Reading the Story of Ruth: An Introduction

➡ Average Reading Time: 3 minutes


About Ruth

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. This 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. Second, salvation history will not be detoured by man’s choices.


Ruth’s story occurs during the period of the Judges (Ruth 1.1). Ruth carries a double punch. First, light in the thickness of the dark: Ruth is set in the shadow of the book of Judges. People in this period of time were infatuated with doing what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it (Judges 17.6). Ruth is truly an oasis in the midst of the desert of the judges. Second, acceptance in the hopelessness of rejection: Ruth was an outsider, a foreigner. but was accepted into the family of Israel.

In the Hebrew Bible, the book is found in the Writings. The purpose of this book was to demonstrate how a Moabitess figured in the genealogy of David. While accomplishing this it also was a plea for a welcome hand to be extended to those who came to Israel from outside. Israel’s vocation was to be a light in the world and the book of Ruth plays that scenario out.


Drought in Israel caused poorer families to move toward greener pastures. Such was the case with Elimelech’s family as they moved from Bethlehem to Moab. The Church would do well to live in Moab for a while. Becoming “native” helps us learn to communicate God’s salvation history for all.


Map of MoabWhen Elimelech’s family was faced with desperation, they moved. He and his sons died within a ten-year period. Naomi was left by herself in a different nation with two daughters-in-law. She must have felt hollow and lonely. Her family’s dreams had evaporated. What had been family desperation was now personal desperation. What could she do? Her choice was to become bitter (Ruth 1.13). It is true that what happened to Naomi was allowed by God. Naomi’s response was her choice.

Ruth’s choice to follow Naomi was a decision that had been made over a ten-year period. When Ruth married into the family, she was under obligation outwardly to worship the God of Israel. Being a part of the family for ten years had apparently impacted her and her own personal commitment toward God. Her dedication to remain faithful to Naomi and God was not spontaneous. Her oath in Ruth 1.16-17 was common in the ancient world and was often expressed in very emotional language.


  • Think about how you have responded during times of desperation. Did you choose bitterness or some other negative response toward God?
  • Think about your dedication to others. How dedicated are you to God, your family, your work? Are you loyal?

Living Into the Story

  • Choose to respond to God in a positive way remembering that he has everything in control even when it looks out of control and desperate. Pray for God’s peace in the midst of desperation.
  • Rededicate yourself to God, your family, wife, children, employer. Pray for the people to whom you are dedicated.


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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)