About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Ruth - Introduction
Commentary On The Book Of Ruth
My commentary on the book
of Ruth is based on the 1978 New International Bible.
Chapter titles in my commentary
correspond to the chapter titles in the NIV Bible to make for easy
The time period in
history that the book of Ruth is concerned with is the time of the
Judges as the text states in chapter 1, verse 1.
The same verse speaks of a famine in the land, which was around
the town of Bethlehem. We have no mention of a
famine in Canaan
in the book of Judges. However,
some Bible teachers suggest the famine might be implied in Judges 6:3
and 4 where we see pagans invading Israeli territory and destroying
their crops on a continuous basis. Famine
isn't always a result of lack of rain or other whether problems.
It also can be a result of war. military conquest, or terrorism,
as we see in parts of
Scholars are divided when
it comes to the authorship of the book of Ruth.
Some Bible teachers suggest it was Samuel who wrote Ruth around
1322 B.C., but that really can't be. At
the end of the book of Ruth you'll note the lineage of David. It
would make no sense then to suggest then that this book war written
before King David lived. It had to be written during King David's
life or later. We just don't know who wrote the book or when it was written for
When it comes to Ruth
herself, she was a Gentile, a Moabite.
That makes her a descendent of
I will approach the book
of Ruth from two angles. One
is its historical significance and the other is its prophetic
significance as a model, or type of Jesus, Israel, and the church. The story of the book of Ruth, which by the way, is an
historical event, not just a story, is the story of God's redemption to
both Jews and Gentiles.
In Matthew 1:5 we see
that Ruth is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus.
So, we should understand that the descendents of Jesus has been
mixed with Gentile blood. I
strongly believe that Israelis have been, still are, and always will be,
special in the mind and heart of God.
The church has not replaced Israel. That being said, God loves
Gentiles as well and has a place for them in His purposes.
This is clearly seen throughout the Old Testament as we see
Gentiles playing an important part in Israel, especially in the lineage of Jesus.
Matthew 1:5 states that
Ruth's husband is Boaz, which we will see later.
The verse also states that Boaz's father was Salmon, who was from
the tribe of Judah, and his mother was Rahab. Pretty well all Bible teachers, except for a
few, are sure that this Rahab is the Rahab from
I believe that Rahab, the
mother-in-law of Ruth was that pagan prostitute that aided Joshua.
Those who oppose this thinking say that Jesus' lineage could never
be defiled with such a sinful woman.
Well, God Himself accepted this sinful woman into His people, so
that's no big deal. Besides,
part of the reason why Jesus came to earth was to redeem us from our
sin. Jesus became like us.
He entered into sinful humanity to save us from sinful humanity,
so having a prostitute in the lineage of Jesus is no big deal.
I suggest that it's part of the will of God.
It shows the love of God that He extends to all mankind.
Before we go into the
text there are a couple more things we must understand to properly
understand the book of Ruth.
In Deuteronomy 25:5 to 10
we read what scholars call the Levirate Marriage.
The term "Levirate Marriage" is not found in the
Biblical text. Only the idea
is found. The term
"Levirate Marriage" is from the Latin and was so named
centuries ago by Christian theologians.
We need to understand that this "Levirate Marriage",
although looking like the word "Levite", has nothing to do
with the tribe of Levi.
The law went this way, as
seen in Deuteronomy 25:5 to 10. If
a man dies, his wife must go to the dead man's brother.
He must marry her and perform all the duties of a husband.
The first son that is born in this new relationship is to be seen
as the dead man's son in order to carry on his lineage.
If the brother-in-law of the widowed wife refuses to marry her,
she must go to the elders of the town.
The elders will call in the brother-in-law and attempt to
convince him to marry the widow. If
he still says "no", the widow takes one of his sandals and
spits in his face. His
family is forever known as the family without a sandal.
The whole idea here is to carry on the family line of the dead
man and all that is associated with the family line.
It was a shameful thing to refuse to marry the wife of your
deceased brother. If the
brother-in-law did marry the widow, the first born boy was not seen as
his son but the son of his brother.
Thus the reason for the Levirate Marriage.
We should understand that
long before the Law of Moses was codified into writing, many of the
Law's practices were already in existence.
The Levirate Marriage was one of these practices we see before
the Law of Moses was codified. In
Another thing we need to
consider is that which is called the "kinsman redeemer".
What I will say about the kinsman redeemer became a tradition in
If a wife's husband died,
the tradition was that the nearest if kin, not just a brother of the
dead man as the Levirate Marriage laws stated, could marry the widow.
The reason for this was probably farther reaching than that of
the Levirate Marriage. The
kinsman would marry the widow, but not just so she could have a husband
and carry on the family line. He
would in fact become what we might call today, "power of
attorney". He had all
the rights and responsibilities of the deceased husband.
The big part of the kinsman redeemer's job was to make sure the
land that the deceased husband owned was kept in the family.
The land issue was important, as we will see in the book of Ruth.
Israelis were agricultural people and depended on the land for
their survival. Also, as
we've seen before, in the eyes of God land, especially the
Another name for the
kinsman redeemer is the "blood avenger".
This title speaks to part of the roll of the kinsman redeemer.
That is, if a husband is murdered, it is the kinsman redeemer's
job to track down the killer and execute him.
We will see that in the
book of Ruth the marriage of the widow and the issue of land is central,
especially in the light of the book's
typology, its prophetic significance.
Some confuse the Levirate
Marriage with the kinsman redeemer thinking they are the same, but
technically speaking, they aren't. The
Law of Moses provided for a widow by having the deceased husband marry
the widow. This presented a
problem What if the widow
had no brother-in-law, or, what if the brother-in-laws refuses to marry
here. The widow would be out
in the cold. Some Bible teachers suggest to solve this problem the idea
of kinsman redeemer evolved. They
took the spirit of the Law and adapted it to a situation not
specifically found in the Law.
"redeem" is important when it comes to the kinsman redeemer.
Both the land that had been lost for one of a number of reasons
would be lost. But there's
more to it. The widow would
be redeemed as well. (Leviticus 25:27)
This is very important when we come to seeing the spiritual
significance to the book of Ruth.
There's another law in
the Law of Moses that plays a part in the book of Ruth and that is the
Law of gleaning. The Law
mandated that a land owner must allow a poor person to follow after his
harvesters. The poor would
pick up the crop that fell to the ground, and in those days, without
modern harvesting techniques, much fell to the ground. The harvesters
were also told not to harvest in the corners and around the edge of
their fields. (Leviticus
19:10, Deuteronomy 24:21)
A lot of Evangelical
Christians view the story of Ruth and Boaz as a love story, but I'm
convinced it's more than that. Actually,
I think the love story part is over rated.
I think Naomi's family line and all that went with it overrides
the love story. Was there
love involved in this story? Maybe
a little. Maybe Ruth felt
something for Boaz, and maybe Boaz felt something for Ruth.
I'm not sure you call that love.
I believe what we will see here is that Boaz did the honourable
thing in becoming the kinsman redeemer.
That was his motivation. A
little bit of excitement due to the fact that a nice young girl was
interested in him was only a by-product.
Then, when it comes to Ruth, I believe she, like Boaz was mostly
interested in Naomi, and continuing her family line as well.
It was Naomi that pushed Ruth in the direction of Boaz.
It was her idea that Boaz could be a kinsman redeemer.
Like Boaz, I think that Ruth might have begun to have feelings
for Boaz, but again, I don't believe that
was her motivation to have Boaz as her husband. I
think love probably grew after the wedding. Remember,
in these days, when it cam to marriage, they were arranged, and feelings
did not play a big part in the marriage.