During the time period of the judges, the Holy Spirit has preserved a fascinating story of redemption in the context of ancient Israel (Ruth 1:1). In the book of Ruth we learn of a family from Bethlehem in Judah who was forced to leave the land of Israel to dwell in Moab. There was a severe famine in the land so Elimelech and his wife Naomi, with their sons Mahlon and Chilion, sojourned in Moab. Elimelech died in the land of Moab so Naomi’s sons took wives from the of Moab as well. Moabites, named Orpah and Ruth. Later, both Naomi’s sons died in the land.
Naomi heard that God had been kind to Israel and gave them food once again. The famine had ended, so she resolved to go back to Judah. Naomi encouraged her daughters-in-law to remain in the land of Moab, among their people. However, Ruth remained loyal to Naomi and dedicated herself to her mother-in-law and to serving the one, true God.
“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,”
Naomi and Ruth returned to Judah, where Ruth desired to glean in the fields. She gleaned in the fields of Boaz, a relative of Elimelech’s. Boaz was kind and blessed Ruth in the name of the Lord. Boaz desired for Ruth to only work in his fields. Ruth’s faithfulness and kindness had been reported throughout Judah and Boaz had been made aware of it (Ruth 2:11). Naomi encouraged Ruth to continue working in Boaz’s fields and to prove herself loyal to him, seeking to help her and give her security in Israel, especially through marriage. So Ruth proved her faithfulness toward Boaz, working devotedly and ethically.
In the culture and law of Israel, there were Levirite marriages which were marriages upon which a family member would marry the widow of a deceased family member in order to preserve the family lineage. Boaz, being a part of Elimelch’s family, was qualified to marry Ruth and raise up a family for his deceased relatives. Boaz could honor his kinsmen who had died by marrying Ruth. However, there was a closer relative in line who would have had the first choice to marry Ruth. Boaz approached this relative with the elders of the city to see if he would redeem the land of Elimelech and Ruth. This relative passed on the opportunity, allowing Boaz to have the right of redemption (Ruth 4:4-7).
This story is not simply a love story recorded in the Bible. It has the background of redemption—paying a price in order to have a possession. Through the blood of Christ we are redeemed and become God’s possession (Titus 3:14). This book also hands down the Davidic lineage, which is the Messianic lineage. Boaz and Ruth were the great great grandparents to King David. Through the redemption of Ruth by Boaz, the redemption of the world was made possible through the Christ, the Son of God (Romans 3:24).
by Sean P. Cavender