The Book of Ruth, universally honored as “one of the most charming short stories in Hebrew literature,” and standing in contrast to the stories of war and military violence in Judges and Samuel, relates the everyday life and trying adventures of a family in Israel about the end of the era of the Judges (1:1).


The family of Elimelech from Bethlehem in Judah was afflicted by famine and migrated to Moab. Here Elimelech died and Mahlon and Chilion took for themselves Moabite wives, contrary to the law (Deut. 7:3 f.) because the Moabites were idolators and not allowed to enter the assembly of the Lord (Deut. 23:3). During the 10 years of their sojourn the two sons also died. After learning that God had visited his people, Naomi decided to leave Moab and its graves and return to Canaan. Placed before decision, Orpah gave ear to the whisperings of her natural heart and returned “to her people and to her gods,” but Ruth “clung” to her mother-in-law and testified in poetic language that she had embraced the people of God of Naomi (1:16, 17).

The arrival of Naomi and Ruth in Bethlehem caused commotion, for the painful experiences of the preceding 10 years had so changed Naomi that she was hardly recognizable (1:19–22). To provide for their daily sustenance, Ruth offered to glean among the ears of grain in accordance with the law (Lev. 19:9 f.). Here she met the man who was destined to play an important role in the rehabilitation of the afflicted family (2:1–22). Boaz, a “kinsman” (Heb. modac, acquaintance) of the family of Elimelech, master of considerable possessions, told Ruth, after she had ventured to the threshing floor one night, that he would do everything she desired. He said this also because his fellow townsmen ...

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