Lesson 5 of5
In Progress

Theological Themes in Ruth

Blessing

Blessings occur seven times in the book of Ruth, from Naomi blessing both her daughters-in-law (1:8) and Boaz (2:19-20), to Boaz’s casual blessing of his workers (2:4) and deeper blessing of Ruth (3:10), and climactically to the women blessing the Lord for the birth of the child (4:14). These blessings point out how God works in the lives of the people and in history.

Commitment and loyalty

Unlike in the previous period in Judges, in which everyone “did was right in their own eyes,” the three major characters of the book of Ruth act out of loyalty, love, and a deep sense of righteousness. Such values and actions make possible the eventual birth of David, thus insuring the survival of the nations through their individual acts of kindness.

Family ties

The book of Ruth helps to redefine family, centering not on blood relationships but rather on acts of loyalty and love. The book, which begins with the death of Naomi’s blood family, shows that what constitutes family is not necessarily evident. The plot hinges first on Naomi, then on Boaz, and finally on the whole community, recognizing Ruth the Moabite as crucial to the family. The book ends with the birth of a “mixed blood” child becoming the “next of kin,” ushering in the continued family of David.

How God acts

God does not act or speak directly in the book of Ruth. Rather God’s hand is discerned in such accidental occurrences as Ruth’s happening on the field of Boaz, in the righteous actions of the people, and in the blessing bestowed on and by the various characters of the book.

Lament

The blessings of Ruth are balanced by the very real and moving lament of Naomi when she returns as Mara, “bitter,” to Bethlehem (1:20-21). Naomi’s lament is reminiscent of laments in Psalms and Job. Through the lament, sorrow is given voice and placed before God.

The role of the foreigner

Throughout Israel’s history the foreigner plays a double role. One is as enemy, but righteous foreigners like Ruth the Moabite also regularly arise and play significant roles in Israel’s history. Such characters as Ruth remind the people that foreigners not only deserve care, but also that these foreigners themselves build toward God’s promised future.

The spirit of the law

Several laws from Leviticus and Deuteronomy play a role in the book of Ruth, including the law of levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) and the law of leaving gleanings for the poor (Leviticus 19:9; 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:21). At the heart of the use of the law in the book is the principle of taking care of the widow, the orphan, the alien, and the poor through attending to the spirit rather than the letter of the law. In so doing, blessings return to the community as a whole.

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