The Old Testament book of Ruth is 4 little chapters packed with a big story. Chronologically, it fits during the time of the judges. If you know the books of the Bible, then you know the order is Joshua, Judges, Ruth. Ruth fits inside of Judges, which covered about 335 years. It was a time when the people did what was right in their own eyes.
At the end of the book of Joshua, God’s people are being obedient and are taking possession of the promised land. Joshua 24:31 says “And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua and had known all the deeds of the Lord which He had done for Israel.”
At the age of 110, (Joshua 24:29) Joshua dies and we then move into the book of Judges. Here we see failure, failure, failure! They didn’t continue to drive out the people as God had told them to do. Judges 2:2 says “But you have not obeyed Me.” It goes on to say that those they didn’t drive out would become thorns in their sides and their gods would become snares to them.
There is always consequences for disobedience!
Judges 2:10 says “there arose up a generation after them that did not know the Lord nor yet the work which He had done.” Judges 2:11-12 reads “Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and they forsook the Lord.” Thus they provoked the Lord to anger and the hand of the Lord was against them and they were severely distressed. Keep on reading in Judges and you will see the people moved farther and farther from God.
The final verse of Judges (21:25) says “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
I share all this so you can see what was going on during the time the story of Ruth takes place. These were dark days; a time of moral decay, violence, anarchy, and rebellion.
Yet in that setting, we see that there is a godly remnant who stays faithful to God. We see integrity and righteousness. We see a story of love, devotion, and redemption. And as we study the book of Ruth, remember this setting. It makes the story even more powerful!
Plopped right in the middle of God’s chosen people who are disobedient and faithless is a woman named Ruth – a Moabite, a pagan, a woman. Yet she is faithful! Don’t you love God’s far-reaching faith?
Since this is an overview of the book, let’s talk a little about the time frame. There are 4 basic settings in this book. I find it easier to think of it like a stage play and the scenery that would be on that stage. The first, of course, is the nation of Moab (which we will discuss in the next lesson). According to 1:4, they were there about 10 years. Act 2 would be a field in Bethlehem. This would have covered a time period of a few months. Act 3 would be a threshing floor in Bethlehem. Now this took place overnight, but we will just call it 1 day to make it easier! Act 4 will cover at least a year but we will set it at the city gates of Bethlehem. Why a year you might ask? Well, between a wedding and the baby that came we would be looking at around a year. All total, the book of Ruth seems to cover around 12 years of time.
We don’t know the author of this book, but we do know lots of people are named in it. If you made a list of those people, you would find Elimelech, Naomi, Mahlon, Chilion, Orpah, Ruth, Boaz, the closer relative and the city elders. And then Naomi’s friends, too. I want to look at 3 in particular and see what we can learn about them (not what they did, but who they were) from just this book.
Naomi was from Bethlehem. She was widowed and had no sons because they had both died. She did, however, have 2 daughter-in-laws.
Ruth was a Moabite. She, too, was widowed. She was devoted to Naomi and in 3:11 was said to be a “woman of excellence.”
Boaz was a kinsman of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech. In fact, he was one of their closest relatives. He was a man of great wealth who was kind and respected. Apparently, based on what he said, he was a bit older than Ruth. The biggest surprise with Boaz is that his father was Salmon, who was married to Rahab. That means his mother had been a prostitute!
As you can see, this is an action-packed story! There is much for us to learn as we move forward and pick this book apart verse by verse. Things for Ruth and Naomi didn’t look so great. Maybe things in your life aren’t so swell right now. Regardless of our circumstances, we can know that God is at work. He has a plan – one for our good. We might not see it yet, but if we just hold on, it will eventually unfold.
And it will be better than we ever imagined!!!
I hope you will join me in this study of Ruth. This was just an overview. Next post, I will get into chapter 1. Perhaps you might read the whole book and then re-read chapter 1 so you will be better prepared to follow along. Until next time…….
Lots of love, Sharon