27 February 2016

Stone 8 - Ruth

In Judges we saw quite a bit of rebellion in the time when there was no king and people just did what was right in their own eyes. Let's see where Ruth comes into all of this.

A Journey
So we start out learning about a famine that was taking place in the time of the judges where a man and his wife decided to head off to Moab from the land of Israel (Ruth 1:1). We also learn very quickly a man and his two sons that pass away leaving behind the man's wife and the wives of his two sons (Ruth 1:3-5). The man's wife was Naomi and the wives of the two sons were Orpah and Ruth. A tragic beginning, no doubt, but things are about to get interesting.

Now that all the guys are dead, the three ladies start to head back to the land of Israel because they heard that the food situation was better there (Ruth 1:6-7). However, not long into their trip, Naomi urges them to go back (Ruth 1:8-9). It is worth noting that Orpah and Ruth were from Moab to begin with so I imagine that this may be a reasonable request at first glance. The two girls decline and Naomi urges them a second time stating that they don't have much hope to start a new family if they are with her (Ruth 1:11-13). Naomi convinces Orpah but not Ruth.

There are some subtle things here - in verse 15, Naomi urges Ruth now for a third time but appeals to her by stating that Orpah went back to her people and her god. What I notice is that in the text 'god' is written with a lower case 'g'. So let's remember now that the land of Moab was outside of Israel and had other objects of worship. Ruth was a Moabite to begin with but notice how Ruth's response in verse 16 uses God with a capital 'G'. It would appear that Ruth recognizes something. Finally Naomi gives up trying to send her back.

Naomi was an Israelite woman but tries to send the women back to a false god. Ouch.

The New Girl in Town
Naomi and Ruth finally make it back to Bethlehem and Ruth goes out to gather food. Turns out that she ends up in a field that is owned by a man named Boaz. We learned in Ruth 2:1 that Boaz is a relative of Naomi. Boaz notices Ruth and urges her to stay in his field (Ruth 2:8-9). This is also interesting as this could go a couple ways. In one way - perhaps Boaz likes her and wants her to stay for that reason. In the other way, we will need to review Judges for a moment. Remember the fiasco that happened with the Benjamites (Jud 19)? There was a great deal of sexual immorality going on in Israel. The man that brought the traveller and his concubine into his home knew that it was not safe to stay out in the square. Perhaps Boaz also recognized that this new girl in town was not going to be safe in another man's fields. Naomi provides further support for this idea later in Ruth 2:22.

Of course, there is also the third possibility that both the possibilities could be true. We read later that Boaz has heard about Ruth and her devotion to Naomi (Ruth 2:11). Boaz has some respect for her. Ruth later goes back to tell Naomi about Boaz (Ruth 2:19). Naomi lets Ruth know that Boaz is a family redeemer. I understand that a family redeemer is one that marries widows in order to keep the family lineage going.

Moving Forward
Now that Naomi is in the know, she sets about playing matchmaker (Ruth 3:1-4). Ruth follows her directions and Boaz responds favorably but lets her know that another redeemer gets first dibs (Ruth 3:11-13).

Boaz quickly gets together with the other redeemer and several witnesses to settle the matter (Ruth 4:1-2). Boaz offers two things, really. The first is a parcel of land that Naomi is selling. What I find interesting is that the man is happy to buy up the land but when Boaz mentions that Ruth comes with the land, he backs up the bus and tells Boaz that he can have it all (Ruth 4:3-6). It sounded as though he may have already been married or had another engagement that was preventing this union.

Good news for Boaz and Ruth. They are married and Ruth eventually has a son (Ruth 4:13). The son's name is Obed. Now the book as a whole finishes with a little more geneaology that lets us know that Obed eventually has a son named Jesse and that Jesse eventually has a son named David (Ruth 4:21-22) This is the same David that becomes King of Israel. King David's great grandma is Ruth!

Next week we will journey through the book of 1 Samuel.

Here is the video from the Bible Project on the book of Ruth.

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