Lesson 1 of5
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Summary of Ruth

SUMMARY

The book of Ruth tells the story of three people: Naomi, a widow from Bethlehem in Judah; Ruth, her daughter-in-law from Moab; and Boaz, a gentleman farmer from Bethlehem. Ruth, in a supreme act of devotion, follows Naomi home from Moab and there meets Boaz, Naomi’s close relative. Boaz understands that Ruth, though a foreigner, is a woman of worth. Through a scheme of Naomi to send Ruth to meet Boaz in secret, and through the cleverness of Boaz, who claims Ruth before the city elders, Boaz and Ruth marry and have a child, thus insuring the continuation of the Davidic line that eventually leads to the birth of Jesus.

SO WHAT?

The book of Ruth shows how the actions and commitments of ordinary and even unexpected people such as foreigners and widows can change the course of history for the better. The book helps the reader redefine family, appreciate the significant role of the righteous foreigner, and look to the importance of living up to the spirit rather than the letter of the law. God works through the actions of a widow, a foreigner, and a wealthy farmer to bring about the birth of the grandfather of King David, which ultimately leads to the birth of Jesus.

WHERE DO I FIND IT?

Ruth is the eighth book of the Bible. It follows Judges–no doubt because it identifies itself as falling in the same period–and comes before 1 Samuel. The book of Ruth ends with David’s genealogy, so it provides a transition between Judges and the historical books of the Old Testament.

WHO WROTE IT?

The author might have been a village priest, an elder, a teacher, or a wise woman who told ancestral stories to edify and to inspire the people.

WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?

Ruth is an independent narrative that might have been written any time from David’s reign to postexilic times. Some suggest that the emphasis on the righteous foreign woman (Ruth) was specifically intended to counter the attitude toward foreign women found in the postexilic period of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 10:1-5; Nehemiah 13:1-3).

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

The book of Ruth tells the story of how a widow, Naomi; her daughter-in-law from Moab, Ruth; and a wealthy farmer from Bethlehem, Boaz, make possible the birth of Obed, the grandfather of King David.

HOW DO I READ IT?

The book of Ruth, like so many of the individual narratives in Genesis through Kings, uses action, dialog, suspense, humor, irony, and an acute sense of human character to illustrate lessons of history and theology. Readers should attend to understanding the characters, the settings, and the major themes as well as repeated or emphasized ideas or words.

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