Scripture Notes: Ruth

Scripture Notes: Ruth

11 min read



  • Ruth: Companion; friend; vision of beauty
  • Boaz: Fleetness/swiftness
  • Naomi: my delight or pleasantness
  • Elimelech: my God is king
  • Maholon: sickly
  • Kilion: failing
  • Orpah: pride
  • Obed: servant


  • Ruth 1:1 - “in the days when the judges ruled”
  • Ends with list of generations leading to David (lacking in 1 Samuel)


  • Formal conversion to Judaism didn’t exist then
  • Nehemiah 13:1 cites Deut 23:3-6 as basis to exclude Moabite foreigners from Israel (e.g. marriage, worship, peaceful relations)
    • Ruth provides the opposite view: heroine is Moabite, model of righteousness, and ancestor of David
      • Boaz also is blessed for his treatment of Ruth
    • Similar to Jesus’ parable of Good Samaritan
  • Protagonists are focused on Deuteronomistic law (Deut 25:5-10)
    • Levirate marriage - actually Latin from “levir” (meaning “husband’s brother”) not “Levi”
    • Yibbum in Hebrew
    • The inheritance had to be bought back if money was owed on it (Lev 25:25)
  • Ruth likely 25-30 years old when she met Boaz
    • Women in that era often married mid to late teens
    • Ruth 1:4 - they dwelt in Moab for 10 years

Story overview

  • Naomi and Elimelech are Jews from Bethlehem now in Moab because of famine
  • They have two sons: Maholon and Kilion
  • Maholon marries Ruth
  • Kilion marries Orpah
  • Elimelech, Maholon, and Kilion all die
  • Naomi blames God and releases her two daughter-in-laws (non-Jew Moabites) of responsibility to her
  • Orpah returns to her family
  • Ruth vows to stay with Naomi
  • The famine subsides
  • Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem, incognito (Naomi as Mara), seeking to be restored to Elimelech’s inheritance
    • Land had been sold or leased during famine while the were away
  • Naomi tells Ruth to glean in field of Boaz (kinsman but not in line for levirate marriage)
  • Boaz notices and protects Naomi
  • He vows to redeem their inheritance - which meant to buy it back
  • He goes to elders to press issue of who has responsibility for Naomi
  • One, in line, refuses (likely due to financial burden of taking on inheritance)
  • Boaz offers to do it, purchases land from leasers, and marries Ruth
  • Ruth gives birth to Obed through whom David’s line came


Mara (Naomi incognito name): bitterness

Ruth 1:13, 19-21:
13 “Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me.”
19 So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?
20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
21 I went out full and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

It can be natural to attribute misfortune to God. And while I God can handle our being mad at Him, some theological problems will arise if we simply blame God on the evil in the world. A common belief of ancient Israel (as well as many other religions) was that any misfortune was a curse from God - contributing to the need for constant ritual cleansing and sacrifice by everyone.

While sin can bring misfortune, Jesus repeatedly taught that sin is not an explanation for all types of human suffering.

John 9:1-3:
1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Luke 13:1-5
1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

It is important to note that the authors of the Book of Ruth only attribute to God the ending of the famine and Ruth conceiving. Naomi is who attributes tragedy to God - and this attribution caused her to become bitter (Mara).


Hesed plays a major role in the texts and story arc in Ruth (as well as in the Old Testament generally).

Ruth 1:16-17 - Ruth’s vow to Naomi typifies hesed
16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

“Hesed” (chased) - kindness, mercy, faithfulness, loyalty - esp. to lowly, needy, or miserable

  • Doing more than what law requires in way that brings mercy, duty, and loyalty
  • In context of relationship
  • Implies reciprocity (pay it forward

Hesed is used 247+ times in Bible - often translated to “lovingkindness”. Here are several examples (words translated from “hesed” bolded):

  • Psalm 25:6 - Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
  • Psalm 100:5 - For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
  • Isaiah 54:10 - For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
  • Hosea 2:19 - And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.
  • Hosea 6:6 - For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
  • Micah 6:8 - He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Instances of “hesed” in Ruth:

  • (1:8) Naomi to her daughter-in-laws - go return to your families and the Lord will deal “kindly” with you
  • (2:20) Naomi noting God’s “kindness” to the living and the dead upon learning Boaz’ desire to redeem
  • (3:10) Boaz on Ruth’s obedience to his command (2:8-9)
    • 10 And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich.

The command to not go to another field (keep eyes on this field) was due to the fact that he had authority and can protect/redeem here in his field. He would also provide for both Ruth and Naomi (~46lbs of barley).

Abide with my maidens - Ruth as a foreign Moabite was vulnerable as a gleaner but these indebted maidens knew Boaz and could instruct Ruth. This was a buffer or protection as Ruth would be with other women who were Boaz’s servants and so protected

Note “charged the young men that they shall not touch thee” - gleaners were particularly vulnerable class and risked being abused verbally, physically, or sexually. Ruth as a foreign gleaner was particularly vulnerable.


The text of Ruth is structured as a chiasm:

Chapter 1

1. Opens with genealogy of Elimelech (unknown Ephrathite)
2. Begins with allusion to era of Judges (v1)
3. God ending national tragedy from famine (act 1/2 of God in story) (v6)
4. Female chorus explains Naomi’s circumstances (v19)
5. Orpah chooses not to follow Naomi (v14)
6. Naomi hides her identity (in bitterness/shame) from people of Bethlehem (v20)

Chapter 4

1. Ends with genealogy from from Ruth to David
2. Ends with allusion to era of Monarchy
3. God ends personal/family tragedy (act 2/2 of God in story) (v13)
4. Female chorus explains Naomi’s circumstances (v14-15)
5. “Next of kin” recants willingness to redeem the field (v6)
6. Boaz reveals Ruth’s true identity to elders as he redeems her inheritance (v5)

Chapter 2

1. Opens with conversation between Noami and Ruth
2. Ruth initiates and Naomi is passive (v2)
3. Ruth arrives in the field before Boaz (marked by word “wehinneh” “and behold") (v3-4)
4. Boaz asks about Ruth’s identity (v5)
5. Ruth is passive to Boaz’s instructions (v8-9)
6. Ruth brings Naomi what was left after gathering (v18) - ephah or ~46lbs
7. Ends in Naomi’s home (v18-23)

Chapter 3

1. Opens with conversation between Noami and Ruth
2. Naomi initiates and Ruth is passive (v5)
3. Boaz arrives before Ruth (also marked by word “wehinneh” “and behold") (v8)
4. Boaz asks Ruth “Who art thou”? (v9)
5. Ruth instructs Boaz what he must do (v9)
6. Ruth delivers barley to Naomi as Boaz had instructed (v17)
7. Ends in Naomi’s home (v16-18)

Central verses: 3:9-13 - “Who art thou?” And Boaz agreeing to redeem. Ruth is a story about identity and redemption - two fundamental principles in religion.

“Next kinsmen”

“Next kinsmen” - Interestingly, the Hebrew word (ga’al) this is translated to means “to redeem”, to act as kinsman, do the part of next of kin, act as kinsman-redeemer.

Instances of ga’al (redeeming kinsmen):

  • 2:20 ; 3:9, 12, 13 ; 4:1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 14

Word used when Lord is described as “the Redeemer” (several instances bolded):

  • Proverbs 23:11 - For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.
  • Job 19:25 - For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
  • Psalm 69:18 - Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies.
  • Psalm 103:4 - Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies
    • Note appearance of “hesed” here - lovingkindness and mercies
    • Redemption is an act of “hesed”
  • Isaiah 54:4-8 has fascinating echo of story of Ruth (again, includes “hesed” in “kindness” in verse 8):
    • 4 Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.
    • 5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.
    • 6 For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.
    • 7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.
    • 8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.
    • With “kindness” (hesed) and “Redeemer” appearing here again it underscores that God’s redemptive work doesn’t just follow law, God’s salvation extends grace beyond what law requires (mercy).