The first chapter of the book of Ruth tells of how, "in the days when the judges rules," there was a famine in the land and a man from Bethlehem in Judah named Elimelech went "to live for a while" in the country of Moab with his wife Naomi and his sons Mahlon and Kilion. Elimelech died there, and the sons took Moabite wives, Orpah and Ruth. After ten years, Naomi's sons died also, without fathering children. When Naomi heard that "the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them" she set out to go back to the land of Judah. She told her daughters-in-law that they should go back to their mother's houses but they said they would go with her. She told them again, and Orpah kissed her good-bye and left, but "Ruth clung to her" and told her that "your people will be my people and your God my God." So they returned to Bethlehem, and Naomi told them to call her Mara, "because the Almighty has made my life very bitter."
In chapter two, Ruth told Naomi to let her go pick up leftover grain in the fields behind anyone "in whose eyes I find favor." She ended up working behind Boaz, a relative of Elimelech's. When he found out who she was, he told her to stay with his servant girls in his field, and told the men not to touch her. When she asked why he would show her such kindness, he answered that it was because of all that she had done for Naomi. That night she told Naomi that she had been working for Boaz, and Naomi told her that "that man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers." So Ruth continued working with his servant girls.
In chapter three, Naomi told Ruth that she should "try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for." She tells her to dress in her best clothes, to wash and perfume herself, and to go that night and lie at Boaz' feet on the threshing floor. She did so, and when he awoke in the night, she was lying at his feet. He blessed her, saying that "this kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor." He tells her that there is a kinsman-redeemer "nearer than I" and that "if he is not willing [to redeem], I will do it." He sent her out in the morning while it was still dark, and gave her six measures of barley to take back to Naomi.
In chapter four, Boaz speaks with the kinsman-redeemer, telling him that he has the right to buy Elimelech's property, but that if he does, Ruth comes with it, and he replied that "I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself." So Boaz announced to the elders and all the people that they were witnesses to his purchase, from Naomi, of all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon, and also that he was taking Ruth as his wife "in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records." And Ruth bore Boaz a son, Obed, who fathered Jesse, who fathered David.
Thoughts, questions, issues
- Ruth is set during the time of the Judges, but there's some internal evidence that's dispositive in determining that it was not a contemporaneous report. For one thing, there's the story of the handing off of the sandal in chapter four which acknowedges a bygone tradition. For another, there's the genealogy at the end, leading to David.
- As to why the book is there, it seems clear that the genealogy is the reason.
- I've seen speculation that this was originally part of Judges, originally part of 1 Samuel, and a very late fiction. I've no way of knowing if any of those are true or not.
- There are obvious echoes of the story of Isaac and Rebekah here. And both Rebekah and Ruth, outsiders who "married in," are in the human genealogy of Jesus.
A psalm of praise. "Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise...Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness..."
I do not know which "Sons of Korah" this Psalm would be referencing in its dedication. Korah was a descendant of Levi and fore-father of Moses and Aaron. Korah was also one who rebelled against the Lord and was swallowed up by the earth in Numbers.
A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah.
1 Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise,
in the city of our God, his holy mountain.
2 It is beautiful in its loftiness,
the joy of the whole earth.
Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion,
the city of the Great King.
3 God is in her citadels;
he has shown himself to be her fortress.
4 When the kings joined forces,
when they advanced together,
5 they saw her and were astounded;
they fled in terror.
6 Trembling seized them there,
pain like that of a woman in labor.
7 You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish
shattered by an east wind.
8 As we have heard,
so have we seen
in the city of the LORD Almighty,
in the city of our God:
God makes her secure forever.
9 Within your temple, O God,
we meditate on your unfailing love.
10 Like your name, O God,
your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
your right hand is filled with righteousness.
11 Mount Zion rejoices,
the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments.
12 Walk about Zion, go around her,
count her towers,
13 consider well her ramparts,
view her citadels,
that you may tell of them to the next generation.
14 For this God is our God for ever and ever;
he will be our guide even to the end.