From Reuth, feminine of Reu, "friend." In beautiful contrast to Judges' end in internecine bloodshed, the book of Ruth is a picture of a peaceful, virtuous, filial obedience, and the rich reward of choosing the Lord at the sacrifice of all else. Orpah's end is shrouded in darkness, while Ruth is remembered to all generations as chosen ancestress of Messiah. Boaz' name is immoralized by linking himself with the poor Moabitess, while the kinsman who would not mar his own inheritance is unknown. Goethe said of this book, "we have nothing so lovely in the whole range of epic and idyllic poetry." Ruth is an instance of natural affection made instrumental in leading to true religion. A "blossom of pagandom stretching its flower cup desiringly toward the light of revelation in Israel."
OBJECT. In Rth 4:18-22 the author shows his aim, namely, to give a biographical sketch of the pious ancestors of David the king. The book contains the inner and spiritual background of the genealogies so prominent in Scripture. The family life of David's ancestors is sketched to show how they walked in single hearted piety toward God, and justice and love, modesty and purity towards man. "Ruth the Moabite, great-greatgrandmother of David, longed for the God and people of Israel with all the deepest earnestness of her nature, and joined herself to them with all the power of love. Boaz was an Israelite without guile, full of holy reverence for every ordinance of God and man, and full of benevolent love and friendliness toward the poor pagan woman. From such ancestors was the man descended in whom all the nature of Israel was to find its royal concentration and fullest expression." (Auberlen).
There is also involved a Messianic trait, prophetic of the coming world wide church, in the fact that Ruth, a pagan of a nation so hostile to Israel as Moab, was counted worthy to be tribe mother of the great and pious king David on account of her love to Israel and trust in Israel's God. Tamar and Rahab are the other two similar instances in Christ's genealogy (Genesis 38; Joshua 6:25; Matthew 1:3; Matthew 1:5). Ruth is historically a supplement to Judges and an introduction to 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, which give no account of David's ancestors. But the Hebrew canon puts Ruth in the hagiographa among the five megilloth (Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther), read in the synagogue at the feast of weeks. The three classes of the Old Testament Canon were arranged according to the relation in which their authors stood to God and the theocracy, and in which the books themselves stood in contents and spirit to the divine revelation. frontCANON.) Ruth is not a mere appendix to Judges, and differs from that book in style, contents, and design. The time passes beyond that of Judges.
Time of composition. The close of Ruth shows it was written not earlier than David's having obtained that prominence as king which made his genealogy a matter of such interest. An interval of 160 or 170 years therefore elapsed between the events and this book's record of them. By this time the custom mentioned in Rth 4:7 of taking off the shoe in barter, which had prevailed, had fallen into desuetude, so that the writer feels it necessary to explain the custom to his readers. The Chaldaisms (ta aburi, tidbaqin; Rth 2:8; Rth 2:21; yiqetsorun; Rth 2:9; samti, yaradti, shakabti; Rth 3:3-4; Mara for Marah; Rth 1:20; laheen, 'agan; Rth 1:13) occur only in the speeches of the persons introduced, not in the writer's own narrative. He simply gives the forms and words used in common conversation, as he found them in the written documents which he used for his book, probably relics of the archaic language subsequently appropriated by Chaldee.
The story is as follows. In a famine under the judges (whether caused by Eglon's occupation of Judah, or under Gideon, Judges 6:3-4, or in Eli's time) Elimelech and Naomi migrated to Moab, where Ruth married Mahlon their son. At the end of ten years, there being plenty in Judah, Naomi, now a widow and childless, returned; and Ruth in spite of her mother-in-law's suggestion that she should go back with Orpah (compare Luke 24:28), at the sacrifice of home and Moabite kindred (compare Luke 14:27-28), did cling to Naomi (Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24). Her choice was that of not only Naomi's people but chiefly of Naomi's "God" (Joshua 24:14-15; Joshua 24:19).
The Lord, by Naomi's entreaty that she should return from following, tested her faith (compare 1 Kings 19:20); with "whither thou goest I will go" compare John 12:26; Revelation 14:4 middle; with Rth 2:11, "thou hast left the land of thy nativity and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore," compare Genesis 12:1; Acts 7:3; Acts 7:5. God's providence "under whose wings she was come to trust" (Rth 2:12; Psalm 17:8; Psalm 36:7) guided her to Boaz' field to glean. At Naomi's suggestion she claimed from him that he should perform the part of her late husband's near kinsman by purchasing Elimelech's inheritance and marrying her. The nearest kinsman having declined, Boaz did so. The date of the events is brought down to the time of Eli by the supposition that names have been omitted in the genealogical list of Boaz' ancestors. Without the insertion of such names Boaz would be 112 when Obed was born, and Obed and Jesse would beget sons at a similarly advanced age.
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