The Book of Ruth


The Book of Ruth is one incomparable to another. It is a book whose messages, meanings and themes resonate with the lives of many during modern times as it did in the days of yore[1]. The Book of Ruth describes love as a representation of the unity and harmony between God and humankind. God remains faithful to His daughters and sons who, more often than not wallow in iniquity and wrongdoings. Additionally, it teaches about faith and the art of keeping the faith even when matters get too bad. It is a reminder that the Lord never fails to fulfill His promises even when all seems lost. Through the story of the depressed and bitter woman that is Naomi, the loyal, loving and faithful acts of Ruth and, the much-waited-for commitment of Boaz, the book unveils a gift well prepared by God to a people who are familiar with despair and suffering. The Book functions to remind all Christians to wait on the Lord, for His timing is most significant and the only one that matters. It unfailingly urges whoever who believes in God, regardless of their ethnicity, tribe or former religion, that they are welcome to enjoy the blessings of the Lord Yahweh2.

Historical Background

The introduction of the book suggests a timeline characterized by the ruling of judges, and not kings and nobles (1:1). It is a narrative that brings to light several themes dealing with specific issues of faith, trust, obedience, and love. During this period, the people of Israel had a high disregard for the correct ways of the Lord and, for this reason, God dried up the land and crops were unable to grow. The hunger and starvation that eclipsed the land was God’s way of reprimanding the people for their acts of sin, and, their love for worldly things. It was to serve as a warning to those who would survive and generations to come, to always heed to the laws and requirements of God, who would, in turn, bless them and reward them.

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 hopes 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 commit to Ruth fully 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 an interest in Ruth.

Major Arguments

It is incontestable 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 fulfill his purpose for the chosen tribe. The fact that God used a typical 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 too deep, Elimelech decides to move his family to Moah (1:1-5). Naomi at this point faces her darkest moment as her loved ones 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, and 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. Desolation and Death (1:1-22)

1.1The famine forces Elimelech to relocate his family to Moab (1:1–5)

1.2Naomi instructs all her daughters in law to journey to their native lands (1:6–18)

1.3 Ruth and Naomi arrive at Bethlehem. It is a time of harvest (1:19–22)

  1. Ruth’s Faithful Works (2:1-23)

2.1 Ruth working in Boaz’s fields of grain (2:1–17)

2.2 Ruth brings back the positive reports to her mother-in-law (2:18–23)

  1. Ruth’s Confidence in Naomi (3:1-18)

3.1 Naomi’s directives (3:1–6)

3.2 Ruth at the winnowing grounds (3:6–17)

3.3The plan succeeds (3:16–18)

  1. Life and Fullness (4:1-17)

4.1 Boaz completes the legal transaction before sufficient witnesses (4:1–12)

4.2 Boaz takes Ruth as his wife. She bears a son (4:13–17)

4.3The beginning of a new line of blessed descendants (4:18-22)

Commentary of Ruth

Chapter 1

Desolation and Death (1:1-22)

The chronology of events in Ruth falls in line with the timeline of the Judges, which is a period before the existence of the temple and priests.[2]It was a suitable choice for the narrator in the quest to avoid the unnecessary and challenging language of the extreme exclusivists[3]. The Book of Ruth allows a reader to comprehend 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 a few years 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.” It is astonishing because Ruth 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] She 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 insists on the change of name, lamenting how God brought her home empty when she left the place with everything she ever had. Naomi 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 employment 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 a 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 always to 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 exceptional to him. It becomes clear at this point that, firstly, the loyalty Ruth displayed was not at all traditional, 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 to 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 fulfill 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 a 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 trusts Naomi committedly. After uncovering Boaz’s feet and laying there herself, she could not help but imagine how things could 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 a 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 way for them.

Chapter 4

Life and Fullness (4:1-17)

It is without a doubt that the interest Boaz had in Ruth was developing into something more serious. He was an honest man, faithful to the traditions of the land, and 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 the issue at hand, the family redeemer made it crystal clear to Boaz that if he were planning on taking the estate, he would have to marry Ruth and take everything else that was the family’s property.

Boaz, on his hand, had no objection to the matter as he without any doubts wanted to make Ruth his wife. He spoke of his good will and intentions of taking over his cousin’s property in the presence of a sufficient number of witnesses. In this fashion, Boaz would be securing the future of the next generations. He, therefore, sealed the transaction in the legally required manner and lawfully began a life with his new family that included Naomi and Ruth. This event is comparable to the modern day formal wedding where individuals wed in front of other guests to make it known in public that they are no longer single and unmarried. It was miraculous to Naomi and Ruth, and it was still hard for them to understand how quickly their lives changed. God finally gave them a roof over their heads, and their hearts rejoiced in harmony for it was the dawn of a new day. Ruth was able to conceive a child, a son, and joy swept over the family of Boaz. This son was also a blessing to Naomi, who now had a grandson. Their names echoed in all corners of Israel. Naomi was famous for her selfless acts. She abandoned her needs and took the responsibility to show Ruth the way to finding a home for herself. They both showed unwavering trust in God and return. He blessed their descendants, David, and others, with royalty and kingship over the lands of Israel.


The book of Ruth is one that continues to resonate with the lives of many Christians to this day[8]. The significance of trusting the Lord in totality and wholeness is impossible to overemphasize especially with the events that take place in the charming book of Ruth. It is imperative that Christians borrow the main lesson in this narrative, which is, that people should never despair at the face of failure, death or any form of suffering. For they should be able to move away from this worldly fears if they put their trust in the Lord who has their blessings prepared for them. Naomi was a woman of unbreakable will. She knew that God allowed all those things to happen and she did not hide from that fact. She, however, decided to move away from it and continued to trust in the ways of God even though life had, at appoint, been too bitter for her (Ruth 1:20).

Modern Christians should learn to remain steadfast, keep the faith and walk through fire or ice keeping in mind that the Lord allows them to go through these things for them to reach superior heights in their quality of life, and, in their spirituality. Obedience is another crucial theme in the Book of Ruth, one that is crucial to the growth of a believer. It took a new level of confidence and trust for Ruth to agree to Naomi’s plans which were, also plans of the Lord. Boaz was an honest man, and undoubtedly one sent by God to redeem the two women in fulfillment of His promises to them. When times get hard, Christians must remember that it is in those times that they the face of God the most and therefore, should not despair. It is clear that if neither of the three remained true to their paths then their descendants, including King David, would never have been king. The Book of Ruth is a true lesson one that urges all men to keep their faith, for God only reveals His plans for humankind at a time of His choosing.

Above all, the theme of love is one whose significance is hard to miss. The two women loved each other unconditionally, and it is this affection that grew their bonds and trust in each other. It is from this deep connection that Ruth got inspired to abandon all her familiarity and follow Naomi. What seemed at the beginning as a renouncement of a probable future of unity with her god and her people, turns out to be a choice that would restore her and bring her the happiness she so much desired. It is a lesson to Christians, that if they place all their trust and faith in the miraculous ways of God, which might take time, then all the desires of their hearts, will be theirs to enjoy, in due time.






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.

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

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

[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.