The Book of Ruth takes place during a dismal time in Israel. "In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land" (1:1). Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, and their two sons went to live for a while in Moab to escape the famine. Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. They both married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Ten years later, however, both of Naomi's sons also died.
When Naomi heard that the Lord had provided food for His people she decided to return to Judah. She encouraged her daughters-in-law to return to their parents' homes. Orpah did so, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi. "'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 will be my God'" (1:16).
Ruth's attitude in spite of the adversity she had experienced is a wonderful example to us today. Even though she was grieving, she loved her mother-in-law and chose to stay by her side. Ruth shows us that no matter how bad our situation may be, we can still reflect God's love.
Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem. Naomi had a relative on her husband's side whose name was Boaz. Ruth said to Naomi, "'Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor'" (2:2). Naomi agreed. So Ruth went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters, and she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz (2:3).
Boaz noticed Ruth and asked the foreman, "'Whose young woman is that?'" The foreman told him she had come back from Moab with Naomi.
Boaz took care of Ruth and made sure she had water to drink. At mealtime he gave her food. He also told his men to pull out some stalks from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up so she would have plenty of grain.
When Ruth told her mother-in-law where she had been working, Naomi responded, "'That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers'" ( 2:20 ).
A "kinsman-redeemer" was a close relative, usually a surviving brother, who could redeem his brother's property by paying outstanding debts. If a man died without an heir, the brother was obligated to marry the widow and raise up an heir for his brother.*
One night after eating and drinking, Boaz lay down on the threshing floor. Following Naomi's instructions, Ruth had gone to the threshing floor and hidden herself. When she saw that Boaz was asleep, she uncovered his feet and lay down. Boaz awoke in the middle of the night and found Ruth lying there. Boaz was pleased with Ruth and gave her barley to take home to Naomi. He explained to her that although he was a close relative, someone else was closer. So he would have to talk to that man and see if he would be willing to fulfill the role of kinsman-redeemer.
The next day Boaz went up to the town gate and waited for the kinsman-redeemer to come along. (4:1). Then he gathered ten of the town elders, who would serve as witnesses. When Boaz asked the man if he wanted to redeem Elimelech's property, the man said that he did. However, when Boaz explained that the man would also have to marry the widow, the man declined, saying it might endanger his own estate.
Boaz announced to the elders and to all the people, "'Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon's widow, as my wife'" (4:9-10).
Boaz married Ruth, and the Lord gave them a son, whom they named Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, the father of King David (4:17). So Ruth, a woman from Moab, was the great-grandmother of King David. God works in many different ways to accomplish His will.
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By: Warren Simmons
*NIV Archaeological Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 391.