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Preached at Straightway Bible Church on December 5, 2014.  Join me as we begin a study on one of the most beautiful stories and theologically important books of the Bible.

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Introduction to Ruth – Part 1

Brent Riggs –

Key verse of this study:  Ruth 4:9–10 (NKJV)

9 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. 10 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.”


  • The story of Ruth takes place in the time of the Judges (Ruth 1:1). The book tells a simple, beautiful story that is even more compelling because of the spiritual darkness of the times.
  • Ruth herself is also important genealogically, for she was the great-grandmother of King David.
  • Even though Ruth was a foreigner, she was recognized as a good woman who had come to take refuge under the wings of the Lord God of Israel (2:8–13).
  • The last verses of the Book of Ruth contain a striking revelation: the child born to Ruth and Boaz (and “given” to Naomi as a grandson) was Obed, the grandfather of Israel’s greatest and most godly king, David.


  • Only two OT books receive their names from women—Ruth and Esther.
  • Ruth arrived in Bethlehem as a foreigner (2:10), became a maidservant (2:13), married wealthy Boaz (4:13), and was included in the physical lineage of Christ (Matt. 1:5).

Author and Date

Jewish tradition credits Samuel as the author, which is plausible since he did not die (1 Sam. 25:1) until after he had anointed David as God’s chosen king (1 Sam. 16:6-13).

  • Ruth has been called a work of literature “the loveliest, complete work on a small scale.” What Venus is to statuary and the Mona Lisa is to paintings, Ruth is to literature.

Background and Setting

  • Aside from Bethlehem (1:1), Moab (the perennial enemy of Israel, which was E of the Dead Sea), stands as the only other mentioned geographic/national entity (1:1, 2).
  • For 18 years Moab oppressed Israel during the time of the judges (3:12-30).
  • Because of Moab’s idolatrous worship of Chemosh (1 Kin. 11:7, 33; 2 Kin. 23:13) and its opposition to Israel, God cursed Moab (Is. 15, 16; Jer. 48; Ezek. 25:8-11; Amos 2).

The Cultural Historical Context of Ruth

  • Judges 2:6–19 provides the context for understanding the opening verses of Ruth 1:
  • ‘In the days when the judges ruled’ is shorthand for ‘In the days when the Lord’s people forsook the Lord, rebelled against his rule (each man doing as he saw fit), suffered the consequences and needed a rescuer.’
  • Working backward in time from the well known date of David’s reign (1011-971 B.C.), the time period of Ruth would most likely be during the judgeship of Jair, ca. 1126-1105 B.C. (Judg. 10:3-5).
  • Ruth covers about 11 or 12 years which includes one day in Bethlehem and one night at the threshing floor; and 4) 4:1-22, about one year in Bethlehem.

Historical and Theological Themes

  • Ruth stands with the OT books of the Megilloth or “five scrolls.”
  • Rabbis read these books in the synagogue on 5 special occasions during the year—Ruth being read at Pentecost due to the harvest scenes of Ruth 2, 3.

Ruth is the Embodiment of the Proverbs 31 Wife

  • The “virtuous” wife of Proverbs 31:10 is personified by “virtuous” Ruth of whom the same Heb. word is used (3:11).
  • Proverbs 31:1 (NKJV)  The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him:
    Was King Lemuel’s mother Bathsheba?
  1. Devoted to family
    (Ruth 1:15-18 // Prov. 31:10-12, 23)
  2. Delighting in her work (Ruth 2:2 // Prov. 31:13)
  3. Diligent in her labor (Ruth 2:7, 17, 23 // Prov. 31:14-18, 19-21, 24, 27)
  4. Dedicated to godly speech
    (Ruth 2:10, 13 // Prov. 31:26)
  5. Dependent on God (Ruth 2:12 // Prov. 31:25b, 30)
  6. Dressed with care (Ruth 3:3 // Prov. 31:22, 25a)
  7. Discreet with men
    (Ruth 3:6-13 // Prov. 31:11, 12, 23)
  8. Delivering blessings
    (Ruth 4:14, 15 // Prov. 31:28, 29, 31)

At least 7 major theological themes in Ruth:

  1. God’s redemptive plan extends beyond the Jews to Gentiles (2:12).
  2. Women are co-heirs with men of God’s salvation grace (cf. Gal. 3:28).
  3. The virtuous woman of Prov. 31:10 (cf. 3:11).
  4. God’s sovereign (1:6; 4:13) and providential care (2:3) of seemingly unimportant
  5. Ruth along with Tamar (Gen. 38), Rahab (Josh. 2), and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11, 12) in the genealogy of the messianic line (4:17, 22; cf. Matt. 1:5).
  6. Boaz, as a type of Christ, Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer (4:1-12).
  7. David’s right (and thus Christ’s right) to the throne of Israel is traced back to Judah (4:18-22; cf. Gen. 49:8-12)

Interpretive Challenges

  • Ruth should be understood as a true historical account. Not symbolism, not legend, not a parable, not mythology.

Some individual difficulties require careful attention:

  1. How could Ruth worship at the tabernacle then in Shiloh (1 Sam. 4:4), since Deuteronomy 23:3 expressly forbids Moabites from entering the assembly for 10 generations?
  2. Are there not immoral overtones to Boaz and Ruth spending the night together before marriage (3:3-18)?
  3. Would not the Levirate principle of Deut. 25:5, 6 lead to incest and/or polygamy if the nearest relative was already married?
  4. Was not marriage to a Moabitess strictly forbidden by the law?