Love, Ruth

Bible Study

When the road up ahead splits into two, the path we choose often says as much about our character as it does about our destination. In the book of Ruth, the titular heroine finds herself at such a crossroads—should she go forward with her destitute mother-in-law to an unknown land or backward with her sister-in-law to home and security?

 

Read

To get the most out of this Bible study, read the entire book of Ruth, preferably in one sitting. Before you read, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth available in this book. Give yourself permission to ask questions that may not have answers. Wonder aloud, imagine the scene, and take note of anything that surprises, confuses, or even offends you. And above all else, trust the Lord. He’s the best teacher.

Key Passages: Ruth 2:5-23; Ruth 3:6-11

 

Background

During the rule of the judges, the land of Israel suffered from a literal famine as well as a spiritual one. (See Judg. 21:25.) Seeking relief from the harsh agricultural conditions, Elimelech took his wife and two sons to Moab. Their intended visit stretched into a decade, during which the father died. Then both sons took local brides who, tragically, were soon widowed.

 

Reflect

In Ruth 1:11-13, Naomi confronts her daughters-in-law with the bleak reality of returning to Bethlehem with her. Naomi is beyond the age of childbearing and can offer no hope for new husbands to these two widows. She urges them to return to Moab because there they could stay with their own families until they remarried—a considerably more secure prospect than remaining with Naomi. Orpah turns back, but Ruth refuses to part ways with Naomi.

  • Without sons or a husband (and no hope for either), Naomi is the most vulnerable person in this story. She knows that to stay with her, Ruth must not only forfeit security; with no means to take care of even herself, the foreigner would also incur the burden of caring for an elderly widow. Why do you think Ruth chose to stay with Naomi?

  • Ruth 1:14 tells us that Ruth “clung” to Naomi. The Hebrew word is dabaq, meaning “to cleave or adhere”—it’s the same verb used in Genesis 2:24 to describe the union between husband and wife. In light of that, reread Ruth’s vows to Naomi in Ruth 1:16-17. How does this perspective inform how you view the younger woman’s level of commitment to her mother-in-law?

 

Continuing the Story

Fifty miles and several days later, Ruth arrives in a foreign land with her bitter mother-in-law in tow (Ruth 1:20). The situation is far from ideal, but Ruth takes advantage of the Levitical law permitting the destitute to glean grain left behind by the harvesters. Ruth’s diligence in this backbreaking task earns her the reputation of a selfless, hardworking immigrant—which grants her favor in the eyes of Boaz, the field’s owner (Ruth 2:6-12).

With no means to take care of even herself, Ruth would also incur the burden of caring for an elderly widow.

Boaz honors Ruth at dinner that night (Ruth 2:14) and conspires with his workers to ensure she gleans more than enough grain (Ruth 2:15-16). But this Boaz isn’t just any random man favoring just any pretty woman. Naomi explains: “The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives” (Ruth 2:20). What appears to be happenstance—Ruth gleaning in his field—is actually divine providence. As a kinsman-redeemer, Boaz can fix the pair’s problems in one fell swoop by marrying Ruth and providing an heir for Naomi’s deceased husband, thus preserving the family’s land in their name.

Under Naomi’s direction, Ruth makes an after-hours appeal to Boaz, requesting that he spread his garment over her—a symbolic gesture signaling his agreement to be her kinsman-redeemer. Boaz responds with enthusiasm, blessing Ruth, “May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich” (Ruth 3:10). Boaz agrees to redeem her, and after he settles the issue at the city gate (Ruth 4:1-10), the two are wed.

 

Reflect

In Ruth, lovingkindness is more than a good disposition or even a set of generous actions—it’s a catalyst for each of the story’s three acts.

  • Look at Ruth 1:8, Ruth 2:20, and Ruth 3:10. What role does lovingkindness play in each scene, and how does it move the story along?

  • Ruth’s lovingkindness toward Naomi positioned her for favor and, ultimately, for redemption. Look at your own journey—how do you practice lovingkindness? When has the lovingkindness of another person brought about a distinct change in your life?

  • Compare Ruth’s actions with the love checklist that’s presented in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Pay special attention to “[love] does not seek its own.” In what ways did Ruth exemplify that particular attribute? What might “not seeking your own” look like in a circumstance facing you?

REMEMBER Love redeems.

 

Revisit

Over the next several weeks, use this section to review the study and consider how its message applies to your life.

In Ruth, lovingkindness is more than a good disposition or even a set of generous actions—it’s a catalyst.

Lovingkindness takes effort—the sort that can eventually wear you down, leaving you sore and tired. It can mean leaving comfort and security to live among strangers in a strange land. It can involve getting there and serving instead of waiting to be served. It often requires laying yourself down, at the mercy of someone else, for the benefit of your beloved. It’s what Ruth did for Naomi. And it’s what Jesus did for us.

  • Love does not seek pain—but doesn’t run from it, either. Whether scars from iron nails or callouses from coarse barley stalks, love always leaves a mark. And those marks are our evidence that we loved boldly, vulnerably, and without selfish reservation. What scars and callouses do you bear from loving others? Does recalling these make you mindful of ways that others have sacrificed or inconvenienced themselves for your benefit?

  • Think back to the beginning of the story. The whole downward spiral began with a famine. Consider your own life—are you facing any “famines”—whether these relate to finances, career hopes, relationships, health issues, or other dearths or disappointments? Knowing the pain that Naomi and Ruth faced, how does that change your strategy for dealing with these struggles?

  • Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:18-22) and was even listed in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1:5). Knowing that her story began with a dead end and concluded with new life, how might you view the dead ends in your own life differently? What counterintuitive steps might God be asking you to take toward new life? Even if you feel it’s the wrong direction, redemption could be right around the corner.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

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5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, Whose young woman is this?"

6 The servant in charge of the reapers replied, She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab.

7 And she said, `Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.' Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while."

8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids.

9 Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw."

10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?"

11 Boaz replied to her, All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know.

12 May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge."

13 Then she said, I have found favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants."

14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar." So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left.

15 When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her.

16 Also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her."

17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.

18 She took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took it out and gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied.

19 Her mother-in-law then said to her, Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed." So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz."

20 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, May he be blessed of the LORD who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead." Again Naomi said to her, The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives."

21 Then Ruth the Moabitess said, Furthermore, he said to me, `You should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.'"

22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, so that others do not fall upon you in another field."

23 So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law had commanded her.

7 When Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came secretly, and uncovered his feet and lay down.

8 It happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet.

9 He said, Who are you?" And she answered, I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative."

10 Then he said, May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich.

11 Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.

25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

11 But Naomi said, Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?

12 Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons,

13 would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me."

14 And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

16 But Ruth said, Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.

17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me."

20 She said to them, Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.

6 The servant in charge of the reapers replied, She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab.

7 And she said, `Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.' Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while."

8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids.

9 Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw."

10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?"

11 Boaz replied to her, All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know.

12 May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge."

14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar." So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left.

15 When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her.

16 Also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her."

20 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, May he be blessed of the LORD who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead." Again Naomi said to her, The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives."

10 Then he said, May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich.

1 Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there, and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz spoke was passing by, so he said, Turn aside, friend, sit down here." And he turned aside and sat down.

2 He took ten men of the elders of the city and said, Sit down here." So they sat down.

3 Then he said to the closest relative, Naomi, who has come back from the land of Moab, has to sell the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech.

4 So I thought to inform you, saying, `Buy it before those who are sitting here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if not, tell me that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am after you.'" And he said, I will redeem it. "

5 Then Boaz said, On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance."

6 The closest relative said, I cannot redeem it for myself, because I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself; you may have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it. "

7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange of land to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the manner of attestation in Israel.

8 So the closest relative said to Boaz, Buy it for yourself." And he removed his sandal.

9 Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, You are witnesses today that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon.

10 Moreover, I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased will not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place; you are witnesses today."

8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, Go, return each of you to her mother's house. May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me.

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

18 Now these are the generations of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron,

19 and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab,

20 and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon,

21 and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed,

22 and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David.

5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.

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