David went to Moab (1 Sam 22:3:22:4)

“David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab. He said to the king of Moab. ‘Please let my father and my mother come stay with you, until I know what God will do for me.’ He left them with the king of Moab. They stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold.”

David went to Moab because his great-grandmother Ruth would have been a Moabite. Perhaps Jesse still remembered his Moabite grandmother Ruth. Therefore it did not seem out of place for his family to stay in Moab, the original home of their maternal grandmother, Ruth.

My Understanding of Ruth

What a wonderful love story! This lady named Ruth from Moab turns out to be the grandmother of King David. Thus, she is part of the lineage that leads to Jesus of Nazareth. The setting is the time of the judges when there is no king in Israel. Apparently there were hard times in Bethlehem. This book had been made into a film, The Story of Ruth, a couple of times. Other biblical stories like Noah and the Ten Commandments have become movies also.

Why is this book here in the Bible? In the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Ruth is found among the writings (Ketuvim) in particular among the five scrolls or Five Megillot with the Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. In the Christian Bibles it is found among the so-called histories, after the Book of Judges. This, of course, follows the place that it had in the Greek Septuagint and Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. So for many Christians, this is a semi-historical book. There had been some thought that it was written by the prophet Samuel, whose two books with his name come next in the Christian Bible. However, it is probably a post-exilic composition from the 6th to 4th century BCE.

Naomi with her husband and two sons moved to Moab. This is strange since it was not clear that Moab and Israel were on good terms. Her two sons married Moabite women, which would have been forbidden in Israel. However, the two of them along with Naomi’s husband died. Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. So Ruth, the Moabite wife of one of the sons, went with her. There is a beautiful little chant of Ruth about going wherever Naomi went as they came back to Israel.

Now we have two widows living in Bethlehem who are not rich. One was this foreigner Ruth.   She went out to glean the fields, picking up the scraps of grain that fall to the ground at harvest time. She was allowed to take them for herself. Everyone noticed Ruth. There she met Boaz, the man who owned the land. He was a man of God, very upright. He also was a relative of Naomi’s late husband. It is never clear what kind of cousin he was. Apparently there was another unnamed person, who was a closer relative.

Naomi decided to try and lure Boaz at the harvesting time. She sent Ruth, all dressed up with her finest garments to go the threshing floor when Boaz was asleep. They had a discussion of what was to happen. Boaz decided to solve the problem by going to the town elders and asking if the closest relative would exercise the law of levirate to take care of Ruth and Naomi. He said no, so that Boaz agreed that he would marry Ruth and take care of Naomi. The story ended happily when Boaz and Ruth were married. They had a child who would be the father of Perez, the father of David.

Thus this outside Moab woman would have a role in the royal lineage of Israel. In fact, Moses had married a non-Israelite. This moving story of a foreign woman taking on an important role in Israel was a continual reminder of the freedom of Yahweh to choose whomever he wants to be a leader.

Genealogy appendix (Ruth 4:18–4:22)

“These are the descendants of Perez:

Perez became the father of Hezron;

Hezron of Ram;

Ram of Amminadab;

Amminadab of Nahshon

Nahshon of Salmon

Salmon of Boaz;

Boaz of Obed;

Obed of Jesse;

Jesse of David.”

A final genealogy ends this story. Notice that Elimelech is no longer in the picture. His inheritance is forgotten as Boaz is now in the lineage. The whole story falls apart with this added genealogy. This also puts Ruth and Boaz as the great grandparents of David and the whole line of David that leads to Joseph in the New Testament.

 

Boaz agrees to purchase the land and family of Elimelech (Ruth 4:7–4:12)

“Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging. To confirm a transaction, the one took off a sandal and gave it to the other. This was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the next of kin said to Boaz. ‘Acquire it for yourself.’ He then took off his sandal.”

This is the explanation of the transaction that took place. The sandal of the foot was mentioned in Deuteronomy, chapter 25, when someone did not exercise their right to marry a widow.

“Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people. ‘Today you are witnesses. I have acquired from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. I do this to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance, in order that the name of the dead may not be cut off from his kindred and from the gate of his native place. Today you are witnesses.’ Then all the people who were at the gate, along with the elders, said. ‘We are witnesses. May Yahweh make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you produce children in Ephrathah and bestow a name in Bethlehem. Through the children that Yahweh will give you by this young woman may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

The elders confirm what has taken place. On top of that they give a blessing, referring to Genesis, chapter 35 and 38, about Rachel and Leah, who were the wives of Jacob or Israel. They bore parts of the twelve tribes of Israel. Tamar was the daughter-in-law of Judah, who bore him Perez. The important thing in Israel was having children.

Boaz with the kinsman and the men at the gate (Ruth 4:1–4:6)

“No sooner had Boaz gone up to the gate and sat down there than the next of kin, of whom Boaz had spoken, came passing by. So Boaz said. ‘Come over, friend. Sit down here.’ He went over and sat down. Then Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city, and said. ‘Sit down here.’ So they sat down. Then he said to the next of kin. ‘Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it, and say. ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, so that I may know. For there is no one prior to you to redeem it. I come after you.’ So he said. ‘I will redeem it.’ Then Boaz said. ‘The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.’ At this, the next of kin said. ‘I cannot redeem it for myself, without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.’”

Boaz confronted the next of kin who was ahead of him at the gate with the elders present so that this could be a legal action. Finally, the next of kin refuses his right and duty because it might do harm to his own inheritance. This unnamed next of kin was interested in the land, but the not the Moabite woman Ruth


 

Boaz (Ruth 2:1–2:1)

“Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.”

Now we meet the other important person in this story, Boaz, who is somehow related to Elimelech, but how is not exactly clear. He was also rich and prominent in the town of Bethlehem. However, there is no indication about his family.


 

Lamentation of Naomi in Bethlehem (Ruth 1:19–1:22)

“The two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. The women said. ‘Is this Naomi?’ She said to them.

‘Call me no longer Naomi,

Call me Mara,

For the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.

I went away full,

But Yahweh has brought me back empty.

Why call me Naomi?

When Yahweh has dealt harshly with me,

The Almighty has brought calamity upon me.’

So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.”

Naomi had been gone from Bethlehem for over ten years, but now she returned at the barley harvest time. She was bitter having lost her husband and 2 sons. Therefore, she uttered a lamentation. She wanted to be called the ‘bitter one,’ Mara, instead of the ‘pleasant one,’ Naomi.

Naomi decides to return to Israel (Ruth 1:6–14)

“Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab. She had heard in the country of Moab that Yahweh had considered his people. He had given them food. So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law. They went on their way to go back to the land of Judah.”

Things got better in Israel so Naomi decided to return to her home in Bethlehem since she was going to leave Moab. It might have been strange to have Israelite men take Moab wives.

“Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law. ‘Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May Yahweh deal kindly with you, just as you have dealt with the dead and with me. May Yahweh grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.’ Then she kissed them. They wept aloud. They said to her. ‘No, we will return with you to your people.’ But Naomi said. ‘Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husband’s? Turn back, my daughters, go your way. I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought that there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of Yahweh has turned against me.’ Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.”

Naomi wanted her daughter-in-laws to return to their mothers, but they were reluctant. They wanted to go with her. Finally after much sobbing and embracing, Orpah decides to go home, return to her mother and her gods. However, Ruth goes with Naomi. It is still unclear why Naomi had come to Moab or why Ruth feels such an attachment to her mother-in-law. She feels that Yahweh had turned against her so that she wants to return to her family.

Setting the scene (Ruth 1:1–1:5)

“In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. A certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab. He went with his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech. The name of his wife was Naomi. The names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died. She was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives. The name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.”

This is a nice simple story that focuses on a single family, not the grand theme of a country or nation. The setting for this romantic story is the time of the judges before the kings came to be, sometime over a thousand years before Christ. This book was probably written a few hundred years later after this oral story was repeated over and over again, maybe even written by a woman. The famine was a common theme in the Bible as Abraham, Jacob, and many others experienced this lack of food. Naomi and her husband with their two sons were from Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah, about five miles south of Jerusalem. They went to Moab, which is east of the Jordan, the place where the Israelites were not treated well. The Israelites believed that the Moabites could trace their origin to Lot, the nephew of Abraham, in Genesis, chapter 39, since Lot had an incestuous relationship with his daughter that led to the birth of Moab. The Moab territory had a mixed relationship in Israelite history as the Moabite women had enticed the Israelites to follow them in worship. Although Elimelech and Naomi were from the tribe of Judah, they were also descendants from Ephraim, as Ephrathites. The two son’s names have a meaning of weak and consumption. In this story all the men, Naomi’s husband and two sons, die.

 

Outline of the Book of Ruth

Outline of the Book of Ruth

 

Ruth General Structure (per Jerusalem Bible)

 

I. Ruth and Naomi

Setting the scene (Ruth 1:1–1:5)

Naomi decides to reurn to Israel (Ruth 1:6–1:14)

Canticle of Ruth (Ruth 1:15-1:18)

Lamentation of Naomi in Bethlehem (Ruth 1:19–1:22)

 

 II. Ruth and Bo

Boaz (Ruth 2:1-2:1)

Ruth in the field of Boaz (Ruth 2:2–2:7)

The conversation between Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 2:8–2:17)

Ruth reports to Naomi (Ruth 2:18–2:23)

 

III. Boaz sleeping

Naomi reveals her plan to Ruth (Ruth 3:1–3:5)

Ruth at the threshing-floor of Boaz (Ruth 3:6–3:15)

Ruth reports to Naomi (Ruth 3:16–18)

 

IV .Boaz marries Ruth

Boaz with the kinsman and the men at the gate (Ruth 4:1–4:6)

Boaz agrees to purchase the land and family of Elimelech (Ruth 4:7–4:12)

A son is born to Naomi (Ruth 4:13–4:17)

Genealogy appendix (Ruth 4:18–4:22)