Introduction to Ruth
The story of Ruth is set in the time of the Judges. Christians place the book of Ruth immediately after the book of Judges for this reason. Jews place Ruth near the end of their canon. The story of Ruth was written much later than the book of Judges, most likely during the post-exilic period. The main character of the book, Ruth, is from Moab. The book of Ruth tells the story of King David’s ancestors.
There was a famine in Israel, so Elimelek, his wife Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chileon, leave Israel and settle in Moab. Mahlon and Chileon marry two Moabite women - Ruth and Orpah. The three men die right away. “Mahlon” means “sickly,” and “Chileon” means “bound-to-go,” so their deaths are no surprise.
Naomi decides to return home and takes Ruth and Orpah with her. As they are leaving, she tells them to go back to Moab. Orpah leaves, but Ruth refuses to go.
She 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.”
When they arrive in Bethlehem, Naomi tells everyone that her new name is “Marah” because the LORD has dealt bitterly with her. "Marah" means "bitter," showing how Naomi has become a bitter person.
Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz with the other poor women of Bethlehem. Boaz provided protection for her. Boaz also told his servants to leave extra grain behind for Ruth to pick up. Boaz also let Ruth eat lunch with him and his servants.
Later, Ruth showed Naomi all the grain. Noami told Ruth that Boaz was their “kinsman-redeemer,” meaning that he was next in line to lead the family after the death of Elimelek.
Noami told Ruth to wash herself and then go to the threshing floor where Boaz slept that night and “uncover his feet” once he fell asleep and lay by him.
"Uncovering his feet" is a euphemism for exposing his private parts. However, this is not necessarily meant as a sexual act, but rather as a blunt reminder of Boaz's circumcision, which was the sign of the covenant he had sworn to uphold, including his role as kinsman-redeemer.
Ruth did as she was told. Boaz woke up and was startled to find a woman in his bed. Ruth told him to “spread his garment over her.” Boaz praised her for not chasing after younger men and choosing him instead. Boaz agreed to be her “kinsman-redeemer” and let her stay the night with him.
She left before dawn to avoid a scandal. Before she left, Boaz told her to spread out her garment, and he poured grain into it for her to carry. So after this night, Ruth carries the seed of Boaz…
In the morning, Boaz found the man who was actually in line ahead of him to be the kinsman-redeemer and offered him the property of Alimelek’s sons which belonged to this man by right…but the property also included Ruth. The man didn’t want a Moabite wife, so he refused to be the kinsman-redeemer, and the job fell to Boaz who was next in line.
Boaz and Ruth were married. The elders blessed them and said, “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”
Boaz was a descendant of Perez, Judah’s son through Tamar. The story of Ruth ends with a brief genealogy:
Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed
Obed was the father of Jesse
Jesse was the father of King David, the greatest king of Israel