Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of Ruth
IT IS a heartwarming drama of loyalty between two women. It is an account of appreciation for Jehovah God and trust in his arrangement. It is a story that underscores Jehovah’s keen interest in the Messianic line of descent. It is a touching narrative of the joys and sorrows of a family. The Bible book of Ruth is all that and more.
The book of Ruth covers a period of about 11 years “in the days when the judges administered justice” in Israel. (Ruth 1:1) The events recorded must have occurred early in the period of the Judges, since the landowner Boaz, one of the characters in this real-life drama, was the son of Rahab of Joshua’s day. (Joshua 2:1, 2; Ruth 2:1; Matthew 1:5) The narrative was likely written by the prophet Samuel in 1090 B.C.E. This is the only book in the Bible that bears the name of a non-Israelite woman. The message contained in it “is alive and exerts power.”—Hebrews 4:12.
“WHERE YOU GO I SHALL GO”
When Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem, they become the center of attention. Pointing to the older of the two, the women of the town keep asking: “Is this Naomi?” To this, Naomi says: “Do not call me Naomi. Call me Mara, for the Almighty has made it very bitter for me. I was full when I went, and it is empty-handed that Jehovah has made me return.”—Ruth 1:19-21.
When a famine in Israel causes her family to move from Bethlehem to the land of Moab, Naomi is “full” in that she has a husband and two sons. Some time after they settle in Moab, though, her husband, Elimelech, dies. Later, the two sons marry the Moabite women Orpah and Ruth. About ten years pass, and the two sons die childless, leaving the three women on their own. When the mother-in-law, Naomi, decides to return to Judah, the widows of her sons go with her. Along the way, Naomi urges her daughters-in-law to go back to Moab and find husbands from among their own people. Orpah acquiesces. However, Ruth sticks with Naomi, saying: “Where you go I shall go, and where you spend the night I shall spend the night. Your people will be my people, and your God my God.”—Ruth 1:16.
The two widows, Naomi and Ruth, reach Bethlehem at the start of the barley harvest. Taking advantage of a provision made in God’s Law, Ruth begins gleaning in a field that happens to belong to a kinsman of Elimelech—an elderly Jew named Boaz. Ruth gains Boaz’ favor and continues gleaning in his field “until the harvest of the barley and the harvest of the wheat” come to an end.—Ruth 2:23.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:8—Why did Naomi tell her daughters-in-law to return “each one to the house of her mother” instead of to the house of her father? Whether Orpah’s father was alive at the time is not stated. However, Ruth’s father was. (Ruth 2:11) Still, Naomi spoke of the mother’s house, perhaps thinking that the reference to their mothers would bring to their mind the comfort of motherly affection. This would be particularly soothing to daughters overwhelmed by the sorrow of parting from their beloved mother-in-law. The comment may also reflect the thought that unlike Naomi, the mothers of Ruth and Orpah had well-established homes.
1:13, 21—Did Jehovah make life bitter for Naomi and cause her calamity? No, and Naomi did not charge God with any wrongdoing. In view of all that had happened to her, however, she thought that Jehovah was against her. She felt bitter and disillusioned. Moreover, in those days the fruitage of the belly was considered a divine blessing and barrenness, a curse. Lacking grandchildren and with two sons dead, Naomi might have felt justified in thinking that Jehovah had humiliated her.
2:12—What “perfect wage” did Ruth receive from Jehovah? Ruth had a son and received the privilege of becoming a link in history’s most important lineage—that of Jesus Christ.—Ruth 4:13-17; Matthew 1:5, 16.
Lessons for Us:
1:9. A home should be more than just a place where family members eat and sleep. It should be a peaceful place of rest and comfort.
1:14-16. Orpah “returned to her people and her gods.” Ruth did not. She left the comfort and security of her native land and remained loyal to Jehovah. Cultivating loyal love for God and manifesting a self-sacrificing spirit will help protect us from succumbing to selfish desires and ‘shrinking back to destruction.’—Hebrews 10:39.
2:2. Ruth wanted to take advantage of the provision of gleaning made for the benefit of the foreigners and the afflicted. She was humble at heart. A needy Christian should not be too proud to accept the loving assistance of fellow believers or any governmental aid he or she may qualify for.
2:7. Despite having the right to glean, Ruth asked for permission before doing so. (Leviticus 19:9, 10) This was a sign of meekness on her part. We are wise to “seek meekness,” for “the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Zephaniah 2:3; Psalm 37:11.
2:11. Ruth proved to be more than a relative to Naomi. She was a true friend. (Proverbs 17:17) Their friendship was solid because it was based on such qualities as love, loyalty, empathy, kindness, and a self-sacrificing spirit. More important, it was based on their spirituality—their desire to serve Jehovah and to be among his worshipers. We too have fine opportunities to cultivate genuine friendships with true worshipers.
2:15-17. Even when Boaz made it possible for Ruth to ease her work load, “she continued to glean in the field until the evening.” Ruth was a hard worker. A Christian should have a reputation for being a diligent worker.
2:19-22. Naomi and Ruth enjoyed pleasant conversation during the evening hours, the older one taking an interest in the activities of the younger, both freely expressing their thoughts and feelings. Should it be any different in a Christian family?
NAOMI BECOMES “FULL”
Naomi is too old to bring forth children. So she instructs Ruth to substitute for her in a marriage by repurchase, or brother-in-law marriage. Following Naomi’s direction, Ruth asks Boaz to act as a repurchaser. Boaz is ready to comply. However, there is a closer relative who should be given the first opportunity.
Boaz loses no time in settling the matter. The very next morning, he gathers ten older men of Bethlehem before the relative and asks him if he is willing to do the repurchasing. The man refuses to do so. Hence, Boaz acts as a repurchaser and marries Ruth. Their marriage produces a son, Obed, the grandfather of King David. The women of Bethlehem now say to Naomi: “Blessed be Jehovah . . . He has become a restorer of your soul and one to nourish your old age, because your daughter-in-law who does love you, who is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” (Ruth 4:14, 15) The woman who had returned “empty-handed” to Bethlehem has again become “full”!—Ruth 1:21.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
3:11—What gave Ruth the reputation of being “an excellent woman”? It was not “the external braiding of the hair” or “the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments” that caused others to admire Ruth. Rather, it was “the secret person of the heart”—her loyalty and love, her humility and meekness, her diligence and self-sacrificing spirit. Any God-fearing woman desiring a reputation like that of Ruth must strive to cultivate these qualities.—1 Peter 3:3, 4; Proverbs 31:28-31.
3:14—Why did Ruth and Boaz wake up before daybreak? This was not because something immoral had transpired during the night and they wanted to be secretive. Ruth’s actions that night were apparently in line with what was customarily done by a woman seeking the right of brother-in-law marriage. She acted in harmony with Naomi’s instruction. Moreover, Boaz’ response clearly indicates that he did not see anything wrong in what Ruth did. (Ruth 3:2-13) Evidently, Ruth and Boaz got up early so that no one would have a reason for starting groundless rumors.
3:15—What was significant about Boaz’ giving Ruth six measures of barley? This act perhaps signified that just as a day of rest followed six days of work, Ruth’s day of rest was near. Boaz would see to it that she would have “a resting-place” in the house of her husband. (Ruth 1:9; 3:1) It may also be that six measures of barley is all that Ruth could carry on her head.
3:16—Why did Naomi ask Ruth: “Who are you, my daughter?” Did she not recognize her daughter-in-law? This could very well be, for when Ruth returned to Naomi, it may still have been dark. The question, though, may also mean that Naomi was inquiring about Ruth’s possible new identity in connection with her being repurchased.
4:6—In what way could a repurchaser “ruin” his inheritance by doing the repurchasing? First of all, if the one falling into poverty had sold his land inheritance, a repurchaser would have to put out money to buy the land at a price determined by the number of years remaining till the next Jubilee. (Leviticus 25:25-27) Doing so would reduce the value of his own estate. Moreover, should a son be born to Ruth, that son, rather than any of the repurchaser’s current near relatives, would inherit the purchased field.
Lessons for Us:
3:18. Naomi had confidence in Boaz. Should we not have similar confidence in faithful fellow believers? Ruth was willing to perform brother-in-law marriage with a man she hardly knew, a man unnamed in the Bible. (Ruth 4:1) Why? Because she had confidence in God’s arrangement. Do we have similar confidence? When it comes to seeking a marriage mate, for example, do we heed the counsel to marry “only in the Lord”?—1 Corinthians 7:39.
4:13-16. Although she was a Moabitess and a former worshiper of the god Chemosh, what a privilege Ruth received! This illustrates the principle that “it depends, not upon the one wishing nor upon the one running, but upon God, who has mercy.”—Romans 9:16.
God “May Exalt You in Due Time”
The book of Ruth portrays Jehovah as a God of loving-kindness, who acts in behalf of his loyal servants. (2 Chronicles 16:9) When we reflect on how Ruth was blessed, we see the value of putting our confidence in God with unquestioning faith, fully believing “that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Hebrews 11:6.
Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz placed their complete trust in Jehovah’s arrangement, and things worked out well for them. Similarly, “God makes all his works cooperate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Let us then take to heart the apostle Peter’s counsel: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; while you throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.”—1 Peter 5:6, 7.
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Do you know why Ruth did not abandon Naomi?
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What gave Ruth the reputation of being “an excellent woman”?
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What was the “perfect wage” for Ruth from Jehovah?