Why is this little book in the Bible? Why are these people important? Forerunners of Christ, 4:17-22. Remember, the Old Testament is tracing the line that leads to the Messiah. This book links the line of Judah with the coming line of David. God will make promises to David, that the Messiah will be in his line.
Two Bible books are named after women; the other is Esther. Ruth is a Gentile who marries a Jew, in the line leading to king David and ultimately King Jesus; Esther is a Jew who marries a Gentile king of a great empire and is thereby able to save her people from extermination, so that God's purposes and prophecies may all take place as foretold.
At this point, God's plans have centered around Israel; when the church is born, in Acts 2, we see that God's plans include Gentiles. The Jewish Christians had trouble accepting that, but the Old Testament gives indications that the Gentiles were always part of God's plans.
1 When does this story take place? The book of Judges contains some depressing stories, but here we read of some of the true believers. The famine was probably in connection with one of God’s judgments. In Judges, we got a negative picture of the general spiritual state of Israel. But apparently, there were always a few who stayed true to the Lord. Do we read about idolatry in Ruth or Naomi’s lives, or Boaz? In every period of history, there will always be a righteous remnant.
2 They leave the land of Canaan; who was Moab? Gen. 19:36-37. Did Elimelech do right or wrong by going to Moab during the famine? Based on earlier similar incidents with Abraham, apparently wrong. God brought His people out of Egypt to where? Canaan, the promised land, the place of rest. Leaving it and going to Moab is disobedience. Bethlehem = place of bread. Why should he have stayed, if there was a famine?
What else did we read about Bethlehem in the book of Judges? The last two stories were about people of Bethlehem--ugly stories. Now we have more Bethlehemites in this book. The next we read of Bethlehem is when Samuel goes there to anoint David as king of Israel. Who else is born in Bethlehem? Did His parents live there? But God arranged it in spite of that.
Can we trust God even when things look really bad? Or should we do things our own way to try our best to “fix” the problem? In their situation, do we read anywhere that leaving the land God gave them, was an option? When we leave “the land” (the place of rest, trusting, victory), we would be going back to the “world” (the godless world system)or the “wilderness” (self-effort) for the solution. Is it always easy to know when you are exercising self-effort, and when you are simply doing what you think God might want you to do?
3-5 Did God bless Elimelech's actions? Could be God’s chastisement. Perhaps Naomi was the spiritual stronghold of the family.
6-9 Naomi returns to Israel, sends the two Moabite daughters-in-law home.
11-13 Naomi is referring to the custom of levirite marriage, where a dead husband's brother marries the widow to raise up offspring in the dead husband's name (and to provide for the widow). This was done not only in Israel but in the East.
15 What did Orpah return to?
16-17 Why do you think Ruth chose to stay with Naomi? She had chosen her God; to go home would have isolated her from her new faith, and she no longer had much in common with her old people. By faith she chose an unfamiliar land and unfamiliar people. She didn’t choose to make it by herself as a believer. She chose to identify herself with God’s people. It’s much easier to stay true to the Lord if you are around other believers.
Is Ruth going with Naomi for the purpose of seeking a husband? It seems that she had accepted her circumstances. It probably seemed unlikely to her that an Jew would choose to marry her. If she remarried (in Moab or Israel) did it seem likely she would have a child? She had not conceived in her first marriage. Did she seem bitter? Marriage was security for a woman then; a woman without a husband was in a serious situation. She had made a big choice.
19-22 Even though Naomi was the one who truly was following the Lord, at this point in her life, even though she is obeying, she is struggling with bitterness. She feels God has afflicted her. Has He? Was this all for her good, perhaps? How? How should this affect our thinking about problems we are struggling with?
What is bitterness? Is bitterness, or the temptation, more of a problem with newer or older believers? How are newer believers more apt to struggle with problems? (doubt, quitting, feeling like turning back to their old life)
Older believers are less apt to want to turn back, having severed all the old ties, and knowing there is nothing there anymore. When we are tempted to be bitter about things that have happened or are happening, how should we deal with this temptation? What is the alternative? Acceptance, choosing to believe God/the Bible regardless of how things look/feel. Why is that so hard? If Rom. 8:28 is true, then we really have no choice.
The story of Ruth and Boaz is a good example of how God leads in our lives. Keeping this in mind, what do you think might be the key word in verse 3? Do you think the writer meant that word literally, or tongue-in-cheek? When God is directing our lives, are we always aware of His leading at that time? But when we look back, we can more easily see how He led us. Things that seem to have just happened, to just be coincidence, can be seen in another light.
Sometimes Christians think we should pray for God’s leading, then wait for some kind of sign or special knowledge, until we know just what He wants us to do. James 1:5-6 tells us to pray for wisdom, but it doesn’t tell us to expect a certain kind of answer. Just pray, believe, and go on, trusting God.
It just happened to be harvest time, and Boaz just happened to be a relative...and single even though older...
What things do you think attracted Boaz to Ruth? While we are busy praying for God to lead us, we need to make sure we are doing our part. Are we trying to walk close to the Lord? Are we developing the fruits of the Spirit in our lives? In our financial misfortune, are we doing the best we can with what we have, while we are asking God for more?
Remember that gleaning was God’s poverty program--part of the Law. They didn’t get something for nothing. God’s program rewarded diligence, not laziness.
8-9 Apparently, in those days, a woman was not safe. This fits with the picture we saw in Judges. “Daughter”--he must have been much older than her, also 3:10.
20 Do you think Naomi is starting to see how God’s hand has been leading them? Do you think her bitterness may be starting to melt?
1-9 Now we get to the real story; the first two chapters merely laid the groundwork for the real story--meeting Ruth's need
for a husband, for future security (rest). Naomi senses possibilities, and comes up with a strategy.
Some read immorality into these verses. But this was not a private location, where immorality could be hidden, and both Ruth and Boaz are presented as people of high character. Men, women and families slept at the threshing floor. The men slept on the threshing floor in a circle around the grain to protect it. He had already expressed interest in her. According to the custom of their day, she was placing herself under the protection of Boaz; perhaps asking him to cover her was symbolic of him covering her with his protection. Perhaps her approaching him like this was a way of not approaching him publicly, maybe embarrassing him if he was not willing. We can only speculate. The widow claims her right to the kinsman-redeemer; we see Naomi encouraging her to go do this (it's in Naomi's best interests also).
10 makes it clear that he knows what she is asking him to do, as he says in 11-13. But he can’t say yes; he knows there is a man who is a closer relative, so he must check into it. 10, is he saying that there is a relative younger than him that she could have asked but didn't? He obviously is willing to marry her, but he is also willing to yield to the Law and not marry her if someone else was more qualified and willing.
What does he call her in 11? Where else do we read about a woman of excellence? Prov. 31, an excellent wife. Does this sound like something you would like someone to say about you? What is it about Ruth that is an example for us of how we can be a woman of excellence? 14, perhaps he is trying to protect her from the gossipers.
16 Who art thou?--KJV. Naomi wants to know what happened. Is she now Mrs. Boaz?
18 The writer brings out "rest" again, as in verse 1. Does our Redeemer provide us with rest? Peace with God, by trusting in Christ, resting from works, Eph. 2:8-9.
The city gates were the place to transact business. "Brother" was used loosely--a relative. The other man was willing to buy the land for himself, but not when it turned out that it would actually go to his and Ruth's son. Apparently Boaz was wealthy enough that it would not be a problem for him. Taking off and passing the sandal was like signing a contract; it symbolized Boaz’s right to walk on the land as his own property.
13 This is the point of the whole story. The book of Ruth explains this short summary. We might wonder how many other short factual statements we read have interesting stories like this behind them?--showing us HOW God works in people's lives.
17 Compare to 1:11. The story opens with three funerals but ends with a what? A wedding. Compare Luke 2:4 and 3:31. Where did this story take place? What a "coincidence." Did God have all this planned from the beginning? But did He use their free will, and circumstances? Is that how He also works in our lives? Do you FEEL like God is leading you every day? But is He? Feelings are not facts. Did you see God doing anything unusual in His leading in Ruth’s life, or was it all ordinary stuff that just happened...?
Because Ruth is the great-grandmother of David, she could possibly be placed in Gideon’s time.
Why must Boaz redeem Ruth? She isn’t even a Jew. But by acquiring her, he also acquires her husband’s property, and that of Elimelech; it was important to keep it in the family. That’s why the kinsman-redeemer had to be a kinsman. Their first child would be given the name and inheritance of the first husband. As this pictures Christ our Redeemer, we see here that the kinsman-redeemer in this story loves Ruth (he’d still have to do his duty even if he didn’t).
Was Ruth a Jew? In the Old Testament, Israel is presented as God’s chosen people, but not His exclusive people. Faith is available to every person at every point in history. At that time, Gentiles could join Jews in their faith, approaching to the one true God under the Law. Perhaps the inclusion of several Gentiles in the line of Christ foreshadowed the including of the Gentiles as part of God’s people.
The Bible calls this period today the “times of the Gentiles.” God is dealing with the Gentiles, the church; Israel has been temporarily put aside in God’s plan. Dan. 9:24-27 tells there is a gap of time, of unknown duration, in God's plan for bringing in Israel's promised kingdom of God, between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of years; the church age takes place during that gap. When the church age ends, at the rapture of the church, God resumes and completes that last seven years; during the coming seven years of tribulation, under the rule of the Antichrist, God purges, purifies, and refines Israel, who finally comes to recognize her Messiah when He returns at the end of the seven years for His thousand-year earthly kingdom.
People sometimes think we should ask God to bless us; we don't really find that in the Bible. Instead, what do we read in 2:4, 2:19-20, 3:10, 4:14? We are to bless others and bless the Lord, and thank Him for His blessings that He has already given.
What doctrinal concept is illustrated by the story of Ruth and Boaz? Redemption. What does that mean? Our first "husband" died; Christ exercised the right of buying us. Who was our first husband? Compare Rom. 7:1-4. New Testament doctrine is illustrated in the Old Testament. God did not suddenly do something new in the New Testament. He had been preparing His people. If it WAS something new, then we should not blame the Jews for not accepting Jesus as the Christ. But it was not new.
We have been following the line that leads to Christ; this book takes that line up to David. So we might assume that this book introduces David as the next major character; does it? David will become Israel's king, but who will be king first? And who will anoint that first king, as well as king David? Samuel is the last of the judges, and the link between the time of Israel's judges and the time of Israel's kings.
Copyright 2021 Jan Young
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