Understanding Ruth in the Bible: An In-depth Explanation of the Book of Ruth

Unlocking the Hidden Secrets of Ruth: Delve into the symbolic world of this biblical figure and uncover the profound meanings behind her story.

Last Updated:
March 25, 2024
8 Minutes

Table of Contents

Who was Ruth According to the Bible?

Ruth was a Moabite girl who is prominently mentioned in the Bible. The Moabites were a people who lived in a region east of Israel and had a pagan culture. Ruth's story begins when she marries a Jewish man named Mahlon, which was a disobedience to God's word since the Israelites were instructed not to intermarry with the Moabites. Unfortunately, Mahlon and his brother also died, leaving Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi widowed.

Ruth's connection to Naomi was a significant aspect of her story. After her husband's death, she decided to stay with Naomi instead of returning to her people. Ruth's loyalty and dedication to Naomi were admirable and played a crucial role in Naomi's journey back to Israel. Ruth's devotion to Naomi led to her asking Ruth to dress finely and lie down on Boaz's threshing floor in the middle of the night. This led to her marrying Boaz, a close relative of Naomi's husband. 

Ruth's story is a testament to her faithfulness and willingness to follow God's plan, despite cultural and societal expectations. By choosing to stay with Naomi and embracing the Jewish faith, Ruth became an integral part of the lineage of King David and eventually Jesus Christ.

Key takeaways:

  • Ruth was a Moabite woman who disobeyed God's word by marrying a Jewish man.
  • Ruth's loyalty to her mother-in-law, Naomi, was commendable.
  • Ruth's faith and obedience to God's plan led her to marry Boaz and become a key figure in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Understanding the Name 'Ruth'

The name 'Ruth' is of Hebrew origin and means 'friendship' or 'companion.' Ruth exemplifies these virtues in biblical context through her unwavering loyalty and deep devotion towards her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth's conversion to Judaism highlights her commitment. She chooses to align herself with Naomi's people and their God, displaying a profound act of altruism and solidarity in times of profound distress and loss.

Moreover, Ruth's story in the Bible is emergent as a narrative inversion of the traditional socio-religious boundaries. Ruth, a foreigner, a widow, demonstrates impressive agency and virtue, exemplified through her conversion and subsequent integration into her adopted society. Through her actions, Ruth not only secures her and Naomi's survival but also, unbeknown to her, engineers the lineage of King David and ultimately, Jesus Christ. Thus, her name in this context symbolizes robust friendship tested through endeavor, which is transformative.

Ruth's name and story hence carry theological implications of great depth. The narrative revolves around faithfulness, resilience, humility, and redemptive love—each linked deeply, symbolically, and practically with the transformative power of 'friendship.'

Key Takeaways:

  • Ruth's name, symbolizing 'friendship,' encapsulates her commitment to Naomi and her adopted faith.

The story of Ruth provides a timely inversion of cultural and socioreligious boundaries, showcasing the virtues of humility and resilience.

  • Ruth's conversion to Judaism, her faithfulness to Naomi, and her role in the lineage leading to Jesus Christ present the transformative power of unwavering dedication and devotion.

What does the story of Ruth tell us about God's character?

The narrative of Ruth offers profound insights into the character of God as depicted in the Hebrew Scriptures. Here, we witness God’s ‘hesed’ or steadfast love, reflected in both the divine and human plane, through the central characters of Ruth and Naomi. This love is not just about affection but also equates to a deep sense of loyalty and commitment. Ruth, a Moabite, demonstrates this 'hesed' through her constancy to Naomi, her Israelite mother-in-law, paralleling divine fidelity to humanity. God's trustworthiness is further manifested in His providential care and protection of the marginalized -- a widow and a foreigner -- through their ultimate redemption in the unlikely person of Boaz.

While God's direct intervention is not overt, His presence permeates the story. The depiction of God as the primary orchestrator of events – subtly manipulating circumstances to ensure the welfare of His people – becomes evident. This underlines the theological concept of God’s sovereignty over human affairs regardless of their mundane nature. Further, the book unveils God's inclusivity, demonstrating His impartiality towards race, nationality, and social status. In embracing Ruth, the Moabite, God shatters the ethnic barriers, embodying His universal love. Thus, the character of God revealed in the book of Ruth is one of unwavering faithfulness, divine providence, and transforming love.

The narrative repeatedly underscores God’s provident hand that works through normal events and ordinary people. It’s worth noting that Ruth's story occurs during the spring harvest— a deeply symbolic season that symbolizes a time of renewal, provision, and abundance, a clear echo of God’s promise of renewal and restoration. Therefore, the story of Ruth is not merely a depiction of the immeasurable human potential for loyalty, kindness, and devotion but more significantly, an affirmation of God’s unwavering 'hesed' towards His people.

Key Takeaways:

The story of Ruth enlightens us about God’s ‘heed’—His steadfast love, loyalty, and commitment to His people.

  • Glimpses of God’s invisible hand affirm His sovereignty over human affairs. His providential care manifests in the minutest details, assuring us of His involvement in our lives.
  • The narrative emphasizes God’s inclusivity and non-discrimination. It teaches us that God's love transcends ethnicity, race, and social status.
  • The timing of Ruth's story during the spring harvest signifies God’s promise of providing, renewing, and restoring His people’s lives.
  • Ruth’s narrative is a testament to God’s faithful presence in our ordinary lives, working through ordinary people and everyday circumstances to fulfil His divine purpose.

The Symbolism and Imagery in the Book of Ruth


The events in the book of Ruth take place at the time of the festival of the barley harvest ( Ruth 1:22 ), which is astutely used as an alignment to the restoration of Naomi’s and Ruth’s lives, signifying God's penchant for regeneration and redemption in times of despair.

Another paramount emblem centers around the biblical name 'Ruth', derived from the Hebrew root Reish-Alef-Vav, meaning 'see' or 'look'. This invites readers to understand Ruth’s character better as someone offering a clear vision of loyalty, compassion and unwavering faith in times of adversity. Ruth’s steadfast resolve mirrors the resilience of the faithful in distressing times.

The relationship between Ruth and Naomi, marked by reciprocal respect and loyalty, takes center stage and illuminates the importance of kinship and altruism from a biblical perspective. This relationship reflects the faithful’s covenant with God, further strengthening the inherent symbolism in their story.

Intriguingly, the text also underscores feminine discourse, thereby passing what is known as the Bechdel Test - an unconventional occurrence in biblical narratives that provides an additional layer of feminist interpretation capable of opening new dialogues in biblical studies. However, the focus remains on how faithful individuals can live their lives shaped by God’s law of love.

Lastly, it is notable that the Book of Ruth is traditionally read during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot - a celebration of revelation and commitment, matching Ruth’s journey of faith, making it a symbolic reading for the occasion.

  • The timing of Ruth’s story during the spring harvest symbolizes rebirth and God's ability to regenerate and redeem even in bleak situations.
  • Ruth's name, meaning 'see' or 'look', underscores her role as a woman of vision, embodying loyalty and unwavering faith.
  • The relationship of Ruth and Naomi symbolizes the covenant between the faithful and God and highlights the importance of kinship and altruism.

The narrative of Ruth passing the Bechdel Test provides a fresh perspective on women’s role and allows for feminist interpretation within biblical studies.

  • The observance of the Book of Ruth during Shavuot connects Ruth's faith journey with the celebration of divine revelation and commitment.

How does the Book of Ruth connect with the New Testament?

The Book of Ruth may be an Old Testament , but its themes reverberate into the New Testament. It introduces us to the lineage of David (Ruth 4:17-22), a significant forefather of Jesus Christ. Ruth is one of the five women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 1:5).

Ruth’s narrative also explores themes central to Christian ethics, including faithful living, unwavering obedience, and humble service—qualities later embodied by Jesus and preached throughout the New Testament. Additionally, Ruth as an outsider—a Moabite—being incorporated into the lineage of Christ, anticipates the inclusivity of the Gospel message; the salvation it offers extends to all people, not just Israelites.

The integrity and stark self-sacrifice displayed by Ruth when refusing to abandon her mother-in-law Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17) also echoes the New Testament's themes of love and devotion to one’s neighbor (Mark 12:31). Furthermore, the merciful behavior of Boaz in accepting Ruth, despite her foreigner status, mirrors the Gospel invite to the penitent from every nation and tribe.

Finally, the Book of Ruth models expectation and hope for a redeemer, paving the path for the coming of Jesus, the ultimate kinsman-redeemer—an idea that comes to bloom in the New Testament.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Book of Ruth establishes part of the genealogical line leading to Jesus Christ, as documented in the New Testament.
  • Ruth’s display of faithfulness and service reflects major New Testament ideals and presents an early model for Christian living.

The theme of redemption and hope for a redeemer in the Book of Ruth sets the stage for the coming of Jesus, the ultimate Redeemer, in the New Testament.

  • The acceptance and incorporation of Ruth, a foreigner, into the lineage of Christ foreshadows the inclusive nature of the Gospel message as told in the New Testament.

Why was the Book of Ruth written and who was its intended audience?

The Book of Ruth, emblematic of the Hebrew Bible’s Writings (Ketuvim), serves a multitude of purposes and several echelons of audience. Composed during the period of the Israelite Monarchy, it carries substantial historical value, being viewed as a reliable account by the Jewish historian Josephus in his 'Antiquities of the Jews'. However, its reach, readership, and relevance extend beyond historical documentation.

The narrative richness and theological underpinnings present in Ruth's story intended to guide the Israelites in living out their covenant with God, emphasizing themes of loving-kindness, loyalty, and faith. It uses the form of a short story, gracefully interweaving theological themes, thereby making the text highly accessible and its theological statements relatable. Its prominent themes, including redemption, commitment, and the virtues of goodness and kindness, were delivered to an audience comprising of common Israelites, thus enabling them to comprehend and embody these attributes in their personal and social lives.

The precision and brevity of the Book of Ruth resonate with its intended audience on multiple levels. Along with the Jews, the story has universal appeal by portraying the inherent dignity of all individuals, irrespective of their social, cultural or ethnic status. Through fidelity and virtue, Ruth, a foreigner and a widow, attains a position of honor in the Jewish community. This essentially exemplifies the acceptance of difference, a message potentially addressing an audience grappling with similar societal concerns.

Ruth's story, read during the festival of Shavuot, holds a special place in Jewish liturgical practices and theological thought. Tradition allies Ruth's conversion to Judaism with the giving of the Torah at Sinai, hence, the reading of the Book of Ruth during Shavuot connects the Jews to their theological cornerstone - the Torah.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Book of Ruth was written primarily for the Israelites, teaching them to live out their covenant with God through the narratives of loyalty and love.
  • It serves a second role as a historical document, found credible by Jewish historian, Josephus.
  • Ruth's story carries universal appeal, serving to address societal concerns regarding the acceptance of difference.
  • Its reading during Shavuot links the Jews to their theological cornerstone, the Torah.

How does the Book of Ruth demonstrate the power of faith?

The Book of Ruth offers a profound exploration of faith in several dimensions. It reveals how faith informs personal conduct and underpins fundamental human relations and community structures. After her husband’s death, Ruth, a Moabite woman, decides to follow Naomi, her Israelite mother-in-law. She demonstrates an unwavering faith by embracing a strange culture, people, and God, thereby underscoring the enduring power of faith that transcends cultural and religious barriers.

Ruth’s unwavering faith forms the backbone of her character. Her famous vow in 1:16, “Your God will be my God", testifies to her commitment to her new faith. Even in the face of uncertainty and potential despair, Ruth relies deeply on her faith that there would be protection and provision for her and Naomi. This testament conveys the theological truth that unwavering faith in God can lead individuals through difficult times and into divine favor.

Moreover, Ruth's faith is manifest not only in words but in deeds. Ruth gleans in the fields, gathering what is left by the harvesters, as a sign of faith that the God of Israel would provide their daily needs. Her willingness to work hard, her dedication to Naomi and the reverence shown to Boaz illustrate that she truly believes in the values instilled by her newfound faith. This thus establishes the theological principle that genuine faith is expressed through concrete actions—an embodiment of God's love and mercy.

The climax of Ruth’s demonstration of faith is seen in her marriage to Boaz. This commitment ultimately participates in God's divine plan for salvation's lineage through their great-grandson, King David. Beyond the narrative, this reveals the efficacy and transformative power of faith.

Key Takeaways

  1. The Book of Ruth provides a multidimensional view of faith—as a personal commitment to God, a guiding principle in human relations, and an active ingredient in community structures.
  2. The story affirms the theological truth of God's provision and protection for those who adhere steadfastly to Him in faith, despite adverse circumstances.
  3. The narrative emphasizes that genuine faith is not merely a private, internal state but should be expressed in concrete actions and respectful reverence towards societal norms and divine ordinances.
  4. Ruth’s story culminating in marriage to Boaz and being in the lineage of King David outlines that the power of faith can have effects reaching far beyond the immediate circumstances, contributing to God’s larger divine plan.

How does the Book of Ruth reflect on the role of women in the Bible?

The Book of Ruth is an esteemed biblical text grounded in its exalted depiction of women, their character traits, loyalty, and roles. It stands not only as a historic narrative but also as a testament of women’s critical role in fulfilling God's Plan. The key women in this book are Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. Both embody the resilience, steadfast devotion, and strategy that reshuffle the historically patriarchal nuances of biblical society.

Ruth, a Moabite convert to Judaism, exhibits unwavering faith and loyalty to Naomi. Instead, she casts away her opportunity for a familial safety net in her homeland, opting for an uncertain future in Naomi's land of Bethlehem. Ruth's character echoes the biblical vision of the ideal woman, "A woman of valor who can find? She is far more precious than jewels" (Proverbs 31:10). Ruth's character illustrates the theological premise that allegiance to God sometimes necessitates a departure from one's comfort and security.

Naomi, impoverished and heartbroken after the loss of her husband and sons, is portrayed not as a passive victim, but as a woman who skillfully navigates her social circumstances to ensure her survival and that of her daughter-in-law. In persuading Ruth to seek Boaz’s protection, her insightful strategy demonstrates the constructive use of wisdom and cunning, highlighting women’s significant role in the fiat of divine providence.

The Book of Ruth breaks ground with the patriarchal norm of the Old Testament narrative, empowering women as active participants in God’s will. Rabbi Alfred Kolatch’s commentary on the Book of Ruth reinforces this elevation of women’s roles in Biblicality. By passing the Bechdel Test, the book strengthens the multifaceted nature of women’s relationships in light of Ruth and Naomi's interaction, emphasizing their shared strength, loyalty, and faith.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Book of Ruth bridges the gap between the historically masculine and female narrative in the Bible, emphasizing women's active participation in God's plan.
  • Ruth's character reflects the biblical vision of a virtuous woman, showing that allegiance to God may require stepping outside of one's comfort zones.
  • Naomi's wisdom and cunning illustrate the feminine intellect's power in shaping divine providence.
  • The Book of Ruth challenges the gender norms often associated with biblical texts, highlighting women’s relationships’ strength, loyalty, and complexity.

What lessons can we learn from the Book of Ruth?

The Book of Ruth offers many theological lessons and insights, intricately threading moral imperatives within its narrative fabric. First among these, it showcases the virtue of faithfulness. Ruth's unyielding loyalty to Naomi, even when faced with the possibility of hardship and uncertainty as a foreigner in Bethlehem, manifests as a salient example of enduring commitment and steadfast love.

Aligned with this assertion of tenacity, the Book of Ruth enunciates the virtue of selflessness. Ruth's sacrificial devotion to Naomi, evidenced in her choice to stay with her mother-in-law despite being allowed to return to her own family, underscores the value of putting others' welfare before one's interests.

A profound theological lesson reverberating through Ruth's narrative is the power of God's providence. While it may seem that Ruth and Naomi are at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control, the unfolding of events suggests that a divine orchestration is at work, bringing Ruth into Boaz's field and eventually into his life. This testifies to a God who works mysteriously, bringing blessings out of hardship and redemption from despair.

The Book of Ruth is also indispensable for its lessons on courage, kindness, and humility. Ruth’s boldness in gleaning in the fields, her acts of kindness towards Naomi, and her humble acceptance of her situation all reflect traits that align with the biblical mandate, thus serving as a moral compass for readers.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Book of Ruth demonstrates faithfulness, as witnessed in Ruth's unwavering commitment to Naomi.
  • Ruth's selfless devotion to Naomi, placing her mother-in-law's welfare above her own, showcases the value of selfless love.
  • The unfolding narrative reveals God's providence, pointing to a divine plan that brings redemption from hardship and despair.
  • Ruth's character is marked by courage, kindness, and humility, virtues that serve as a moral compass for readers.

Ruth as Role Model: Her Influence and Relevance Today

The book of Ruth, though seemingly straightforward, is imbued with profound theological substance presenting Ruth as a paradigm of virtue and faith. Interestingly, not her foreign status as a Moabite woman defines Ruth. Her extraordinary integrity, kindness, loyalty, and commitment make her an inspiring role model that transcends the confines of time and cultural contexts.

Ruth's profound loyalty to Naomi is displayed through her famous pledge in Ruth 1:16-17, which has resonated with many generations. Her unwavering commitment underlines the power of love and loyalty, breaking down barriers between cultures and societies. Essentially, Ruth can be considered a role model for accepting and embracing differences, a virtue that is even more relevant in our incredibly diverse contemporary society.

Moreover, Ruth's role as an active agent in Naomi's restoration underscores the power of her agency, with which she breaks society’s predeterminations and overcomes daunting challenges. Notably, the story of Ruth is devoid of miraculous interventions but replete with human decisions and actions encased in faith and commitment. This further accentuates the power of an individual's choices rooted in faithfulness and compassion.

Ruth's narrative engagement with King David's genesis establishes her influence beyond her immediate narrative universe. Ruth assimilates into the Israelite community by choosing faithfulness and love and subsequently becomes King David’s great-grandmother. Thus, through her life and choices, she contributes to crafting the Israelite destiny and legacy.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ruth, through her exceptional qualities of loyalty, love and determination, serves as a timeless role model, transcending cultural and societal boundaries.
  • Ruth's decisions, guided by faithfulness and compassion, illuminate the importance of human agency in living a virtuous life and challenging societal norms.
  • The narrative of Ruth is integral to the Israelite legacy, exemplifying how individuals of faith can shape the course of divine history.

Fun Facts


Ruth 1:2

Ruth 2:12

Ruth 2:9

Ruth 3:10

Frequently asked questions

How does Ruth's story in the Bible symbolize hope in challenging circumstances?

  • Ruth's story is an inspiring symbol of hope in challenging circumstances.
  • Despite facing loss and adversity, Ruth showed loyalty and compassion by leaving her homeland to support her mother-in-law.
  • Her determination and hard work led to her finding favor and marrying Boaz, which established the lineage of King David.
  • Ruth's story teaches us that even in the darkest times, there is always hope and the possibility of redemption.
  • Through her example, we can find strength and courage to overcome our hardships.

What is the significance of Ruth's marriage with Boaz about her lineage being blessed with King David?

  • Ruth's marriage to Boaz was a significant event about her lineage being blessed with King David.
  • A divinely orchestrated union exemplified God's providence and grace.
  • Through this union, God's promises were fulfilled and His redemptive plan for humanity was made clear.
  • Ruth's marriage symbolized the restoration and redemption she experienced from widowhood to a new life.
  • This union eventually led to the birth of the great King David, thus demonstrating God's power and might.

How does the Book of Ruth illustrate God's covenant faithfulness and fulfillment of promises?

  • The Book of Ruth presents a powerful example of God's covenant faithfulness and the fulfillment of His promises.
  • Through Ruth's trials and tribulations, God guided her to redemption and restoration.
  • Ruth's marriage to Boaz was orchestrated by God, ultimately blessing her lineage with King David.
  • The story of Ruth is a testament to God's unwavering devotion to His people and commitment to fulfilling His promises.
  • In the Book of Ruth, the evidence of God's faithfulness is undeniable.

What is the connection between Ruth's journey from widowhood to redemption and restoration and the ultimate redemption in Jesus Christ?

  • Ruth's journey from widowhood to redemption and restoration profoundly represents God's love and grace.
  • Her faithfulness and loyalty illustrate the hope and restoration that can come even in the darkest circumstances.
  • Ruth's story is part of the lineage that led to the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
  • Her story reminds us that no matter how broken we may feel, God can bring redemption and restoration.
  • Ruth's journey is an inspiring example of God's power to transform our lives.

How does Ruth's story symbolize God's grace and inclusion of all people, regardless of nationality or background?

  • Ruth's story is a powerful symbol of God's grace and inclusion of all people, regardless of nationality or background.
  • Her journey from a foreign widow to redemption and restoration breaks barriers and showcases the universal grace of God.
  • Ruth's unwavering loyalty and compassion transcend borders, illustrating God's love for all.
  • Her story is a testament to the transformative power of God's grace, inspiring us to accept all people as children of God.
  • Ruth reminds us that God's grace has no boundaries and is available to everyone.

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