The Book of Ruth is perhaps one of the most abused books in all of the Old Testament. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are other books misused in the Old Testament, but more often than not Ruth is misinterpreted time and time again. Who is the main character of this book? What is God’s role in this book? What is the overall purpose of this book? These questions and more have been the topic of discussion in many churches. Unfortunately, those who attempt to answer these questions can easily miss the answers to them. I will attempt to answer some of these questions by breaking this book into several parts.
Today, I will introduce the book. Lord willing the following posts will include the background of the Book, some interpretive issues on key issues that will affect the interpretation of this Book, the development of the message of the Book, the major themes that correspond with the rest of Scripture, and finally the application of this Book.
So, let’s dive right in!
During a dark time in Israel’s history, the Book of Ruth is a diamond in the rough. Ruth is directed to the Israelites sometime during the life of David. David would be a familiar name since he was, at that time period, a great King or was about to become one. The reader would understand that the time of the judges was not the brightest point in their history and could easily make the connection that the name of David was a sign of hope to the nation. Israel had not been the most faithful nation to Yahweh. So, when an Israelite family leaves the Promised Land to arrive in a pagan country, the reader would expect some of Yahweh’s discipline to occur. It would seem that the answer to the disobedience of not fully trusting in Yahweh’s ability to provide through a famine, comes in the form of death. However, Yahweh resolves the discipline with the seed of hope for the bitter widow and her daughter-in-law. This seed was the result of the redeeming of Naomi’s deceased husband’s line and an unknown relative to the future king. This king would bring order to Israel and fulfill the promise of a coming king that will establish David’s throne forever.
The purpose of this book was to show the original readers Yahweh’s love for them and his ability to act outside of ordinary means in order to show his love for Israel even when they do not fully love him. This book gave the readers a reason to be glad when David became King. They would not have known of the covenant made between God and David, but they would understand that the “dark times” were coming to an end. A King was what the people really wanted and the LORD saw fit to provide one for them at the proper time. The Book of Ruth explains the history of how, at the right time, Yahweh displays his love for the people of Israel. With the Abrahamic covenant, Yahweh had promised his love toward the future nation of Israel and here in Ruth, he displays his love fully with the blessing of hope. This hope will change Israel.