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THE BOOK OF RUTH
Victor M. Eskew
A. Two quotes about the book of Ruth:
1. “No poet in all the world has written a more beautiful short story” (Rud. Alexander Schroder as quoted by David Atkinson in The Message of Ruth, p. 25).
2. The German author, Goethe reportedly labeled this piece of anonymous but unexcelled literature as ‘the loveliest complete work on a small scale’” (Ruth and Esther, John MacArthur, p. 1).
B. Ruth is a very short book consisting of only 85 verses.
C. “The dramatic flavor of the book is observed from the fact that 59 out of the 85 verses (69%) contain dialogue between the characters” (A Commentary on Ruth, David Stewart, p. 7). “The story reads more like a drama in four acts with an epilogue and prologue (gotbible.blogspot.com, “13 Things About the Book of Ruth”).
D. This is the closest picture we have in the Bible of ancient Hebrew daily life… (www.defendproclaimthefaith.org, “The Book of Ruth by Darline Peipman”).
I. THE NAME OF THE BOOK OF RUTH
A. The book of Ruth is named for Ruth, the Moabitess.
1. She is named 12 times in the book (1:4, 14, 16, 22; 2:2, 8, 21-22; 3:9; 4:5, 10, 13).
2. “It is the only book of the Bible devoted wholly to the history of a woman” (Know Your Bible, Frank J. Dunn, p. 112).
3. Mac Lynn:
“The story is about Ruth. It tells how Ruth was faithful, how Ruth entreated her mother-in-law not to make her leave her, how Ruth went to Bethlehem; it tells about Ruth gleaning in the field and Ruth going to Boaz and Ruth being married, and how Ruth gave birth to a son, through whom David came” (As quoted by David Stewart in A Commentary on Ruth, p. 1).
B. The fact that the book is named after Ruth is amazing since she is both a woman and a Moabite.
1. The only other book named after a woman is Esther, but she was a Jew.
2. The only other book named after a Gentile is Luke, but he was a man.
C. NOTE: The only other time Ruth’s name appears in Scripture is in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:5).
And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz began Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse.
D. The name “Ruth” means “companion, friend, vision of beauty.”
II. THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK OF RUTH
A. The book of Ruth is anonymous.
B. Jewish tradition holds that Samuel was the author of both Judges and Ruth.
III. THE STYLE OF THE BOOK OF RUTH
A. The style of the book is historical narrative (Stewart, 7).
1. It contains no literary indications that it is fiction.
2. It records nothing unbelievable, even by a skeptic’s standards.
3. It is set in a particular place and time in history.
4. It contains many historical customs, even explaining on that had been outmoded (4:7).
5. It ends with a historical genealogy (4:18-22; See 1 Chron. 2:1-17).
6. Its notable characters appear in the genealogy of Christ (Matt. 1:5).
B. “The book of Ruth defies any one literary category. It is historical narrative, but was written as a short story or drama. It is not simply poetry, although it contains poetic portions….The author skillfully utilizes the inductive method, repetition, parallelism, chiasm, and symmetry. Based on this information, perhaps Ruth should be labeled as ‘poetic prose’” (Stewart, 11).
IV. THE DATE OF THE BOOK OF RUTH
A. The story itself is set in the period of the judges (Ruth 1:1).
Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled…
1. The period of the judges covers about 330 years of history from the days immediately following the death of Joshua until the reign of Saul.
2. Fifteen judges ruled in Israel during this time.
3. It was a time of a constant vicious cycle: rebellion, captivity, remorse and repentance, and a deliverer (judge). (See Judges 2:11-19).
4. The family probably lived during the early time of the judges. “In Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ, the text says that ‘Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab (Matt. 1:5)…The connection between Rahab and Boaz indicates that the story of Ruth occurred at an early date in the period of the Judges (Stewart, 5).
B. The date of writing?
1. Several time periods have been suggested:
a. The period of Israel’s restoration to Judah and Jerusalem
b. The period of Babylonian captivity
c. The period of the Divided Kingdom
d. The period of the United Kingdom
2. The United Kingdom (1050 – 930 B.C.)
a. The book of Ruth ends with David’s genealogy (4:18-22) suggesting that he had already become famous.
b. Since that genealogy does not mention Solomon, the work was probably written before his reign.
c. At the beginning of David’s reign, he was not popular with Israel, the northern kingdom. “One interesting reconstruction portrays the enemies of King David as organizing a smear campaign against him based on the fact that he had Moabite blood flowing through his veins. Therefore the book of Ruth could be responding to such criticism by emphasizing that David’s ancestress was a ‘woman of excellence’ (3:11)” (Stewart, 14).
V. THE CANONICITY OF THE BOOK OF RUTH
A. The divine inspiration of the book was never seriously questioned giving it a firm place in the canon of the Hebrew Bible.
B. It was included in “the Writings” of the Jews along with Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1-2 Chronicles.
C. Ruth serves as a bridge between Judges and 1 Samuel. The book of Judges laments that there is no king in Israel to restrain the people (Judg. 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25), while 1 Samuel tells the story of King David. Ruth fits in the middle, outlining some of the family history leading up to David (4:17, 22).
VI. THE CRITICISM OF THE BOOK OF RUTH
A. How could Ruth worship at the tabernacle there in Shiloh (I Sam. 4:4), since Deuteronomy 23:3 expressly forbids Moabites from entering the assembly for ten generations.
1. Answer #1: The Jews entered the land in about 1405 B.C., and Ruth was not born until approximately 1150 B.C. Thus, she represented at least the eleventh generation (probably later) if the time limitation ended at ten generations (MacArthur, 3)
2. Answer #2: If “ten generations” was an idiom meaning ‘forever’ as Nehemiah 13:1 implies, then Ruth would be like the foreigner of Isaiah 56:1-8 who joined himself to the Lord (Ruth 1:16), thus giving entrance to the assembly (MacArthur, 3).
B. Are there not immoral overtones to Boaz and Ruth spending the night together before marriage (3:3-18)?
1. Answer #1: The text does not even hint at the slightest moral impropriety noting that Ruth slept at Boaz’s feet (3:14) (MacArthur, 3).
2. Answer #2: Ruth engaged in a common ancient Near Eastern custom by asking Boaz to take her for his wife as symbolically pictured by throwing a garment over the intended woman (3:9), just as Yahweh spread His garment over Israel (Ezekiel 16:8) (MacArthur, 3).
C. Would not the levirate principle of Deuteronomy 25:5-6 lend to incest or polygamy if the nearest relative were already married?
1. Answer #1: It is to be assumed that the implementation of Deuteronomy 25:5-6 could involve only the nearest relative who was eligible for marriage as qualified by other stipulations of the law (MacArthur, 4).
D. Was not marriage to a Moabite strictly forbidden by the law?
1. Answer #1: The nations or people to whom marriage was prohibited were those possessing the land the Israel would enter (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:1-3; Joshua 23:12), and that group did not include Moab (see Deuteronomy 7:1).
2. Answer #2: Ruth, a devout proselyte to Yahweh (Ruth 1:16-17), was not a pagan worshiper of Chemosh – Moab’s chief deity (see later problems in Ezra 9:1-2 and Nehemiah 13:23-25) (MacArthur, 4).
VII. THE KEYS OF THE BOOK OF RUTH
A. Key word: kinsman (redeemer), “one who redeems,” 13 times
B. Key verse: Ruth 2:20 (See also Ruth 2:12)
And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, the man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen.
VIII. THE CHARACTERS OF THE BOOK OF RUTH
A. Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz are the main characters.
B. The meaning of the names in the book of Ruth:
Elimelech My God is King
Boaz In His strength
Bethlehem House of bread
IX. THE THEME OF THE BOOK OF RUTH
A. The primary message of Ruth is REST.
B. “In the house of her husband, who had redeemed her 4:4, 6, 10), Ruth found, respect, protection, and rest” (Dunn, 114).
X. THE PURPOSES OF THE BOOK OF RUTH
A. To display an example of unselfish love
B. To show how faithfulness is rewarded by God
C. To demonstrate the providence of God…”But even in a context in which faith was challenged, our author urges upon his readers – upon us – a certainty, and a delight, in the security of God’s providence” (The Message, Atkinson, p. 11).
D. Ruth describes God’s sovereign (1:6; 4:13) and providential care (2:3) of seemingly unimportant people at apparently insignificant times which later prove to be monumentally crucial to accomplishing God’s will.
E. To highlight that some were righteous in the Judges period
1. “We have spent much time noting that the story is set in the times of the judges. It is as though the author wished us to know that there was another side to life in the time when the judges ruled. Certainly there were charis-matic leaders in Judges 4-16…Equally there was the apostasy, violence, im-moralty and civil strife of Judges 17-21. But there was also faith: living faith in the gracious providence of God, which was enriching and satisfying. Perhaps the author tells the tale in the way he does to throw that fact into sharp relief – and to rekindle that sort of faith in his readers” (The Message of Ruth, David Atkinson, p. 28).
2. The contrast between the Judges and Ruth
The Judges Ruth
Immorality Purity and piety
Battlefields Harvest fields
Warrior’s shout Harvest song
Confusion and distress Peace and rest
F. Ruth portrays the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10 (See Ruth 3:11)
G. To promote family loyalty
H. To show us a picture of sacred marriage as God designed it
I. To encourage the acceptance of converts
J. To account for David’s ancestry
K. To show the place of Ruth in the genealogy of Jesus
L. David’s right (and thus Christ’s right) to the throne of Israel is traced back to Judah (4:18-22; See Genesis 49:8-12).
M. To provide an illustration and definition of the concept of redemption.
N. “The theme of hesed is also shown in Ruth. Hesed is seen when a person goes beyond the expected…beyond the requirement of the law”
(gotbible.blogspot.com, “13 Things About the Book of Ruth”).
O. To show that in the midst of apostasy God is still at work bringing His promised Messiah into the world.
XI. THE INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE BOOK OF RUTH
A. Ruth was read at the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) since it is primarily a harvest festival and the events of the book occurred during that season.
B. Boaz is a type of Christ in many ways:
1. He was a kinsman-redeemer (4:4, 6, 10)
a. Boaz is a type of Christ.
b. Ruth is a type of the Gentiles, strangers afar off (Eph. 2:11-12).
c. Ruth was related to Boaz by marriage, so Christians are related to Christ by spiritual marriage (II Cor. 11:2).
d. As she found rest and union with her redeemer, so we find peace and rest in Christ, our redeemer (Matt. 11:28-30; Eph. 1:3, 7).
2. Lord of harvest (2:3)
3. Dispenser of bread (3:15)
4. Giver of rest (3:1)
5. Man of wealth (2:1)
XII. OUTLINE OF THE BOOK OF RUTH
A. Most commentators will outline the book by chapter.
B. We will do our own outlining of the book as we study the book.