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Comments On The Book Of Ruth

Leslie M. Grant


Ruth, a Moabitess, stands out as a refreshing contrast to the declension of Israel in the time of the Judges. This book is beautifully designed by God to show how His grace can sustain a faithful testimony of individuals at a time when the general condition of things is low and naturally discouraging.

Besides this, the book pictures God's recovering grace in regard to Israel after she has departed from God in disobedience and become desolate.  The blessing for both Ruth and Naomi come from the intervention of Boaz, kinsman redeemer, type of the Lord Jesus, who is the Restorer of Israel and also the Savior of Gentiles.

Since Christ is the Restorer, then the book also holds instruction as to how individual believers are restored to God after failure and departure.  May we discern and benefit by the many applications of scripture, not confining our thoughts to the application that most appeals to us, but considering all that God is seeking to make known to us.





A famine was in the land of Israel. Why?  Because the literal famine was to draw attention to the spiritual famine that came before it, a famine for hearing the words of God.  Though Israel suffered from the spiritual famine, they did not feel it.  So God sent them something they would feel!

The famine was felt even in Bethlehem of Judah.  Bethlehem means "the house of bread," where, of all places, there ought not to be a famine.  But we too, though we are blessed with plenty in spiritual riches, fail to take advantage of these provisions and the saints of God experience times of spiritual famine.  We complain about the lack of ministry, though, when it was available, we paid little attention to it. Bethlehem was in Judah, which means "praise."

But the man whose name was Elimelech left the place of bread and of praise, taking his wife, Naomi and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, to go to the country of Moab (v. 1).  He intended only to sojourn there, to spend a short time, but the end of verse 2 tells us they "remained there."  What a picture is this of believers who leave God's place for them because their natural reasoning thinks another place might be better!  Does this frequently happen?  Sadly, yes indeed!  Faith would stay with God in spite of famine. We need self-judgment rather than rationalizing judgment.

Elimelech's name means "my God is King," but Elimelech was not true to his name.  If so, he would have been subject to God's authority rather than doing what was right in his own eyes.  He and his wife give us a picture of Israel's departure from God as seen in the book of Judges.  He intended to go back to Bethlehem, but found himself "stuck" in Moab, and never did return. The same is true in too many cases of the Lord's people giving in to their natural feelings.  They think they can just get away from the Lord for a short time and then will return.  But believers have no more power to restore themselves than they had before to save themselves.  If God does not intervene, we shall be "stuck in the mud."

Naomi's name means "pleasant," so she was a fit wife for Elimelech -"my God is King."  But their sons' names were Mahlon, meaning "sickness" and Chilion, which means "pining" or "consumption" (v. 2).  If the couple had been true to their names, they surely would not have borne sick and pining sons.  But in all of this is seen a picture of Israel in a backsliding state.  Israel has been greatly blessed by God, but through self-indulgence they have become debilitated and prefer their own reasoning to God's Word. This has continued now for almost 2000 years since they rejected their true Messiah, the Lord Jesus. They have no power to recover themselves. But God is still a God of compassion who knows how to restore.

Then Elimelech died (v. 3). What a tragedy for Naomi! -- left in a strange country with her two sons. The character of Moab is told us in Jeremiah 48:11:  "Moab has been at ease from his youth; he has settled on his dregs, and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent has not changed." Thus Moab pictures a lazy, easy-going religion that is without the exercise of troubles that might empty him from vessel to vessel. Elimelech and Naomi had been attracted by what promised to be an easier path. God may allow unbelievers to have such ease without much trouble, but if believers seek such a path, it will not work out for them in the way it seems to for the ungodly. Consider Psalm 73.

Even Elimelech's death did not impel Naomi to return to Israel. Instead, her two sons took Moabitish wives (v.4). What else could they do? They had been taken away from Israel. If believers go down to the level of the world, is it surprising if their children marry unbelievers?

There is not a word of Naomi finding any blessing in the land of Moab. Living there about ten years, she then faced another great sorrow. Both of her sons died! (v. 5).  She was left desolate except for two daughters-in-law who were of a stranger-nation. Naomi is thus a striking picture of the nation Israel reduced to a desolate condition as a virtual widow because she has lost the marriage relationship she once enjoyed in recognizing God as King (which Elimelech symbolizes). The Book of Hosea shows that this condition of alienation and desolation would continue for many years before God in great mercy will eventually restore her.                  



The decision was made by Naomi to return to her land (v. 6). It was not repentance that moved her as much as it was the news that the Lord had given the blessing of plenty of food in Israel. Thus often God will draw by His mercy rather than drive by reproofs, for it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Naomi began the journey with her two daughters-in-law, who were evidently attached to her (v. 7). 

But the poor woman was apparently thinking that there would be nothing in Israel for these two Moabitish widows. In fact, a Moabite was not to be allowed in the congregation of Israel even to the tenth generation (Deut. 23:3), so that it seemed a hopeless prospect for either Ruth or Orpah. Naomi therefore urged them to return to their mothers' houses (v. 8), desiring that the Lord would deal kindly with them and they might find husbands with whom to be content (v. 9).

She kissed them, but both of them wept and told her they wanted to return with her to her people (v. 10).  When Naomi saw this concern on their part, was it faith for her to discourage them? No, it was not. But she was like so many believers who get away from the Lord. They do not encourage others to come to where the Lord is because they think there is nothing there to attract them! They are thinking of the circumstances rather than of the Lord Himself. Can He not satisfy the hungry soul? Naomi said she was too old to have a husband and bear sons who might marry these widows (v. 12). Did she think she must be their only resource in Israel? But faith becomes extremely weak when one has backslidden.

She was grieved that the hand of the Lord had gone out against her (v. 13), but she did not realize that in all her trials, the heart of the Lord was for her.  Eventually she did learn this, that it was really her own lack of faith that was against her.

Weeping again, Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, accepting Naomi's advice to remain in Moab (v. 14).  But Ruth clung to her and would not be dissuaded in spite of Naomi's further urging, telling her that Orpah was going back to her people and her gods, and that she should do the same (v. 15). Can believers be so lacking in faith as to advise unbelievers to choose idol worship rather than the worship of the true God?

However, in spite of Naomi having become so weak in faith, Ruth discerned in her something that she wanted. Just so, a believer today, having been born again, possesses that life that must express itself in spite of the weakness and inconsistency of his testimony. It is evident that God was working in the heart of Ruth when she responded to Naomi, "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death part you and me" (vv. 16-17).

Thus Ruth's decision was firm and beautiful. She was not interested in Moab's "gods."  She wanted the God of Naomi.  There was no one in Moab to attract her heart like Naomi did, and she evidently discerned that this was because of Naomi's God. As well as this, she would be content to dwell with a people who had the same God. This was unusual for a Moabitish woman, but God knows how to produce unusual cases.

Naomi and Ruth therefore journeyed together to Bethlehem. All the city was aroused at their arrival, people asking, "Is this Naomi?" So long a time had elapsed since her departure that her return was a surprise to them. But she told them not to call her Naomi ("pleasant"), but Mara ("bitter"), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me (vv.19-20). She went out full, but the Lord brought her back again empty (v.21). Notice, the Lord did not take her out, but He brought her home again. At least, though empty, she was brought back home -- a wonderful mercy, though she did not realize this at the time.

Naomi pictures the desolate condition of Israel following her sad departure from the Lord for centuries. The Lord will also bring His hurting people back to the land, though in a desolate state, just as He brought Naomi back.  But Ruth is a picture of the fresh, reawakened faith in the remnant of Israel, in spite of her being a Gentile.  For Israel has sunk to such a state of disobedience that God calls her "not my people," thus reduced to the same status as Gentiles, therefore  to be objects of mercy.

Fittingly, a Gentile woman was used by God as a picture of Israel's future reawakening. Thus it takes the two women, Naomi and Ruth, to give a picture of Israel's failure and desolation on the one hand, and Israel's reviving and blessing on the other hand. Wonderful indeed are the thoughts and ways of God! To understand this does not take from the personal application of this history to the backsliding and restoration of a believer, but on the contrary, makes the whole view more interesting and profitable. It is added in verse 22 that Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. The cutting down and threshing of the barley (or other grains) at harvest time is symbolical of God's producing fruit for His own glory by means of suffering. The harvest of the earth will take place at the time of the great tribulation. The Book of Ruth does not emphasize the sufferings through which Israel will pass at that time, but it does emphasize the wonderful results of great blessing that God will bring forth by means of the great tribulation.




Verse 1 of this chapter introduces us to Boaz, a man of great wealth who is clearly a type of the Lord Jesus. Besides being wealthy, he was a close relative of Naomi, though at this time Ruth did not know it. The Lord Jesus has a close relationship to Israel too, though Israel has for centuries ignored this, not realizing that all their blessings depend on this Redeemer.

Ruth, with lovely energy of faith, desiring support for her mother-in-law as well as herself, urged Naomi to allow her to glean heads of grain after the reapers had passed (v. 2). It may be she had learned of the provision God had directed to be made for the poor when the harvest was reaped (Lev. 19:9-10). The harvesters were not to reap the corners of their fields nor to gather up any gleanings, but leave them for the poor and the stranger.

Obtaining Naomi's permission Ruth went out and happened (surely by the direction of God) to come to the field of Boaz where she gleaned. Her gleaning speaks of her gathering up small portions of the word of God, just as the godly remnant of Israel will find for themselves after the Church of God has been raptured to heaven, so that the truth will not then be proclaimed as it is today, though God will provide some measure of blessing for those whose faith is awakened to seek Him.

The name of Boaz means "in him is strength," and his character was most commendable, as verse 4 shows. In coming to the reapers of his field, he greeted them, "The Lord be with you," and they answered, "The Lord bless you!"  He showed genuine respect for his reapers, and they fully respected him -- a relationship not often seen between an employer and his employees! As king the supervisor of the reapers who the young woman was who was gleaning grain, Boaz was told  she was the Moabite  woman who had come back with Naomi from the land of Moab. The supervisor commended her diligence in gleaning all day except for a short rest.

Boaz then spoke kindly to Ruth, encouraging her to continue gleaning in his field, keeping close to his young women (vv. 8-9). How good it is if we also discern the instructions of the Lord Jesus to us, to go to no other field, but glean in the place where He is acknowledged as Lord and in fellowship with those who are His servants.  Boaz invited Ruth also to drink from the vessels of water that had been drawn by his young men. The young men speak of those with spiritual energy to minister the fresh, refreshing Word of God for the blessing of the Lord's people. May we take advantage of such ministry.

The attitude of Ruth in her response to Boaz was surely refreshing to his heart (v. 10). In genuine humility she asked him why she, a foreigner, should be so kindly treated by him, a prominent Israelite. His answer to this was most gracious too. He had been given a full report of her kindness to her mother-in-law since the death of her husband, and that her devotedness to Naomi had been such as to leave her parents and choose to live in another land among people she had not known (v. 11).

Boaz recognized that this devotion of hers must spring from faith in the God of Israel, and expressed the desire that the Lord would repay her work with a full reward, for he said she had come for refuge under the wings of the Lord God of Israel (v. 12). 

Maintaining her lowly attitude, Ruth expressed her deep appreciation of the comforting words of Boaz, reminding him that she was not like his maidservants and yet he had been so kind to her (v. 13). Such too will be the humble attitude of the godly remnant of Israel when they return to their land, feeling themselves to be no longer entitled to blessing from Israel's  Messiah. Indeed, this is the right attitude for any sinner today, whether Jewish or Gentile, for none of us deserve the blessing of the Lord of glory. At mealtime he invited her to share with him, giving her parched grain, so she was satisfied and kept some (v. 14) for Naomi (v. 18).

The kindness of Boaz is further seen in his instructing his harvesters to let Ruth glean even among the sheaves and also to let grain fall purposely for her (vv. 15-16). Thus the Lord will encourage the faith of His people Israel during the time of tribulation. Boaz might have simply given a large amount of grain to Ruth, and save her the work of gleaning and beating out the grain, but he wisely left her with work to do, while encouraging her in seeing that her work was not in vain.

Working all day, Ruth then beat out the barley from the stalks (not easy work either) and found she had about an ephah of grain, which evidently amounted to about 7 gallons -- not a light load to carry home (v. 17). When she brought it home, Naomi "saw what she had gleaned," but Ruth gave to Naomi what food she had reserved from the meal Boaz had supplied (v. 18). In answer to Naomi's question as to whose field she had gleaned in, Ruth told her the man's name was Boaz (v. 19). This was pleasant news to Naomi, who was glad to hear that Boaz had been so kind to Ruth, specially since he was a close relative of Elimelech (v. 20).

Ruth also told her that Boaz had urged her to stay close by his harvesters until the harvest was completely gathered (v. 21). Naomi therefore confirmed this advice, adding that Ruth should not expose herself to the possibility that people might see her in another field (v. 22). Boaz had not said this, but Naomi's words illustrate the fact that we are often more affected by what people see us do than we are by the plain instructions of scripture. For Ruth, the words of Boaz would surely be enough, and God's Word ought to be enough for us. We should be gleaning in the Lord's field. If we should go to another field, we might be embarrassed in meeting someone there whom we would not want to influence in the wrong way and yet our example carries with it such an influence. We should obey the Lord out of love for Him, not for fear of the opinions of others.

Ruth therefore remained in the fellowship of the servants of Boaz, gleaning through all the barley harvest and the wheat harvest that followed. Thus she fully accepted the advice of Boaz and showed a faithful, devoted affection for her mother-in-law.





The time had now come for Naomi to give pertinent advice to Ruth. She seeks security (or "rest") for her daughter-in-law, reminding her that Boaz is their relative (vv. 1-2). She knew that Boaz was winnowing barley in his threshing floor, and would be sleeping that night at the floor. Therefore she told Ruth to wash and anoint herself, be clothed in her best garment and go down to the threshing floor, but wait until Boaz had laid down to sleep before uncovering his feet and lying down at his feet (vv.3-4). These instructions may seem strange to us.

However, Naomi knew of two laws in Israel on which she based her advice to Ruth. Leviticus 25:25 is explicit that an inheritance might be redeemed by the nearest relative who was able to redeem it. The property had belonged to Elimelech, but through his poverty it had been sold. If Naomi had the money for it, she could redeem it, otherwise a near relative could redeem it.

The other law pertained to a man of Israel who had died without children (Deut. 25:5-12). His brother was to marry the wife of the deceased to raise up children for him. The word "brother" was used for any close male relative.  Since Ruth's husband (an Israelite) had died, then Ruth, though a Gentile, could be brought into the congregation through a  relative who had the right of redemption. Ruth did as Naomi told her, thus lying down at the feet of Boaz (vv.6-7). This is a picture of the godly remnant of Israel in the latter days virtually creeping to the feet of the Lord Jesus, in total submission to Him, yet to boldly claim His protection.

The time of harvest was a wonderful time in Israel when the crop was good, and the harvest is often spoken of in scripture as the gathering in of people by the grace of God, whether the wheat gathered into the barn, which speaks of heaven (Mt. 13:30) or whether (in the tribulation period) the bringing of Gentiles into earthly blessing by way of great suffering (Rev. 14:14-16). Usually the harvest emphasizes the blessing of Gentiles, and the vintage the blessing of Israel (Rev. 14:17-20).

At midnight Boaz was awakened and startled to find a woman lying at his feet (v. 8). When he questioned her, Ruth responded, "I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maid servant under your wing, for you are a close relative." The wing speaks of protection, which Israel had for centuries ignored, that is, the protection of their true Messiah, who wept over Jerusalem, saying, "How often I wanted to gather your children  together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"  (Mt. 23:37). All that was necessary was for Ruth to be willing, in order that she would have the protection of Boaz.

How it must have moved the heart of Ruth to hear the response of Boaz, "Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich" (v. 10). The Lord Jesus deeply values the faith and love of those who have a single eye for Him. Boaz was evidently a wise man who, though he loved Ruth, did not press his love upon her, but waited to find out if she loved him. Now the answer was plainly before his eyes. Ruth did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. There are popular, new movements that attract many people who fail to see in Christ the real answer to their needs. Some of these movements favor the "poor," Out of sympathy for the poor, because of their poverty, they champion a cause that seems praiseworthy, but leaves out the Lord Jesus. Other movements are "rich," promising wealth and ease to those who will follow, but again do not recognize Christ. In fact, the antichrist will be such a leader, claiming even to be "God" (2 Thess.2:3-4).  But the godly remnant of Israel will not be deceived by him, for their hearts have been drawn to the true Messiah of Israel.

Boaz gave Ruth every encouragement, telling her not to fear, for he would do all that she requested, for all the people of his town knew that Ruth was a virtuous woman (v. 11). However, he told her that though he was a close relative, there was a closer relative than he, who therefore should have the opportunity of redeeming the property of Naomi. Boaz would give him the opportunity the next morning, and promised Ruth that if the other relative would not perform the duty of a close relative, then Boaz would do it (v. 13).

At the word of Boaz, Ruth laid down till early morning, rising before it was light. Then Boaz told her not to let it be known that a woman had come in to the threshing floor (v. 14). Why not?  Because the matter was to be thoroughly personal between Boaz and Ruth. Others who did not know the facts might be inclined to interpret Ruth's presence in the threshing floor with suspicion of wrong doing in spite of the words of Boaz that all the people knew that Ruth was a virtuous woman.

The grace of Boaz was further seen toward both Ruth and Naomi in his giving Ruth six measures of barley (already threshed), which she carried in her shawl (v. 15).  This would not be a light load, but with her heart so affected, it would not seem heavy to her.

When she came to her mother-in-law, Naomi did not ask the same question as in chapter 2:19, "What have you gleaned today," but rather, "Who art thou, my daughter?" (KJV). Some translators have changed this because it did not sound right to them, but Naomi wanted to know if there was any change in Ruth's relationship to Boaz. In other words, was Ruth to have a change of name? Ruth then told Naomi all that had taken place, and also of the kindness of Boaz toward both her and her mother-in-law in giving them food.

The faith of Naomi in Boaz had been so long awakened that she was confident that Boaz would not rest until he had made a complete settlement of this matter.  Ruth then could "sit still" and depend fully on the faithfulness of Boaz.  Believers today also need such advice in reference to many problems which can never be ironed out by their own wisdom or work. "Be still" (Ps.46:10); "Stand still" (Ex. 14:1); and "Sit still" (v. 18) are words to often keep in mind. When Ruth had put her affairs in the hand of Boaz, then in faith she could leave them there, and depend on him to do the very best for her. Let us have such confidence in our Lord.


CHAPTER 4         


The same morning Boaz went to the gate of the city, the place of judgment, sitting there until the close relative of whom he spoke came by (v. 1). At the invitation of Boaz, he also sat down. Besides this, he asked ten men of the city to be witnesses (v. 2).

This close relative pictures the covenant of law, which had a claim upon Israel from the time of their coming out of Egypt (Ex. 20). It was because of Israel's disobedience to law, however, that they had forfeited all title to the land and become poor and desolate, as seen in Naomi. Now, when Israel is eventually brought back to the land, will the law then give them title to it and rescue them from the poverty of their desolate condition?  The law did have a claim on Israel, but could it carry out the claim by actually restoring the nation from its long centuries of disobedience? This hearing before the ten witnesses provides the answer. The ten witnesses in fact remind us of the ten commandments of the law, which are there to bear witness as to what the law cannot do.

Boaz then informed them that Naomi had sold the land that belonged to her and Elimelech (v. 3), and the law of Israel gave permission to a close relative to buy it back (or redeem it). Therefore, Boaz told this man he might redeem it if he wished, and if not that Boaz would do so. The man answered, "I will redeem it" (v.4). But there was a problem!

When the close relative of Elimelech told Boaz that he would redeem the property of Elimelech, Boaz then informed him that Ruth, the Moabitess was also involved in the matter, for she was the wife of Chilion the son of Elimelech, and the relative must take Ruth to perpetuate the name of Elimelech, by having at least a child by Ruth (v. 5). But this was too much for the relative, who said he could not do this lest he would ruin his own inheritance (v.6). He wanted the land, but not Ruth.

Thus, in picture, the law might legally require the return of the land of Israel after the Jews had been scattered among the nations, but the law was powerless to redeem people who had broken the law.  In fact, the law declared that no Moabite could enter the congregation of Israel even to the tenth generation (Deut. 23:3). The law could not ignore this or it would ruin its own character. But "what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3).

Boaz pictures Christ who transcends the law and has accomplished on Calvary the great work of redemption by which people who trust Him are redeemed for eternity. Boaz did what the other relative could not do. In accordance with custom in Israel the relative took off his sandal and gave it to Boaz (vv.7-8). This may remind us of Moses being told by the Lord to take off his sandals at the site of the burning bush (Ex. 3:4-5) and of Joshua being told by the Commander of the Lord's army to take off his sandal (Josh. 5:13-15). Doing this indicates a confession of weakness in the presence of a superior, just as the law must acknowledge its own weakness in contrast to Christ (Rom. 8:3). For if one's feet are not shod, he is not prepared for warfare or for walking in rough terrain.

Boaz then addressed the elders and all the people present, declaring them as witnesses that he had bought all that had previously belonged to Elimelech and his two sons (v. 9). But more than that, he had acquired Ruth the Moabitess as his wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead (Elimelech and his sons), since Ruth had had no children by her husband, Chilion (v. 10). In this way the law of Israel was perfectly kept, and Ruth, though a Moabitess, was welcomed into the commonwealth of Israel in spite of the law that forbade the acceptance of a Moabite to the tenth generation. For Israel's law had made provision for a related redeemer to accomplish such a reception. Just so, the ungodly Gentiles were excluded from Israel by law, but the law still bore witness of the coming of the Lord Jesus, whose great sacrifice has brought redemption for the ungodly, so that Gentile believers today are united to Christ in a bond that is pictured by marriage (2 Cor.11:2).

When Ruth came to the threshing floor, she had a totally private interview with Boaz, but the matter now is to be fully public, with everyone knowing that Ruth is redeemed as the wife of Boaz. When the Lord Jesus presents the Church to Himself, there will be a clear and universal announcement (Rev.19:6-7).

Yet the marriage of Ruth to Boaz does not primarily picture the marriage of the Lord Jesus to His heavenly bride, the Church, but rather the union of Israel, God's earthly people, with the Lord Jesus at the end of the tribulation. Israel will be the earthly bride, but the church the heavenly bride, each being blessed in a different sphere.

The people who were present at the gate and the elders were fully agreeable to the words of Boaz, gladly taking the place of witnesses, and giving Boaz their unqualified blessing with the words of verses 11 & 12. There was no reserve on the part of the people because Ruth was a Moabitess, showing how God can resolve every national or racial problem by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.         



Being married to Boaz, Ruth gave birth to a son (v. 13), certainly a great joy to both the parents, but it is interesting that the women congratulated Naomi, saying, Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel" (v. 14). Not only was Ruth's widowhood taken away, but Naomi's desolation was no more. Naomi picture that desolate state of Israel in being so deprived of blessing (now for centuries). What a change then for Naomi! -- and due entirely to Boaz, "a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age" (v. 15). The life of Boaz was continued in his son. Also, it was Ruth who had borne him -- a daughter - in - law who was better to Naomi than seven sons. So also, in a coming day, Israel's desolation will be changed to most abundant joy and blessing when the Lord Jesus, the great Redeemer, will be recognized as their true Messiah. Naomi became a nurse to the new born child, and the neighbors said the son was born to Naomi, reminding us of Isaiah 54:1, for the one Son is promise of more to come. Israel has lost much through disobedience, but will gain much more than she has lost through the grace of the great redeemer, the Lord Jesus.

How beautifully this Book of Ruth illustrates His glory and His grace!

L M Grant