A Transcript Of The Video Study
According to the Chronological Chart Of Bible Books, Ruth is the ninth book to appear on the timeline. We believe it was written by Samuel, but the exact time is unknown. It is a divinely inspired book, meaning God breathed out His words through Samuel. The words of this book, therefore, are the words of God. They are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. They are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that we might be matured in the faith, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Tim 3:15-17)
The name “Ruth” is derived from one of the leading characters of the book. In fact, there are only two books of the Old Testament which are called by the name of a woman—Ruth and Esther. And, there is an interesting contrast between them. For instance, Ruth was a Gentile woman who was brought to live among the Jewish people and married a Jewish man who was an ancestor of King David; whereas Esther was a Jewish woman who was brought to live among the Gentiles and married a Gentile man who was the king of the Persian Empire. Ruth was adopted by her mother-in-law Naomi, who discipled her in the gospel and advised her in the area of marriage; Esther was adopted by her uncle Mordecai, who also discipled her in the gospel and advised her in the area of marriage. The books of Ruth and Esther, therefore, exemplify the beautiful act of adoption, together with the vital roles a father and a mother exercise within the family unit.
Now, aside from there being only two books of the Old Testament which are called by the name of a woman, it is also quite interesting that there are only four women whose names are recorded in the lineage of the Messiah—Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba and Ruth. Whereas the reputation of the first three women were in one way or another marred, yet Ruth is depicted as a woman with unstained integrity.
The events recorded in the book of Ruth occurred sometime during the period in Israel’s history known as the Judges. The book opens with these words—Judges 1:1: “Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land.” Now, although I have included a comment on the chronological chart that the book of Ruth occurred during the time of Gideon, it may also have occurred a little before that time, during the days of Judge Ehud, when Israel had been in subjugation to the Moabites. Henceforth, the events recorded in Ruth most likely fit into the time period recorded in Judges 3:12-31.
The book has been divided into 4 chapters, and it only takes around 13 minutes to read in a single sitting.
I would like to show you how the characters of the book fit within the framework of sovereign grace. According to my count, there are around fifty men and women recorded in the book of Ruth.
There are at least four names connected with God’s elect people—Naomi, Ruth, Boaz and David.
There are at least four names associated with the non-elect—Orpah, Orpah’s mother, Ruth’s mother, Ruth’s father
It is uncertain to which group the remaining forty-two names belong. Among them are—Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion, Naomi’s husband and two sons.
Now, of these people, the two leading characters of the book are Naomi and Ruth. However, each of them dominate the story in a different way. Because the book is named after one of these characters, the story is almost always viewed from Ruth’s perspective. Seldom is the book viewed from the that of Naomi’s perspective. You see, if you read the book from Ruth’s perspective, then it records one of the most beautiful love stories in the Bible. But if you read the book from Naomi’s perspective, then it records one of the most beautiful examples of womanhood and motherhood. Both are set forth in the book as virtuous women—Ruth’s virtue revolves around her youth and desire to be married with children; Naomi’s virtue revolves around her eldership and desire to help her daughter get married and have children.
My dear friends, in light of the secular atheism which now dominates Western culture, and of course, which then influences many other cultures around the world, I cannot think of a more important book in the Bible which so clearly and beautifully sets forth the ideal picture of womanhood. I need not labor the point—we live at a time in history when the family unit has never been so threatened and assaulted as it is today. Men are told they must be feminine; women are told they must be masculine; children are told they are free to choose which gender they want to be, regardless of their biological sex. The whole structure of the family unit has been under attack for the last 70 years—fornication and cohabitation have largely replaced marriage; adultery and divorce have become commonplace; single parent homes, usually with the father absent, has become the norm; children are taught through public and private institutions that they must give more reverence and yield greater obedience to government authorities, than to their own parents. Many governments around the world are now legislating language, prohibiting children from referring to their parents as father and mother—everything now must be gender fluid. Distinctions between men and women are blurred, commitment between husbands and wives is fluid and parental oversight of children is undermined. As I have said, if ever there was a time in history that we needed a clear and decisive statement of true womanhood and motherhood, it is now. And the book of Ruth gives to us that statement!
Well, I would like to provide two structures for the book of Ruth. The first structure is based on Naomi’s perspective, presenting to us an example of womanhood and motherhood; the second structure is based on Ruth’s perspective, presenting to us a beautiful love story between two most unlikely partners. And I suggest, especially since it takes less that fifteen minutes to read the book in a single sitting, that you read the book twice this week, once from the perspective of Naomi, and then from that of Ruth.
Let’s begin with the perspective of Naomi. There are four main sections to the book from from her point of view:
In chapter one, Naomi is bereaved of her husband, Elimelech and her two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. She and her family were from Bethlehem, but because of a famine which swept across the land, her husband decided to move the family to Moab. Soon after their arrival, Elimelech died, leaving Naomi a widow and her two sons to fend for the family. Not long after the death of their father, Mahlon married a Moabite woman named Ruth and Chilion married a Moabite woman named Orpah. For ten years, the family lived together in Moab, making a fairly good living in the foreign land. However, for reasons we are not given, Mahlon and Chilion died, leaving Ruth and Orpah widows, along with Naomi. Knowing that it would be impossible for Naomi to continue living in Moab, she decided it was time for her to return to Bethlehem and be among her people. Forthwith, she encouraged her daughter-in-laws to return to their respective homes and find a new husband among their own people. Orpah complied, whereas Ruth committed herself to Naomi and willingly returned with her to Bethlehem.
In chapter two, Naomi encourages Ruth to join the other poor people of the community as they went from field to field, gathering the leftovers from those reaping the harvest. For reasons not given, Ruth came to a particular field and decided to linger in that place all day, gleaning what she could from the leftovers. Unknown to Ruth, the owner of the field was a wealthy man named Boaz, a relative (or near kinsman) of Elimelech and Naomi. Upon his arrival to the field, he enquired of his servant the identify of the woman. The servant explained who she was, and Boaz welcomed her with open arms to continue gleaning from his harvest. We then read in Ruth 2:10-12—“Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” What a wonderful testimony of Ruth’s salvation—Boaz recognized that she had been born again, having come under the wings, or protection, of the LORD God. When Ruth returned home that night, she reported to Naomi all that unfolded in the day. When Naomi heard that it was Boaz that had shown such grace, she said to Ruth—Ruth 2:20-22: “The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen…It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field.” And so it was, the only field from which Ruth gleaned during the harvest season was that which belonged to Boaz.
In chapter three, Naomi advices Ruth to gain Boaz’ favor with the end goal of becoming his wife. Naomi exercised great wisdom and prudence on the guidance she gave to Ruth, but it was a delicate strategy which could have very easily backfired. You see, Naomi told Ruth to clean herself up, anoint her body with oil and wear clothing that would conceal her identity. That night, Boaz would be winnowing barley at the threshing floor, and hosting a dinner with those in his company. Ruth was to attend that dinner, concealing her identity, and waiting for everyone to settle down to bed. She would then quietly remove the garments which covered the feet of Boaz, laying down in wait, to hear what Boaz would say to her. At midnight, Boaz was startled awake, and seeing a woman at his feet, enquired who it was. Ruth identified herself, saying—Ruth 3:9: ”I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.” In other words, Ruth was requesting Boaz to fulfill his obligations according to the Mosaic Law, by taking her to be his wife. You see, the Lord had given to the children of Israel specific instructions in the event that a man died without having an heir to carry on his lineage. We read in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 : ”If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother. Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house. And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.”And you see, it was this law in Israel—the law of the near kinsman, that Ruth is asking Boaz to fulfill by taking her to be his wife. Well, Boaz agreed the law should be fulfilled and Ruth should be given a portion among the people of Israel. However, there was another man of closer relation to Elimelech which by law had the right to redeem the land of Naomi and take unto him Ruth as wife. Boaz, therefore, instructed Ruth that in the morning she should be at the city gates, and he would see to it that she be given a husband. She followed his instructions, showing up the next day at the gates of the city, at which time she saw Naomi. After explaining to Naomi all that Boaz instructed, Naomi advised Ruth—Ruth 3:18: ”Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.”
In chapter four, Naomi is blessed of Boaz her near kinsman and Ruth her daughter-in-law. Keep in mind, the events which opened Naomi’s story unfolded in Moab, whereas the events which close her story are unfolding in Bethlehem. As I have just pointed out from the previous chapter, Naomi is sitting with Ruth, advising her to wait upon her near kinsman as she will soon be remarried. Boaz enters the city gates and waits for Naomi’s near kinsman to pass by, at which time he invites the man to sit with him along with ten elders of the city. Boaz is will now enforce the law of the near kinsman redeemer as it was given by God in Deuteronomy 25. He publicly explained that Naomi had returned from Moab and wished to sell a parcel of land, and since this man was her nearest kinsman, he should have first choice on whether to redeem it. The near kinsman agreed to redeem the land, until Boaz pointed out a minor catch—whoever redeems Naomi’s land must also redeem the wife of Mahlon, Ruth, so that Elimelech’s heritage may continue through his son’s widow. Well, given that additional responsibility, the near kinsman declined to redeem the land or take Ruth to be his wife. As Boaz was now the next nearest relation to Naomi, he announced that he would fulfill the law, not only redeeming Naomi’s land, but also taking unto him Ruth as wife. The elders and the people bore witness of the transaction, responding with much joy, and wishing upon Boaz, Naomi and Ruth the blessings of the Lord. We therefore read in Ruth 4:13-17: ”So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bare a son. And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him. And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.” And of course, David would become the greatest king of Israel. Henceforth, Ruth was King David’s great-grandmother, and Naomi nursed David’s grandfather, having gained a descendant through Ruth.
When I said the book of Ruth should be read from the perspective of Naomi, that is what I am talking about. Throughout the story, Naomi is the leading exemplar of true womanhood and faithful motherhood. Without her watchful oversight, and keen wisdom, and loving counsel and step-by-step involvement, would Ruth have found a husband in such a man as Boaz? Oh, that each parent might aspire to be a Naomi in the lives of their children! And that every son and daughter might desire to have a Naomi for his/her parent!
Well, I am almost out of time, so I can only highlight the structure of the book according to the perspective of Ruth:
In chapter one, there is what could be called, “The Famine”. In the course of events, Ruth becomes the wife of Mahlon, Naomi’s son. At some point after her marriage to Mahlon,she is converted to Christ. The testimony of Ruth’s salvation is scattered throughout the four chapters of the book. After ten years of marriage, she becomes a widow, but rather than returning to her parents’ home, she commits herself to Naomi, saying, ”Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16,17)
In chapter two, we are given a record of “The Meeting”—Ruth is introduced to Boaz, all of which takes place at the corn field. Boaz acknowledges the testimony of Ruth’s salvation, after which he arranges for her to gather an abundance of harvest.
In chapter three, we are given a record of “The Courtship”—Ruth is ingratiating herself with Boaz, all of which takes place at the threshingfloor. She lays claim to the kinsman redeemer law (Deut 25:5-10), and Boaz vows to enforce this law at the city gates on the morrow.
In chapter four, we are given a record of “The Marriage”—Ruth is wedded to Boaz, with the vows being exchanged at the city gates. While the elders and many of the people bore witness of Ruth’s salvation, Boaz completes his responsibility by redeeming the land of Naomi and marrying Ruth.
Now, when the book is read from Ruth’s perspective, we have before us the evidence of God’s providential governance and faithful promises to His elect people. Surely, we must acknowledge, all things do work together for good to those who love the Lord—to them who are the called according to His purpose. Every step taken by Ruth was foreordained by the all-wise and infinitely good and gracious counsel of the TriUne Jehovah. Ruth was a pagan girl, who having married into a Jewish family, had been converted to Christ. However, all of her dreams and hopes of building a family were dashed to pieces when Mahlon died. Nevertheless, she did not give up, nor did she wallow in the bitterness of her sorrows or fret about the things she could not change. No, no! Rather, she delighted herself in the LORD, committing her future unto Him, resigning her desires and hopes to a good and gracious God, knowing that in His time, He would give to her the desires of her heart, and bring to pass His purpose for her life. (Ps 37:4,5) And oh, what a lesson this is for those who find themselves in similar circumstances! My dear friend, if your experiences in any way resonate with that of Ruth, then I pray the Lord will strengthen your heart; that He would draw you near to Himself; that like Ruth, you will rest contentedly in Christ, peacefully assured that He knows the thoughts that He thinks toward you—thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end! I pray, as you read through the book of Ruth this week, that you will find strength and encouragement in the Lord your God.
Jared Smith served twenty years as pastor of a Strict and Particular Baptist church in Kensington (London, England). He now serves as an Evangelist in the Philippines, preaching the gospel, organizing churches and training gospel preachers.