The beginning sentence of the book of Ruth places it during the period of the Judges (Ruth 1.1). It tells the story of three characters: Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. Remember, the period of the judges was a cycle of breaking covenant generation after generation. It is pictured in Scripture as a dark time in the life of Israel. Two points can be discerned from Ruth. First, we can make choices to live life to its fullest even when others around us choose to live life in decline. Or, to say it another way, we can choose to live in a different story than the one our culture presents us with. Second, salvation history will not be detoured by humankind’s choices.
The word which is often translated judge in the Old Testament does not always have a clear meaning. It conjures a picture in this present century of a person seated behind an elevated desk wearing a black robe swinging a gavel. On each occasion in the book of Judges, as Israel broke Covenant stipulations, God raised up a judge, not a legal expert, but a charismatic military leader who was empowered by God to fight against an enemy.
Judges describes the occupation of the Promised Land as undertaken by individual tribes or sometimes one tribe working with another64 and includes the interval of time when the tribes of Israel, having entered the Promised Land, are learning to live together as well as living with their neighbors while in the midst of hostile nations on their borders. We must think of Israel during this period of time as a loosely bound group of tribes that were held together by the Covenant made with God. It was a theocracy. God was king. The first part of Judges pictures a cycle through which the tribes would orbit as they broke Covenant with God. The phrase “did evil in the eyes of the Lord” might be understood as a technical phrase which means “breaking Covenant.” Several of the dates of the Judges overlap66 because often more than one tribe would be in the cycle at the same time. What the book of Judges presents for its readers is a concept that was developing in the history of Israel about what would happen to them if they did not keep the stipulations of the Covenant.
There is a pattern to Israel’s failures that appears several times:
O pposition to God
R etribution of God
B eseechment to God
I mpartation of Deliverance by God
T ranquility with God
Judges may be a demonstration of what occurs when there is no recital and recommitment in each generation as seen at the end of Joshua (Joshua 24). Each generation must remember what God has done and recommit to his faithfulness. It also points toward the concept that when one lives in God’s EPIC Adventure, i.e., keeps his Covenant, God is pleased. When one chooses a different story to live in, well, things can get out of hand.
From: God’s EPIC Adventure. 128-129. © 2007. All Rights Reserved.
Wife of Elimelech and mother-in-law of Ruth (Ruth 1:2 through 4:17). She went with her husband to the land of Moab, and after his death returned to Bethlehem. When greeted on her return, she told the women of the town to call her, not no omi (“pleasantness”), but marah (“bitterness”), “for,” she said, “the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.” She advised Ruth in her dealings with Boaz, and afterward nursed their child.
The name may mean “my joy,” “my bliss,” but is perhaps better explained according to the traditional interpretation as “the pleasant one.”
From: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Public Domain.