Ruth - Girls Bible Study
Calvary Chapel Girls Bible Study
Edited by Pastor Ronnie Mitchell
Note: Portions of the outline for this syllabus were taken from John Macarthur’s Bible Studies, New Testament Commentary by Moody Press, The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible by Leadership Ministries, and
The Life Application Study Bible.
I. VITAL STATISTICS. 4
A. OVERVIEW: 4
B. THE BLUEPRINT. 5
C. Historical and Theological Themes. 7
D. Interpretive Challenges. 7
II. RUTH’S DECISION Ruth 1:1–22. 9
A. Opening Thought 9
B. Background of the Passage. 10
C. Read the Passage (Ruth 1:1–22) 10
D. Understanding the Text 12
E. Exploring the Meaning. 14
F. Summing Up ….. 15
G. Reflecting on the Text 15
H. Recording Your Thoughts. 16
III. RUTH’S DEVOTION, Ruth 2:1–23. 17
A. Opening Thought 17
B. Background of the Passage. 18
C. Bible Passage: Read Read 2:1–23, noting the key words and definitions to the right of the passage. 18
D. Understanding the Text 20
E. Cross-Reference: Read Romans 6 and consider what it says about the redemption we have in Christ. 21
F. Exploring the Meaning. 22
G. Summing Up ….. 22
H. Reflecting on the Text 22
I. Recording Your Thoughts. 23
IV. RUTH’S REQUEST, Ruth 3:1–18. 24
A. Opening Thought 24
B. Background of the Passage. 25
C. Bible Passage: Read 3:1–18, noting the key words and definitions to the right of the passage. 25
D. Understanding the Text 27
E. Cross-Reference: 28
F. Exploring the Meaning. 28
G. Summing Up ….. 29
H. Reflecting on the Text 30
I. Recording Your Thoughts. 31
V. RUTH’S REWARD, Ruth 4:1–22. 32
A. Opening Thought 32
B. Background of the Passage. 33
C. Bible Passage: Read 4:1–22, noting the key words and definitions to the right of the passage. 33
D. Understanding the Text 35
E. Cross-Reference, Read 2 Samuel 7:1–17. 37
F. Summing Up ….. 38
G. Reflecting on the Text 38
H. Recording Your Thoughts. 39
I. VITAL STATISTICS
PURPOSE: To show how three people remained strong in character and true to God even when the society around them was collapsing
AUTHOR: Unknown. Some think it was Samuel, but internal evidence suggests that it was written after Samuel’s death.
DATE WRITTEN: Sometime after the period of the judges (1375—1050 B.C.)
SETTING: A dark time in Israel’s history when people lived to please themselves, not God (Judges 17:6)
KEY VERSE: “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God’ “ (Ruth 1:16).
KEY PEOPLE: Ruth, Naomi, Boaz
KEY PLACES: Moab, Bethlehem.
WHEN someone says, “Let me tell you about my mother-in-law,” we expect some kind of negative statement or humorous anecdote because the mother-in-law caricature has been a standard centerpiece of ridicule or comedy. The book of Ruth, however, tells a different story. Ruth loved her mother-in-law, Naomi. Recently widowed, Ruth begged to stay with Naomi wherever she went, even though it would mean leaving her homeland. In heartfelt words Ruth said, “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Naomi agreed, and Ruth traveled with her to Bethlehem.
Not much is said about Naomi except that she loved and cared for Ruth. Obviously, Naomi’s life was a powerful witness to the reality of God. Ruth was drawn to her—and to the God she worshiped. In the succeeding months and years, God led this young Moabite widow to a man named Boaz, whom she eventually married. As a result, she became the great-grandmother of David and an ancestor in the line of the Messiah. What a profound impact Naomi’s life made!
The book of Ruth is also the story of God’s grace in the midst of difficult circumstances. Ruth’s story occurred during the time of the judges—a period of disobedience, idolatry, and violence. Even in times of crisis and deepest despair, there are those who follow God and through whom God works. No matter how discouraging or antagonistic the world may seem, there are always people who follow God. He will use anyone who is open to him to achieve his purposes. Ruth was a Moabitess and Boaz was a descendant of Rahab, a former prostitute from Jericho. Nevertheless, their offspring continued the family line through which the Messiah came into our world.
Read this book and be encouraged. God is at work in the world, and he wants to use you. God could use you, as he used Naomi, to bring family and friends to him.
B. THE BLUEPRINT
When we first meet Ruth, she is a destitute widow. We follow her as she joins God’s people, gleans in the grain-fields, and risks her honor at the threshing floor of Boaz. In the end, we see Ruth becoming the wife of Boaz. What a picture of how we come to faith in Christ. We begin with no hope and are rebellious aliens with no part in the kingdom of God. Then as we risk everything by putting our faith in Christ, God saves us, forgives us, rebuilds our lives, and gives us blessings that will last through eternity. Boaz’s redeeming of Ruth is a picture of Christ redeeming us.
1. Ruth remains loyal to Naomi (Ruth 1:1-22)
2. Ruth gleans in Boaz’s field (Ruth 2:1-23)
3. Ruth follows Naomi’s plan (Ruth 3:1-18)
4. Ruth and Boaz are married (Ruth 4:1-22)
EXPLANATION: Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi as a daughter-in-law and friend is a great example of love and loyalty. Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz are also faithful to God and his laws. Throughout the story we see God’s faithfulness to his people.
IMPORTANCE: Ruth’s life was guided by faithfulness toward God and showed itself in loyalty toward the people she knew. To be loyal and loving in relationships, we must imitate God’s faithfulness in our relationships with others.
EXPLANATION: Ruth showed great kindness to Naomi. In turn, Boaz showed kindness to Ruth—a despised Moabite woman with no money. God showed his kindness to Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz by bringing them together for his purposes.
IMPORTANCE: Just as Boaz showed his kindness by buying back land to guarantee Ruth and Naomi’s inheritance, so Christ showed his kindness by dying for us to guarantee our eternal life. God’s kindness should motivate us to love and honor him.
EXPLANATION: Ruth showed high moral character by being loyal to Naomi, by her clean break from her former land and customs, and by her hard work in the fields. Boaz showed integrity in his moral standards, his honesty, and by following through on his commitments.
IMPORTANCE: When we have experienced God’s faithfulness and kindness, we should respond by showing integrity. Just as the values by which Ruth and Boaz lived were in sharp contrast to those of the culture portrayed in Judges, so our lives should stand out from the world around us.
EXPLANATION: We see God’s care and protection over the lives of Naomi and Ruth. His supreme control over circumstances brings them safety and security. He guides the minds and activities of people to fulfill his purpose.
IMPORTANCE: No matter how devastating our present situation may be, our hope is in God. His resources are infinite. We must believe that he can work in the life of any person—whether that person is a king or a stranger in a foreign land. Trust his protection.
EXPLANATION: Ruth and Naomi came to Bethlehem as poor widows, but they soon became prosperous through Ruth’s marriage to Boaz. Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David. Yet the greatest blessing was not the money, the marriage, or the child; it was the quality of love and respect between Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi.
IMPORTANCE: We tend to think of blessings in terms of prosperity rather than the high-quality relationships God makes possible for us. No matter what our economic situation, we can love and respect the people God has brought into our lives. In so doing, we give and receive blessings. Love is the greatest blessing.
C. Historical and Theological Themes
All eighty-five verses of Ruth have been accepted as canonical by the Jews. Along with Song of Solomon, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations, Ruth stands with the Old Testament books of the Megilloth or “five scrolls.” Rabbis read these books in the synagogue on five special occasions during the year— Ruth being read at Pentecost due to the harvest scenes of Ruth 2–3.
Genealogically, Ruth looks back almost nine hundred years to events in the time of Jacob (4:11) and forward about one hundred years to the coming reign of David (4:17, 22). While Joshua and Judges emphasize the legacy of the nation and their land of promise, Ruth focuses on the lineage of David back to the Patriarchal era.
At least seven major theological themes emerge in Ruth. First, Ruth the Moabitess illustrates that God’s redemptive plan extended beyond the Jews to Gentiles (2:12). Second, Ruth demonstrates that women are coheirs with men of God’s salvation grace (see 1 Peter 3:7). Third, Ruth portrays the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10 (see 3:11). Fourth, Ruth describes God’s sovereign (1:6; 4:13) and providential care (2:3) of seemingly unimportant people at apparently insignificant times which later prove to be monumentally crucial to accomplishing God’s will. Fifth, Ruth along with Tamar (Genesis 38), Rahab (Joshua 2), and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11–12) stand in the genealogy of the Messianic line (4:17, 22; see Matthew 1:5). Sixth, Boaz, as a type of Christ, becomes Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer (4:1–12). Finally, David’s right (and thus Christ’s right) to the throne of Israel is traced back to Judah (4:18–22; see Genesis 49:8–12).
D. Interpretive Challenges
Ruth should be understood as a true historical account. The reliable facts surrounding Ruth, in addition to its complete compatibility with Judges plus 1 and 2 Samuel, confirm the book’s authenticity. Some individual difficulties require careful attention, however.
First, how could Ruth worship at the tabernacle then in Shiloh (1 Samuel 4:4), since Deuteronomy 23:3 expressly forbids Moabites from entering the assembly for ten generations? The Jews entered the land in about 1405 b.c., and Ruth was not born until approximately 1150 b.c.; thus, she represented at least the eleventh generation (probably later) if the time limitation ended at ten generations. If “ten generations” was an idiom meaning “forever” as Nehemiah 13:1 implies, then Ruth would be like the foreigner of Isaiah 56:1–8 who joined himself to the Lord (Ruth 1:16), thus gaining entrance to the assembly.\
Second, are there not immoral overtones to Boaz and Ruth spending the night together before marriage (3:3–18)? Ruth engaged in a common ancient Near Eastern custom by asking Boaz to take her for his wife as symbolically pictured by throwing a garment over the intended woman (3:9), just as Yahweh spread His garment over Israel (Ezekiel 16:8). The text does not even hint at the slightest moral impropriety, noting that Ruth slept at Boaz’s feet (Ruth 3:14). Thus, Boaz became God’s answer to his own earlier prayer for Ruth (2:12).
Third, would not the levirate principle of Deuteronomy 25:5–6 lead to incest or polygamy if the nearest relative were already married? God would not design a good plan to involve the grossest of immoralities punishable by death. It is to be assumed that the implementation of Deuteronomy 25:5–6 could involve only the nearest relative who was eligible for marriage as qualified by other stipulations of the law.
Fourth, was not marriage to a Moabitess strictly forbidden by the law? The nations or people to whom marriage was prohibited were those possessing the land that Israel would enter (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:1–3; Joshua 23:12), and that group did not include Moab (see Deuteronomy 7:1). Further, Ruth, a devout proselyte to Yahweh (Ruth 1:16–17), was not a pagan worshiper of Chemosh—Moab’s chief deity (see later problems in Ezra 9:1–2 and Nehemiah 13:23–25).
! II. RUTH’S DECISION Ruth 1:1–22
A. Opening Thought
1. Think back over your life and list two or three of the most memorable examples of loyalty or commitment you’ve ever seen.
2. What made these events so remarkable?
3. What is the secret (if there is one) to unswerving devotion?
!!! 4. Why are inlaw relationships commonly the brunt of harsh joking and the source of so much tension?
B. Background of the Passage
Like a sparkling diamond set against a black velvet background, Ruth’s life and story stand in sharp contrast to one of Israel’s darkest times. Ruth lived during the period of the judges (1400–1050 b.c.), a time characterized by faithlessness and lawlessness. Judges 21:25 sums up the era well: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
Ruth was a rare exception. A Moabite by birth, she married an Israelite man who had come with his entire family to her country because of a severe famine in Israel. It is likely that Ruth came to faith in Yahweh because of the influence of her Jewish husband and in-laws. When her husband and father-in-law both died, Ruth faced a tough decision: remain in her homeland or return to Israel with her mother-in-law.
Defying her times, Ruth chose to stick by the side of her mother-in-law, Naomi. The result is a fascinating story of love, commitment, and redemption. The Old Testament Book of Ruth not only gives us insights into ancient Israelite customs, it also is strongly permeated by the sovereignty of God on behalf of Israel: (1) actually for good (2:12; 4:12–14); (2) perceived by Naomi for bad (1:13, 21); (3) in the context of prayer/blessing (1:8–9, 17; 2:4, 12, 20; 3:10, 13; 4:11). It furthermore demonstrates the truth of 2 Chronicles 16:9: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” Because of her selflessness, Ruth became the wife of Boaz and the great-grandmother of King David. Because of her faithfulness, Ruth gained a privileged position in the lineage of Christ!
C. Read the Passage (Ruth 1:1–22)
· famine (v. 1)—similar to the days of Abraham (Genesis 12), Isaac (Genesis 26), and Jacob (Genesis 46); it is unclear whether or not this famine was God’s judgment (see 1 Kings 17–18, esp. 18:2)
· Bethlehem, Judah (v. 1)— Bethlehem (“house of bread”) lies in the territory given to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15) about six miles south of Jerusalem.
· dwell (v. 1)—Elimelech intended to live temporarily in Moab as a resident alien until the famine passed.
· Elimelech (v. 2)—His name means “my God is king,” signifying a devout commitment to the God of Israel. Most likely, he was a prominent man in the community whose brothers might have included the unnamed close relative and Boaz (see 4:3).
· Naomi (v. 2)—Her name means “pleasant.”
· Mahlon and Chilion (v. 2)— Their names mean “sick” and “pining,” respectively.
· Ephrathites (v. 2)—a title used of people who lived in the area more anciently known as Ephrath (Genesis 35:16, 19; 48:7) or Ephrathah (Ruth 4:11; Micah 5:2) but later more prominently called Bethlehem (Ruth 1:1)
· Orpah (v. 4)—Her name means “stubborn.”
· Ruth (v. 4)—Her name means “friendship.”
· about ten years (v. 4)—This period would seem to include the entire time of Naomi’s residency in Moab.
· the woman survived (v. 5)— Naomi, a widow in Moab whose two sons had also died, believed that the Lord had afflicted her with bitter days until she would die (1:13, 20–21). No reason for the death of these three men in her life is given.
· the Lord had visited His people (v. 6)—The Lord had sent rain to break the famine.
· Go, return (v. 8)—Naomi graciously encouraged her two daughters-in-law to return to their homes (1:8) and to remarry (1:9), but they emotionally insisted on going to Jerusalem with her (1:10).
· Are there still sons in my womb (v. 11)—Naomi selflessly reasoned a second time for their return because she would be unable to provide them with new husbands. If Orpah and Ruth waited, they would most likely have become as old as Naomi was then before they could remarry.
· I am too old (v. 12)—Naomi was probably over fifty.
· the hand of the Lord (v. 13)— a figure of speech that describes the Lord’s work; God is spirit and therefore does not have a literal hand
· her gods (v. 15)—refers to Chemosh, the chief Moabite deity, who required child sacrifice
· And your God, my God (v. 16)—This testimony evidenced Ruth’s conversion from worshiping Chemosh to Yahweh of Israel.
· they came to Bethlehem (v. 19)—A trip from Moab (at least 60–75 miles) would have taken about 7–10 days. Having descended about 4,500 feet from Moab into the Jordan Valley, they then ascended 3,750 feet through the hills of Judea.
· all the city (v. 19)—Naomi had been well known in her prior residency (see Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Ruth 1:2). The question, “Is this Naomi?” most likely reflected the hard life of the last decade and the toll that it took on her appearance.
· Naomi … Mara; full … empty (vv. 20–21)—Naomi’s outlook on life, although grounded in God’s sovereignty, was not hopeful; thus she asked to be renamed Mara, which means “bitter.” Her experiences were similar to Job’s (Job 1–2), but her perspective resembled that of Job’s wife (Job 2:9–10). In reality, Naomi had a full harvest prospect, Ruth plus Boaz, and the hope of God’s future blessing.
· Ruth, the Moabitess (v. 22) —This title also appears at 2:2, 21; 4:5, 10. Ruth stands out as a foretaste of future Gentile conversions (see Romans 11).
· at the beginning of barley harvest (v. 22)—normally the middle to the end of April
D. Understanding the Text
1. Why did Elimelech take his family to Moab? Was this an act of wisdom and obedience or a demonstration of a weak faith? Why? (verses to consider: Genesis 12, 26, 46)
2. Why is it significant that the sons of Elimelech married Moabite women?
3. Why did Naomi discourage Ruth and Orpah from accompanying her to Judah?
!!! 4. Ruth’s expression of allegiance is legendary (and often recited in marriage ceremonies). What specific promises did she make?
5. What evidence is there that Ruth had become a believer in the one true God?
6. How would you describe Naomi’s mood upon her return to Bethlehem? Were her complaints legitimate?
Read Judges 2:6–23 to get a feel for the times in which Ruth and Naomi lived.
E. Exploring the Meaning
1. How does Ruth’s commitment to Naomi stand in contrast to the spirit of the times? How is Ruth’s personal spiritual journey different than the religious trajectory of the nation of Israel?
2. Luke 9:23–24 speaks of the unflinching allegiance that Christ demands for all who would be His followers. How does the typical Christian experience measure up to this standard?
3. Describe the sacrifice Ruth made in choosing to accompany her mother-in-law and leave Moab. How can you imitate Ruth’s love and selflessness in your own relationships with your in-laws or other family members?
F. Summing Up …
“When the Spirit empowers our lives and Christ is obeyed as the Lord of our hearts, our sins and weaknesses are dealt with and we find ourselves wanting to serve others, wanting to sacrifice for them and serve them—because Christ’s loving nature has truly become our own. Loving is the supernatural attitude of the Christian, because love is the nature of Christ. When a Christian does not love he has to do so intentionally and with effort—just as he must do to hold his breath. To become habitually unloving he must habitually resist Christ as the Lord of his heart. To continue the analogy to breathing, when Christ has His proper place in our hearts, we do not have to be told to love—just as we do not have to be told to breathe. Eventually it must happen, because loving is as natural to the spiritual person as breathing is to the natural person.”—John MacArthur
G. Reflecting on the Text
1. What are some of the most painful choices you’ve made in your life? What specifically made the choices so difficult?
2. Why is doing what is best for others often very painful for us personally?
!!! 3. What specific attitudes or actions from the life of Ruth do you need to emulate today?
4. Rewrite Ruth 1:16–17 as an expression of your intended faithfulness to God.
H. Recording Your Thoughts
For further study, see the following passages:
|Genesis 35:16||Genesis 38:11||Deuteronomy 25:5–6|
|Judges 21:25||2 Kings 3:27||Job 2:10|
|John 4:24||Romans 11||1 Thessalonians 1:9–10|
! III. RUTH’S DEVOTION, Ruth 2:1–23
A. Opening Thought
1. What are the three kindest acts you’ve ever been the recipient of? How do you feel when someone showers you with undeserved or unexpected kindness?
2. What do we mean when we say that someone is a gracious person?
3. What’s the secret of developing a good reputation? How does someone improve a bad reputation?
!! B. Background of the Passage
After a ten-year sojourn in Moab, Naomi arrived back in Bethlehem accompanied by her daughter-in-law, Ruth. In a culture where widows were often forgotten and thus poverty-stricken, this unlikely twosome needed the basics of life. Fortunately for them, it was the time of the barley harvest. The younger Ruth volunteered to go out and glean along the edges of the fields for food. This was in keeping with the provisions of the Mosaic law and Jewish customs. But the plan was also risky and potentially humiliating given the low moral character of many of the reapers.
Chapter 2 reveals how God sovereignly and graciously directed Ruth to the field of Boaz, a close relative of Naomi. This prominent Bethlehemite noticed Ruth and not only provided for her and her mother-in-law, but also showed extra care and compassion for them. Boaz manifested the spirit of the law in going beyond what the Mosaic legislation required by feeding Ruth (2:14), letting Ruth glean among the sheaves (2:15), and leaving extra grain for her to glean (2:16).
Chapter 2 concludes with Naomi identifying Boaz as a kinsman-redeemer. Under Jewish law, a close relative could redeem (1) a family member sold into slavery (Leviticus 25:47–49); (2) land that needed to be sold under economic hardship (Leviticus 25:23–28); (3) the family name by virtue of a levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5–10).
This custom pictures the reality of God the Redeemer doing a greater work (Psalm 19:14; Isaiah 41:14) by reclaiming those who needed to be spiritually redeemed out of slavery to sin (Psalm 107:2). Thus, Boaz pictures Christ, who as a Brother (Hebrews 2:17) redeemed those who were slaves to sin, had lost all earthly possessions/privilege in the fall, and had been alienated by sin from God. Boaz stands in the direct line of Christ (Matthew 1:5). This turn of events marks the point where Naomi’s human emptiness (Ruth 1:21) begins to be refilled by the Lord. Her night of earthly doubt had been broken by the dawning of new hope.
C. Bible Passage: Read Read 2:1–23, noting the key words and definitions to the right of the passage.
· relative … of the family (v. 1)—possibly as close as a brother of Elimelech (see 4:3), but if not, certainly within the tribe or clan
· a man of great wealth (v. 1)— literally “a man of valor” (see Judges 6:12) who had unusual capacity to obtain and protect his property
· Boaz (v. 1)—His name means “in him is strength.” He had never married or was a widower (see 1 Chronicles 2:11–12; Luke 3:32).
· glean (v. 2)—Gleanings were stalks of grain left after the first cutting (see Ruth 2:3, 7, 8, 15, 17). These were dedicated to the needy, especially widows, orphans, and strangers. The Mosaic law commanded that the harvest should not be reaped to the corners nor the gleanings picked up.
· she happened to come (v. 3)—Here is a classic example of God’s providence at work.
· part of the field (v. 3)—possibly a large community field in which Boaz had a plot
· The Lord be with you (v. 4)— This unusual labor practice speaks to the exceptional godliness of Boaz and his workers.
· sheaves (v. 15)—bundles of grain stalks tied together for transport to the threshing floor
· morning … evening (vv. 7, 17)—Ruth proved to be diligent in her care for Naomi.
· the house (v. 7)—most likely a temporary shelter built with branches by the side of the field (see 3:18)
· my daughter (v. 8)—Boaz was about 45–55 years old as a contemporary of Elimelech and Naomi. He would naturally see Ruth as a daughter (3:10–11), much like Naomi did also (see 2:2, 22; 3:1, 16, 18). Boaz contrasted himself with younger men (3:10).
· my young women (v. 8)—the ones who tied up the sheaves
· young men (v. 9)—the ones who cut the grain with hand sickles (see 2:21)
· a foreigner (v. 10)—Ruth remained ever mindful that she was an alien and as such must conduct herself humbly; she acknowledged the grace (literally, favor) of Boaz.
· fully reported to me (v. 11)— This speaks to both Naomi’s quickness to speak kindly of Ruth and Boaz’s network of influence in Bethlehem. Ruth remained true to her promise (1:16–17).
· wings … refuge (v. 12)— Scripture pictures God as catching Israel up on His wings in the Exodus (Exodus 19:4). God is here portrayed as a mother bird sheltering the young and fragile with her wings. Boaz blessed Ruth in light of her newfound commitment to and dependence on the Lord. Later, he would become God’s answer to this prayer (see Ruth 3:9).
· vinegar (v. 14)—sour wine mixed with a little oil used to quench thirst
· among the sheaves (v. 15)— Boaz granted her request (2:7) to go beyond the law.
· ephah (v. 17)—over one-half a bushel, weighing about thirty to forty pounds
· what she had kept back (v. 18)—not the gleaned grain, but rather the lunch ration which Ruth did not eat (see 2:14)
· His kindness (v. 20)—Naomi began to understand God’s sovereign working, covenant loyalty, loving kindness, and mercy toward her, because Ruth, without human direction (2:3), found the close relative Boaz.
· one of our close relatives (v. 20)—The great kinsman-redeemer theme of Ruth begins here (see 3:9, 12; 4:1, 3, 6, 8, 14). A close relative could redeem a family member sold into slavery (Leviticus 25:47–49), land that needed to be sold under economic hardship (Leviticus 25:23–28), and the family name by virtue of a levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5–10).
· do not meet you (v. 22)—Ruth the Moabitess would not be treated with such mercy and grace by strangers outside of the family.
· the end of … harvest (v. 23)—Barley harvest usually began about mid-April, and wheat harvest extended to mid-June—a period of intense labor for about two months. This generally coincided with the seven weeks between Passover and the Feast of Weeks, that is, Pentecost (see Leviticus 23:15–16).
!! D. Understanding the Text
1. What is gleaning? What risks or dangers does this chapter suggest that Ruth faced by performing this task? (verses to consider: Leviticus 19:9–10; Deuteronomy 24:19–21)
2. What was Ruth’s reputation? How do you know?
3. Boaz spoke a blessing on Ruth. What did it consist of? (verses to consider: Psalms 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:1, 4)
!!! 4. What are some of the specific acts of kindness that Boaz performed toward Ruth?
5. Naomi called Boaz “one of our kinsman-redeemers.” What does this phrase mean?
E. Cross-Reference: Read Romans 6 and consider what it says about the redemption we have in Christ.
1. How does Boaz’s treatment of Ruth as her kinsman-redeemer picture the later, greater work of Christ on behalf of sinners (as seen in Romans 6)? (verses to consider: Matthew 20:28, 1 Corinthians 7:23; Galatians 3:13–14)
!! F. Exploring the Meaning
1. Galatians 5:22–23 speaks of the qualities that are evident in the life of one of who is God-inhabited. Which of these attributes do you see in Boaz (Ruth 2)? What about in Ruth?
G. Summing Up …
“Sin is man’s captor and slave owner, and it demands a price for his release. Death is the price that had to be paid for man’s redemption from sin. Biblical redemption therefore refers to the act of God by which He Himself paid as a ransom the price for sin.”—John MacArthur
H. Reflecting on the Text
1. Do you think Ruth and Naomi, upon arriving in Bethlehem, had any idea of all that God had in store for them? What does this tell us about God’s plan for our lives? How should their experience encourage us to trust?
!!! 2. Why do you suppose Boaz demonstrated such kindness to Ruth?
3. List one or two things you could start doing or stop doing today to become a more faithful person.
I. Recording Your Thoughts
For further study, see the following passages:
|Leviticus 23:22||Deuteronomy 16:9–12||Deuteronomy 23:3–4|
|Deuteronomy 32:11||Judges 11:1||Matthew 1:5|
|Luke 3:32||Romans 8:28–39|
! IV. RUTH’S REQUEST, Ruth 3:1–18
A. Opening Thought
1. If you are married, how did you meet your spouse?
2. What are your favorite memories of when you two were dating? Who loved whom first? Where were you when you first said “I love you”?
3. When did you become engaged? What were the circumstances?
!!! 4. What is the most romantic proposal you’ve ever heard of?
B. Background of the Passage
This book tells a remarkable story of the sovereignty and goodness of God. In chapter one, we meet Naomi, a Jewish woman who fled to a neighboring land with her husband and two sons because of a famine in Israel. Ten years later we watch Naomi return to her homeland with a Moabite daughter-in-law named Ruth and not much else. As widows these women faced a bleak future. How would they survive in a culture built around intact families? More important, how would they make it in an increasingly decadent society (see Judges)?
The second chapter depicts how God graciously guided the young Moabitess, Ruth, to the field of Boaz. A prominent man of character, Boaz was also a close relative of Naomi. As such, he offered protection to Ruth as she gleaned in his fields among his reapers. He further provided generously for these women.
In chapter three, this delightful story of love, faithfulness, and devotion takes an unexpected turn. Encouraged by Ruth’s positive experience in Boaz’s field, Naomi instructed her in what she should do to ensure a brighter future. The mother-in-law told the daughter-in-law to put on her best appearance and to propose marriage to Boaz by utilizing an ancient Near Eastern custom. Since Boaz was a generation older than Ruth (2:8), this overture would indicate Ruth’s desire to marry him which the older, gracious Boaz would not have initiated with a younger woman.
Ruth carefully followed Naomi’s directions to solicit redemption by Boaz, while God prepared Boaz to redeem Ruth. Only one potential obstacle remained: a relative nearer than Boaz.
C. Bible Passage: Read 3:1–18, noting the key words and definitions to the right of the passage.
· security (v. 1)—Naomi felt responsible, just as she did earlier (1:9), for Ruth’s future husband and home.
· tonight (v. 2)—Winnowing (tossing grain into the air to finish separating the grain from the chaff) normally occurred in late afternoon when the Mediterranean winds prevailed. Sifting and bagging the grain would have carried over past dark, and Boaz may have remained all night to guard the grain from theft.
· threshing floor (v. 2)—usually a large hard area of earth or stone on the downwind (east) side of the village where threshing took place (loosening the grain from the straw and winnowing)
· his heart was cheerful (v. 7)—Using the same language of 3:1 (security … be well), Boaz is described as having a sense of well-being which is most readily explained by the full harvest in contrast to previous years of famine.
· Take your maidservant (v. 9)—Ruth righteously appealed to Boaz, using the language of Boaz’s earlier prayer (2:12), to marry her according to the levirate custom.
· kindness (v. 10)—Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi, the Lord, and even Boaz is commended by Boaz.
· after young men (v. 10)—Ruth demonstrated moral excellence in that she did not engage in immorality, she did not remarry outside the family, and she had appealed for levirate redemption to an older, godly man.
· virtuous (v. 11)—In all respects Ruth personifies excellence (see Proverbs 31:10). This same language has been used of Boaz (“a man of great wealth” or more likely “a man of valor” in 2:1), thus making them the perfectly matched couple for an exemplary marriage.
· a relative closer than I (v. 12)—Boaz righteously deferred to someone else who was nearer in relationship to Elimelech. The nearer relative may have been Boaz’s older brother (see 4:3), or Boaz may have been his cousin. The fact that the neighbor women said, “There is a son born to Naomi” at Obed’s birth would suggest the brother or cousin relationship to Elimelech (4:17).
· I will perform the duty (v. 13)—Boaz willingly accepted Ruth’s proposal, if the nearer relative was unable or unwilling to exercise his levirate duty.
· as the Lord lives (v. 13—-the most solemn, binding oath a Jew could vow
· lay at his feet (v. 14)— According to the text, no immorality occurred. Boaz even insisted on no appearance of evil.
· six ephahs (v. 15)—The Hebrew text gives no standard of measurement; “ephah” has been inserted by the translators only as a possibility. However, six ephahs would weigh about two hundred pounds, which was far too much for Ruth to carry home in her shawl. Therefore, deemed most reasonable is six seahs (sixty to eighty pounds) which would have been twice the amount Ruth had previously gleaned (see 2:17).
· this day (v. 18)—Naomi knew that Boaz was a man of integrity and would fulfill his promise with a sense of urgency. They needed to wait on the Lord to work through Boaz.
!! D. Understanding the Text
1. What did Naomi offer to do for Ruth (v. 1)? What instructions did she give? To what custom was she referring? (verses to consider: Leviticus 25:25–28; Deuteronomy 25:5–10)
2. How did Ruth respond to this seemingly strange advice from her mother-in-law? Does this surprise you?
3. What reasons might Ruth have given for not following such counsel? (verses to consider: Proverbs 1:5; 11:14; 12:15; 27:9)
!!! 4. In what ways did Boaz demonstrate integrity and character in this night-time encounter with Ruth?
Read Proverbs 31 and compare its description to Ruth’s character and behavior.
1. Which of the descriptions in Proverbs 31 would apply to Ruth? Why?
F. Exploring the Meaning
1. Based on what you’ve read and studied in the first three chapters of Ruth, what can you conclude about the relationship between this Jewish mother-in-law and her Moabite daughter-in-law?
2. Read 1 Timothy 5:3–16. What does this passage say about widows? About relationships between older women and younger women?
|Ruth: The Proverbs 31 Wife|
|The “virtuous” wife of Proverbs 31:10 is personified by “virtuous” Ruth of whom the same Hebrew word is used (3:11). With amazing parallel, they share at least eight character traits (see below). One wonders (in concert with Jewish tradition) if King Lemuel’s mother might not have been Bathsheba who orally passed the family heritage of Ruth’s spotless reputation along to David’s son Solomon. Lemuel, which means “devoted to God,” could have been a family name for Solomon (see Jedediah, 2 Samuel 12:25), who then could have penned Proverbs 31:10–31 with Ruth in mind:|
|1. Devoted to her family (Ruth 1:15–18 // Proverbs 31:10–12, 23)|
|2. Delighted in her work (Ruth 2:2 // Proverbs 31:13)|
|3. Diligent in her labor (Ruth 2:7, 17, 23 // Proverbs 31:14–18, 19–21, 24, 27)|
|4. Dedicated to godly speech (Ruth 2:10, 13 // Proverbs 13:26)|
|5. Dependent on God (Ruth 2:12 // Proverbs 31:25b, 30)|
|6. Dressed with care (Ruth 3:3 // Proverbs 31:22, 25a)|
|7. Discreet with men (Ruth 3:6–13 // Proverbs 31:11, 12, 23)|
|8. Delivered blessings (Ruth 4:14, 15 // Proverbs 31:28, 29, 31)|
G. Summing Up …
“Life is made meaningful by relationships, the most meaningful of which is that between a husband and wife in marriage. Peter called it ‘the grace of life’ (1 Peter 3:7). Yet the fulfillment of that relationship is elusive. A marriage that continually gets better, richer, and more satisfying is rare today.
“From many voices today comes the claim that the very institution of marriage has failed to meet people’s needs. But the fact is that it is not a matter of marriage having failed, since marriage has been increasingly avoided. Today, in place of exerting consistent effort and determination to fulfill the commitment it takes to make one’s marriage work, the solution is to bail out.” —John MacArthur
!! H. Reflecting on the Text
1. What character qualities in Ruth or Boaz do you wish you possessed? What, with God’s help, can you do to attain them?
2. If you are married, how would you rate your in-law relationships? What concrete steps could you take today to improve them?
3. It’s not hard to see the sovereign hand of God at work behind the scenes in the lives of Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi. What are some events you’ve experienced that demonstrate God’s grace and goodness?
I. Recording Your Thoughts
For further study, see the following passages:
|Deuteronomy 25:5–10||Judges 18:20||1 Kings 21:7|
|Psalm 68:5||James 1:27|
! V. RUTH’S REWARD, Ruth 4:1–22
A. Opening Thought
1. Most popular movies have a happy ending. What does this suggest about human nature?
2. How do you feel when you watch a film or read a novel that has a less-than-satisfying ending?
3. The phrase “and they lived happily ever after” is commonly used at the end of fairy tales. Does this phenomenon ever happen in real life? Why or why not?
!! B. Background of the Passage
During the dark time of the judges when Israel’s future looked exceedingly grim, God quietly demonstrated His faithfulness to His wayward covenant people. He sovereignly orchestrated a series of events (a famine; the sudden, untimely deaths of three husbands; the surprising allegiance of a foreign daughter-in-law; and the rare kindness of a prosperous relative) to continue the family lineage through which the Messiah would one day come.
Chapter 1 details the return of the widows Naomi and Ruth from Moab to Bethlehem only to face an uncertain future. Chapter 2 documents Naomi’s wise counsel and concern, Ruth’s godly character, and Boaz’s Christlike generosity. Chapter 3 is a record of Ruth’s brave request that Boaz “redeem” her.
At last in chapter 4, we see God’s divine plan fully blossom as Boaz redeems Naomi’s land and Ruth’s hand in marriage. Naomi, once empty (1:21), is full; Ruth, once a widow (1:5), is married; but most important, God has prepared Christ’s line of descent in David, through Boaz and Obed, back to Judah (Genesis 49:10) to fulfill the proper Messianic lineage.
This book is a wonderful reminder that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted. It is also a challenging picture of relationships marked by love and kindness.
C. Bible Passage: Read 4:1–22, noting the key words and definitions to the right of the passage.
· went up (v. 1)—Apparently the threshing floor was below the level of the gate. Compare Ruth 3:3, “go down to the threshing floor.”
· the gate (v. 1)—the normal public place to transact business in ancient times (see 2 Samuel 15:2; Job 29:7)
· friend (v. 1)—The Hebrew text is not clear whether Boaz called him directly by name (which is then not mentioned by the author) or indirectly.
· ten men (v. 2)—This number apparently constituted a quorum to officially transact business, although only two or three witnesses were needed for judicial proceedings (see Deuteronomy 17:6).
· Naomi … sold (v. 3)—this phrase could possibly be translated, “Naomi is about to sell.” As a widow, she needed the money for living expenses, knowing that the land would ultimately be returned at Jubilee.
· our brother Elimelech (v. 3)—Boaz and the unnamed relative were most likely either brothers or cousins.
· Buy it back (v. 4)—as authorized by the Mosaic law (Leviticus 25:23–28)
· you must also buy (v. 5)— Redeeming both Ruth and the land would not have been required by the letter of the levirate law (Deuteronomy 25:5–6). Perhaps this exemplified Boaz’s desire to obey the spirit of the law, or maybe redemption of land and marriage had been combined by local tradition.
· lest I ruin my own inheritance (v. 6)—He was unwilling to have the family portfolio split between his existing children and the potential offspring of a union with Ruth.
· You redeem (v. 6)—The closer relative relinquished his legal right to the land and Ruth. This cleared the way for Boaz to redeem both.
· took off his sandal (v. 7)—The writer explained to his own generation what had been a custom in former generations. This kind of tradition appears in Deuteronomy 25:5–10 and apparently continued at least to the time of Amos (see 2:6; 8:6). The closer relative legally transferred his right to the property as symbolized by the sandal, most likely that of the nearer relative.
· I have bought (v. 9)—Boaz exercised his legal option to redeem both the land and Ruth before appropriate witnesses.
· the widow of Mahlon (v. 10)—Only here is Ruth’s former husband identified (see 1:5 note). Therefore, it can also be assumed that Chilion married Orpah.
· I have acquired as my wife (v. 10)—Boaz exercised the spirit of the law and became Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer (Deuteronomy 25:5–6).
· the name of the dead (v. 10)—Perpetuation of the family name (1 Samuel 24:21) was an important feature that the levirate process provided (see Deuteronomy 25:6).
· We are witnesses (v. 11)— This affirmation signaled the strong approval of the city.
· like Rachel and Leah (v. 11)— Rachel, the most beloved wife of Jacob, was buried nearby (Genesis 35:19); Leah was the mother of Judah (by Jacob) their namesake descendant (Genesis 29:35). This remembrance went back almost nine hundred years to 1915 b.c.
· Perez … Tamar … Judah (v. 12)—Tamar, the widow of Judah’s first son Er, when denied a levirate marriage to Judah’s remaining son Shelah (38:14), took matters into her own hands and immorally consorted with her father-in-law Judah (38:18). Perez, the firstborn of twins by Tamar, became the main ancestor of the Ephrathites and Bethlehemites (1 Chronicles 2:3–5, 19, 50–51; 4:4).
· offspring (v. 12)—The firstborn son would be considered the son of Mahlon. Additional sons would legally be the offspring of Boaz (Deuteronomy 25:6).
· he went in to her (v. 13)—Old Testament euphemism for sexual intercourse
· the Lord gave her conception (v. 13)—as with Rachel (Genesis 30:22) and Leah (Genesis 29:31), so also with Ruth
· the Lord … has not left you (v. 14)—in contrast to Naomi’s worst moments of despair (Ruth 1:20–21)
· a close relative … his name (v. 14)—refers to Obed, not Boaz (see 4:11), who cared for Naomi in her latter years
· better … than seven sons (v. 15)—Seven represented the number of perfection and thus seven sons would make the complete family (see 1 Samuel 2:5). However, Ruth exceeded this standard all by herself.
· a nurse to him (v. 16)—This expresses the natural affection of a godly grandmother for her God-given grandson.
· the neighbor women gave him a name (v. 17)—This is the only place in the Old Testament where a child was named by someone other than the immediate family.
· a son born to Naomi (v. 17)—Ruth vicariously bore the son that would restore the family name of Naomi’s deceased son Mahlon (see 4:1).
· Obed … Jesse … David (v. 17)—this complete genealogy appears identically in four other biblical texts (Ruth 4:21, 22; 1 Chronicles 2:12–15; Matthew 1:5, 6; Luke 3:31–32). Boaz and Ruth were the great-grandparents of David.
· Perez … David (vv. 18–22)—This representative genealogy, which spans nine centuries from Perez (1885 b.c.) to David (1040 b.c.), specifically names ten generations. The first five (Perez to Nahshon) cover the Patriarchal times to the Exodus and wilderness wanderings. Salmon to David covers Joshua’s lifetime and the judges to the monarchy. This genealogical compression by omission does not signal faulty records, because in Jewish thinking “son” could mean “descendant” (see Matthew 1:1). The purpose of a family record was not necessarily to include every generation but, rather, to establish incontestable succession by way of the more notable ancestors.
· Salmon begot Boaz (v. 21)—Since Matthew 1:5 lists Rahab the harlot, who lived 1425–1350 b.c., as Salmon’s wife, it thus indicates that some generations have been selectively omitted between Salmon and Boaz (1160–1090 b.c.).
· David (v. 22)—Looking back at Ruth from a New Testament perspective, latent Messianic implications become more apparent (see Matthew 1:1). The fruit that is promised later on in the Davidic Covenant finds its seedbed here. The hope of a Messianic king and kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12–14) will be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 19–20) through the lineage of David’s grandfather Obed, who was born to Boaz and Ruth the Moabitess.
D. Understanding the Text
1. Why did Boaz go to the city gate, and what laws or customs was he following? (verses to consider: Genesis 38:8; Matthew 22:23–28)
2. Since Boaz lived at a time when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25), why do you think he was so eager to follow the Mosaic law?
3. What was the initial response of the unnamed “close relative” whom Boaz approached? What prompted him to change his mind?
4. What was the significance of taking off one’s sandal as part of a legal transaction? (verses to consider Deuteronomy 25:5–10; Amos 2:6)
5. Why did the author include a genealogy at the end of chapter 4?
E. Cross-Reference, Read 2 Samuel 7:1–17.
1. What does the story of Ruth (and her giving birth to Obed) have to do with the covenant God made with David?
Exploring the Meaning
2. Read Matthew 1:5. Why is it significant that Rahab the non-Jewish harlot and Ruth the Moabitess were part of Messiah’s lineage?
3. Ruth was just an obscure Moabite girl when God chose her to be part of His plan. David was just an unknown shepherd boy when God chose him to be part of His plan. What does this say about the kind of people God uses?
!! F. Summing Up …
“History belongs to God, not to the puny plans of man or the perverse power of Satan. History is written and directed by its Creator, who will see it through to the fulfillment of His own ultimate purpose—the summing up of all things in Christ. He designed His great plan in the ages past; He now sovereignly works it out according to His divine will; and in the fullness of the times He will complete and perfect it in His Son, in whom it will forever operate in righteous harmony and glorious newness along with all things in the heavens and things upon the earth.”—John MacArthur
G. Reflecting on the Text
1. Think back over Ruth’s life and note the crucial turning points. How would her life have been different had she made choices other than the ones she made?
2. What five adjectives would you use to describe Boaz? What about Ruth?
3. Which of those qualities are present in your life? Which ones would you like to be present? What would it take to develop those qualities?
H. Recording Your Thoughts
For further study, see the following passages:
|Genesis 38:1–30||Leviticus 25:28||Deuteronomy 19:15|
|Psalm 127:3||Jeremiah 32:6–15||Lamentations 5:14|