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Studying the women of the Bible has been such an amazing journey for me. I’ve recently written about Rahab, Deborah, and Esther, but today, I’m excited to explore Ruth with you.In a previous post, I wrote about Naomi and Ruth, from the perspective of a daughter-in-law, but today, we are going to get to know her on a deeper level.
The story of Naomi and Ruth is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I love the major themes in the Book of Ruth: the providence of God and the idea of a kinsman redeemer. But there is so much more that we can learn from this beautiful relationship including the importance of family, loyalty, and humility.
In this post, we’ll continue our series on women of the Bible and get to know Ruth.
The Story of Ruth in the Bible
Ruth, as you may recall from Sunday school, is a woman who, after being widowed, remains with her mother-in-law. The story is told in the Book of Ruth, part of the biblical canon called Ketuvim, or Writings. Ruth’s story is celebrated during the Jewish festival of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, 50 days after Passover.
According to the Talmud (Jewish tradition), the prophet Samuel wrote the book of Ruth.
The Book of Ruth chronicles the story of Ruth and Orpah, two women of Moab who were married to the sons of Elimelech and Naomi. They were Judeans who had settled in Moab to escape the famine in Judah.
Sadly, all three of the husbands die, leaving Ruth, Orpah, and Naomi widows. After the death of her husband, Naomi decides to return to her native Bethlehem and urges her daughters-in-law to return to their families.
Orpah willingly goes, but Ruth refuses to leave Naomi, proclaiming,
Ruth goes with Naomi to Bethlehem, and, in God’s perfect timing, a kinsmen redeemer is revealed, Boaz. Ruth would later marry Boaz, but more on that in a minute.
Grab your free printable on the Key Verses from the Book of Ruth…use it for deeper study, verse memorization, and verse mapping.
What is a Kinsmen Redeemer?
According to rabbinical tradition, a kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or in need. The Hebrew term “go el” for kinsman-redeemer is translated as one who delivers or rescues (Genesis 48:16 and Exodus 6:6, for example) or redeems property or person(s) (Leviticus 27:9–25 and 25:47–55).
We’ll explore Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi’s kinsmen-redeemer, shortly, but I find it fascinating that this beautiful story becomes part of the lineage of Christ.
Let’s pause here to consider two other ultimate redeemers:
God and Jesus as Redeemers
Yahweh, our God, is Israel’s Redeemer, the one who promised to defend and protect them. God is both Father and Deliverer (Exodus 20:2). Throughout the Old Testament, we find numerous references to God as a rescuer and defender of the weak and destitute (Psalm 82:4, Daniel 6:27, and Jeremiah 20:13).
Now THAT’S a redeemer!
Let’s get back to this amazing story of Ruth in the Bible…
In Ruth 3:9, we see a lovely and beautiful and moving portrait of a woman, a family, in need, unable to rescue or provide for their own needs after being widowed.
Upon arriving in Bethlehem, Naomi directs Ruth to go and glean (Gleaning was a form of charity for the disadvantaged in ancient Israel. The poor could walk behind the harvesters, picking up what was left. This is what Ruth did.) in the fields of Boaz, a wealthy relative of Naomi.
As the story unfolds, Naomi and Ruth, appeal to Boaz to take on the role of kinsmen-redeemer. Boaz agrees and willingly takes Ruth as his wife. Together, they have a son, who they named Obed. Obed became the grandfather of David, which, of course, is the forefather of Jesus. Only God!
The townspeople readily agreed to this:
“Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem,”
Ruth 4:11 (ESV)
Of course, we fast-tracked a bit through the story. I encourage you to read it again if it’s been a while.
Going Against Social Norms
There are so many lessons we can learn from Ruth in the Bible, but I want to point out first that Ruth did not take the easy path. She went against nearly every single social norm of biblical times.
She never engaged in immorality, yet she broke many “molds” for young women of her time. She lived in a culture where you were expected to stay with your own ethnic group, and you didn’t choose your “religion”; you were born into it. You worshipped the god’s your people worshipped.
Ruth ignores both of these cultural norms to follow Naomi. In addition, Ruth lived in a time and culture where younger people were expected to obey their elders, yet Ruth, refused to obey Naomi when she told her to go back home to her own people. Later, she boldly told Boaz, an older gentleman, what he was to do (Ruth 3:9)!
Her culture also dictated that young women were to commit their lives to men. Ruth, however, committed her life to an elderly woman with no money, no resources, and no power. She chose to care for her mother-in-law over the opportunity for a new husband, and security in her homeland.
Young women in Ruth’s day were expected to stay home and avoid the appearance of scandal at all costs, passively waiting for a suitor to pursue them.
But Naomi had another idea. She approached Boaz in the middle of the night at the all-male threshing floor where they slept. She threw Boaz’s blanket over herself and said the cultural equivalent of “You need to marry me”!
While a savvy move, it was also very risky.
“Let it not be known that a woman came to the threshing floor,” Boaz told her (Ruth 3:14). But Ruth and Naomi leveraged the potential scandal of their actions to inspire Boaz to take decisive action on their behalf.
So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”
Ruth 3:14 (ESV)
When he saw that her integrity was more important than any status, Boaz welcomed her and ate with her. He was warmed by Ruth’s love for her mother-in-law and saw it as a virtuous quality worth esteeming.
He then bravely took the situation to the city gate (where the leaders gathered to settle disputes) and assumed Naomi’s right to sell her dead husband’s family property.
He informed the nearer kinsman that if he purchased the land, he would need to marry the owner’s widow.
That was not a requirement of the law for anyone but a brother-in-law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). In making those two assertions, Boaz risked his own reputation and status in order to gain the same for Ruth and Naomi.
Ruth’s going against the societal grain worked in her favor. She married Boaz (and became part of the lineage of the King!) and earned respect in the community.
The women of Bethlehem declared Ruth’s value to Naomi to be “more to you than seven sons” (Ruth 4:15). Seven being the biblical number of totality, this is essentially saying that Ruth’s bravery and love make her inestimably more valuable than the average son. That was truly high praise.
So, what can we learn from this faithful, loyal, God-fearing woman, Ruth?
12 Meaningful Lessons We Can Learn from Ruth in the Bible
- Your Past is Not Your Present or Your Future
In the Book of Ruth, we see that she was a “lowly” Moab, a widow and possibly barren. Life looked pretty bleak for her.
Despite her circumstances and past, she boldly moved forward, followed her mother-in-law, and looked to the future.
No matter what you have been through, God is not done with you. He has a plan for you, and as a follower of Christ, don’t look to your past. Look to your future and trust that He has a plan for you.
- Have Faith
Ruth, although young, showed incredible faith. She believed that God was who He said He was. She had faith that God would provide for her and her mother-in-law.
In our couple’s devotion, my husband and I recently read about the difference between belief and faith and even how it differs from religion.
The simplest explanation and the most reliable one is right in the Bible. Hebrews 11:1 reads that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
You can’t see God like you would a fellow human being, but you can trust that He is moving and that He and His Word are truer than true.
- Don’t assume or discriminate
He does not discriminate. He doesn’t look at where we live, what race or nationality we are or how much money we earn.
Ruth was a Moabite. She was not an Israelite. Others treated her as inferior, but God loved her the same. God does not discriminate, and He loves all people just the same.
- God Views Men and Women Equally in Importance
God cares about men and women all the same. We are all His creation, and He loves us deeply. Many religions and cultures place men in higher esteem and degrade women. The only one true God views men and women the same. There is no difference in His loving eyes.
- No One is Unimportant to God
As mentioned above, many viewed Ruth as “less than.” She was from Moab (you may recall that Moab is a nation that resulted from an incestuous relationship between Lot and one of his daughters. Not a great start to her life. She was poor. She was a widow, and she was far removed from where she was born and raised.
God, however, saw her as loved and important. He even saw her as part of His plan for bringing the world a redeemer. (she was the grandmother of King David).
God regularly uses “regular” people, often the least ones we would expect to do great things.
- Character Matters
They say that character is who you are when nobody is looking.
When Ruth said, “Where you go, I will go,” I’m sure that it didn’t cross her mind that, for centuries, millions would read about her and learn about her character.
She far exceeded the expectations of a daughter-in-law. She honored her bitter and hurting mother-in-law and put in long and physically demanding days in the field to provide food for herself and Naomi. Ruth displayed strong character as a wife to Boaz, as well. Everything she did displayed Ruth as a woman of noble character, and God blessed her and generations after for a beautiful representation of character.
When you make a decision to do or say something, consider if you would do or say that same thing if someone, if God, himself, were watching.
- Redemption is For Everyone
No matter what your background, address, marital status, or sin-filled past says, redemption is a gift from God and available to all.
Ruth had less than most of us and had faced heart-wrenching events in her life, yet she believed that God was able. She believed that He would take care of her, and her life unfolded into a story that would affect generations to come. He took a hungry, destitute, homeless, hurting woman and healed her, provided for her needs, and brought her a husband to love and cherish her. He redeemed her, and He will redeem you, too!
Redemption is possible in your life. No matter where you come from or what you have been through, God has a plan for you that far surpasses anything you can imagine or dream.
- Stay Loyal to Your Commitments
Ruth and Orpah were faced with a decision, an edict, really – Naomi told them to go back to their hometowns and hope to be blessed with another husband. Orpah decided that’s what she would do. Ruth, however, decided to stay with Naomi and face the hard times that were sure to be for a couple of widows. She honored her commitment to Naomi, instead of thinking of her own needs and chances for marriage.
When you make a commitment, be it working in your church’s nursery or a covenant of marriage, stay loyal to your commitment. God will honor you as you honor Him and those around you.
- God Uses Little Things for Great Things
I’ve thought about this often. For me, I had to go through my husband leaving me, losing our home, and relocating to a small town in Missouri from NJ (and so much more) for God to bring me to my husband.
God orchestrates so many “little” things as part of His great plans. God’s plan for Ruth was for her to be part of the lineage of Christ! In order to carry out that plan, He laid out a series of “little” things, which would unfold to one day, bring us a Savior!
Little things (ok, some not so little) in Ruth’s life included famine, her in-laws moving to Moab, the death of her husband, her following Naomi back to her hometown of Bethlehem, and more – all for one thing – for God to do great things in her life.
When you face hurdles in your own life, take a step back and thank God. He is moving in your life, and your little things are part of His big plan!
- God is Both a Redeemer and has Given us a Redeemer
As God redeemed the Israelites, He has given us a Redeemer who can rescue us from our sins and give us eternal life. Some biblical scholars consider Boaz a prophetic symbol of Jesus, a rescuer, a kinsmen-redeemer. We all needed rescuing, and Jesus was born, lived, and died to redeem us.
- Just Do It
When Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, Ruth was determined to find work to provide food and other necessities for them. In Ruth 2:2, we read, And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”
‘She was willing to do anything to help their situation. It didn’t take her long to find a nearby field and follow the harvesters, gleaning as she went. Ruth worked hard, and her work ethic was noticed by the field manager or foreman. He went to Boaz, the owner of the fields, and told him of how hard she worked and the long hours she put in.
Ruth didn’t spend days making sure her resume was perfect or lollygagged around while others worked. She jumped in, found a job in the fields, and worked harder and longer than anyone else. She just did it.
When Naomi suggested that Ruth put on her best clothes and fragrance and go to Boaz to let him know of his position as kinsmen-redeemer, she didn’t hesitate.
And we all know, by now, how that story turned out!
- Decisions Made Today, Can Impact Generations
Ruth decided to go with Naomi. She decided to glean in the fields. Ruth decided to lay at Boaz’s feet. She decided to marry him. They had a child, which is in the direct lineage of Christ Jesus.
Ruth’s decisions many years ago have influenced the lives of millions.
Consider your daily decisions. Prayerfully choose your direction. God may be using that small decision today to affect a generation!
13. Ruth Was a Woman of Courage
Imagine yourself as Ruth. You’ve lost your husband. And now your heart aches at the thought of losing your last connection to him, his mother. It’s an option you’re unwilling to consider. So, you pack a bag and set off with Naomi in her homeland. This time, however, you are the foreigner.
With no idea how you will feed and clothe yourself or your mother-in-law. No clue how to find shelter. The prospects of a new husband are slim. In fact, when your mother-in-law passes away, you will be completely alone.
Despite her fears and trepidation, Ruth accompanies Naomi, anyway. What courage!
Have you had your own “Ruth moment” in your life? What did you do that took incredible courage?
Perhaps Ruth turns her back on all that she is familiar with because she realizes the truth that we must courageously step out of the boat, onto the dark, choppy waters, to experience the bigger and better life God has for us. Our breakthrough often awaits beyond our comfort zone.
Like Naomi, we can’t always see how God is working in and through our lives. But we can choose to expect that He is doing good things — despite our circumstances.
The message of the story of Ruth shows us what it looks like for faithful people to live lives shaped by God’s law of love (Matthew 22:35-40). And it reveals how God works through those lives to bless a community, a nation, and the world.
What else can you take from the story of Ruth and Naomi?
Prayerfully review your commitments, decisions, and relationships in light of the story of Ruth and Naomi.
What is God revealing to you?
To see a full-length movie on the book of Ruth, check out the video below:
I loved this book by Jill Eileen Smith, The Book of Ruth. If you’d like to surround yourself in the story of Naomi and Ruth, be sure to check this one out!
You may also enjoy this Bible study based on The Book of Ruth.
Or listen to them on Audible Plus with a free trial!
As always, I’m praying for you!
Because of Him,
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”