The Book of Joshua The First Book of Samuel


The Book of Ruth is the history of the family of Elimelech, who in the days of the Judges, because of a famine, went away from Bethlehem to dwell in the land of Moab. There his two sons married Moabite wives and died, as did also their father. Naomi, the mother, returned to Bethlehem, and Ruth, one of her widowed daughters-in-law, came with her. Ruth, when gleaning in the field of Boaz, a kinsman of Elimelech, found favor with him. Naomi planned that Boaz should marry Ruth, and he was ready to do so, if a nearer kinsman, to whom the right belonged according to the law in Deut. 25:5-10, declined. He did decline, and so Ruth became the wife of Boaz. Her son was Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David. The book appears to be intended to connect the history of David with the earlier times, and also to form a contrast, in its peaceful and pastoral simplicity, to the disorders of which we read so continually in the Book of Judges.

The story of Ruth beautifully illustrates the conversion of a non-Israelite into the fold of Israel, giving up her former god and former life to unite with the household of faith in the service of the God of Israel (see Ruth 1:16).

The second book of our Bible, and the second book of our study is The Second Book of Moses called Exodus.

Ruth 1:1. What Is the Background of the Book of Ruth?

"Many years had passed since the Israelites had crossed the Jordan and formed a loose tribal confederacy in the central highlands of Canaan. As they established their own settlements, they gradually discarded their nomadic traditions and adopted an agricultural way of life.

"Yet their position remained precarious. The northern tribes were almost constantly at war with those walled cities that remained under the control of the Canaanites, and they frequently had to defend themselves against invasions by people from the east: the Ammonites and Midianites. In contrast, Judah, which occupied the southern end of the Israelite territory, seems to have been relatively tranquil and not involved in the great wars that concerned the Judges.

"The people of Judah regularly battled another sort of enemy: the climate. Judah occupied a rugged plateau in the semiarid lands west of the Dead Sea. Normally, the land was fertile enough to sustain fields of wheat and barley, grape vineyards and groves of olive and fig trees. But occasionally the rains failed, the crops withered and there was famine.

"During one such disaster, a Judæan man named Elimelech, who lived in the town of Bethlehem, fled the land with his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. The family traveled to Moab, a kingdom on the eastern borders of the Dead Sea. The distance was not great -- perhaps 30 or 40 miles along the edge of that inland sea [the Dead Sea]." (Great People of the Bible and How They Lived, p. 126.)

Ruth 1:1. Why did Elimelech and Naomi go to Moab?

Ruth 1:3-5. Who had died in Naomi's family?

Ruth 1:6. Why did Naomi return from Moab?

Ruth 1:16-17. What did Ruth say to Naomi when Naomi asked Ruth to leave?

Ruth 1:19-21

Naomi here used a play on words based on her name. In Hebrew Naomi means "sweet or pleasant" and Mara means "bitter." When, after many years' absence, the people greeted her in surprise by asking, "Is this Naomi?" (v. 19), she responded by saying, "Call me not Naomi [pleasant], call me Mara [bitter]: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me" (v. 20). This reply was not an accusation, only Naomi's way of saying that she had endured much tragedy while in Moab.

Ruth 1:22-2:17. What Is "Gleaning"?

"Harvesting was difficult work and demanded long hours. Young men moved through the fields grasping handfuls of the grain and cutting through the stalks with sickles. These small bunches of grain were then bound into bundles called sheaves. As the men worked rapidly, a number of stalks fell to the ground. If the men were careful and took the time, these too could be gathered up. However, any stalks that dropped were allowed to remain where they fell. Poor people, following the reapers, were permitted to 'glean,' or gather, the random stalks -- possibly all that stood between them and starvation. In addition, the edges of the field, where the sickle was not as easily wielded, were left unharvested. The poor were welcome to that portion, as well.

"The destitute of Bethlehem now included Ruth and Naomi, and Ruth offered to go into the fields and glean." (Great People of the Bible and How They Lived, p. 129.)

Ruth 2:1. Who was Boaz? (See also Ruth 2:1a)

Ruth 2:2. Why did Ruth glean ears of corn in the field of Boaz?

Ruth 2:8-9. What did Boaz say to Ruth?

Ruth 2:11-12. Why had Ruth found grace in the sight of Boaz?

Ruth 2:17. How much barley had Ruth gleaned? (See Bible Dictionary, p. 655, s.v. "Ephah")

Ruth 2:18-4:10. What Was the Levirate Marriage That Naomi Hoped to Arrange for Ruth and Boaz?

Naomi wanted to help her faithful daughter-in-law secure a husband and family. To do this, Naomi considered the levirate marriage, a practice that had prevailed for many years in Israel.

Deuteronomy 25:5-10 is the scriptural reference for the levirate marriage obligation in Israelite families.

"The word here rendered 'redeemer' we translate literally from Hebrew go'el and this is its proper translation. It is rendered merely 'kinsman' in the King James English translation. The function of a go'el was to make it possible for a widow who had lost home and property to return to her former status and security and to have seed to perpetuate her family.

"It is easy to see why the later prophets borrowed this word from the social laws of Israel and used it to describe the functions of Him who would become the Divine Redeemer: Think of what He does to restore us to proper status with God, and to give us future security and eternal 'seed.'" (Rasmussen, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1:157.)

Ruth 3:1-4. What did Naomi tell Ruth to do?

Ruth 3:6-9. How Did Ruth Make Her Proposal to Boaz?

"When Boaz awoke from his sleep by the pile of grain, which he was guarding as was the custom during harvest time, he was startled by Ruth's presence. She was direct in her proposal. The word rendered 'skirt' also means 'wing,' and her request is not unlike our idiom 'take me under your wing.' Gesenius, the famous Hebraist, says it was a proper proposal of marriage -- even though the girl was doing the proposing!" (Rasmussen, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1:157.)

The idiom means "protect me," or, in other words, "be my protector or husband."

"According to our customs, indeed, this act of Naomi and Ruth appears a very objectionable one from a moral point of view, but it was not so when judged by the customs of the people of Israel at that time. Boaz, who was an honourable man, and, according to [Ruth 3:10], no doubt somewhat advanced in years, praised Ruth for having taken refuge with him, and promised to fulfil her wishes when he had satisfied himself that the nearer redeemer would renounce his right and duty [see vv. 10-11]. As he acknowledged by this very declaration, that under certain circumstances it would be his duty as redeemer to marry Ruth, he took no offence at the manner in which she had approached him and proposed to become his wife. On the contrary, he regarded it as a proof of feminine virtue and modesty, that she had not gone after young men, but offered herself as a wife to an old man like him. This conduct on the part of Boaz is a sufficient proof that women might have confidence in him that he would do nothing unseemly. And he justified such confidence." (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 2:1:483.)

Ruth 3:11-13. What did Boaz promise Ruth? Why?

Ruth 4:6. What did the kinsman tell Boaz about Ruth and about redeeming the land?

Ruth 4:7-12. How Was a Public Agreement Made Legally Binding?

"The public life of an Israelite village was concentrated at its main gate. It was here that matters of law were brought for adjudication before the elders of the community. They also were the official witnesses for transactions such as the one in which Boaz agreed to marry Ruth if her kinsman would give up all rights to her dead husband's property. A man renouncing property rights removed a sandal and presented it to the new property holder, a gesture that everyone understood and considered binding if witnessed by the elders." (Great People of the Bible and How They Lived, p. 133.)

Ruth 4:9-10. What did the elders witness that day?

Ruth 4:17. What was the name of the son born of Ruth?

Ruth 4:22. Who was the son of Obed? the grandson?

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