Who was Ruth in the Bible?

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By BibleAsk Team


Ruth

Ruth, a central figure in the Bible, is primarily featured in the Book of Ruth, which is part of the Old Testament. This book is nestled between the books of Judges and 1 Samuel. Although it’s one of the shorter books in the Bible, her narrative is rich in themes of loyalty, kindness, and redemption.

Background

The story of Ruth is set during the time of the Judges, a period marked by moral decline and spiritual waywardness in Israel. Elimelech, a man from Bethlehem, along with his wife Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, faced a famine in their homeland. In pursuit of a better life, they migrated to Moab, a neighboring country.

Tragically, Elimelech dies in Moab, leaving Naomi a widow. Her sons marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. However, both Mahlon and Chilion also die, leaving Naomi with her two daughters-in-law. Facing destitution and hearing that the famine in Bethlehem had ended, Naomi decides to return home.

Loyalty

The pivotal moment in Ruth’s story comes when Naomi urges her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab and find new husbands. Orpah tearfully agrees, but Ruth’s response becomes one of the most famous passages in the Bible:

Ruth 1:16-17 (NKJV): “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.”

Her loyalty to Naomi is not just a demonstration of family ties but also a profound commitment to Naomi’s God.

Bethlehem

Upon returning to Bethlehem, Ruth takes on the responsibility of providing for Naomi. In an act of providence, she gleans in the fields of Boaz, a wealthy relative of Elimelech. Boaz notices her diligence and learns about her loyalty to Naomi. Impressed by her character, Boaz ensures her safety and even instructs his workers to intentionally leave extra grain for her to collect.

Redemption through Boaz

The story takes a turn when Naomi, recognizing Boaz as a close relative, sees an opportunity for her daughter-in-law’s future and their family’s redemption. According to Jewish custom, a close relative, known as a kinsman-redeemer, could marry a widow to preserve the family name and inheritance. Naomi encourages her daugher-in-law to approach Boaz at night, symbolizing a request for him to act as their kinsman-redeemer.

Ruth 3:9 (NKJV): “He said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.'”

Boaz, moved by her request, expresses his willingness to fulfill this role but informs her that there is a closer relative who must first be given the opportunity to redeem Naomi’s family.

Redemption at the Threshing Floor

Boaz approaches the closer relative, presenting him with the opportunity to redeem Naomi’s family. However, when the relative learns that this involves marrying Naomi’s daugher-in-law and potentially jeopardizing his own inheritance, he declines. Boaz, true to his word, steps forward as the kinsman-redeemer.

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 and Ruth’s union becomes a symbol of redemption, not just for Naomi’s family but also as a foreshadowing of the greater redemption offered through Jesus Christ.

Legacy

Ruth and Boaz’s union results in the birth of Obed, the grandfather of King David. Ruth, a foreigner and a widow, becomes part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, highlighting God’s inclusivity and His ability to use ordinary individuals in His divine plan.

Ruth 4:17 (NKJV): “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.”

Lessons from Ruth’s Story

  1. Loyalty and Kindness: This woman’s unwavering loyalty to Naomi and her kindness in gleaning for their sustenance exemplify the values of loyalty and compassion.
  2. Redemption and Restoration: This story serves as a beautiful illustration of God’s redemptive plan, restoring a broken family and providing a lineage leading to the Savior.
  3. Inclusivity of God’s Plan: A Moabite widow, is not only included in God’s plan but becomes an integral part of the lineage leading to Jesus Christ. This emphasizes God’s acceptance of all who come to Him in faith.
  4. Faithfulness Rewarded: Ruth’s eagerness to be part of God’s people is rewarded, not only with a new husband and family but with a place in the lineage of the Messiah.

Conclusion

Ruth’s story is a testament to the power of loyalty, kindness, and God’s providence. Her journey from a foreign widow to an honored figure in the lineage of Jesus illustrates the overarching theme of redemption and the inclusivity of God’s plan for all who trust in Him. Ruth’s legacy extends beyond her time, leaving a lasting impact on biblical literature and serving as an inspiration for believers throughout history.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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