Old Testament Interpretive Commentary: The Book of Ruth

Old Testament Interpretive Commentary: The Book of Ruth




“Ruth is an absolutely delightful little book. Mention its name and Bible readers gently smile, warmly praise its beauty, and quietly tell what it means to them personally…the book is, after all, profoundly human.”[1] This Biblical Book of Ruth expresses love and is a symbol of God’s love for us, even though we were not worth His love. It’s also a Book of Faith in an unfaithful situation. Through the disaster and death of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, but also of Ruth’s offspring, Kilion and Mahlon, deaths. Naomi is depressed and sees no victory in an unvictorian type of situation. Ruth, insisting not to turn back to the way things were in her past life and with Naomi has the God given opportunity to see how God can bring nothing to something. The Book of Ruth while holding many perspectives of Faith and holding on, is also a reminder of Worship and steadfastness and waiting on God until he delivers every promise. Also introducing in how God is give an open door to those that are said to have the promise or “not entitled.” “Further, given the alien presence under David’s rule, the book adds that foreigners who, like Ruth, truly seek refuge under Yahweh’s wings (2:12) are welcome.”2

Historical Background

The Book of Ruth is a “chronicled enlightening short story” that has an issue-based theme and reports verifiable faith-based occasions. The preface sets the Book of Ruth inside the time and chronicle period of Judges (1:1), while the closing story-line (4:18-22) joins Boaz with a family ancestry and blood line that shows up in antiquated Israel’s chronical records. Amid this authentic timespan lords or rulers were not put into the situations to govern over Israel rather the it was protocol for Judges to rule. The offspring of Israel didn’t regard nor adhere and obey to God and His directions and precepts; they were progressively centered and “hard-headed” around their shrewd and narrow-minded ways which God had the Earth not to bring forth her crops which in turn brought starvation within the Israelites, also the Israelites were able to assault and attack them because of their insubordination and selfish acts. The offspring and generations of Israel were required to comprehend that their mistreatment brought about their very own stupidity.

Predominant Conditions

During this biblical period, a grave drought eclipsed Israel reducing annual harvest that caused hunger and starvation throughout the land. The Book of Ruth begins during the post-starvation era that forced Elimelech to relocate his family from to Moab with the homes of a better quality of life.

Main Characters

Naomi and Elimelech are a couple. They are a Hebrew family, blessed with two sons. When death visits and takes away her husband and children, she decides to return to Bethlehem, her home, with despair slowly closing in on her. Ruth is a Moabite married to Mahlon. Calamity falls on her too and she also decides to journey home. She also contemplates renouncing her gods in the quest to fully commit to Ruth and together, they braced themselves for the future. Boaz, on the other hand, is of the Hebrew nation and Elimelech’s cousin. He is a wealthy landlord in Judah and begun to take interest in Ruth.



Major Arguments

It is uncontestable that God is loving and faithful and never forsakes his children. Even though the Israelites were disloyal, the Lord did not abandon them but instead used Ruth, Naomi and Boaz to fulfil his purpose for the chosen tribe. The fact that God used a common family, one that faced the hardest of times, to bring the people back to him by showing him them the way. He, however, maintained his requirements to His people; for them to remain faithful and serve only Him.


With the fangs of the famine piercing to deep, Elimelech decides to move his family to Moah (1:1-5). Naomi at this point faces her darkest moment as her loved perish. She makes plans to move to Judah but insists on her daughters to go back to their native lands (1:6-15). Ruth makes a crucial decision not to go home and instead makes Naomi’s path hers which leads them to Bethlehem where Naomi takes the name Mara due to her experience with the death of many in her life(1:20-22). Ruth works in the fields of Boaz picking up leftover stalks. It is in this process that Boaz begins to show interest to her. He also favors her because of her strict commitment to Naomi (2:4-23). Naomi is a keen observer and notices Boaz’s interest in Ruth, she advises her friend to ensure she shows loyalty (3:1-8). Boaz being the light of the family pursues the redemption of his cousin’s land (3:12-19). He also finally makes his interests official and cements it by marrying Ruth who gives him a son (4:13-18).

Exegetical Outline

  1. Death and Emptiness (1:1-22)
    • Elimelech takes his family to Moab due to famine in the land (1:1–5)
    • Naomi request for her daughters-in-laws to go back to their own hometowns (1:6–18)
    • Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem during harvest time (1:19–22)
  1. Ruth’s Faithful Works (2:1-23)
  • Ruth in the field of Boaz (2:1–17)
  • Ruth reports to Naomi (2:18–23)
  1. Ruth’s Faith in Naomi (3:1-18)
  • Naomi instructs Ruth (3:1–5)
  • Ruth at the threshing-floor of Boaz (3:6–15)
  • Ruth gives Naomi good news (3:16–18)
  1. Life and Fullness (4:1-17)
  • Boaz redeems the land and Ruth in front of witnesses (4:1–12)
  • Boaz and Ruth marry, and Ruth has a son (4:13–17)
  • The genealogical record of David (4:18-22)



Commentary of Ruth

Chapter 1

Desolation and Death (1:1-22)

The chronology of events in Ruth fall in line with the timeline of the Judges, which is a period before the existence of temple and priests.[2] It was suitable choice for the narrator and author of the Ruth in the quest to avoid the unnecessary and difficult language of the extreme exclusivists[3]. The Book of Ruth allows a reader to comprehend the how grave sin was during the period of Judges, especially when famine was God’s punishment to Israel. The Lord also uses this reprimand as a way to bring Israelites back to His ways. The tragedies of Naomi fell shortly after they moved to Moab with her family. It is heartbreaking because her sons, Kilion and Mahlon, together with Elimelech all die at the place. However, something historic happens when she relieves Ruth and Orpah of all their duties and responsibilities, asking them to go home Orpah accepts the offer but Ruth decides that her life is in bonds with that of Naomi and pledges her loyalty to her.

It is historic because Ruth renounces her god Chemosh and embraces Naomi’s God, who is strange to her. She places her faith in the hands of her “mother-in-law and her alien kinsmen, and their God Yahweh, whom she only knew through the grid of Naomi’s imperfect faith”[4]. Ruth is resolute in her decision and insists that Naomi does not ask her again to leave. She says “wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” It is astonishing because she further pledges loyalty and even swears by the name of the Lord saying “may the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”[5] Ruth displays an unfaltering wave of loyalty, respect and duty towards the mother of her husband and accepts to let her travel with them to Bethlehem.

Today, we view Ruth’s decision to follow the ways of the Lord Yahweh as conversion, of the many that take place in affirmation of the greatness of God and his truthful and faithful existence in people’s lives. It is a declaration of the complete and honest transfer to God from Chemosh”[6]. The story however, does not include all the information detailing how knowledgeable Ruth was of Yahweh and his astonishing ways. It is highly probable that she might have been conversant with the religion of the Israelites as she the wife of a Jew.

Naomi and Ruth arrived safely to Bethlehem, with the people celebrating their arrival with a warm and cordial welcome. However, Naomi insist on the change of naming, lamenting how God brought her home empty, when she left the place with everything she ever had. She expresses her bitterness with a heavy heart saying that she is no longer the woman she was because death, desolation and despair transformed her as they are all she knew since she departure from Bethlehem (Ruth 1:20-21). It is almost impossible for the average reader to miss the express purpose of Naomi’s message; death and adversity can be so life-altering that people might desire a change in identity to hide, or run from the past.


Chapter 2

Ruth’s Faithfulness (2:1-23)

During their stay in Bethlehem, it dawns on them both that to survive they must find work and earn a living.  Ruth, therefore, in the season for harvest, seeks work at the fields and is lucky to find an opening. She picks grain stalks in the land of a very influential and wealthy man called Boaz. The man is also a kinsman redeemer who is an individual that takes charge of the possessions of a deceased member of a family. In this case, it is pretty clear that Naomi’s blessing lays in waiting, through the hand of Boaz.


In the fields, as Ruth is working hard to pick the leftover stalks, it becomes difficult for Boaz to hide his interest in her and his desire to know more about her. He is particularly in need of knowing if she is free woman or is in a relationship with someone already. Boaz finally decides to talk to her. He cannot hide how impressed he is with the fact that Ruth left all she was familiar with and journeyed to a land strange to Naomi. Boaz instructs Ruth to always help herself with water when she is thirsty and warns the men working in the field not to treat her with rough hands, for she was special to him. It becomes clear at this point that, firstly, the loyalty Ruth displayed was not at all common, and secondly, Boaz appreciated this act and treated Ruth in high respects.

Ruth is in deep appreciation of the extra care that Boaz is willing to provide for her. She does not deem herself special for any reason and falls on her knees in thankfulness to the wealthy man. There were no kings and men of noble blood in this particular timeframe of the judges, and so, then, it was uncommon for people to show respect or gratitude in this way. But, it is very much in Ruth’s nature to behave this way and this kind of genuine character becomes unforgettable to Boaz, even though he is the person in authority over this region.

Boaz, the authority of the land, finally makes his advances clearer to many, by ordering other harvesters especially the male ones, to deliberately drop barley stalks so that Ruth would have enough for her and Naomi at the end of the day. Boaz also had it that they all have a meal together. When Ruth gets back home she shares of the many positive things taking back at the fields. Age is wisdom, and Naomi decides to take the responsibility of helping Ruth tp cement her developing relationship with Boaz.


Chapter 3

Ruth’s Confidence in Naomi (3:1-18)


At this moment in time, Naomi makes it her responsibility to help Ruth begin a new, prosperous life, one with an improved standard of living. Naomi does not doubt for a second that her daughter in law deserves a good life and for that reason, she gets the determination needed to fulfil this promise to Ruth. Naomi then completes her investigation and approaches her daughter with a plan. It is through God’s hand that Naomi can hatch this plan as no landowner during this period no landowner would be working in the field. However Boaz is an exception and at the picked night, and like others he would spend the night at the winnowing floors to stand in guard against thieves or the plunder of animals.[7]

Naomi then gave Ruth specific instructions which would act as a base for the plan that they devised. She would take a long bath, pick her best dress and wear perfume. She would then go to the threshing floors and stay hidden until Boaz finished eating and drinking, where she would remain in watch to find out where the man would be sleeping. Ruth would then expose his feet and lay there waiting for further instructions from Boaz (Ruth 3:3).  This plan needed that Ruth trust Naomi committedly. After uncovering Boaz’s feet and laying there herself, she could not help but imagine how things could possible go wrong if he did not have a positive interpretation of the unfolding events. The Book does not in its part give information concerning Boaz’s maintaining of his faculties after drinking. It is therefore safe to conclude that this is a clear instance of person’s complete faith and trust in God.

When Boaz awakens and hears the words of Ruth who asked him to cover her, saying “you are my family redeemer”, he does just that on the condition that she leaves early morning before the men rise to find her there and interpret the meaning of the events (Ruth 3:14). Although this act might be confusing if it happened today in the modern world, Boaz seemed a man of his word and once he committed his resources, time and efforts, Ruth and Naomi were confident that blessings were on their way. Boaz made a pact to Ruth that he would redeem her at dawn in front of all people of the town. Ruth leaves early morning with half a dozen scoops of barley that represent the agreement she had with Boaz the previous night. Both women heave sighs of relief again in their lives, their trust and faith in the miraculous ways of God paid off. They are, at this point hopeful that God is making a way for them.


Chapter 4

Life and Fullness (4:1-17)

It is without a doubt that the interest Boaz had in Ruth was morphing into something more serious. He being an honest man faithful to the traditions of the land, knew all too well that he first had to seek the blessings of the kinsman-redeemer who had authority over him. Boaz purposed to meet this redeemer and journeyed to the town gate to make it known to him about the family of Naomi and Ruth, and the death of Elimelech and all his sons while in Moab. After they discussed about the issue at hand, the family redeemer made it crystal clear to Boaz that if he was planning on taking the estate, he would have to marry Ruth and take everything else that was the family’s property.


Originally the priority kinsman redeemer agreed to take Elimelech’s property until Boaz explained, “Of course, your purchase of the land from Naomi also requires that you marry Ruth, the Moabite widow. That way she can have children who will carry on her husband’s name and keep the land in the family” (Ruth 4:5). During this time period as the family redeemer it was important to keep all of the previous family members property and possessions within the clan, so no kinsman redeemer could not take just one item rather they would have to take everything. With this new information, the priority family redeemer declined redeeming Elimelech’s estate because with the new information, including Ruth, this would hinder his future estate.

With the priority family redeemer declining, Boaz spoke to the elders at the town gate as witnesses to confirm that he would be taking all of the property of Elimelech. Boaz undoubtfully wanted Ruth to become his wife and he was also making sure that he was preserving the future generations of the family. Sealing the transaction legally at the town gate finalized and confirmed all of the planning that Naomi did for Ruth to be able to have a prosperous life. In today’s society having a ceremonial wedding is in the same way as going into the town gate in order for witnesses to confirm what Boaz was requiring.

The fairy tale ending happened for Boaz and Ruth as they were finally married after everything they had been through previously. All of the trials and tribulations that Naomi and Ruth faced were worth the end result of love, peace, and happiness from God. The witnesses in the town spoke life, prosperity, and generations of righteous people from Boaz and Ruth’s marriage. Ruth conceived a son, and this was a huge accomplished considering in this time period having children was never just something to do but rather it was a special and precious event in Israel.

Ruth was not the only person who received a blessing from God; Naomi was also blessed by having a grandson whom she nursed, and Naomi became famous in Israel. Naomi took the devastation in her life that seemed completely unbearable and instead of focusing on her needs she in turn focused on making sure that Ruth’s life would not end because of the tragedies. Because of the faith they had in God, the descendants of Boaz went all the way down to King David who was the apple of God’s eye.









The Book of Ruth is a literary masterpiece that is relatable and charming.”[8] In the modern world as a Christian it is important to be able to take from the book of Ruth the importance of trusting God through every season of your life. Christians must live above their circumstances. From the very beginning the reader learns of the hardships that Naomi has gone through and falling down, and quitting would not have been a major surprised considering her present circumstances; however, Naomi knew that through she was suffering she learned to live graciously through them. Naomi was fully aware that God allowed her husband and son to perish for she said, “the Almighty has made life very bitter for me,” (Ruth 1:20). Naomi did not try to pretend that she was clueless in her circumstance but rather she took ownership that the Lord allowed these things to happen to her and though she did not understand why she would still be faithful to him.

Christians must remain obedient and go through the wilderness that they are facing and understand that though God has allowed these trials and tribulations to come and face them, they will not be shaken nor fall. Ruth was obedient to Naomi and followed her instructs in order to show Boaz that she was interested, and Boaz was obedient in making sure that Ruth was redeemed. Christians have to be obedient to God whether the situation is tough or scary for God will see them through every time. If neither Ruth nor Boaz was obedient in their assignments, they would have never found true love with one another and King David would have never been born. The book of Ruth shows Christians how important it is to follow what God has for them because they will never know in the beginning who they will become or what impact their obedience will make on the world.

Allowing love to be the focal point in the Christian walk is extremely important because in the time of judges though God caused a famine in the land which ultimately led Elimelech to take his family from Bethlehem to Moab; all along God had a plan filled with love and grace for the Israelites which was through Naomi and Ruth. Both Naomi and Ruth loved each other dearly and with the bond and love from one another Ruth trusted that Naomi had her best interest and deeply wanted her to find a permanent home with Boaz. As believers it is important to focus everything they do with love and not be afraid because God loves them, and He is love.

In the end what seemed to be Ruth giving up on a future for herself and the possibility of a second chance at marriage due to following Naomi, in turn, was exactly where God wanted and needed her to be to receive everything she hoped for. As Christians, if they believe that God will give them what they desire and put their trust and faith in Him, He will deliver at the exact right moment.





Block, Daniel I., Judges, Ruth in the New Commentary. Vol 6, Edited by E. Ray Clendenen. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1999.

Chisholm Jr, Robert B. A commentary on Judges and Ruth. Kregel Academic, 2013, pp. 549.

De Villiers, Gerda, and Jurie Le Roux. “The Book of Ruth in the time of the Judges and Ruth, the Moabitess.” Verbum et Ecclesia 37, no. 1 (2016): 1-6.

Hamlin, E. John. Surely there is a future: A commentary on the book of Ruth. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996.

Spencer, James. “A Commentary on Judges and Ruth.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, vol. 57, no. 4, 2014, pp. 803.

Hubbard, Robert L. The Book of Ruth. Eerdmans, 2007.


[1]. Hubbard, Robert L. The Book of Ruth. Eerdmans, 2007.


2 Ibid, 42



[2] Chisholm Jr, Robert B., A Commentary on Judges and Ruth, Kregel Academic, 2013, pp. 549.


[3] De Villiers, Gerda, and Jurie Le Roux, The Book of Ruth in the time of the Judges and Ruth, the Moabitess, Verbum et Ecclesia 37, no. 1, 2016, 1-6.


[4] Block, Daniel I., Judges, Ruth in the New Commentary, Vol 6, Edited by E. Ray Clendenen, Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1999.


[5] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New Living Translation. (MA: Hendrickson Bibles, 2012).


[6] Block, Daniel I., Judges, Ruth in the New Commentary, Vol 6, Edited by E. Ray Clendenen, Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1999.


[7] Block, Daniel I., Judges, Ruth in the New Commentary, Vol 6, Edited by E. Ray Clendenen, Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1999.

[8] Korpel, Marjo Christina Annette, The Structure of the Book of Ruth, Vol. 2, Uitgeverij Van Gorcum, 2001.