. Ruth goes to glean in the fields as a poor foreigner. She chances up on the fields of Boaz, a respected Judahite and wealthy landowner. Boaz shows great respect for Ruth. He protects her and provides for her. Ruth is confounded by his grace and asks why she has found favor in his eyes. Boaz responds that it is due to her generosity toward Naomi. When Ruth returns home, Naomi informs her that Boaz may be a kinsman redeemer. The kinsman redeemer was the closest relative who had the obligation to avenge the death of a family member (Num 35), buy back property (Lev 25), redeem a relative sold into slavery (Lev 25), and possibly enter into Levirate marriage to preserve the name of his relative (Deut 25). There is hope.

The third act occurs at the time of threshing. This season was marked with a great celebration on the threshing room floor. Naomi hatches a risky plan that results in Ruth making a provocative proposal of marriage to Boaz. Boaz wants to accept but presents a problem. There is one who is a closer kinsman redeemer.

The fourth act is Boaz’s gracious redemption of Ruth and Naomi. Boaz goes to the gates of the city, where business was transacted, and addresses the nearer kinsman. Boaz explains the presence of Naomi’s fields and this man’s right to them. He is intrigued. But then Boaz mentions that there is a woman, and this nearer kinsman would have the obligation to raise up a son to maintain the name of the deceased. The man is less enthused about this. Upon learning this, the nearer kinsman backs out. So, Boaz is able to redeem Ruth and Naomi, in order “to perpetuate the name of the dead” (Ruth 4:10). Ruth and Boaz marry, and she gives birth to Obed. And Obed is the father of Jesse, who is the father of David. David becomes king of Israel and an important part of the line of Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew specifically records in the birth narrative of Jesus that Jesus is descended from “Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth” (Matt. 1:5). The foreign widow was graciously brought into the lineage of the Messiah of God’s People. Once again, God provides a redeemer for His People.

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