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Though no evidence confirms it, Jewish tradition holds that Samuel wrote Ruth, probably in the early days of David’s reign. The exact date of its writing is difficult to determine, but the fact that the story of Ruth originally appeared at the end of the book of Judges as a sort of appendix suggests it comes from the same era. Scholars estimate between 1011 and 931 B.C. Ruth became a separate book in A.D. 450. The meaning of Ruth’s Moabite name is not known, though some think it is related to the verb ra’ah, “to associate with,” and thus means “friend” or “friendship.”

Ruth came from Moab; her people had descended from Lot. Located on a high, fertile tableland between the river Arnon and the brook Zered, bordered by the Dead Sea on the west and the Arabian Desert on the east, Moab sat about 3000 feet above the Mediterranean and 4300 feet above the Dead Sea. Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, was a Jew from Bethlehem. Ancient Palestine boasted two Bethlehems; Naomi lived in the Bethlehem in Judah, a town of about 15,000, just south of Jerusalem.

Trusting in God

ObedThe Jews designated five books to be read at the five annual festivals; the book of Ruth was one of these, read at the Feast of Weeks. Set in the time of the judges, amid Israel’s unfaithfulness, Ruth tells a love story about a faithful non-Jew. Not a romantic love story, but the love of a young Moabite widow for her widowed Hebrew mother-in-law. The devotion Ruth showed to Naomi speaks as highly of Naomi as it does of Ruth. Because of this devotion, Ruth remarried a Hebrew nobleman and thus joined the ancestral line of David and eventually Christ. A foreigner’s inclusion in the Messiah’s lineage should tell us something about God’s plan of salvation for more than just the Jews.

A theme of Ruth is that though we may experience loss in this life, we will receive back in greater measure than we had before. Ruth lost her husband and gave up her homeland, but she gained a new husband, a new family, and standing in the lineage of Christ. Naomi lost her husband and sons, but gained a daughter, another son in Boaz, and the meeting of her material needs for the rest of her life.

Today, we can follow the examples of Naomi and Ruth and trust God to provide for our needs. As He did for them He will do for us. Not only our material needs, but God will meet our spiritual needs as well: As Boaz fulfilled his duty to care for an impoverished relative, Christ will redeem us from our spiritual poverty.

Artwork for this article courtesy of Sweet Publishing
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