THE BOOK OF RUTH
Bible Background: Ruth seems to be the story of an ‘outsider’, who, amid all the ups and downs of life, becomes an ‘insider’, whose famous great-grandson grows up to be King David (and ultimately has a place in the family ‘tree’ of Jesus.) More importantly, Ruth is a story of redemption. And it served to remind Israel and each of us, that God is a redeeming God; and that we are the ones in need of redemption!
Moabites: Traditional enemies of Israel, banned from the assembly of God’s people “because they did not meet you with food and water on your journey out of Egypt.”
Names and meanings carry symbolic weight in this story: Naomi=”pleasant”; Chilion=”will perish”; Bethlehem=”house of bread”; Mara=”bitter”; Ephrathite=”fruitful.”
Digging Deeper: 1. Naomi and daughter-in-law, Ruth, are bound together in loss and hardship. They are vulnerable, yet do not give up. When in life have you felt setbacks like Naomi and Ruth? Who have you relied on?
2. Ruth’s words of commitment, are the most familiar lines in this book: “Where you go, I will go….your God shall be my God….” (1:16-17). How does this help define “family?” Why do you think Ruth does not turn back, like Orpah does, and just worry about herself and her future?
3. In the rest of the story, the two widows arrive in Bethlehem; Ruth goes out to glean in the barley field; she attracts the attention of Boaz; Naomi encourages Ruth to win Boaz’ favor; Boaz ‘redeems’ a field that belonged to Naomi’s husband; Boaz marries Ruth; they have a son, and presumably live happily ever after.
God is silent in this story. But people of faith and generosity speak and act, and lives are changed and improved. Scholars think this story was written in a time when ‘ethnic purity’ in Israel was being pressed (i.e. fear of foreigners, no foreign wives, etc.) How does this story offer a counter-balance to human fears about foreigners? What does it have to say about how God wants everyone to be able to have food and dwell securely? How does this serve as a word from God in today’s setting of many migrants and refugees seeking to better or save their lives?