Ruth is one of the most remarkable women in the Bible. She was a Moabite woman who left her homeland and her pagan gods to follow her mother-in-law Naomi to Israel. She became the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus Christ. Her story is a beautiful example of God’s love and grace for all people, regardless of their background or nationality.
Ruth’s Background and Family
Ruth was born in the land of Moab, a border nation and frequent enemy of Israel. Her name means “female friend.” Ruth was a Gentile, which would later become a significant symbol in her story.
When famine struck the land of Judah, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, journeyed from their home in Bethlehem to Moab for relief. Elimelech died in Moab. Mahlon married Ruth in Moab while Kilion married Ruth’s sister Orpah. After about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion died.
Ruth’s Loyalty to Naomi
Ruth, out of love and loyalty to her mother-in-law, accompanied Naomi back to Bethlehem, while Orpah stayed in Moab. Ruth made a famous declaration of her commitment to Naomi and her God:
But Ruth answered, “Stop urging me to abandon you and to turn back from following you. Because wherever you go, I’ll go. Wherever you live, I’ll live. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I’ll die and be buried. May the LORD do this to me—and more—if anything except death comes between you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
Ruth abandoned her lifelong home and her pagan gods. She became a Jew by choice. She also faced the challenges of being a widow and a foreigner in a new land.
Ruth’s Redemption by Boaz
In Bethlehem, Ruth submitted to Naomi’s guidance to become the wife of Boaz, a wealthy landowner and a distant relative of Elimelech. Boaz was impressed by Ruth’s kindness and loyalty to Naomi. He also acted as a kinsman-redeemer for Ruth, which means he had the right and the duty to marry her and provide for her as his relative.
Boaz married Ruth and took her in, rescuing her from the sad life of a widow in ancient times. They had a son named Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David.
Ruth’s Significance in God’s Plan
Ruth’s life seemed to be a series of timely coincidences, but her story is really about the providence of God. In his loving way, God orchestrated circumstances toward the birth of David, then from David to the birth of Jesus. It took centuries to put in place, and the result was God’s plan of salvation for the world.
Ruth is one of only five women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (along with Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Mary) in Matthew 1:1-16. Her position as a Gentile in the ancestry of David (and thence of Christ) signifies that all nations will be represented in the Kingdom of God.
Ruth’s story is also a foreshadowing of Christ’s redeeming love for his church. Just as Boaz redeemed Ruth from her destitute condition, Christ redeemed us from our sin and death by his sacrifice on the cross. Just as Ruth became part of God’s chosen people by faith, we become part of God’s family by faith in Christ.
Ruth was a woman of faith, courage, loyalty, and love. She trusted God and followed him even when it meant leaving everything familiar behind. She honored her mother-in-law and cared for her needs. She worked hard and humbly to provide for herself and Naomi. She accepted Boaz’s proposal and became part of God’s covenant people.
Ruth was related to King David by being his great-grandmother. But more importantly, she was related to Jesus Christ by being his ancestor. She was part of God’s amazing plan to bring salvation to the world through his Son.