Ruth 4:13-17 – Ruth Bears a Son


Ruth 4:13-17


These verses report the marriage of Ruth and Boaz and the immediate birth of their child Obed, who will become the grandfather of David. The women then address Naomi with a remarkable blessing of the Lord.


Several aspects of this passage are worthy of note. First, the Lord actively causes Ruth to conceive a child, the only time in the book that God is said to act directly. Ruth had been married to Mahlon for 10 long years in Moab without conceiving a child. As in so many of the matriarchal and patriarchal stories in Genesis (16; 20-21; 25:19-26; 29:31-30:24), the Lord decides when and to whom a child will be born.

Second, the women of Bethlehem recognize that the Lord is to be blessed for this birth. And third, they recognize more than this; they understand that this child will be the “go’el,” the next of kin, the redeemer, thus pointing forward to the birth of a more significant redeemer child in Bethlehem. The women understand that Naomi, who came back bereft from Moab, is now to be restored and nourished by this grandchild. And then, most remarkably, the women say the very opposite of what many would expect they would say about the worth of the child and the worth of Ruth, his mother. Many readers would expect that Ruth, the poor childless Moabite widow, would be considered worthless until she had a child. We imagine that having a son would make her more worthy. But the women say the reverse. They declare to Naomi that the child is made worthy by the mother. Because Ruth loves Naomi, she is said to be more to Naomi than 7 sons! Ruth’s love and loyalty to Naomi is the reality that makes this new child so dear to Naomi.

Because of the affection of these powerless women, both defined by their experience as immigrants, the community moves away from the terror of Judges in which everyone did what was right in their own eyes.  And because of them birth happens, and not just any birth.  The birth of the grandfather of David.

(see Simeon Solomon 1900 and Michelangelo and Rooks