Book of Ruth

Introduction to the Book of Ruth

Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab by William Blake (1795).
Public Domain

The book of Ruth is one of the most moving accounts in the Bible, a story of love and loyalty that is a stark contrast to today's cynical, throwaway society. This short book, only four chapters, shows how God uses people in amazing ways.

Author of the Book of Ruth

The author is not named. Although some sources credit Samuel the prophet, Samuel died before David's kingship, which is alluded to at the end of the book.

Date Written

The book of Ruth was written some time after 1010 B.C. since that was when David took the throne of Israel. It also refers to a "former time" in Israel, indicating it was written years after the actual events occurred.

Written To

The audience of Ruth was the people of ancient Israel but eventually became all future readers of the Bible.

Landscape of the Book of Ruth

The story opens in Moab, a pagan country east of Judah and the Dead Sea. Naomi and her husband Elimelek fled there during a famine. After Elimelek and Naomi's two sons died, she decided to return to Israel. The rest of the book takes place in Bethlehem, the future birthplace of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Themes in the Book of Ruth

Faithfulness is one of the key themes of this book. We see Ruth's faithfulness to Naomi, Boaz's faithfulness to Ruth, and everyone's faithfulness to God. God, in return, rewards them with great blessings.

These characters' faithfulness led to kindness toward each other. Kindness is an outpouring of love. Everyone in this book showed the type of selfless love toward others that God expects from his followers.

A high sense of honor also dominates this book. Ruth was a hardworking, morally chaste woman. Boaz treated her with respect while fulfilling his lawful responsibility. We see strong examples of obeying God's laws.

A sense of safekeeping is emphasized in the book of Ruth. Ruth took care of Naomi, Naomi took care of Ruth, then Boaz took care of both women. Finally, God took care of all of them, blessing Ruth and Boaz with a child they named Obed, who became the grandfather of David. From David's line came Jesus of Nazareth, Savior of the world.

Finally, redemption is an underlying theme in the book of Ruth. As Boaz, the "kinsman redeemer," saves Ruth and Naomi from a hopeless situation, he illustrates how Jesus Christ redeems our lives.

Key Characters in the Book of Ruth

Naomi, Ruth, Boaz.

Key Verses

Ruth 1:16-17
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. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me." (NIV)

Book of Ruth 2:11-12
Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband--how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." (NIV)

Book of Ruth 4:9-10
Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, "Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon's widow, as my 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 his hometown. Today you are witnesses!" (NIV)

Book of Ruth 4:16-17
Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, "Naomi has a son!" And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (NIV)

Outline of the Book of Ruth

• Ruth returns to Judah from Moab with her mother-in-law, Naomi - Ruth 1:1-22.

• Ruth gleans grain in the field of Boaz. The law required property owners to leave some grain for the poor and widows, like Ruth - Ruth 2:1-23.

• Following Jewish customs, Ruth lets Boaz know he is a kinsman redeemer and that she is eligible to marry him - Ruth 3:1-18.

• Boaz marries Ruth; together they care for Naomi. Ruth and Boaz have a son who becomes an ancestor of Jesus, the Messiah - Ruth 4:1-28.