A Short Commentary on Ruth

Introduction


1.1 Historical Background
1.2 Prevailing Conditions
1.3 Main Characters
1.4 Major Argument
1.5 Major Themes
1.6 The Literary Composition of Ruth


Exegetical Outline


2.1 Elimelech moves his family to Moab to only encounter disaster 1:1-18 7
2.1.1 Elimelech dies and so do his two sons Mahlon and Chilion 1:1-5 8
2.1.2 Naomi is forced to move back to Judah 1:6-14 8
2.1.3 Ruth decides to remain with her mother-in-law 1:15-18 9
2.2 Naomi and Ruth reach Bethlehem and encounter hardships 1:19-2:23 9
2.2.1 Naomi is bitter and disgraced and wants to be called Mara 1:19-21 10
2.2.2 Naomi and Ruth arrive during the barley harvest 1:22 10
2.2.3 Ruth has a chance encounter with Boaz 2:1-7 10
2.2.4 Boaz treats Ruth with kindness after hearing what she did for Naomi 2:8-13 11
2.2.5 Boaz becomes a benefactor for Ruth and Naomi 2:14-16 11
2.2.6 Boaz is identified as a possible redeemer for Ruth 2:17-23 12
2.3 Naomi tries to intervene and find a husband for Ruth 3:1-18
3.3.1 Ruth is instructed by Naomi to entice Boaz 3:1-5
3.3.2 The first conflict of Ruth’s redeemer is established 3:6-13
3.3.3 Ruth informs Naomi of the outcome of her plan 3:14-18
2.4 Boaz begins to act on fulfilling his responsibility as a redeemer 4:1-22
4.4.1 Boaz confronts the other possible redeemer 4:1-6
4.4.2 Boaz addresses the public of his redemption of Ruth 4:7-12
4.4.3 Boaz and Ruth are married and have a child 4:13-17
4.4.4 The genealogy of King David is addressed 4:18-22

Introduction

Historical Background


The authorship of the book of Ruth is unknown. It has been speculated that this book was written by the prophet Samuel. He may have written this book to justify David’s claim to the throne of Israel. The book of Ruth was written during the time of Judges. The estimated date for this book is around 539 B.C. Since the authorship of the book of Ruth takes place during a dark time in the Israelite culture, it also showed how faithful God is to His people when they are in complete obedience to His word. This book also showed the people of Israel that the Lord would and will redeem them when they completely submit and obey Him. This is an important lesson that had to be learned in this time frame of disobedience of the Israelite people.

The book of Ruth is named after a Moabitess who had married a Hebrew man living in Moab. The book of Ruth is annually read before the Feast of Pentecost by the orthodox Jewish people. Ruth is also one of the only two books in the Bible named after woman. The second book is the book of Ester. This shows the importance of these two woman in the Scriptures. From their lives many lessons are to be learned. Also, the history of Israel can be found in this book. Without the legitimacy of king David in Ruth, he would have never been qualified to become king. If David would have not been deemed qualified to become king, Jesus Christ himself could not have been born into the line of David like the prophecies foretold (Isaiah 7:14).

Prevailing Conditions


The prevailing conditions of the book of Ruth are stated in the first verse. There was a time of famine while the judges were ruling over Israel. Since the Judges were ruling Israel, it can easily be deducted that Israel was in-between idol worship, being enslaved or captive, or newly redeemed by the current Judge of that time. This was a dark time in the history of Israel.

Major Characters


The major characters of the book of Ruth are Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. Naomi stands out because she loses not only her husband, but her two sons. Ruth stands out because she is the loyal daughter-in-law of Naomi that goes with her back to her homeland. Ruth had the opportunity to go back to her own family, but chose to undergo many hardships because of her love and loyalty to her mother-in-law. Boaz stands out because he is the nearest living relative to Naomi’s late husband Elimelek. This means he can redeem Ruth and keep Naomi’s family line alive.

Major Arguments


The major argument of the book of Ruth is to show the redemptive powers of God and to establish a legitimate genealogy of the kingship of David. Despite king David’s foreign ancestress, he is a legitimate heir to the throne of Israel. Without this truth being stated, David would have not been qualified to lead the people of Israel as their king. Many truths of Israel can be traced back to this book and its genealogy. Another major argument of the book of Ruth is how complete love and loyalty will ultimately be rewarded by God when he deems it to be the right time.

Major Themes


Some major themes of the book of Ruth are: the power of loyalty and redemption, in the fact that people cannot redeem themselves; providence in the sense of God’s direction for these characters lives; and the transformation of Naomi from bitterness to happiness. This book also shows how God will always act responsibly to ensure His plan is carried out in this world. The significance of the theology of this book is clear, only through faith and obedience to God can individual people and the nation of Israel be properly redeemed. Also that people alone can never redeem themselves. It is only through the supernatural intervening of the Lord can this task be accomplished.

The Literary Composition of Ruth


The book of Ruth is a narrative that takes place during the time of Judges. The period of the Judges was marked by weak faith and irresponsible conduct. Ruth of the Moabites broke the tradition of her idolatrous people and chose to have faith and follow the God of the Jews. This showed that the people of Israel could as well break from their adulterous ways and be redeemed by the Lord. This is why the Lord sent the people Judges to redeem His people when they were enslaved and stuck in bondage when they cried out to Him. It is almost poetic how Naomi’s and Ruth’s cries were heard by God and he redeemed them through Boaz. Then like a reflection in a mirror, the cries of the Israelites’ were heard by God and then he sent the Judges to redeem them. This parallel must not be overlooked because of its specific significance to Israelite history.

 

Exegetical Commentary of Ruth

2.1 Elimelech moves his family to Moab to only encounter disaster 1:1-18

As this story begins, Elimelech takes his family on a journey outside of land and away of his kin to the land of Moab, which promised fullness and sustenance. Elimelech could not know, nor understand the implications of this journey on not only himself, but his entire family. Naomi was Elimelech’s wife and they had two children, Mahion and Kilion.

Upon hearing about the end of the famine back in Naomi’s homeland and the restoration of food supplies, Naomi sets out to return from Moab to Bethlehem. For some additional information on the city of Bethlehem, the cities meaning is “house of bread.” This could possibly be because of the amount of harvest the city normally had before the famine struck the area.

2.1.1 Elimelech dies and so do his two sons Mahlon and Chilion 1:1-5
These were the dark days for Israel, when “All the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6, 21:25). Moab was the land east of the Dead Sea. It was one of the nations oppressed Israel, so there was constant hostility between these two nations. By understanding the history of the geographic area that Elimelech moved his family to could have provided some foreshadowing of the events that were yet to come.

While Naomi was depressed and grief stricken by her husbands death, she still had hope in her two sons because they were still alive at this time. Naomi’s two sons married Moabite woman. Even though the Mosaic Law stated that Israelites could not marry Canaanites, there was nothing stating that they could not marry Moabites. In ten short years after Naomi’s husbands death, her two sons both die. The Bible does not give the exact reasons why they died. One can only speculate that it was due to the friction between the Israelites and the Moabites of the area.

2.1.2 Naomi is forced to move back to Judah 1:6-14
As Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws were walking towards Judah, Naomi turns around and tells her two daughters to go back to their homelands. Naomi wanted the best for her daughter-in0laws and she thought if they went back home they would have a better life than going back to Bethlehem poor and widowed. When Naomi’s daughter-in-laws did not want to leave her side, she commented “Can I still give birth to sons for you to marry” (1:11), she was refereeing to the “levirate marriage” where the obligation of a dead mans brother was to take care of the widow. Naomi was too old to be able to accomplish this.

2.1.3 Ruth decides to remain with her mother-in-law 1:15-18
Even though she repartitioned for Ruth and Orpan to leave her, only Ruth decided to show complete loyalty to Naomi. The Scriptures does not address Ruth’s opinions of Orpah’s decision, this does not mean she did not have mixed emotions about the situation. Regardless of the possible emotional conflicts, Naomi observed Ruth’s determination to stay with her. So they both finish the journey together to Bethlehem.

2.2 Naomi and Ruth reach Bethlehem and encounter hardships 1:19-2:23

Naomi had experienced severe hardships. She left Israel married and secured and came back widowed and poor. When Naomi and Ruth returned, it was the beginning of the barley harvest. Due to Israel’s climate, they were able to produce two harvests a year, one in spring and the other in fall. Since Naomi and Ruth were poor and had no resources to even tend to themselves, Ruth begins to glean after the harvesters’ to be able to feed herself and her mother-in-law.

2.2.1 Naomi is bitter and disgraced and wants to be called Mara 1:19-21
Naomi must have felt ashamed and even more bitter when the people of her small town were asking “Is that really Naomi.” Naomi even took it a step further and had people call her “Mara” which means “the Almighty has made life very bitter for me.” Naomi was left bitter and empty inside and Ruth had to hold back her emotions of sadness after losing her husband to properly tend to her mother-in-law. Naomi also openly stated that she left full and came back empty because the Lord was against her. She took what happened to her husband and children personally as a direct attack from the Lord.

2.2.2 Naomi and Ruth arrive during the barley harvest 1:22
Since Naomi and Ruth arrived during the barely festival, this was the first good break the Lord provided them. This allowed Ruth to glean the harvest field to provide food for her and her mother-in-law Naomi to eat. The beginning of this harvest was immediately after the Passover. Bethlehem is also the birth place of the Messiah Jesus Christ.

2.2.3 Ruth has a chance encounter with Boaz 2:1-7
In this chapter in the book for Ruth, Ruth invites us to the world of the immigrant and the powerless. Boaz is introduced I this scene and described as a kinsmen of Elemelch. Also, in this chapter, Ruth begins to glean to be able to feed herself and her mother-in-law Naomi.

Without knowing it, Ruth began to glean on her relative Boaz’s land (2:3). Ruth’s gleaning represents the law of Leviticus 19:9-10 regarding the legality of the poor and aliens to glean in the fields during harvest time. This allowed the poor to be able to find enough food to eat and not starve to death. Also, Ruth gleaned by herself most likely because her mother-in-law was old or ill.

2.2.4 Boaz treats Ruth with kindness after hearing what she did for Naomi 2:8-13
After Boaz hears of Ruth’s kindness to her mother-in-law (being widowed herself and having no other reason to stay with Naomi), he makes precautions so she could work unmolested. This was an extremely kind gesture because the poor and the immigrants of that time would have to move from harvest to harvest to gather enough to eat. So when Boaz told her this, Ruth fell down to her feet and started bowing to the ground, this was expressing both her gratitude and an acknowledgment that Boaz held a greater status of power than herself. After the day’s hard work, Ruth went back home and told Naomi everything that happened and shared the left over food that Boaz provided for her to eat.

2.2.5 Boaz becomes a benefactor for Ruth and Naomi 2:14-16
Boaz invites Ruth to sit beside the harvesters’ and eat roasted grain. She was not only full, but had enough to bring back to her mother-in-law Naomi. Boaz starts to take a special interest in Ruth and notifies his workers not to taunt or bother Ruth as she gleaned. Boaz even takes it a step further and notifies his workers to intentionally leave behind more barley so she could take it home. This benefited Ruth greatly and allowed her to support Naomi better.

2.2.6 Boaz is identified as a possible redeemer for Ruth 2:17-23
Ruth’s return home to Naomi ended Naomi’s emptiness and filled the old woman with anticipation, thankfulness, and hope. This was due to the fact that Naomi could be redeemed through Ruth and have a chance out of poverty. Since Boaz was a close relative to Ruth’s deceased husband, he could marry her and redeem her a child so that her husband’s family line would not perish. Even though Naomi’s spirits were low, she saw that the Lord did not forget her. So Ruth did as her mother-in-law recommended and worked beside the young woman that worked in Boaz’s fields so she would be protected from the men (2:22). Ruth even stays working with the woman until the end of the barely harvest and even stayed to work until the wheat harvest of early summer (2:23). The Lord was providing not only food for these two poor widows, but a possibility of a bright future.

Bibliography

Chronological Life Application Study Bible. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012.

Cundall, Arthur Ernest., and Leon Morris. Judges and Ruth: An Introduction and Commentary. Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press / IVP Academic, 2008.


de Villiers, Gerda and Jurie le Roux. “The Book of Ruth in the Time of the Judges and Ruth, the Moabitess.” Verbum Et Ecclesia 37, no. 1 (2016): 1-6, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1815403370?accountid=12085.


Hamilton, Victor P. Handbook on the Historical Books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.


Hawk, L. Daniel. Ruth. Nottingham, England: Apollos, 2015.


Schipper, Jeremy. Ruth: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New Haven,: Yale University Press, 2016.


Tucker, Ruth. The Biographical Bible: Exploring the Biblical Narrative from Adam and Eve to John of Patmos. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013.


Tucker, Ruth. Dynamic Women of the Bible: What We Can Learn from Their Surprising Stories. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014.


Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures: Old Testament. Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2000.