THE AGE OF THE JUDGES OF ISRAEL
Part II: THE BOOK OF RUTH
Biblical Period 5
Lesson # 14

Beloved heavenly Father,
The story of the Book of Ruth reminds us of the importance of families and the covenant bond of marriage. It is from our families that we learn about love and responsibility, about kindness and commitment, about duty and devotion. Give us the love and faithfulness of Ruth and help us to teach our children to love with such unselfishness. Bless us Lord as we continue of study of your Holy Word. We pray in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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"Wherever you go, I shall go, wherever you live, I shall live, your people will be my people, and your God will be my God." Ruth 1:16

"Then I saw you as I was passing. Your time had come, the time for love. I spread my cloak over you and covered your nakedness; I gave you my oath, I made a covenant with you--declares the Lord Yahweh--and you became mine." Ezekiel 16:8

THE BOOK OF RUTH SUMMARY

BIBLICAL PERIOD #5 THE JUDGES OF ISRAEL
FOCUS RUTH'S OBEDIENCE AND
LOVE DEMONSTRATED
RUTH'S OBEDIENCE AND
LOVE REWARDED
COVENANT THE SINAI COVENANT
SCRIPTURE 1:1---------------------1:19------------------------3:1-----------------------4:1------------------4:22
DIVISION Ruth's decision to stay with Naomi Ruth's obedience & devotion to Naomi Ruth's request for redemption to Boaz Ruth's reward of redemption and marriage to Boaz
TOPIC RUTH AND NAOMI RUTH AND BOAZ
Naomi's family destroyed: death of Naomi's husband and sons Ruth unites herself to Naomi and returns with her to Israel Boaz becomes Kinsman redeemer for Ruth and Naomi Naomi's family restored: birth of Obed, son of Ruth and Boaz:
LOCATION Moab Fields of Bethlehem in Judah Threshing floor of Bethlehem Bethlehem
TIME Circa 12 years ?

TIME LINE: BC                                             UNITED KINGDOM --- DIVIDED KINGDOM

                                                                                                                            Northern Kingdom = Israel
                                                                                                                            Southern Kingdom = Judah

c. 1300                  c. 1200                c. 1100            1050     c. 1000            930                            722

 Conquest of ---- c. Period of the Judges               Saul         David          Rehoboam              Assyria
 Canaan                                                                                           Solomon     Civil War               destroys
                                                               Ruth and Boaz               builds the                                    Northern
                                                                                                          Temple                                        Kingdom

The Book of Ruth is a beautiful story of devotion, love, and redemption. It is set in the distressing time of the Age of the Judges and presents a foreign woman, a Moabitess named Ruth, who forsakes her pagan kinsmen in order to remain faithful to her covenant relationship with her husband's people. It is a story that begins in poverty, famine, and despair and ends at the throne of David.

Please read Ruth 1:1-4:22: The Story of Ruth and the Kinsman Redeemer

Naomi's husband Elimelech had sold the family lands in Bethlehem of Judah and had taken his family into Moab during a time of famine in Israel. God had promised Israel abundance in the Promised Land if they faithfully kept to their covenant promises and obligations but famine and war if they fell into apostasy. During their sojourn in Moab Naomi's husband died and her sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. After the death of her sons, Naomi decides to return to her ancestral home. Naomi releases her daughters-in-law from their covenant obligations to her but Ruth decides to faithfully serve her mother-in-law.

Question: What is ironic about Ruth's faithfulness to Naomi during this period in Israel's history?

Answer: The faithfulness of this foreign woman is contrasted against the national faithlessness of Israel in latter part of the Age of the Judges.

Question: Who are the Moabites?

Answer: They are the descendants of Abraham's nephew Lot through an incestuous union with between Lot and his daughter [see Genesis 19:37].

Question: Historically what other connection was there between Israel and Moab? See Numbers chapter 25.

Answer: Upon Israel's approach to the Promised Land the Moabite king Balak attempted prevent Israel from fulfilling God's plan by hiring a prophet to curse Israel. Later the Moabite women led the Israelite men into sexual sin and idolatry on the plain of Baal-Peor.

This book is another example of the mystery of God's plan. Ruth is an unlikely candidate for a Biblical heroine. She is a foreigner [Moab had a long history of enmity toward Israel], she is a woman [a person of very little status in the ancient world], she is poor, and she is a convert. But Rabbi Telushkin points out in his book Jewish Literacy that Ruth's four simple words to Naomi: "Your people shall be my people, and your God my God" express the essence of what it means to be Jewish, and I would add, Christian. To be part of the covenant people is not simply a question of ethnicity; it is a condition of the heart and an act of faith.

Since Naomi and Ruth are poor they must beg for food. According to the Law of Moses the poor had the right to glean the fields for grain or fruit but the owner's permission was required. As it happened, not according to chance but according to God's plan, the field Ruth chose to glean belonged to Naomi's kinsman, a man named Boaz [see Leviticus 19:9-10; 23:22-24; and Deuteronomy 24:19-22 for the rights of the poor, widows and orphans].

Question: What do you know about Boaz's family history? See Matthew 1:4-5; Luke 3:32; Joshua 2:1-7, 14-16

Answer: His "father" [although probably several generations distant in the same why Jesus is the son of David] is Salmon of the tribe of Judah and his mother is a convert named Rahab. Rahab is the Canaanite prostitute of Jericho who saved the men of Israel when they were scouting Jericho before the attack. Her aid to Israel allowed her to be accepted into the Covenant family of Israel.

Question: How is Ruth's faithfulness rewarded? See Ruth 4:13-17 and Matthew 1:4-16

Answer: Ruth's faithfulness is a demonstration of her love. Her love is rewarded when God gives her a new husband, a son, and a privileged position in the ancestral line of "the promised seed". She will become the great-grandmother of King David and the ancestress of the Messiah. Jews today still believe that the Messiah will descend from this non-Jewish convert [see Jewish Literacy pages 98 & 557]!

The entire story of Ruth is carefully crafted and is divided between the demonstration of Ruth's love and God's reward to Ruth for her love. Even the names reflect each character's position of importance in the story:

The etymology of Boaz's name is uncertain but it is the name of the left entry column that supported the porch of Solomon's Temple. Some scholars have suggested the name may mean "in strength" [see 1Kings 7:15-22]..

A key element of the story is Ruth's request to Boaz to be her "Kinsman Redeemer". The theme of redemption is the most important theme in the narrative. The Hebrew word for kinsman, goel, appears 13 times [ 10 + 3 ] and means "one who redeems". Boaz fulfills the role of "Kinsman Redeemer" by buying back the land of Naomi's husband, as well as by marrying Ruth and fathering a son to keep the family line secure.

With the death of her husband in Moab, Naomi returns to her ancestral home of Bethlehem in Judah hoping to secure the rights to the ancestral property. With her husband and sons dead her only hope of regaining the property was through two legal customs of the Sinai Covenant found in Leviticus 25:25-28, and in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

Question: What are these two customs?

Answer: The leviratic marriage and the redemption of the land through a kinsman.

The leviratic marriage custom required the nearest relative of a deceased man to wed his dead kinsman's widow [Deuteronomy 25:5-10]. Any children from this union carried the name and the inheritance of the former husband. Since Naomi was beyond her childbearing years, Ruth became her substitute who could bear a son to perpetuate the family line. The redemption of the land custom obligated the closest kinsman to buy back the ancestral property, which had been sold, in order to keep it in the family. "Land will not be sold absolutely, for the land belongs to me, and you are only strangers and guests of mine. You will allow a right of redemption over all ancestral property. If your brother becomes impoverished and sells off part of his ancestral property, his nearest male relative will come and exercise his family rights over what his brother sold." Leviticus 25:23-25.

The land could also be returned to the family at the time of the 50 year Jubilee when all land reverted to original ownership. The land belonged to Yahweh and could never be sold'only rented for a maximum of 50 years: "In the Jubilee year the field will revert to the vendor, the man to whose ancestral property the land belongs." Leviticus 27:24

Apparently waiting for the Jubilee year was too long a time for Naomi. Her only hope for the return of her husband's ancestral lands and for children to carry on his name was through the mediation of a Kinsman Redeemer.

The three Old Testament obligations of the Kinsman Redeemer:

1. Must be related by blood to those he redeems Deuteronomy 25:5, 7-10;
Leviticus 25:25;
Ruth 2:1
2. Must have the resources to pay the price of redemption Leviticus 25:25-26;
Ruth 2:1
3. Must be willing to redeem Deuteronomy 25:7, 9;
Ruth 3:11

Question: When does Ruth ask Boaz to be her Kinsman Redeemer? How does she ask him? See Ruth 3:9.

Answer: In Ruth 3:9 when she tells Boaz "I am your servant Ruth. Spread the skirt of your cloak over your servant for you have the right of redemption over me." In this statement of covenant language she is asking Boaz to marry her under the covenant obligation of the Kinsman Redeemer. Boaz praises Ruth in verse 10 for her faithful desire to fulfill the covenant obligations for her family.

Question: How did Boaz fulfill the obligations of the Kinsman Redeemer?

Answer: Boaz was a kinsman but not the closest kinsman [Ruth 3:12-13]. He needed to get the permission of the next closest kinsman, which he did obtain [Ruth 4:1-8]. He then accepted the obligations of both customs. As the Kinsman redeemer he legally secured the land from all further claims against it. As the male kinsman he married Ruth and fathered a son to continue the family name [Ruth 4:9-11]. This son, Obed [Ruth 4:13-17], will become the father of Jesse, the father of David the King. Ruth's admittance into the covenant is an exception to Deuteronomy 23:3-7, which restricts a Moabite from being admitted into Yahweh's assembly or his descendants to the 10th generation.

Question: The Father's of the Church saw this temporal act of redemption by Boaz as a foreshadowing of what redeeming work of God?

Answer: Christ is our Kinsman Redeemer! "He offered himself for us in order to ransom us from all our faults and to purify a people to be his very own and eager to do good." [Titus 2:14]. See CCC # 607-8; 802. He has redeemed for us the "land", that is promised = Heaven, and He has secured His rights as the Kinsman Redeemer by taking the New Covenant Church as His Bride. The offspring of this union will be the generations and generations of believers born into new life in Christ in the Church!

Christ fulfilled the role of the Kinsman Redeemer

1. Christ is related by blood to the people of Judah and to those adopted into the family of God through His baptism of blood on the cross. John 1:14;
Romans 1:3;
Philippians 2:5-8;
Galatians 4:4;
Hebrews 2:14-17
2. Christ was able to pay the price of redemption 1 Corinthians 6:20;
1 Peter 1:18, 19
3. Christ was willing to redeem Matthew 20:28;
John 10:15-18
Hebrews 10:7;
1 John 3:16

Question: What other link is there to Christ in the setting of this narrative?

Answer: The story is set in the territory of Judah in the town of Bethlehem, the birthplace King David and Jesus.

There is no doubt in this narrative that God is intimately involved in the unfolding of the drama. The name of God occurs 23 times in the eighty-five verses in the Book of Ruth! The Book of Ruth concludes with a 10-name toledoth [genealogy] in 4:18-22. The first 5 names in the list, which represents the names from the exodus into Egypt to the exodus out of Egypt, seem to be unlikely to be an accurate representation of the 430 year period from the Patriarchs to the Exodus, however, these are the same 10 names listed in Matthew's toledoth in Matthew 1:3-6. The double list of 5 is probably more important symbolically than literally, the double number of 5 names indicating the doubled grace of God and totaling 10, the number of divine order, which presents the royal ancestry of David King of the United Kingdom of Israel from whose line the Messiah is prophesied to come in 2 Samuel 7:11-17 and 1 Chronicles 17:11-14. David is the ancestor of Jesus of Nazareth [see Matthew 1: 1-16 and Luke 3:23-38]!

THE BOOK OF 1 SAMUEL

"What more shall I say? There is not time for me to give an account of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, or of David, Samuel and the prophets. These were men who through faith conquered kingdoms, did what was upright and earned the promises. They could keep a lion's mouth shut, put out blazing fires and emerge unscathed from battle. They were weak people who were given strength to be brave in war and drove back foreign invaders."
Hebrews 11:32-34

Samuel, whose name in Hebrew, Shem-el, means, "name of God" is the last of the Judge-deliverers of Israel; he is both a victorious leader in battle against the Philistines, a holy prophet of God, and a magistrate who judges the people. This book is a bridge to the age of the kings, and will describe the transition of leadership in Israel from the Judges to the Kings as Yahweh's representative to the people. In the Hebrew Tanach the Books of Samuel constitute one single work. The division into two books originated in the Greek Septuagint translation. The Latin Vulgate however grouped 1st and 2nd Samuel and 1st and 2nd Kings under the title "The Four Books of Kings". The two books of Samuel divide into 5 parts:

  1. 1Samuel 1-7: Samuel
  2. 1 Samuel 8-15: Samuel and Saul
  3. 1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 1: Saul and David
  4. 2 Samuel 2-20: David
  5. 2 Samuel 21-24: Appendices

1st Samuel covers the 94-year period from the birth of Samuel to the death of King Saul [circa 1105-1011BC].

SUMMARY OF 1ST BOOK OF SAMUEL

BIBLICAL PERIOD #6 THE UNITED KINGDOM
FOCUS THE LAST JUDGES OF ISRAEL THE FIRST KINGS OF ISRAEL
COVENANT THE SINAI COVENANT
SCRIPTURE 1:1--------------------4:1-----------------------8:1---------------------13:1-----------15:10--------31:13
DIVISION OF TEXT #1 Transition of Leadership from Eli to Samuel Samuel: Priest-Prophet & lastJudge of Israel #2 Transitionof leadership Samuel to Saul Reign of King Saul #3 Transition of leadership Saul to David
TOPIC Decline of Israel as a Theocracy Rise of Israel as a Monarchy
ELI SAMUEL SAUL DAVID
LOCATION THE PROMISED LAND = ISRAEL
TIME circa 94 years

TIME LINE B.C.

--UNITED KINGDOM OF ISRAEL----DIVIDED KINGDOMS--
                                                                  of Israel and Judah

                                                                                        Exile of Israel       Exile of Judah
                                                                                       (no recorded return)                   (Judah Returns)

c.1047____c.1010___c.1000___c.970_____c930_______722_________587/6_______539______

Saul            death of      David        Solomon    death of           Israel is              Judah is             Cyrus defeats
anointed      Saul           captures     is King         Solomon         destroyed by     destroyed by      Babylon
1st King                         Jerusalem-builds         Rehoboam   Assyria             Babylonia        -Edict of
of Israel                                               the Temple  is King            Exile of 10         Exile of 2            Return 538
-David                                                                     -The Great     Tribes                Tribes of             permits
anointed as a boy                                                   Schism=                                   Judah &             the return
to succeed Saul                                                      Divided Kingdom                  Benjamin           of the nation of
                                                                                                                                                                Judah to
                                                                                                                                                                Promised Land

Please read 1 Samuel 1:1-28: The Birth of the Prophet Samuel

Question: What does the birth narrative of Samuel affirm?

Answer: It affirms the prophetic character of Samuel as Yahweh's chosen prophet/judge.

Question: What is the implication of Hannah's vow in 1Samuel 1:10-11?

Answer: She vows her unborn son as a lifetime Nazarite [see Numbers chapter 6 for a description of the Covenant obligations of the Nazarite].

Question: Can you think of other men in the Bible who were chosen by God from the womb?

Answer: Including Samuel there are 5: the judge Samson, the prophet Isaac, John the Baptist, and Jesus of Nazareth.

In obedience to her vow, Hannah gives her son to Eli the High Priest of Yahweh's sanctuary. Samuel will serve Yahweh all his life not only as Judge over Israel but as God's holy prophet and by adoption by the High Priest Eli he will serve as High Priest. In each role Samuel is covenant mediator to the people.

Please read 7:1-17: The War against the Philistines.

As both Judge and Prophet Samuel called Israel to repentance. He demanded that the people banish the foreign gods. At Mizpah he called the entire nation to reconciliation and renewal.

Question: What unforeseen event occurs while Israel is gathered at the assembly at Mizpah?

Answer: The Philistines use this opportunity to march against an Israel unprepared for war, but true to His covenant promises Yahweh helps the people. With Yahweh's help the Philistines are defeated, and Yahweh gives Israel the power to drive the enemy out of the Promised Land.

The Readings Biblical Period #6 The United Kingdom:

Israel asks Yahweh for a King 1 Samuel 8:1-22
Samuel Anoints Saul King over Israel 1 Samuel 9:1-10:27
Saul looses God's favor

1 Samuel 15:1-23

Samuel Anoints David King 1 Samuel 16:1-23
David's Military Success 1Samuel 17:1 18:30
Saul Seeks David's Death/
David's Life as an Outlaw
1 Samuel 19:1-12;
21:1-6; 22:1-2
Saul Murders the Priests of Yahweh 1 Samuel 22:11-23
David Becomes King of Israel 2 Samuel 1:1-5:25
God's Covenant with David 2 Samuel 7:1-29
Solomon is Anointed King

1 Kings 1:28-2:12

Solomon Builds God's Temple 1 Kings 5:1 8:66
The Downfall of Solomon 1 Kings 11:1-43

Resources and recommended readings:

  1. The Navarre Bible: Judges and Ruth
  2. The Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J.
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church
  4. Jewish Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
  5. Bible History: Old Testament, Alfred Edersheim
  6. Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.