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Introduction to the Book of Ruth

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Related articles

How to interpret OT Narratives Covenants in the OT
Canaanite religion Israel's enemies
Genealogy of Jesus

Title of the book

The books of Ruth and Esther are the two books of the OT named after the name of a woman, and there is an interesting connection between the two. Ruth was a Gentile woman, who is brought into the midst of the Jews to fulfil her divine destiny, with grace, faithfulness and dignity. Esther was a Jewish woman, who is brought into the midst of the Gentiles to fulfil her divine destiny, also with grace, faithfulness and dignity.

The book of Ruth is the story of a friendship between two women, which leads to Ruth's marriage to Boaz and the birth of Obed, who is a descendent of King David, the great ancestor of Jesus Christ. The book is a link between the time of the judges and the introduction of the monarchy and King David.

The story of Ruth is in quiet rural contrast to the fighting, immorality and unfaithfulness of Judges. The vivid contrast is shown between the quiet faith and obedience in Ruth and the anarchy and every man doing what is right in his own eyes in Judges. There are contrasts between: the ungodly Jews during time of Judges, with godly gentile Ruth; Balaam & Balak who cursed the Jews, and Ruth who blessed them; the turmoil and violence of Judges and the love story of Ruth.

Ruth in Hebrew Scriptures

Ruth is one of the Megilloth (five scrolls), along with the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations and Esther, which were read at particular Jewish feasts. The Megilloth formed part of the Writings, the third section of the Hebrew canon. Ruth was read at the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (the time of barley harvest) foretelling the inclusion of the Gentiles. It was moved to be included with the history books in the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the OT.


The historical setting of Ruth during the time of the Judges (1:1), and the book was probably completed (perhaps by Samuel) during the reign of King David, who is mentioned in 4:22. It refers to the sandal custom as a custom of former times (4:7). The story could have been transmitted orally for many years before being written down.

The book of Ruth gives an accurate account of the customs prevailing during the time of judges. The famine could have been the one which occurred during the time of Gideon (Judges 6:2-6,11), when food was scarce during the siege by the Midianites. It would have been natural for a Jewish family to take refuge in Moab during such a famine and for Jewish people to marry local inhabitants (1:3-5), even though God had prohibited such marriages.

David, being descended from Ruth, a Moabitess, later took refuge with the King of Moab when Saul was pursuing him (1 Sam 22:3-5).

Message of Ruth

The inclusion of Ruth, the Moabitess, foreshadows the day when Gentiles will be joined by God's grace to the commonwealth of Israel. A Gentile is included in the royal lineage of the Messiah (Matt 1:5).

Boaz as the kinsman-redeemer is a type of Christ by fulfilling the qualifications and functions of a kinsman-redeeemer. He had to be a blood relative, as Jesus was by virgin birth and incarnation. He had to be willing to redeem the forfeited inheritance (4:9), as Jesus was willing to give his life as a ransom for many. He had to be able to redeem the forfeited inheritance (4:10), as Jesus was able and paid the price for sinners. He was also obliged to take as his wife the one whose forfeited inheritance he had redeemed (4:10), as Jesus takes the church, whose redemption he has purchased, as his bride.

The book of Ruth gives the genealogy of King David, the ancestor of Jesus Christ. Boaz is considered as: lord of the harvest (2:3), provider of bread (3:15), the kinsman-redeemer (2:20, 4:7), a man of wealth (2:1), the giver of security & protection (3:1), the bestower of grace & favour (3:6-13). The name Boaz means 'strength'.

Ruth is also a representative of Gentile believers converted apart from the law. The book shows the sovereignty of God in action, for whom nothing is impossible and the results of people having faith and trusting in him. God rules over all and brings his blessings on those who trust him.

Jesus' genealogy

In Matthew's genealogy of Jesus, there are five women. Three had some immorality in their lives or ancestry, and four are probably Gentiles: Tamar, was probably a Canaanite married to Judah, Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute from Jericho, Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, Ruth was a Moabitess, and Mary the mother of Jesus, the only Jew.

As Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was only a half Jew (Mt 1:5). Salmon had married Rahab, the Gentile woman of faith (Heb 11:31, James 2:25), and Boaz married Ruth, another Gentile woman of faith. This clearly show that Gentiles are included in the people of God, the blessing of God was not exclusively for the Jews, even in the OT.

Levirate Marriage

The word 'Levirate', comes from the Latin 'Levir', a husband's brother. The provision was for a childless widow to be taken as wife of a surviving brother of her deceased husband so that she could bear a son who would be legally the heir of the dead first husband (Deut 25:5-10). The dead man's name was then carried on by the son, so that his name would not become extinct. This law ensured that land owned by the first husband remained in the family. This custom was common in other nations other than in Israel.

The brother was allowed to refuse the role of substitute husband for the dead man (Deut 25:7-8). If so, the widow could complain to the elders and the man would be in public disgrace. Publically, she would untie and remove his sandal and spit in his face, cursing him, saying, "So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother's house". His house would then be called, "The house of him who had his sandal pulled off" (Deut 25:10).

A similar situation arises in Gen 38:1-11 (before the Mosaic law). Judah's son, Er, who was married to Tamar, was killed by the Lord. His second son, Onan, is called to perform the duty of a brother-in-law and raise up offspring for his dead brother. He refuses to have a child by her, because the offspring would not be his. He was also killed by the Lord, as what he did was displeasing to God.

In the negotiations between Boaz and Ruth's kinsman (Ruth 4:3-8), the following additional features appear. The first is that Ruth had no surviving brother and the Levirate responsibility was on the nearest male heir. Secondly, in addition to taking the widow as his wife, he was also responsible to redeem any land of the dead man which was about to be sold or forfeited. This is included in Lev 25:25, but not Deut 25. The fact that Ruth was a Moabitess may have influenced the nearer kinsman not to take her as his wife (Deut 23:3). This kinsman is allowed to take off his own sandal and is spared the humiliation of having Ruth spit in his face. As it was known that Boaz was willing to fulfil the requirements of the Levirate marriage law, Ruth was willing to surrender the formalities of Deut 25.

Related articles

How to interpret OT Narratives Covenants in the OT
Canaanite religion Israel's enemies
Genealogy of Jesus

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Why These 66 Books?
Books in the Hebrew Scriptures
Quotations in NT From OT
OT Passages Quoted in NT
History of the English Bible
Twelve Books of the Apocrypha
The Pseudepigrapha - False Writings
Lost Books Referenced in OT

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

OT 1: Creation and Patriarchs
OT 2: Exodus and Wilderness
OT 3: Conquest and Monarchy
OT 4: Divided kingdom and Exile
OT 5: Return from Exile
OT 6: 400 Silent Years

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

NT 1: Life and Ministry of Jesus
NT 2: Birth of the Church
NT 3: Paul's Missionary Journeys
NT 4: Paul's Imprisonment
NT 5: John and Later NT

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Genesis Exodus Leviticus
Numbers Deuteronomy

Joshua Judges Ruth
1 & 2 Samuel 1 & 2 Kings Chronicles
Ezra & Nehemiah Esther

Job Psalms Proverbs

Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations
Ezekiel Daniel

Hosea Joel Amos
Obadiah Jonah Micah
Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah
Haggai Zechariah Malachi

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Matthew's Gospel Mark's Gospel Luke's Gospel
John's Gospel

Book of Acts

Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians
Galatians Ephesians Philippians
Colossians 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon

Hebrews James 1 Peter
2 Peter 1 John 2 & 3 John


Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

Canaanite Religion
Israel's Enemies During the Conquest
Syria / Aram
The Assyrian Empire
Babylon and its History
The Persian Empire
The Greek Empire
The 400 Silent Years
The Ptolemies and Seleucids
Antiochus IV - Epiphanes

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

OT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Jewish Calendar
The Importance of Paradox
Talent Converter (weights)
Cubit Converter (lengths)
OT People Search
Ephah Converter (volumes)
Holy War in the Ancient World
The Holy Spirit in the OT
Types of Jesus in the OT

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Are chapters 1-11 of Genesis historical?
Chronology of the Flood
Genealogies of the Patriarchs
Table of the Nations (Gen 10)
Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9)

Authorship of the Pentateuch
Chronology of the Wilderness Years
Names of God in the OT
Covenants in the OT
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle and its Theology
Sacrifices and Offerings
The Jewish Festivals
Balaam and Balak
Highlights from Deuteronomy
Overview of Deuteronomy

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Dates of the Kings of Judah and Israel
King Solomon
The Kings of Israel
King Jeroboam I of Israel
The Syro-Ephraimite War (735 BC)
Sennacherib's Invasion of Judah (701 BC)
King Josiah of Judah
Differences Between Kings and Chronicles
Chronology of the post-exilic period

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

Prophets and the Future
The Call of Jeremiah (Jer 1)
The Fall of Satan? (Is 14, Ezek 28)
Daniel Commentary (10 pages)
Isaiah Commentary (13 pages)
Formation of the Book of Jeremiah

Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27)

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

NT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Kingdom of God / Heaven
Parousia (Coming of Christ)
The Importance of Paradox

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Unique Passages in the Synoptic Gospels
The SynopticProblem
Genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1)
Birth Narratives of Jesus
Understanding the Parables
Peter's Confession and the Transfiguration
Was John the Baptist Elijah?
The Triumphal Entry
The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13)
Important themes in John's Gospel
John's Gospel Prologue (John 1)
Jesus Fulfilling Jewish Festivals
Reclining at Table at the Last Supper
The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey. More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Apostolic Messages in the Book of Acts
Paul and His Apostleship
Collection for the Saints
The Church Described as a Temple
Church as the Body of Christ
Jesus as the Last Adam
Food Offered to Idols
Paul's Teaching on Headcoverings
Who are the Fallen Angels
The Meaning of Redemption
What is the Church?
Paul and the Greek Games

Romans Commentary (7 pages)

1 Corinthians Commentary (7 pages)

Galatians Commentary (3 pages)

Philemon Commentary (1 page)

Hebrews Commentary (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Characters Introduced in the Book
Structure of Revelation
List of Allusions to OT
The Description of Jesus as the Lamb
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
The Nero Redivius Myth
The Millennium (1000 years)
The Rapture and the Tribulation
Different Approaches to Revelation
Predicted Dates of the Second Coming

Revelation Commentary (10 pages)

How to do Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

How to Study the Bible Inductively
I. The Inductive Study Method
II. Observation Questions
III. Interpretation Questions
IV. Structure of Books
V. Determining the Historical background
VI. Identifying Figures of Speech
VII. Personal Application
VIII. Text Layout

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

How to Understand OT Narratives
How to Understand OT Law
Hebrew Poetry
OT Wisdom Literature
Understanding the OT Prophets
The Four Gospels
The Parables of Jesus
The Book of Acts
How to Understand the NT Letters
Studying End Times (Eschatology)
The Book of Revelation

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Search for Geographical Locations
Major Archaeological Sites in Israel
Archaeological Sites in Assyria, Babylon and Persia
Virtual Paul's Missionary Journeys
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
Photos of the City of Corinth
Photos of the City of Ephesus

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Search Museums for Biblical Archaeology
Israel Museum Photos

Difficult Theological and Ethical Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

Christian Ethics
Never Heard the Gospel
Is there Ever a Just War?
Why Does God Allow Suffering
Handling Disappointment

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

What is Preaching?
I. Two Approaches to Preaching
II. Study a Passage for Preaching
III. Creating a Message Outline
IV. Making Preaching Relevant
V. Presentation and Public Speaking
VI. Preaching Feedback and Critique
Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.

Teaching on SBS Book Topics for SBS