The Book of Ruth
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Introduction to The Book of Ruth
A period of some four centuries lay between the time of Ezra and Nehemiah and the beginning of the Christian Era. Hebrew history, as recorded in the Bible, ends with the reforms of these two men. It is from secular history, principally the Jewish historian Josephus, that a knowledge of the events of this long period is gained. The Apocryphal books of I and II Maccabees also give valuable historical data. These centuries were a time of great literary activity for the Jews and a number of the canonical books were produced. This and the following chapter will give a brief outline of the main events and the Unity interpretation of the books of the Old Testament written during this period.
Judea, as the country of Judah is referred to in later Hebrew history and New Testament times (Judea is the Greco-Roman equivalent of Judah), remained a province of the Persian empire until 333 B.C. The rule of Persia was not harsh. There seemed to be no way for the Jews to gain political independence, so they centered their attention on the development of religion. The effect of Ezra’s reforms was to intensify interest in religion and its practices, and the Temple, under the administration of the high priest, became the center of life and worship. The law and the ritual, with perfect obedience thereto, were the chief concern of the Jew.
The highly organized form of religion preserved Judaism and was of great benefit in that sense, but it tended to develop narrowness, exclusiveness, and self-righteousness on the part of its adherents. As a protest against the extreme orthodox system established by Ezra and added to by subsequent teachers of Judaism, the books of Ruth and Jonah were written.
The Book of Ruth (written about 400 B.C.)
Ezra had been firm in his conviction that there should be no intermarriage between Jew and Gentile. The Book of Ruth purports to show that a mixed marriage can prove to be highly beneficial. Ruth, a Moabitess, accepts Judaism, is wed to a Jew, and enriches the race, becoming an ancestress of David, Israel’s greatest king. The book may contain some historical material, though its main object was to emphasize the fact that it is the individual, not the nationality, that counts.
The scene of Ruth is laid in an ancient period, “in the days when the judges judged” (Ruth 1:1), the time immediately following the conquest of Canaan. Its spiritual interpretation is rich indeed. Naomi, a Jewess, represents one who has a knowledge of spiritual things but in time of distress (famine) leaves Bethlehem (spiritual substance) and goes with her husband and two sons to Moab (a lower or more material state of mind). There she encounters hardship. Her husband dies, and her two sons, who marry women of the country, also die. Whenever we revert to the material because it seems difficult to work out our problems with God’s help, the result is always disastrous.
Bereft of her family, Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem. She feels forsaken and alone. Her two daughters-in-law Orpah and Ruth offer to accompany her, but she bids them turn again to their own land. Orpah follows her advice, but Ruth cleaves to her.
Orpah represents “a youthfulness, grace, and activity in the natural soul ... and zeal, but more for the things of self than the things of Spirit” (M.D. 497). This side of our consciousness, while it may have some affection for the spiritual, finds its real interest in the outer world and willingly returns thereto.
Ruth represents “the love of the natural soul for God and for the things of Spirit. Ruth is a type of the beautiful, the pure, and the loving characteristics of the natural man” (MBD/Ruth). When this phase of consciousness comes in contact with the spiritual (Naomi), it holds tenaciously to it. Ruth will not hear of returning to Moab. When we read the beautiful words Ruth spoke to Naomi they become increasingly meaningful, for they signify the desire of the awakened soul to hold fast to the highest:
Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God, where thou dlest, will I die, and there will I be buried: Jehovah do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me (Ruth 1:16, 17).
Naomi has a wealthy kinsman whose name is Boaz, and when Ruth goes to glean in his field Boaz shows an interest in her. Naomi goes to great lengths to encourage the acquaintance, which ripens into love. The result is the marriage of the two, signifying a closer union between the awakening spiritual sense (Ruth) and the consciousness that abides in the spiritual (Boaz). Charles Fillmore states that Boaz represents:
The cheerful willingness, promptness, and quickness of action, also richness and power of thought, and strength of character, that when established in substance (Bethlehem) and allied with the love of the natural man (Ruth) open the way for the birth of the Christ into consciousness (MBD/Boaz).
By following our highest impulse (as Ruth did) we come to know peace, happiness, and such an enrichment of the spiritual consciousness that seeds are planted which ripen into the Christ realization. The birth of Obed, the son of Ruth and Boaz, symbolizes this. Obed became the grandfather of David, a type of Christ.
Introduction to The Book of Ruth by Elizabeth Sand Turner, Let There Be Light.
Elimelech’s Family Goes to Moab
1 In the days when the judges judged, there was a famine in the land. A certain man of Bethlehem Judah went to live in the country of Moab with his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi. The names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem Judah. They came into the country of Moab and lived there. 3 Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. 4 They took for themselves wives of the women of Moab. The name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other was Ruth. They lived there about ten years. 5 Mahlon and Chilion both died, and the woman was bereaved of her two children and of her husband.
Naomi and Her Moabite Daughters-in-Law
6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law, that she might return from the country of Moab; for she had heard in the country of Moab how Yahweh* had visited his people in giving them bread. 7 She went out of the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her. They went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May Yahweh deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 May Yahweh grant you that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices, and wept. 10 They said to her, “No, but we will return with you to your people.”
11 Naomi said, “Go back, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Go back, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say, ‘I have hope,’ if I should even have a husband tonight, and should also bear sons, 13 would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from having husbands? No, my daughters, for it grieves me seriously for your sakes, for Yahweh’s hand has gone out against me.”
14 They lifted up their voices and wept again; then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth stayed with her. 15 She said, “Behold,† your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her god. Follow your sister-in-law.”
16 Ruth said, “Don’t urge me to leave you, and to return from following you, for where you go, I will go; and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God‡ my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May Yahweh do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.”
20 She said to them, “Don’t call me Naomi.§ Call me Mara,* for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and Yahweh has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since Yahweh has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” 22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, who returned out of the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.
World English Bible Footnotes:
- * 1:6. “Yahweh” is God’s proper Name, sometimes rendered “LORD” (all caps) in other translations.
- † 1:15. “Behold”, from “הִנֵּה”, means look at, take notice, observe, see, or gaze at. It is often used as an interjection.
- ‡ 1:16. The Hebrew word rendered “God” is “אֱלֹהִ֑ים” (Elohim).
- § 1:20. “Naomi” means “pleasant”.
- * 1:20. “Mara” means “bitter”.
Ruth Meets Boaz
1 Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech, and his name was Boaz. 2 Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me now go to the field, and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I find favor.”
She said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 She went, and came and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
They answered him, “May Yahweh bless you.”
6 The servant who was set over the reapers answered, “It is the Moabite lady who came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came, and has continued even from the morning until now, except that she rested a little in the house.”
8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Don’t go to glean in another field, and don’t go from here, but stay here close to my maidens. 9 Let your eyes be on the field that they reap, and go after them. Haven’t I commanded the young men not to touch you? When you are thirsty, go to the vessels, and drink from that which the young men have drawn.”
11 Boaz answered her, “I have been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father, your mother, and the land of your birth, and have come to a people that you didn’t know before. 12 May Yahweh repay your work, and a full reward be given to you from Yahweh, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
She sat beside the reapers, and they passed her parched grain. She ate, was satisfied, and left some of it. 15 When she had risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and don’t reproach her. 16 Also pull out some for her from the bundles, and leave it. Let her glean, and don’t rebuke her.”
17 So she gleaned in the field until evening; and she beat out that which she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah* of barley. 18 She took it up, and went into the city. Then her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned; and she brought out and gave to her that which she had left after she had enough.
She told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by Yahweh, who has not abandoned his kindness to the living and to the dead.” Naomi said to her, “The man is a close relative to us, one of our near kinsmen.”
22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maidens, and that they not meet you in any other field.” 23 So she stayed close to the maidens of Boaz, to glean to the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and she lived with her mother-in-law.
World English Bible Footnotes:
- * 2:17. 1 ephah is about 22 liters or about 2/3 of a bushel.
Ruth and Boaz at the Threshing Floor
1 Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Now isn’t Boaz our kinsman, with whose maidens you were? Behold, he will be winnowing barley tonight on the threshing floor. 3 Therefore wash yourself, anoint yourself, get dressed, and go down to the threshing floor; but don’t make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 It shall be, when he lies down, that you shall note the place where he is lying. Then you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down. Then he will tell you what to do.”
5 She said to her, “All that you say, I will do.” 6 She went down to the threshing floor, and did everything that her mother-in-law told her. 7 When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. She came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8 At midnight, the man was startled and turned himself; and behold, a woman lay at his feet. 9 He said, “Who are you?”
She answered, “I am Ruth your servant. Therefore spread the corner of your garment over your servant; for you are a near kinsman.”
10 He said, “You are blessed by Yahweh, my daughter. You have shown more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, because you didn’t follow young men, whether poor or rich. 11 Now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do to you all that you say; for all the city of my people knows that you are a worthy woman. 12 Now it is true that I am a near kinsman. However, there is a kinsman nearer than I. 13 Stay this night, and in the morning, if he will perform for you the part of a kinsman, good. Let him do the kinsman’s duty. But if he will not do the duty of a kinsman for you, then I will do the duty of a kinsman for you, as Yahweh lives. Lie down until the morning.”
14 She lay at his feet until the morning, then she rose up before one could discern another. For he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 He said, “Bring the mantle that is on you, and hold it.” She held it; and he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her; then he went into the city.
The Marriage of Boaz and Ruth
1 Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there. Behold, the near kinsman of whom Boaz spoke came by. Boaz said to him, “Come over here, friend, and sit down!” He came over, and sat down. 2Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here,” and they sat down. 3 He said to the near kinsman, “Naomi, who has come back out of the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s. 4 I thought I should tell you, saying, ‘Buy it before those who sit here, and before the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know. For there is no one to redeem it besides you; and I am after you.”
He said, “I will redeem it.”
7 Now this was the custom in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning exchanging, to confirm all things: a man took off his sandal, and gave it to his neighbor; and this was the way of formalizing transactions in Israel. 8 So the near kinsman said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” then he took off his sandal.
9 Boaz said to the elders and to all the people, “You are witnesses today, 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 wife of Mahlon, I have purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead on his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his place. You are witnesses today.”
11 All the people who were in the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May Yahweh make the woman who has come into your house like Rachel and like Leah, which both built the house of Israel; and treat you worthily in Ephrathah, and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 Let your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, of the offspring* which Yahweh will give you by this young woman.”
The Genealogy of David
13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and he went in to her, and Yahweh enabled her to conceive, and she bore a son. 14 The women said to Naomi, “Blessed be Yahweh, who has not left you today without a near kinsman. Let his name be famous in Israel. 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and sustain you in your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Naomi took the child, laid him in her bosom, and became nurse to him. 17 The women, her neighbors, gave him a name, saying, “A son is born to Naomi”. They named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
18Now this is the history of the generations of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, 19 and Hezron became the father of Ram, and Ram became the father of Amminadab, 20 and Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon became the father of Salmon, 21 and Salmon became the father of Boaz, and Boaz became the father of Obed, 22 and Obed became the father of Jesse, and Jesse became the father of David.
World English Bible Footnotes:
- * 4:12. or, seed.