Christy

The Book of Ruth Explained with Illustrations by The Bible Project

The Book of Ruth begins with tragedy and death. After losing her husband and both sons in a foreign land during a famine, Naomi changes her name to Mara, meaning “bitterness.” She feels God has taken everything away from her and her life is miserable now. While it looked like God was punishing her, it becomes clear that God is setting up the circumstances by which He could bless her. As her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth, cares for her, finds provision, and discovers the love of a benefactor, Naomi comes to realize God has turned her tragedy into joy. Watch this video by The Bible Project to learn more about the biography of Ruth.

 

 

 

 

Download a Free Digital Copy of the Poster from the Video

These illustrated charts are so helpful, I encourage you to download a copy for personal study. It’s free! Courtesy of The Bible Project.

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Video Transcript

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The book of Ruth.
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It’s a brilliant work of theological art and it invites us to reflect on the question of
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how God is involved in the day-to-day joys and hardships of our lives.
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There are three main characters in the book:
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Naomi, the widow, Ruth, the Moabite and Boaz, the Israelite farmer.
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And their story is told in four chapters that are beautifully designed.
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Let’s just dive in and see how this all unfolds. Chapter one opens with this line: “In the days when the judges
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ruled.” And it reminds us of the very dark and difficult days from the book of
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Judges. And here we meet an Israelite family in Bethlehem struggling to
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survive through a famine. And so, in search of food, they move on to the land
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of Moab, Israel’s ancient enemy. And there, the father of the family dies and the
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sons marry two Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. And then the sons, they die too and so
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they leave only Naomi and these new daughters-in-law. And so Naomi, she has no
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reason to stay anymore. And so she tells her new daughters-in-law that she’s
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moving back home. And Naomi, she knows that the life of an unmarried foreign
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widow in Israel is going to be very hard. So she compels the women to stay behind.
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Orpah agrees but Ruth does not. She shows remarkable loyalty to Naomi and she says,
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“Wherever you go, I’m going to go. Your people will become my people and your God will
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become my God.” And so the two of them return to Israel together and the chapter
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concludes with Naomi changing her name
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to Mara, which means “bitter” in Hebrew, and she laments her tragic fate. Chapter
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two begins with Naomi and Ruth discussing where they’re going to find
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food and it just so happens to be the beginning of the barley harvest. And so
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Ruth goes out to look for food and it just so happens that she ends up
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picking grain in the field of a man named Boaz, who just so happens to be
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Naomi’s relative. We’re told that Boaz is a man of noble character and
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he notices her. So after finding out more about her story, he shows remarkable
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generosity to her. He makes these special provisions so that the immigrant Ruth
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can gather grain in his field. And in doing so
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Boaz is actually obeying an explicit command in the Torah to show generosity
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to the immigrant and the poor. Boaz is so impressed by Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi,
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he prays for her that God will reward her for her boldness. So Ruth comes home
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that day and Naomi finds out that she met Boaz and she is thrilled. She says
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Boaz is their family Redeemer. Now this “family redeemer” thing, this was a
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cultural practice in Israel where if a man in the family died and he left
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behind a wife or children or land, it was the family Redeemer’s responsibility to
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marry that widow, to take up the land and protect that family. So Naomi, she
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begins to hope that perhaps there might still be a future for her family.
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Chapter 3 begins with Naomi and Ruth making a plan to get Boaz to notice
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their situation. So Ruth is going to stop wearing clothes of a grieving
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widow and she’s going to show signs that she is available to be married. And so
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Ruth goes to meet Boaz on the farm that night and as she approaches, Boaz wakes
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up. And he’s totally startled. And Ruth makes her intentions very clear. She asks
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if Boaz will redeem Naomi’s family and marry her.
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Boaz is once again amazed by Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi and her family and he calls
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Ruth a woman of noble character. It’s the same term used to describe the woman in
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Proverbs 31. So Boaz tells Ruth to wait until the next day and he will
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redeem both Ruth and Naomi legally before the town elders. And so the
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chapter ends with Ruth returning to Naomi and they marvel together at all of
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these recent events. In chapter four it all comes together. It turns out, at the
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last minute,
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Boaz discovers there is a family member who’s closer to Naomi than he is and
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he’s actually eligible before him to redeem the family. But at the last second
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this family member finds out that he’s going to have to marry Ruth the Moabite.
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And so he declines. But Boaz, remember, he knows Ruth’s true character, and so he
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acquires the family property of Naomi and he marries Ruth. And so just as at the
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beginning, how Ruth was loyal to Naomi’s family, so now Boaz is loyal to Naomi’s
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family as well.
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The story concludes with a reversal of all of the tragedies from chapter one. So
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the death of the husband and the sons is reversed as Ruth is married again and
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gives birth to a new son, granting joy to Naomi. And this symmetry between the opening and
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the closing, its even more remarkable.
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So, remember the opening tragedy was followed by a great act of loyalty on the
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part of Ruth and that is now matched by Boaz’s act of loyalty that leads to the
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family’s final restoration. And this symmetry, it highlights the design of the
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internal chapters as well.
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Each of the chapters begins with Naomi and Ruth making a plan for the future.
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And that’s followed by a providential meeting between Ruth and Boaz. And each
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chapter concludes with Naomi and Ruth rejoicing at what’s taken place. This
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story is beautifully designed and that design actually connects with the really
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interesting feature of the story and that’s how little God is mentioned. The
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characters talk about God a few times but the narrator actually never once
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mentions God doing anything directly in the story and that its brilliance–
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because God’s providence is at work behind every scene of the story, weaving
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together the circumstances and choices of all these characters. So Naomi, her
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tragedy leads her to think that God is punishing her but actually the whole
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story is about God’s mission to restore her and her family. And he’s doing so
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through Ruth, through her boldness and loyalty, which brings healing to Naomi’s life. But
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not without Boaz, who’s a no-nonsense farmer who’s full of generosity and
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loyalty. And so God uses his integrity combined with Ruth’s boldness to save
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Naomi and
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her family. So this story brilliantly explores the interplay of God’s purposes
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and will with human decision and will. God weaves together the faithful
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obedience of his people to bring about his redemptive purposes in the world. And
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that leads to the real end of the story. The Book of Ruth concludes with the
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genealogy showing how Boaz and Ruth’s son, Obed, was the grandfather of King
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David, from whom came the lineage of the Messiah. And so all of a sudden these
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seemingly mundane, ordinary events in the story are woven into God’s grand story
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of redemption for the whole world. And so the book of Ruth invites us to consider
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how God might be at work in the very ordinary, mundane details of our lives as
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well. And that’s what the book of Ruth is all about.