Ruth: Historical background, 1:1-21; tragedy, and death overcome by love.

Class Outline:

Title: Ruth: Historical background, 1:1-21; tragedy, and death overcome by love.  


We continue in our introduction.


The two, Jew and Gentile (Boaz and Ruth), became one flesh.


One might imagine that it was easier for Boaz to marry a Gentile since his mother was non-Jewish. Boaz's father was Salmon who married Rahab, a Canaanite. We find Boaz to be a great man and also a very gracious and kind man, and so often such traits in a man can be a reflection of his mother. We can imagine Rahab, whose own life and the life of her family were saved by Israel and therefore by God, was a grateful mother, as was Salmon a strong and grateful father, and we can imagine that their impact on a receptive Boaz in teaching him the ways of the Lord molded him.


Indeed, Bethlehem as a whole is a refreshing place, isolated from the terrible apostasy of Gibeah, just a few miles to its north.


EPH 2:11 Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands — 


EPH 2:12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.


EPH 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.


One can imagine Ruth being brought from Moab to Judah as a type of this wonderful truth.


EPH 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,


EPH 2:15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,


EPH 2:16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.


EPH 2:17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near;


EPH 2:18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.


EPH 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household,


In the kingdom of Israel during the time of the OT about 10% of the population was composed of strangers or foreigners. A census of them in Solomon's time numbered them at 153,600. They were of various classes, but mostly they were poor, and sometimes they were slaves. While living in the land, there were certain aspects of the Mosaic Law that they were commanded to keep. The Jew was commanded to be gracious to them and kind to them, and certainly, many of them became believers. If they did so openly and wanted to enter into a type of citizenship of Israel, they had to be circumcised and devote themselves to the whole law. Even then, they could not enjoy land ownership. They could not be a part of one of the tribes. In a way, they always remained as outsiders. Jesus Christ did away with all of this. Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Law and then entered the Gentile into the New Covenant along with any believing Jew. Boaz and Ruth are a picture of this.


EPH 2:20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,


EPH 2:21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord;


EPH 2:22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.


The church is most instructively symbolized as a building erected by heavenly power, and designed by divine skill. It must be open and inviting to all.


The Jews of Christ's day had grown very distant from the Gentile, much more than they had been in the past. They had grown very nationalistic; not wanting their numbers to be admixed with a multitude of foreigners. This was probably due to the Babylonian captivity and the fact that their world had become very Hellenized, threatening to mix Greek ideas into their theology. Yet the dangers of invasion from foreign doctrines had always been present. Paganism had always been a threat. Israel could have easily opened their windows to let out the light of the gospel and to invite in the foreigner who believed, while still preserving their nation and doctrines. To this, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which He defines their neighbor, whom they should love as themselves.


In Christ, the barrier between Jew and Gentile has been removed. The Gentile is no longer a stranger, but is entered into the New Covenant.


In Matthew's genealogy, the names of three mothers are given, besides Mary: Tamar (Canaanite), Rahab (Canaanite), Ruth (Moabite). A type of the union of Jew and Gentile, Eph 2.


Bathsheba is mentioned as wife of Uriah, and not by name, and by this indication, she is the wife of a Gentile.


A famine occurs in Bethlehem (the house of bread), which ceased after the Lord had delivered Israel from their oppressors through raising up a judge, in this case likely Gideon.


RUT 1:1-5 - Historical background


RUT 1:1 Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons.


RUT 1:2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there.


RUT 1:3 Then Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.


Elimelech - "God is king."

Ephrathites - the old name of Bethlehem, which means that their family were original settlers and of considerable standing.


It has been about 200 years since Bethlehem was settled and Elimelech's ancestors, probably his great-grandfather was one of the original settlers. Also, when Naomi returns after 10 years, the city take notice. They were likely a prominent family. Elimelech's name shows that he is a godly man.


If this is Gideon's time, the Midianites have oppressed the land for years by setting up camp in the Jezreel Valley and then invading the land, pillaging, taking, burning, and destroying. Many Israelites hid in the hills to avoid them.


Elimelech's land is probably ravaged, and if he were to repair it and replant it, the Midianites would simply return in the spring or summer and take it all. He decides to head to Moab in an attempt at survival, but only his wife will survive.


RUT 1:4 And they took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years.


RUT 1:5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband.


Moab is an enemy of Israel, and there is no explanation given as to why Elimelech would take his family there. But we know that it was the will of God, and God could have done a great many things to lead the family there. Elimelech dies a stranger in a strange land and his sons took Moabite wives, Orpah and Ruth. When his sons died, Naomi was in a desperate situation.


There is no express command against marrying Moabite women. The Law forbade marrying Canaanites. Joshua warned them not to marry among the people they had driven out, but Moab was not of those people.


RUT 1:6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the Lord had visited His people in giving them food.


RUT 1:7 So she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.


Her daughters-in-law accompanied her on the way, but at some point, Naomi stopped to dismiss them in a tender and selfless way.


RUT 1:8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go, return each of you to her mother's house. May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me.


RUT 1:9 May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband." Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.


RUT 1:10 And they said to her, "No, but we will surely return with you to your people."


RUT 1:11 But Naomi said, "Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?


The law of levirate marriage is found in Deu 25. The law of kinsman redeemer is in Lev 25. Ruth situation is a mixture of both.


We will look more deeply at this law in chapter 4. The situation in Ruth does not follow the law strictly, since her deceased husband doesn't have a living brother.


Yet there is a broader application of law, that of the kinsman redeemer. But this law involves land and not marriage. Elimelech's land should be redeemed by a relative, but Ruth is tied to this land as Naomi's only surviving family, and so the situation in Ruth is a unique mixture of the laws of levirate marriage and kinsman redeemer.


RUT 1:12 "Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons,


RUT 1:13 would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me."


She imagines that the hand of the Lord is against her, but is for her, it is just working in a mysterious way.


RUT 1:14 And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.


Naomi understands that no man living in Israel would marry Moabite widows, and she obviously cannot bear more children, and even if she could, the girls would have to wait for them to grow.


Though Naomi would have them to take care of her, if the girls went with her, then they would be poor and alone and disgraced.


Naomi is selfless and seeks for the good of her daughters, but she is only thinking of material or temporal things.


Is it best for these two widows to return to Moab and continue immersed in Moabite culture and religion rather than go to Judah and particularly Bethlehem where the environment is still a spiritual one?


She is noble in that she strips herself of all remaining comfort, and faces the dark future utterly alone. But what is the spiritual condition of Naomi's soul? She must know that Ruth has accepted Yavah as the one true God. But Naomi has been in Moab for 10 years and it is likely that she has syncretized Jehovah worship with Chemosh, the main Moabite god, and this is backed up by the bitterness she will express. Yet, to be academically honest, we are unsure of this, but we can say that she is no Job who can state that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed by the name of the Lord.


She believes they must return to Moab, to the house of their mothers, and hopefully, the Lord would deal kindly with them, and they may find husbands and have families.


They protested, but only one of them truly protested. Orpah put up only a little resistance. There is nothing sinful in her going home. It is the practical thing to do.


They both understand what Naomi says, but Ruth shows checed or lovingkindness.


We see that it is more than her love for Naomi that motivates her choice to remain with her, thus condemning herself to being a poor, childless widow her whole life.


Such was the time. If you were a widow without a son then you were poor and disgraced. The Lord has come to remove all such stigmas.


LUK 7:12 Now as He approached the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her.


LUK 7:13 And when the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." 


LUK 7:14 And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!"


LUK 7:15 And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.


He did it for the boy's mother more than He did it for the son.


By this time, Ruth has become a true Israelite in her spirit by faith. She has heard from Naomi the promises of God to Israel and of the promised seed that would bless all families and all nations, and she has believed. In her heart she is a Jew, though her genetics are gentile. She has forsaken the false gods of her own ancestors.


In her heart, Ruth is a Jew. If she turned and left Naomi, her heart would have still followed to Judah. She clings and won't leave.


RUT 1:15 Then she said, "Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law."


Though Naomi is selfless, she seems to give credence to the Moabite gods, as if they are real. And even if she doesn't think they are real and is just using a figure of speech, she is more concerned with the girls finding husbands than she is about their continued absorption into Moabite religion.


Naomi's bitterness may have blinded her to the spiritual needs of her daughters-in-law. She bids them back to their gods.


Bitterness is as sin that takes over the soul and limits our sight. This will be the first doctrine we study in this book.


Bitterness limits our vision. We fail to see the big picture and look through blinders. We fail to see the needs of others.


Bitterness is a powerful sin. It always leads to self-absorption. When the focus of the eyes of our heart is upon ourselves, the needs of others, on the fringes of our view, become blurry and obscured.


Naomi, no matter how sincere her intentions, is sending the girls back to an idol worship center that is devoid of truth. Though their lives would have a measure of disgrace as childless widows, a life devoid of the person and truth of Jehovah is far worse.


Certainly, what Naomi did became a test for the girls, and perhaps it revealed that Orpah did not believe that Jehovah was the one true God while Ruth did, but Naomi didn't intend for her words to convey that.


Bitterness will always mix with pride and cause us to believe we are doing the right thing. Bitterness and pride causes self-deceit.


We have all seen the angry or bitter person make obvious bad calls while being convinced that they are right.


Even the great Job, the clearest thinking man on the planet at the time, fogged up his own vision when he turned bitter against his accusing friends.


Love overcomes bitterness. Ruth's love for the Lord of Israel and Naomi allows her to see what Naomi cannot.


RUT 1:16 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.


RUT 1:17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me."


RUT 1:18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.