The Truth on Ruth

The third woman in the genealogy of Jesus? Let’s talk about her on Deeper Waters.

We’re looking at the Christmas story this month on Deeper Waters and right now we’re going through Matthew’s genealogy and looking at notable mentions in it. I’ve said that women seem to have a tendency to pop up in the genealogies, which is highly unusual for a genealogy of the time. The first and second one have both involved morally questionable situations, but when we get to this third one, she is definitely as pure as the driven snow.

One of my favorite ministries is the Ruth Institute, which is an excellent pro-marriage ministry, and a great place to go to if one wants to know why we should oppose redefining marriage. In talking with the founder of this group, I found that it was named the Ruth Institute because of the character of Ruth in the Bible. Ruth is one of those books not quoted in the Old Testament, but one that is extremely important. How come?

The story starts with a family that leaves Bethlehem and goes into Moabite territory due to a famine. While there, the sons marry two Moabite women. Shortly after that, all the men die. Naomi, the mother, hears that the famine has ended and starts heading back. Her two daughters-in-law come with her and she tells them to go back. One of them agrees but the other says:

“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.”

This is one determined woman and this is not a simple platitude. With this, she was abandoning her Moabite heritage and saying she wanted to be a part of the people of Israel. That also meant abandoning the religion and living in the service of the God of Israel. We may see this as a small change today as many people change their religions all the time, but in that day and age, your entire identity was being changed. This is no small gesture on Ruth’s part and we should not see it as such.

Ruth and Naomi come to Bethlehem then and in order for them to survive, sends Ruth out in the fields to glean. This was an allowable practice where someone was supposed to leave some food behind in a field so that the poor could come in and get what was left behind. Ruth gets noticed in the field of a man named Boaz. He makes sure she is well provided for. When Naomi finds out, she is overjoyed and says that God is to be praised because He has not forsaken the living or the dead. That is the most important line in Ruth. It is the central one and the rest of the story is built around it. The author of the account wants you to know that God has not forsaken those people who have died and is still fulfilling the covenant. This will become more apparent later on.

Naomi tells Ruth that Boaz is a kinsman-redeemer and thus is eligible to marry Ruth so she can be provided for. Naomi, a crafty mother-in-law, gives Ruth clear instructions. Take a good bath, put on the best perfume, and put on a really good outfit. Why? You are to go down and see Boaz and make an appeal to him to marry you. Ruth does this and she does it in a way that is not immoral at all. It was within the custom of the time. Boaz wakes up to find Ruth at his feet when she makes her request. He tells her there is a kinsman-redeemer closer than he and he must have a chance first, but if he does not accept, then Boaz will marry Ruth. Ruth spends the night at Boaz’s feet and leaves before anyone else wakes up. There is no reason to believe that any sexual activity took place that night.

When the morning comes, Boaz speaks to the other kinsman-redeemer, who is so unworthy in his actions that he is not even given a name in the book. All other individual characters, even those without dialogue, are named. This person is not. He refuses to marry into the family of Naomi and so loses his honor. Boaz takes it upon himself then to marry Ruth and he does so. The elders bless the union and pray that it be as bountiful as that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, a name we saw earlier in this blog.

So the family goes back to Bethlehem, (And yes, the Bethlehem Jesus was born at) and there they have a son whose name is Obed. Okay. A lot of you might not have heard of him. He is the father of a man named Jesse. Now the names are starting to seem familiar. Jesse is the father of David. Indeed, God has not forsaken the living or the dead. He has fulfilled His covenant to Israel in David and ultimately, by David’s son, the Christ.

Ruth is a figure that should be upheld and celebrated in the church today. It is also amazing that she is not just a woman and a gentile, but a Moabite, a distant cousin of Israel of whom they weren’t always on best terms. Deuteronomy 23 shows us that. For those concerned, David would qualify to enter the temple on two grounds. First, his father was an Israelite so he would be Israelite by descent. Second, Ruth had been accepted into the people of Israel and forsaken her Moabite heritage.

Ruth gets us from the time of Judges to the time of David with 1 Samuel filling in even more of the information, but though the book of Ruth is not explicitly cited in the NT, we dare not underestimate Ruth’s importance. God is still able to be the God of all who call on His name.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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One Response to “The Truth on Ruth”

  1. Sean Durity Says:

    The threshing floor scene is full of ambiguity, darkness, possible euphemisms, and sexual tension. I think this is purposeful by the (gifted!) author. It is a masterful short story. That doesn’t mean that anything sexual actually happened, but I don’t think you can whitewash it out of the text.

    Definitely a book of the Bible to be treasured and studied…

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