About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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The Typology of Ruth


I'm always a bit hesitant in talking about what theologians have called "types and shadows".  "Types and shadows" are people and events in the Old Testament that have a spiritual reality to them.  The problem with trying to figure out what the spiritual reality to an historic event is, is that sometimes we can make the historic event to mean anything we want it to mean.  Sometimes there is a wide range of meaning that people apply and you wonder who is right. 


Another thing to understand about typology is that the types shouldn't not be used to prove a point, because many people see many meanings to the types.  Types are meant to enhance, help understand, or, elaborate on something the text makes clear.  It doesn't prove the text.  It only helps clarify the text.   In another sense of the word, types are prophetic imageries.     


If you want to understand the typological imagery of the book of  Ruth, it is important to know the history of Israel , at least to a broad degree.  Throughout the Old Testament Israel wavered from following their God.  Sometimes she followed Him, but most of the time she didn't.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel was eventually destroyed in 722 B.C. by the Assyrians.  The Southern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Babylonians in  486 B. C..  The southern kingdom, also named Judah, was allowed to return to their homeland but never had full autonomy.  As Bible prophecy predicted in the Old Testament, in 70 A. D., Israelis were conquered by the Romans and scattered throughout the world.  Bible prophecy predicts the return of the Jews to the land of Israel and to their God, which the prophetic imagery of the book of Ruth is all about.             


When it comes to the book of Ruth, those who feel there is more to the book than pure history, are pretty much in agreement to the typology of the book.  Boaz represents Jesus.  Naomi represents Israel .  Ruth represents Gentiles, and, the closer kinsman redeemer represents the Law of Moses.  From this standpoint, I will begin in chapter 1 and point out certain verses that I feel apply to the typology of the book.


First of all, lets look at the meaning of names.  Again, I caution you about the meaning of names.  Sometimes there is a pool of meanings designated to Hebrew names, and sometimes there is a discrepancy between scholars in what these names mean. 


Elimelech, Naomi's deceased husband means "royalty or God is king".  Naomi means "pleasant".  Elimelech and Naomi represent Israel. God set the nation of Israel aside to be a pleasant yet kingly nation.  Israel was to be a priestly nation, representing Yahweh to the world. 


Elimelech and Naomi had two sons.  One named Mahlon, which means "sickly", and Kilion, which means "puny or unhealthy".   These two sons are the children of Naomi and Elimelech, the children of Israel. 


All three males in this household died while in Moab.  We don't know how Elimelech died, but we do know the two sons were never in good health if their names reflect their physical condition.  Israel throughout her history has been sickly, so sickly that in 70 A. D. Israelis were conquered by the Romans and scattered throughout the world as prophecy predicts and as history confirms. 


As we see in chapter 1, the family of Elimelech left Bethlehem, left the land the Lord had given them because of a great famine.  In 70  A. D. Israelis were driven out of the land the Lord had given them, even though they hadn't possessed the land for years.


While the family was in Moab, the sons married Moabite women.  The same happened when Israelis were forced out of their homeland after 70 A.D. by the Romans.  They were scattered abroad and married gentiles.   


In chapter 1 we also see that after ten years Naomi and the two Moabite girls, Orphah and Ruth return to Bethlehem because the Lord was now blessing the area.  Only one girl stays with Naomi.  Orphah, whose name beans "youthful freshness" leaves to go back home.  As in the case of "youth", their "freshness" often wavers and they change their minds.  But in the case of Ruth, whose name means "a friend", is dedicated to stay with Naomi.  One daughter returns, one doesn't.  The daughter that returns can be seen as what the apostle Paul often calls the "remnant of Israel ".  The other daughter are those Israeli's who die where they have been scattered throughout the world.  


The reason why Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem as seen in verse 6 is because "the Lord began to bless that area" once again.  It's my thinking, even though Israel as a nation is not walking with their Lord, He is now beginning to bless her.  You see this in their economy, and the recent find of natural gas off their coast.  You also see it in their military conquests, among many other things.    


If Ruth represents Gentile believers, we then see the commitment that Gentile believers should have to Israelis.  What Ruth says to Naomi in chapter 1, verses 16 and 17 should be the sentiment of all Christian believers.  In other words "our relationship with Israelis and her God should be inseparatable".  That being said, like Orphah, some believers don't hold to this position.  They feel that Israelis have no part now in the prophetic history of the Lord. They've turned away from Israel as Orphah turned away from Naomi.


The commitment Ruth displays towards Naomi should be the commitment Christians should display towards Israel , but sad to say, over the centuries we have not seen this commitment due to Replacement Theology which replaces Israel with the church, meaning, Israel is no longer significant in the mind of God.


In chapter 1, verse 18, both Naomi and Ruth head for Bethlehem, where Ruth will soon meat up with Boaz.  Boaz is a type of Jesus, and the typology gets pretty accurate here with Boaz living in Bethlehem.  Of course, Bethlehem is where Jesus was born.


The reason why Naomi returned to her homeland was because she heard things were now prospering.  This might well be the type of the Jews returning to their homeland in the last number of decades.  Ruth going with Naomi shows the Gentile believers support for the return of the Jews to their homeland.  Many Christians today have immigrated to Israel along with the Jews just to support the Jews.


The holy land began to take on new meaning when Jews began to return to the land in the last half of the 1800's.  They began to transform the land as Bible prophecy predicts.  As a result of people beginning to prosper in the land, more Israelis, and Arabs as well, relocated to the land, just as Naomi and Ruth moved back to the land.   


In verse 21 of chapter 1, Naomi says that she is returning to her homeland poor and afflicted by the Lord.  Many Jews have returned to Israel in the same fashion.  Whether they accept it or not, over the last two thousand years, they have been afflicted by the Lord as the prophets spoke.


In chapter 2, verse 1 we see Naomi returning to her homeland, like many Israeli's have been doing for a number of decades now.  We also see Ruth returning with Naomi, and actually supported her return by gleaning.  As Israelis have been returning to their homeland, Gentile Christians have been supporting them in their return, not only with moral support, but with financial support.  As a matter of fact, there has been a good number of Gentile Christians migrate to Israel as well to further this support, both in preaching the gospel of Jesus and in day to day moral, financial, and whatever other support that can be provided.


We see the introduction of Boaz in chapter 2.  He is a Jew.  He is a relative of Naomi.  Like Boaz, Jesus was a Jew, a relative to all Jews.  The first chapter of the gospel of John tells us that Jesus came unto His own people.  Jesus came to save the lost sheep of Israel.  Jesus, in one real sense of the word is the kinsman redeemer for Israel. 


There is no mention that Boaz and Naomi had actually met up with each other prior to chapter to, and after her return to Bethlehem.  It doesn't mean that they didn't meat, but the text doesn't say they met.  However, Boaz did meet Ruth, the Gentile, and blessed her, as verse 4 states. 


Boaz from Bethlehem, like Jesus who was born in Bethlehem, has greatly blessed the Gentiles with salvation, and as Paul states in Romans 11, part of the purpose of this blessing of the Gentiles was to bring the Jews back to their land and to their God.


If you read Ezekiel 32 through 38 you will note that when it comes to the restoration of Israel, first their land is restored to them, and after that, their relationship with their God is restored.  The same pattern holds true here in Ruth.  Naomi, the Jew, is now back in her land, like Israel now is, even though it's heavily disputed.  There will come a time when Jesus, like Boaz, secures the land for Israel and then restores them unto their God.


Ruth gleans Boaz's field as a poor widow.  Once Boaz finds out who she is, he elevated her to the status of one of his harvesters.  This is how it has been with gentiles.  In Old Testament times Gentiles were, what you could say, second class citizens.  If they wanted to become first class citizens, they did have the right and the privilege to become Jews.  But, in New Testament times, as Boaz elevated Ruth, so Jesus elevated Gentiles to the same status as the Jews,  As a matter of fact, as Ruth work alongside the harvesters, so do Gentiles work in the fields of God as harvesters of souls for Jesus.


Note in verse 8 that Boaz calls Ruth his daughter.  So God, through Jesus, calls Gentile believers His daughters, or, in New Testament terms, His sons.


In verses 11 and 12 Boaz commends Ruth for the way she has supported and blessed Naomi.  Boaz pronounces a blessing on Ruth for her love, concern and support for Naomi.  Jesus will do the same for those Gentile Christians who love and support Israel today, even in her lost and husbandless situation.  It's all about the Abrahamic Covenant.  He that blesses Israel will be blessed.  This is an important duty of the church at the end of this age. 


In verse 13 of chapter 2 Ruth is appreciative of Boaz and all he has done for her, especially because she is a Gentile.  Christians should be just as appreciative.  We have been elevated into being first class citizens in the Kingdom of God.


In verse 20, after hearing that it was Boaz's field Ruth had gleaned from, she praised God who blesses "both the dead and the living".  Although there is a good number of Christians who don't feel the need to bless Israel because the believe the church has replaced Israel, what Naomi says here is important.  God still blesses the dead and the living, and Israel has been dead for a long time now.  Even though Israel as a nation, as a people are spiritually dead, God is blessing her in many ways.  The greatest blessing will come at the end of this age when Jesus returns to Israel.  The reason for the present day blessing of God upon Israel is to prepare her for the end time battles and the return of the Lord.


Verse 21 speaks of Ruth being harmed if she gleaned in someone else's fields.  The sad fact of the matter is that there is a move among Christians today to glean in other fields.  The attempt to unite Christianity with other religions is this gleaning in other fields.  In the end, that will harm the church, harm those who disobey the Lord by uniting themselves with other religions.


Verse 23 speaks of both the barley and wheat harvest.  This is significant because by the time the wheat harvest came along, this was around the time of the feast of Pentecost, which we see the fulfillment of in Acts2 where the Holy Spirit was given first to the Jewish believers, but very soon after to the Gentile believers.


Chapter 3 is all about Ruth's encounter with Boaz in the evening on the threshing floor.  Some Bible teachers suggest that the threshing floor represents the day of judgment when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats.  Boaz asks Ruth who she was.  He recognized her, unlike the time that will come when Jesus will say "depart from me, you who work iniquity.  I never knew you". (Matthew 25:41)


In verse 1 of chapter 3 Naomi is concerned about finding a home for Ruth.  All along Ruth has been concerned about looking after Naomi.  This is how it should be between the church and Israel .  There should be a mutual concern and respect for each other, but for the most part, there isn't.  That being said, there are always some on both sides that have this respect and support, and this seems to be growing as the end draws near.


It's clear to me from the New Testament, and especially from Romans 11, that Gentile Christians help bring Israel back into the fold and once back in the fold, Israel will end up supporting and caring for the rest of the redeemed on the new earth.


You see in chapter 3, verses 1 and 2 that Naomi has a concern for Ruth the gentile.  The early Christian believers, especially because of the apostle Paul, began to reach out to gentiles, just as Naomi reached out to Ruth, and now as the end of the age comes, gentile Christians are now reaching out to Jews.  It's all in reverse.


In verse 3 Ruth is to wash herself and get herself ready to meet Boaz, just as the church is to prepare herself to meet the Lord.  The church is to be without spot or wrinkle.  The use of the words "without spot or wrinkle" speak of the good clothes that both Ruth and the church need to wear when meeting Jesus.


The rest of chapter 3 concerns Ruth's petition for Boaz to be her kinsman redeemer.  She wants Boaz to cover her with his garment.  We know this is a request by Ruth to come under the lordship of Boaz.  Gentile believers request the same of Jesus when they come to Him in salvation.  This will be fully realized at the end of the age.   The final aspect of the authority of Jesus, the fullness of the Kingdom of God , will be realized at the return of Jesus.  His authority will rule over all the earth.       


In chapter 4 Boaz finds the other kinsman redeemer who is closer to Naomi than he.  Boaz offers him to be the kinsman redeemer.  He says yes until he finds out that he has to marry Ruth, or, in other words, redeem Ruth as well as the land.  He declines.


We have to view this other kinsman redeemer as the Law of Moses.  The Law was given to Israel , not to Gentiles.  The Law had everything to do with Israel including the land claims that all of Israel should possess.  The Law of Moses can't be used in the process of saving gentiles.  As a matter of fact, as the book of Romans states, it can't save anyone.


The Law of Moses provided that Gentiles could become part of God's people, if they became Israelis and followed the Law.  But here we see the Law can't marry the gentile, but Boaz, or, Jesus can. 


This tells me something that I believe the New Testament teaches. When Paul, in Romans 10:4 says that "Christ is the end of the Law", I believe that Jesus has now replaced the Law, and Jesus has offered His life for all mankind.  Simply put, Jesus did what the Law could not do, and that was, Gentile believers could be redeemed without becoming Jews.   I know this is not popular among some today, but I believe this is what the New Testament teaches.


Notice in the first couple of verses of chapter 4 that the transaction to marry Ruth and redeem the land takes place in the presence of the elders of Bethlehem.  This reminds me of Revelation 5  where we see the elders in heaven and the Lamb of God that has taken away the sin of the world.  


What we need to understand here is that the whole transaction Boaz makes here is more than a marriage to Ruth.  The marriage to Ruth is connected with Naomi getting her land back and restoring the family line that was lost when Elimelech died.  The same is true with Jesus, the church, and Israel.   Bringing gentiles into the family of God is not simply to save gentiles.  It is part and parcel of God restoring the land to Israel and restoring the family line, or, nationhood to Israel.  You cannot separate gentiles coming to Jesus and Israel being restored in all of its varying aspects.    


Note in verse 6 that the first kinsmen redeemer said he could not marry Ruth.  He could redeem the land, but he couldn't marry Ruth.  As a result, he backed out of the transaction.  This unnamed kinsman redeemer, as I've stated, is the Law of Moses.  It could not bring salvation to gentiles or to Israel as the New Testament teaches.  The Law of Moses has to back down and give way to Jesus.   


After the first in line kinsman redeemer backed down, Boaz, in front of all the elders, with the elders blessings, promised to marry Ruth and redeem the land and lineage for Naomi.  Again, the marriage is not the whole matter here.  Salvation as seen in Jesus, is more than gentiles being saved, and more than Jews being saved.  It is both  the lineage and the land of Israel being restored to her.    


Chapter 4 ends with the genealogy of King David, who we do know is also a type of Jesus.  Boaz was a type of Jesus, the Christ.  That is, the Messiah that saves.  King David is a type of Jesus the Lord, the King of all things.  It is King Jesus who will return to earth at the end of this age and set up His kingdom.  Thus the book of Ruth ends with the kingship of David who represents the real King of all things.


I believe that in the days ahead, we will see more and more of the prophetic imagery of the book of Ruth come to pass.  In the meantime, Christians should be serious about their relationship with Israelis and with Israel .  The prophetic imagery of this book clearly shows Christians, Jews, and the land of Israel can't be separated. 



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