RUTH chapters and history

Ruth is the chief character of the book of the same name. The story is set in the period of the judges (see JUDGES, BOOK OF) and shows that at a time when the people of Israel as a whole turned away from God, some remained faithful to him.

Ruth 1 Ruth 3
Ruth 2 Ruth 4
Ruth comments

When the majority easily slipped into the worship of false gods, individuals here and there still exercised simple trust in God. In spite of the widespread moral failure, purity and honesty had not entirely disappeared. In an era of selfishness, there was still loving concern for others. And God, on his part, was still directing affairs in the everyday lives of his people for their good.

Contents of the book

The story begins when Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons went to the country of Moab to escape famine in Israel. Both sons married Moabite girls (one of them being Ruth), but when Elimelech, and later the two sons, died, Naomi and Ruth returned to Israel. They settled in Naomi’s home town of Bethlehem (1:1-22). Being poor, Ruth went gleaning to get food for Naomi and herself. Unknown to her, the man in whose field she gleaned was Boaz, a close relative of the late Elimelech. When Boaz learnt of Ruth’s kindness to Naomi, he showed particular kindness to her in return (2:1-23; see BOAZ).

Naomi believed that Boaz was Elimelech’s closest living relative. She therefore suggested that Ruth ask Boaz to produce through her a child who, according to custom, would be recognized as child of the dead man. This child would grow up to carry on the dead man’s name and inheritance. Boaz was willing to do as Ruth requested, but in all honesty he told her that there was a closer living relative than he (3:1- 18). This close relative had another responsibility besides producing a child to carry on the name of Elimelech and his son. The man had also to buy the family property, which Naomi had been forced to sell because of her poverty. In this way he would preserve the inheritance of Elimelech and his son. But since the child to be born would eventually inherit this family property, the close relative asked that Boaz, rather than he, fulfil the duties of the close relative. Boaz was delighted, because he had wanted to marry Ruth and he was happy to produce a son and heir through her. The son became the grandfather of King David and an ancestor of Jesus the Messiah (4:1-22; cf. Matt 1:1,5-6).

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