The story of Ruth begins in Moab, a pagan country. A famine forces Elimelech and his wife, Naomi from their Israelite home to Moab. Their sons marry Moabite women who worship other gods. Elimelech dies and so do his sons leaving Naomi and her two daughters in law vulnerable and without means to provide for themselves. When the famine in Israel is over, Naomi packs up to head for home and urges Ruth and Orpah to go back to Moab and begin again.
With remarkable faith and loyalty, Ruth decides to journey with Naomi back to Bethlehem. Through tragedy, loyalty, courage, obedience, and generosity Ruth meets Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer. The role of kinsman-redeemer (or family redeemer) was a cultural practice to redeem an impoverished relative from his or her circumstances. Ruth and Boaz marry and later Ruth bears a son, Obed, who is the grandfather of King David, the ancestor of Jesus.
The book of Ruth is a beautiful story of redemption, loyalty, and God’s providential will. Ruth teaches us that genuine love requires sacrifice and loyalty. God uses a Gentile woman and her kinsman-redeemer as an illustration of God’s love for all people. Through the book of Ruth, we witness that even in the dark days and difficult experiences, God is working in and through the hearts and lives of people. He is our provider. He is our way-maker. He is our Redeemer. As we read Ruth, look for the foreshadowing of Jesus, our kinsman-redeemer.
Read Ruth 1
Naomi Loses Her Husband and Sons
1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
3 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
Naomi and Ruth Return to Bethlehem
6 When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
16 But Ruth replied, “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. 17 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.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
The author of this Old Testament book is unknown, but scholars generally agree it was written after the time of the judges. Judges 17:6 reveals this was a dark time in Israel’s history, where “everyone did whatever they wanted.” In this time period, the Book of Ruth introduces the reader to a beautiful narrative of one of the greatest love stories of all time. Set against the backdrop of Bethlehem and Moab, we discover the family of Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons. Caught in the midst of a famine, they uproot to find sustenance in the land of Moab (a nation that had oppressed Israel during the period of the judges). Within ten years, the sons took Moabite wives; however, tragedy strikes as Naomi buries both her husband and sons. One could easily make a connection between Naomi and Job.
Naomi is now found in a dangerous, desperate, and destitute situation, as a widow in a foreign land with no relatives to lean on. Broken and bitter, Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem. She encourages her two daughters-in-law to remain in Moab and start their lives over, even though this will mean more hardship for her. While Orpah remains with her people, Ruth recognizes Naomi’s selfless attitude and decides to follow her example. In v. 16 Ruth replied, “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.”
Ruth was a Moabitess, an outsider, but one who was willing to be inconvenienced by uprooting her life to follow her convictions. She felt compelled to show loyalty to Naomi, return with her to Bethlehem, and worship the God of Israel, the one true God. Her faith would soon be richly rewarded by the love and kindness of a kinsman-redeemer. As the rest of the book will reveal, God accepts her worship and her name will one day be recorded in the lineage of Christ in Matthew 1:5. God takes a foreigner, one who was not Jewish, and weaves a lovely, unforgettable redemption story of her life. Hebrews 13:8 declares “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” We can rest assured that our God is unchanging and can do the same for us as we conduct ourselves in a way that reflects His superiority.
- How have you experienced the loyalty of another in your life? Take a moment and write them a note expressing your gratitude.
- Do you believe God unconditionally loves you and can create beauty out of hardships and brokenness like He did for Naomi?
- What is one thing you could do this week that would bring hope to someone suffering?
In the tough times, may my unwavering trust in You draw others to do the same. Deliver me from compromising as I place my full allegiance in You as the God who sees me, is for me, and with me. You are fair and just, completely capable of taking the fragments of my lives and turning them into beauty. Thank you for redeeming me, one moment at a time.
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