is a story about
in which God is
Redemption: Out of Idolatry, Poverty and Loss
– Naomi, Ruth and Orpah have a bleak backstory, beginning with famine, poverty and the death of their husbands. Out of this begins the Bible’s premier story of redemption.
– Ruth is from Moab, previously an enemy of Israel (Judges 3) and known for idolatry (Dt. 23:3-6).
Ruth’s New Culture
– Ruth’s commitment to the Lord was against the grain of culture; committing to live as a Jew meant committing herself to their God (1:16).
– The story of Ruth is rich in Jewish cultural cues and traditions, but they are mostly between Naomi and Boaz, since Ruth was the new girl in town.
The Compassion of Boaz
– Boaz has compassion on Ruth from the start, going beyond the Jewish law of gleaning (Lev. 23:22) by also offering Ruth water, food, and protection.
– Naomi blames her loss on God (1:20-21), but later sees the hand of God in bringing Boaz (2:20) and through him redemption (4:14-17). Naomi introduces the Jewish concept of redemption when it says that Boaz is one of their “redeemers” (ESV) or “family redeemers” (NLT).
– The necessary background in the Jewish law is found in Dt. 25:5-10 and Lev. 25:25. Redemption involves in this case: 1) The land; 2) marriage. (In other cases the kinsman-redeemer (or goel) also avenged murder.)
– Redemption is the central action of the story, as well as a metaphor for what God has done through Jesus.
– While redeeming land was a right which could be relinquished (by their closer kinsman), marriage would become obligatory because of Ruth’s childless state. Whoever redeemed them would also have to marry Ruth.
The Turning Point: Redemption
– “The basis of human life is not Rationalism, but Redemption.”1 The point of Ruth’s story is not that every tragedy is somehow logical, but that God can turn around the most desperate situation.
– F. W. Boreham points out, “Most people are prepared for the worst; very few are prepared for the best.”2 For Naomi and Ruth, the best that could happen was redemption, and it did happen.
– In ch. 3, Ruth follows Naomi’s advice by wisely trying to ensure their redemption and her marriage.
– Moving the hems of his garment solicited Boaz to marry her and take his right as kinsman-redeemer, as explained above. (In Hebrew, hems and wings are similar words, so Ruth is using Boaz’s words in 2:12. See 3:9, ESV.)
Sandals: The Right to Walk
– In Ethiopia, some tribes can recognize their friends’ sandal prints in the desert. So it makes sense that by giving his shoe, the nearer kinsman relinquishes to Boaz his right to walk on the property.
– When Job refers to God as his Redeemer, he emphasizes that “at the last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25, also Zech. 14:4). This shows Jesus’ right to the earth, and his role as Redeemer.
– To fulfill all the roles of a Redeemer, Jesus had to have: 1) Kinship—implied by his incarnation (becoming flesh); 2) Right to land—in Jesus’ case, the Earth, Rev. 11:15; 3) Marriage—to the Church, Eph. 5:22-33, Rev. 19:6-9; and, 4) Vengeance for innocent blood shed—against Babylon, Rev. 17-19.
– Redemption is the central truth of Ruth’s story, and an important New Testament image for Christ’s work.
– In 4:11-12, Rachel, Leah, and Perez are not examples of character but fruitfulness(1 Sam. 1). For Christians, this extends to the New Testament metaphor of spiritual reproduction (Gal. 4:19, 1 Tim. 1:2, etc.)
– Remarkably, Ruth the Moabite becomes an ancestor of both David (4:18-22) and the Messiah (Mt. 1:5); this also grounds the story clearly in the larger history of salvation.
I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah by Ravi Zacharias deals with preparing for the commitment of marriage. Ravi uses his own experience in India and the West to seek a biblical view of marriage that transcends culture.
Many biographies deal with cross-cultural conversions, such as I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh or Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi.
Little Dorrit is a Charles Dickens novel and a modern British miniseries that deals with many of the themes and circumstances of the Book of Ruth.
If you know any good books dealing with redemption, let me know!
1 Oswald Chambers, The Shadow of an Agony, p. 38
2 F. W. Boreham, The Three Half-Moons, p. 213