Friday, August 13

Book Overview: Ruth

The Book of Ruth. Ruth tells the story of a quiet, ordinary life in the country - of the woman became the Grandmother of Jesse, Great-Grandmother to King David, and ancestor of Jesus. Ruth is a 4-Chapter Book. Ruth is a perfect idyll in prose. (Idyll - A short poem or prose piece depicting a rural or pastoral scene, usually in idealized terms.)

This is the eight Book Overview in a series of 66 Books. These overviews are written so that it may provide readers with details about the book, things that they may have missed, and will hopefully peak your interest so that you will read the book, the entire Bible in fact, as God wants us to do. Now, onto the Book of Ruth.

Title: Ruth (English) מגילת רות ‎ (Hebrew) məɡiˈlat rut (Israel Hebrew) məˈɡɪləs rus (Ashkenazi Hebrew). Ruth was originally written in Hebrew.

Authorship: The authorship of Ruth is accredited to Samuel. Evidence seems to indicate this fact: (1) Judges and Ruth were both composed after Joshua's death and the deaths of the elders who had outlived him. (See Judges 2:7) This means that both works had to have been written sometime after 1381 BC. (2) Both books had to have been written after the Judges ruled over Israel, since, several times, they refer to those days as days of the past, such as "in those days." (See Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25)

(3) Since Judges 1:21 [and 2nd Samuel 5:6] tells us that the Jebusites still held Jerusalem, Judges had to have been written sometime before the seventh year of the reign of King David, 1004 BC. (4) The very fact that the genealogy found in Ruth ends with David supports this. (5) Both books were written from a prophetic standpoint, and is indicative in the moral tone. The person who best fits all of these things (as well as many other reasons and points) was Samuel the Prophet.

Written: Sometime between 1043 BC - when Saul was crowned King, and just before 1004 BC - when David captured Jerusalem. So, between 1043-1004 BC.
Summary: "Ruth demonstrates how the individual can remain faithful to God even when the rest of the world is corrupt. Ruth is a book of loyalty, faith, and love of God and humanity." (NIV)

OverviewRuth 1 - The Famine in Judah and the return to Bethlehem
Ruth 2 - Ruth Meets Boaz
Ruth 3 - Ruth and Boaz at the Threshing Floor
Ruth 4 - Boaz Marries Ruth, the Birth of Obed, The Genealogy of David

Ruth, unlike the previous seven, is not a long book. Ruth tells the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. Ruth and Orpah married the sons of Elimelek and Naomi, whose names were Mahlon (who married Ruth) and Kilion (who married Orpah). The family had left Judah because of famine in the land, and moved to Moab. When Elimelek, Mahlon, and Kilion had all died, all three women were left widowed.

News came that Judah had recovered from the Famine. This was in the days that Judges still ruled, though we are not told which. Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem, and told Ruth and Orpah to return to their mothers. Ruth refused to leave Naomi, giving us one of the most inspirational quotes of the Book, "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried." (Ruth 1:16-17)

Ruth remained faithful to Naomi, and they moved to Bethlehem. Naomi, in her old age, refused to be called by her name, and asked others to call her Mara. (Which means, Bitter) Ruth meets a man named Boaz, relative of Naomi and owner of a grain field she gleaned from. Boaz and Ruth develop a relationship, and Naomi tells Ruth to go to Boaz.
Boaz proceeds to visit a closer relative to Naomi, asking if he wanted the land she was selling, who agreed, then telling him that he would have to marry Ruth - the man declined, and Boaz married Ruth. They had a child, named Obed - Naomi again went by her real name, and was happy again now that she was a "grandmother." Obed was the father of Jesse, who had a son named David... King David. David was the second king of Israel, heir to the royal line, and ancestor of Jesus Christ.
*Points: Ruth was ridiculed and mocked for being a Moabite. Moab, from who the Moabites come from, was the son of Lot and his daughter. After Sodom was destroyed, Lot's daughters believed that they were the only ones left on the planet. Knowing their father to be a man of virtue, and not wanting to ruin his mental image of himself, the got him drunk, and both had sex with him. Moab was one of the children born to Lot's daughters. (Genesis 19:30-36) This was a shameful thing in the eyes of Hebrews, because only five cities were wiped out, not the world - so Ruth was looked down upon. Ruth took her life, which could have been a sad life, and turned it around, making Ruth one of the happiest stories in the entire Hebrew Bible.

The son of Ruth and Boaz, as stated, was Obed, the grandfather of King David, making Ruth his great-grandmother. Matthew's genealogy, which looks at Joseph's family line, shows between 41-43 generations between David and Jesus. Luke 3:23-32 agrees with this fact, though Luke's genealogy, for the most part, is from Mary's line - though it says Joseph. But Joseph was the son of Jacob (Matthew 1), not Heli, who was Mary's father. (Luke 3)

It is interesting to note that Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, setting of the Nativity. Ruth shows us just how "insignificant" this town seems compared to the rest of Israel and Judah. A prophecy, given by the Prophet Micah merely a few hundred years before the birth of Jesus, gives this prophecy: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans [or rulers] of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2) This was a prophecy regarding the birthplace of one "from ancient times" - JESUS. Bethlehem, a mere country-town in Ruth's day, became the birthplace of the Messiah, savior of the world, just short of 1,000 Years later.

According the Levirate Law (Leviticus), when a man died without offspring, his brother was bound to raise an heir for him by his widow. If there was no brother, or the brother could not, this fell to the closest kin. This is why Boaz had to go speak with the closest relative and the elders of Bethlehem before marrying Ruth. While Boaz was not Elimelech's closest kinsman, his closest kinsman rejected, and the "duty" fell to Boaz, which he readily accepted. Since Jesus brought the New Covenant, this law no longer applies - otherwise, many would have violated it. 

Ruth 4:7 tells us, "(Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)" The closer relative removed his sandal. This was a custom of old, and while it is not still in effect, is interesting to say the least.

The only other book in Biblical Cannon to bear the name of a female is Esther and Judith. (considered deutero-canonical by some denominations).

According to many scholars, the book of Ruth was once part of Judges, but was later made independent. The opening verse "In the days when the judges ruled [judged], there was a famine in the land..." Ruth concludes with the Davidic lineage, which, as aforementioned, leads many scholars to believe that Ruth was once part of the Book of Judges.

Elimelech, [Elimelek] Naomi's husband, has a name which means "my God is King," foreshadowing the line of King David and the Reign of Jesus Christ - the King of Kings.

Ruth, by many, is believed to be typical of Jesus and the Church. Typology is a belief concerning the relationship between the Old and New Testaments - exemplified by individuals such as St. Augustine of Hippo. Certain events in the Hebrew Bible are shown as pre-figuring events (or aspects of Christ) in the New Testament, and that it is seen as the purpose behind many of the events occurring in the Hebrew Bible. Typology began in the early Church, was at its most influential in the High Middle Ages, and it continued to be popular, especially in Calvinism, after the Protestant Reformation, but in subsequent periods has been given less emphasis. This includes the prophecies and appearances by The Angel [Messenger] of the Lord, who is believed to be Jesus Pre-Incarnate. (See entry: Who is "The Angel of the Lord?")

Thank you for taking the time to read this book overview. While Ruth is a short book, we can learn much from it - loyalty, love, respect, helpfulness, and matters of faith. I hope this overview was helpful and insightful. For the text of Ruth, I recommend either a NIV or KJV Bible.

Next Book Overview: Book of 1st Samuel
Previous Book Overview: Book of Judges

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