What is the purpose of the Book of Ruth?

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By BibleAsk Team


The Book of Ruth is a short but profoundly significant narrative in the Old Testament, nestled between the books of Judges and 1 Samuel. This book tells the story of a Moabite woman named Ruth who becomes an ancestor of King David and, by extension, Jesus Christ. The purposes of the Book of Ruth are multifaceted, encompassing themes of loyalty, divine providence, redemption, and the inclusivity of God’s love.

1. Demonstrating Loyalty and Devotion

One of the central themes of the Book of Ruth is loyalty, especially as demonstrated through the relationship between Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. This theme is exemplified in Ruth 1:16-17 (NKJV):

“But Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.'”

The Book of Ruth gives a most beautiful picture of the blessings of the ideal home. There are two institutions that have come down to us from before the fall of man—the Sabbath and the home. The home was established by God Himself on the sixth day of the first week of time, and the Sabbath on the seventh day of the same week.

In the Book of Ruth, the relationship of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law can be a troubling topic to many. But not so with Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. After a sojourn of ten years in the land of Moab, Naomi, whose husband and two sons had died, found out that a more prosperous conditions exited in the land of Judah, so she decided to go back to her land.

Ruth, prompted by love and respect to her mother-in-law for her kind treatment and faith, broke all her family ties in Moab and decided to go to Judah. Thus, she purposed to go to a strange land, connect herself to the Israelites, and worship the God of heaven. This devotion to her mother-in-law resulted, in her becoming one of the ancestors of David, the great king of Israel; Solomon, the wisest of the sons of men; and the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the son of David.

Also, the Book of Ruth is full with great examples of faith, virtue, humility, industry, and loving-kindness demonstrated in the normal incidences of life. Thus, we have in the narrative of Ruth, not only a delightful book of Hebrew literature, but also an important comment on a portion of the genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:4–6).

2. Highlighting God’s Providence and Sovereignty

The Book of Ruth also emphasizes the theme of divine providence. Despite the initial hardships faced by Naomi and Ruth, the narrative shows how God works behind the scenes to bring about His purposes. Naomi’s return to Bethlehem with Ruth coincides with the beginning of the barley harvest, setting the stage for their redemption (Ruth 1:22, NKJV):

“So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.”

God’s providence is further evident in Ruth’s gleaning in the fields of Boaz, who turns out to be a kinsman-redeemer. This encounter is described in Ruth 2:3 (NKJV):

“Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.”

The phrase “happened to come” suggests a divine orchestration of events, pointing to God’s sovereignty in guiding Ruth to Boaz’s field.

3. Showcasing the Concept of Redemption

Redemption is another key theme in the Book of Ruth, primarily through the role of Boaz as the kinsman-redeemer. In ancient Israel, a kinsman-redeemer was a close relative who had the responsibility to redeem a family member in serious difficulty, whether by buying back property or marrying a widow to raise offspring in the deceased relative’s name. Boaz’s willingness to fulfill this role for Ruth and Naomi is detailed in Ruth 4:9-10 (NKJV):

“And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, ‘You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day.'”

Boaz’s actions ensure the continuation of Elimelech’s family line and restore Naomi’s and Ruth’s fortunes, symbolizing God’s redemption of His people.

4. Illustrating Inclusivity in God’s Plan

The inclusion of Ruth, a Moabitess, in the lineage of David (and ultimately Jesus Christ) underscores the universality of God’s love and plan of salvation. Ruth’s faith and her acceptance into the community of Israel demonstrate that God’s covenant blessings extend beyond ethnic and national boundaries. This is evident in Ruth 4:13-17 (NKJV):

“So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.’ Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbor women gave him 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.”

Ruth’s inclusion in the genealogy of David highlights the inclusivity of God’s redemption and His willingness to work through individuals from all backgrounds to accomplish His divine purposes.

5. Reflecting God’s Faithfulness and Loving-Kindness

The Book of Ruth is a testament to God’s faithfulness and loving-kindness (hesed). Despite the bitter circumstances that Naomi faces, God’s hesed is manifested through the actions of Ruth and Boaz. Naomi’s transformation from bitterness to joy reflects God’s ability to restore and bless those who trust in Him. Naomi’s journey from despair to hope is encapsulated in Ruth 4:14-15 (NKJV):

“Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.'”

This passage in the Book of Ruth reflects the community’s recognition of God’s faithfulness in providing for Naomi through Ruth and Boaz.

6. Providing a Genealogical Link to David

One of the main purposes of the Book of Ruth is to give information about the direct ancestors of David, the one in whose line was to come the Messiah. By tracing David’s ancestry back to Ruth and Boaz, the narrative connects the story of Ruth to the broader narrative of Israel’s history and God’s covenant promises. This genealogical link is found in Ruth 4:18-22 (NKJV):

“Now this is the genealogy of Perez: Perez begot Hezron; Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab; Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon; Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed; Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.”

This genealogy in the Book of Ruth not only validates David’s rightful place as king but also foreshadows the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is also descended from this line.

Conclusion

The Book of Ruth, though brief, serves multiple purposes that are deeply connected with the themes of loyalty, divine providence, redemption, inclusivity, and God’s faithfulness. Through the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz, we see a powerful narrative that highlights the importance of steadfast love and commitment to family, the overarching sovereignty and providence of God, the concept of redemption as a central theme in God’s dealings with humanity, and the inclusivity of God’s love that reaches beyond ethnic and national boundaries.

Furthermore, the genealogical link in the Book of Ruth to King David underscores the book’s significance in the larger biblical narrative, connecting it to the lineage of Jesus Christ and emphasizing the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises. The Book of Ruth stands as a testament to God’s ability to bring about His purposes through ordinary, faithful individuals, and serves as a reminder of His unending loving-kindness and faithfulness to His people.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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