Background of Ruth
The book of Ruth was written for the people of JudahJudah was the name of Jacob's fourth son and one of the 12 tribes. More, the southern kingdomThe Southern Kingdom consisted of two tribes of Israel, Judah and Benjamin. Jerusalem was its capital, and the kingdom lasted from 931-586 B.C.E. As with the Northern Kingdom many of the kings were wicked, and prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel spoke their often judgmental... More, as they pondered the beginnings of the line of DavidSecond king of Israel, David united the northern and southern kingdoms. More, their royal family. It uses a story about Judah’s historical roots to illumine the values of loyalty, loving-kindness, and care for the stranger, which the author hoped would govern the later life of Judah (much as Americans tell stories about George Washington not lying about chopping down a cherry tree to show that we value telling the truth). The book of Ruth looks back to the period between the rule of Israel’s judges or charismatic leaders and the birth of David, marking the beginning of the rule of kings. By the end of the time of the book of Judges, the loosely bound tribes of IsraelThe patriarch Jacob fathered twelve sons who became the ancestors the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Divisive political conditions led to a separation of these united tribes into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms after the death of Solomon in 931 B.C.E More had no leader and were chaotically fighting among themselves. This was expressed in the repeated and final refrain of Judges 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.” The promised future was possible only through the rule of a just king.
The book of Ruth assumes knowledge of village life in rural Judah, including patterns of planting and harvesting, gleaningGleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been harvested. In some ancient cultures, like Israel, gleaning was a form of welfare. The book of Ruth contains an account of gleaning in which Ruth met her future husband, Boaz. More and threshing; the manner in which the city eldersElders are leaders who exercise wisdom or leadership by virtue of their age and experience. In the New Testament elders, along with the chief priests and scribes, constituted the primary opposition to Jesus when he taught in Jerusalem. More gathered at the village gateGates are openings in walls or fences for entrance and departure. In the Bible (as in Ruth and the prophets) the city gate was a commercial center where business and social transactions took place. In Amos the gate is the location of the law court... More to govern and issue decisions about village life; and village traditions and laws. The latter included laws of property, gleaning, and levirate marriageLevirate marriage is a marriage in which a childless widow marries her husband's brother in order to continue the line of her dead husband. Ruth is married to Boaz in a Levirate-like marriage (actually a kinsman marriage). This Mosaic law is at the heart of... More. The book also assumes and tries to correct a widespread suspicion of foreigners, particularly from enemies like the Moabites.