RUTH, BOOK OF
This Bible book takes its name from one of its principal characters, Ruth the Moabitess. The narrative shows how Ruth became an ancestress of David by undergoing brother-in-law marriage with Boaz in behalf of her mother-in-law Naomi. The appreciation, loyalty, and the trust in Jehovah that were manifested by Boaz, Naomi, and Ruth permeate the account.—Ru 1:8, 9, 16, 17; 2:4, 10-13, 19, 20; 3:9-13; 4:10.
With the exception of the genealogical listing (Ru 4:18-22), the events related in the book of Ruth cover a period of about 11 years in the time of the Judges, though it is not stated exactly when it was during this period that they occurred.—Ru 1:1, 4, 22; 2:23; 4:13.
Jewish tradition credits Samuel with the writership of the book, and this would not disagree with internal evidence. The fact that the account concludes with David’s genealogy suggests that the writer knew about God’s purpose respecting David. This would fit Samuel, for he was the one who anointed David to be king. Therefore, it would also have been appropriate for Samuel to make a record of David’s ancestral background.—1Sa 16:1, 13.
Authenticity and Value. That the book of Ruth is historical is confirmed by Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ, which lists Boaz, Ruth, and Obed in the line of descent. (Mt 1:5; compare Ru 4:18-22; 1Ch 2:5, 9-15.) Moreover, it is inconceivable that a Hebrew writer would have deliberately invented a foreign maternal ancestry for David, the first king in the royal line of Judah.
The historical record provides background material that illustrates and illuminates other parts of the Bible. The application of the laws involving gleaning (Le 19:9, 10; De 24:19-22; Ru 2:1, 3, 7, 15-17, 23) and brother-in-law marriage (De 25:5-10; Ru 3:7-13; 4:1-13) are vividly portrayed. There is evidence of Jehovah’s guidance in the preservation of the line of descent leading to the Messiah and also in the choice of individuals for that line. Israelite women who were married to a man of the tribe of Judah had the possible prospect of contributing to Messiah’s earthly line of descent. (Ge 49:10) The fact that Ruth, a Moabitess, was so favored illustrates the principle stated by the apostle Paul: “It depends, not upon the one wishing nor upon the one running, but upon God, who has mercy.” (Ro 9:16) Ruth had chosen Jehovah as her God and Israel as her people, and in his great mercy, Jehovah granted to her “a perfect wage” in permitting her to become a link in the most important line of descent.—Ru 2:12; 4:13-17.
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HIGHLIGHTS OF RUTH
A narrative showing how the God-fearing Moabitess Ruth was blessed by Jehovah by becoming part of the unbroken Messianic line leading to King David
Setting is during the time of the Judges; writing was likely completed about 1090 B.C.E.
Ruth decides to stay with Naomi and her God, Jehovah (1:1-22)
Childless and widowed, Ruth and Orpah accompany their mother-in-law Naomi, widow of Elimelech, as she departs from Moab to return to Judah
Dissuaded by Naomi’s words regarding the bleak prospects for remarriage, Orpah turns back
Ruth is undeterred; she declares that Naomi’s people will be her people and Naomi’s God her God
Finally, Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem
Ruth gleans in the field of Boaz (2:1–3:18)
By chance, Ruth begins gleaning in the field of Boaz, a kinsman of Elimelech, and gains his favorable attention
Ruth continues gleaning in Boaz’ field until the end of the barley and wheat harvests
Then, following Naomi’s instructions, Ruth requests Boaz to act as a repurchaser; Boaz is willing, but there is a man more closely related to Naomi than he is
Boaz, as repurchaser, marries Ruth (4:1-22)
Before ten elders of Bethlehem, Boaz offers the closer relative the opportunity to repurchase the field of Elimelech and to raise up offspring for the dead man by performing brother-in-law marriage with Ruth
When the relative declines, Boaz acts as repurchaser
The union of Boaz and Ruth is blessed with the birth of a son, Obed, the grandfather of King David