Slide 1

Today’s Outline
Ruth’s Appeal
Canonical Position
Theological Lessons
Practical Applications
Concept of Hesed
Ruth 1:1 – Setting and
Why do we find the book of Ruth so appealing?
• Love Story: True love triumphs over multiple forms of
adversity and brings good to all who are touched by it.
• Happy Ending: The realized hope of others (like Naomi &
Ruth) offers us perspective … we can relate to their
setbacks and cheer at their bright future.
• Positive Characters: We value loyalty and compassion
and see it displayed in wonderful role models.
“… and they lived happily every after. The End.”
 Ordinary People, Extraordinary God: Ruth is a profound
account of God’s providence in the lives of ordinary
people who observed God’s covenant in rather
mundane circumstances.
Who wrote the book of Ruth?
• Human Author
– Jewish tradition says Samuel
– Commentary writers spend much ink debating if book written
by male or female; before or after the exile
– Context suggest book written much later than events described;
probably during David’s reign or just after (but probably before
Solomon came to power)
– Book doesn’t identify author either explicitly or implicitly
– God evidently didn’t deem it as necessary to reveal human
author for understanding its contents
• Divine Author
 Bottom Line: This is God’s Word – written to reveal His glory
and unfolding plan of redemption (see 1 Timothy 3:16;
2 Peter 1:20-21)
Title of Book: Why is it named “Ruth”?
• Ruth was not even an Israelite. She was a Moabite. This is the only book in
the Old Testament canon named after a non-Israelite.
• Ruth is not main character of the book; story told from Naomi's point of view.
– Narrator writes of Naomi's husband, her sons, her daughters, her losses,
her God, her return to Bethlehem, her people, her relative, and the land
she is selling. Readers are observing events as they relate to her.
– Based on the plot, the book is more appropriately titled "The Book of
• Scholars have recognized the importance of direct speech in this book. No
fewer than fifty-five of the eighty-five verses contain dialogue.
– Of the 1,294 words in the book, 678 (52.4 percent) occur on the lips of the
characters. Of the three main actors in the drama, however, Ruth speaks
least often, and her speeches are the shortest.
– Based on the dialogue, the book could be titles "The Book of Boaz.”
Theological Aim/Purpose
• To reveal God's grace and loyal love to the believing remnant in spite of
Israel's covenant unfaithfulness (1:1-6; 2:20)
• To reveal God's sovereignty in furthering His purposes in spite of His people's
covenant unfaithfulness (1:22b; 2:1-3; 4:13)
• To reveal the character of true faith and love in light of Yahweh's sovereign
grace (1:16-17; 2:11-12, 15-17; 3:1, 10-11)
• To reveal a portrait of redemption (2:12; 3:12-13; 4:9-10, 14)
• To reveal that even a Gentile can receive God's sovereign redemption through
faith (1:4, 22; 2:2, 6, 21; 4:5, 10; cf. 2:12)
• To reveal that there is always a remnant of those who believe, even in times
of great apostasy (1:16-17; 2:4,11-12, 20; 3:10; see especially 4:11-14)
• To reveal that God's sovereign plan of redemption continues on – through the
Seed of the woman/Messiah – no matter the apparent state of the world
(1:1-2; cf. 4:17-22; Judges 17:1; 19:1; 21:25; see also Rom. 8:28)
Canonical Position
Where should Ruth be
located in our Bibles?
• Old Testament scholars divide broadly
along two traditional lines:
– Order found in Hebrew textual traditions
– Order found in the Septuagint (LXX), the
Greek translation of the Old Testament
Megilloth: Five Scrolls
Chronological/Historical Sequence
Ruth (pertaining to David)
Song of Songs (Solomon's younger years)
Ecclesiastes (Solomon's older years)
Lamentations (exilic period)
Esther (postexilic/Persian period)
In this tradition, the Megilloth follows Psalms, Job, and
Proverbs. Thus, Ruth follows directly on the heels of Proverbs
31:10-31 (which focuses on 'eset hayil, "a woman of strength
of character"). Ruth is called an 'eset hayil ("a woman of
strength of character") in Ruth 3:11.
Megilloth: Five Scrolls
Calendar of the Festive Year
Song of Songs (Passover: Nisan = Mar-Apr)
Ruth (Pentecost: Sivan = May-Jun)
Lamentations (Ninth of Ab: Ab = Aug-Sep)
Ecclesiastes (Tabernacles: Tishri = Sep-Oct)
Esther (Purim: Adar = Feb-Mar)
In this tradition, the Megilloth follows Psalms, Proverbs and
then Job. This liturgical ordering is relatively late. Reading
these five books at the major festivals of the Jewish year
didn’t became a custom until 600 – 1000 A.D.
Septuagint (LXX) Tradition
Ruth is placed in the Former Prophets, immediately
after Judges. Such a placement is understandable:
• Ruth 1:1 ("In the days when the judges ruled")
provides natural linkage
• Contrasting theme with Judges, where everything is
done wrongly.
– Covenant, custom and institutions go awry
– Everyone did what was right in his own eyes
– There are sin cycles that progressively gets worse
• The contrast with the Ruth story is striking. Here
things go as they should, people make the right
decisions, and Yahweh is anything but lost.
Structure of the Book of Ruth
• The Prologue (1:1-6) provides setting & predicament. A Judahite family’s males
have died in Moab leaving Naomi without a male to care for her.
– Act 1 (2 scenes) narrates Naomi’s return (1:7-22). Scene 1, Naomi & her
daughters-in-law are on road to Judah (1:7-19a); Scene 2, Naomi & Ruth arrive at
Bethlehem (1:19b-22).
– Act 2 (3 scenes) narrates developments between Ruth and Boaz in the fields
(2:1-23). Scene 1, Ruth gleans in a field that happens to belong to Boaz, Naomi's
relative (2:1-3); Scene 2, Ruth and Boaz meet on the harvest field and Boaz is
exceedingly generous (2:4-17a); and Scene 3, Naomi evaluates the meeting:
Boaz is one of their kinsman-redeemers (2:17b-23).
– Act 3 (3 scenes) narrates further developments in relationship of Ruth & Boaz at
threshing floor (3:1-18). Scene1, Naomi discloses her plan for Ruth and Boaz
(3:1-5); Scene 2, Ruth executes Naomi's plan and Boaz offers to be the kinsman
redeemer (3:6-15); and Scene 3, Naomi evaluates the encounter: Boaz will act
– Act 4 (2 scenes) narrates Boaz's arrangements to marry Ruth (4:1-12). Scene 1,
Boaz confronts the unnamed kinsman (4:1-8); and Scene 2, in Boaz acquires the
right to redeem Naomi and Ruth (4:9-12).
– The Epilogue (4:13-17) narrates conclusion & resolution to main character
Naomi: A son is born to Ruth and Boaz, which restores Naomi to life & fullness.
• Finally, there is a coda to the story – a genealogy that traces the ten generations
from Perez to David (4:18-22).
Class Syllabus for Book of Ruth
• 25 Mar:
• 1 April:
Introduction and Background
The Prologue (1:1-6) provides setting & predicament
• 8 April: Easter
• 15 April: Act 1, Sc. 1, Naomi & her daughters-in-law on road to Judah (1:7-19a)
• 22 April: Act 1, Sc. 2, Naomi & Ruth arrive at Bethlehem (1:19b-22)
• 29 April: Act 2, Sc. 1, Ruth gleans in a field that happens to belong to Boaz,
Naomi's relative (2:1-3); and Act 2, Scene 2, Ruth and Boaz meet on the
harvest field and Boaz is exceedingly generous (2:4-17a)
• 6 May: Friendship Sunday School
• 13 May:
• 20 May:
• 27 May:
• 3 Jun:
• 10 Jun:
• 17 Jun:
Act 2, Sc. 3, Naomi evaluates the meeting: Boaz is one of their kinsmanredeemers (2:17b-23)
Act 3 Sc. 1, Naomi discloses her plan for Ruth and Boaz (3:1-5); and
Act 3, Sc. 2, Ruth executes Naomi's plan and Boaz offers to be the
kinsman redeemer (3:6-15)
Act 3, Sc. 3, Naomi evaluates the encounter: Boaz will act (3:16-18);
and Act 4, Sc. 1, Boaz confronts the unnamed kinsman (4:1-8);
Act 4, Sc. 2, Boaz acquires the right to redeem Naomi and Ruth (4:9-12)
Epilogue (4:13-17) narrates conclusion & resolution to main character
Naomi: A son is born to Ruth & Boaz, restoring Naomi to life & fullness.
Coda to the story – a genealogy that traces the ten generations from
Perez to David (4:18-22).
General Observations
Central message: Writer of book of Ruth uses space, time, and circumstance to
build the central message of the book – Naomi's restoration from emptiness to
fullness through the selfless acts of loyal love (hesed) by Ruth and Boaz.
Contrast used to good effect:
• Pleasant (meaning of "Naomi") and bitter; full and empty; living and the dead
• Use of contrast most strikingly developed between two of the main characters,
Ruth and Boaz: The one is a young, foreign, destitute widow, while the other is a
middle-aged, well-to-do Israelite securely established in his home community.
For each, there is a corresponding character whose actions highlight, by
contrast, her or his selfless acts: Ruth versus Orpah, Boaz versus the unnamed
The issue of initiative: After the disasters of the prologue and the bitter emptiness
expressed in Act 1, each of the main characters seizes the initiative
• In Act 2, Ruth seizes the initiative, since Naomi is engrossed in self-absorbing
bitter-ness and despair. She goes out to glean, to meet the needs of two
destitute widows
• In Act 3, it is Naomi who seizes the initiative; she concocts a plan to meet the
needs of her daughter-in-law
• In Act 4, Boaz seizes the initiative. He secures the rights of redemption for the
field and for the marriage of Ruth. In all three cases, the initiator is acting out
of or motivated by issues of hesed.
Bibilical topics we will address
The meaning of hesed
The alien
The fatherless
The widow
The law of gleaning
Wheat and barley harvest
Threshing and winnowing
The role of the kinsman-redeemer (go’el)
Levirate marriage
Function, role and theology of genealogy
Theological Lessons
• God will not let his promises to Israel and Judah
and David die
• God works in a mysterious way … His wonders to
perform and His goals to perform
• In all things God works for the good of those who
love him and are called according to his purpose
(Rom 8:28).
• Genuine piety is expressed primarily in devotion,
sensitivity, grace, and kindness toward others and
openness to the working of God.
• God's grace knows no boundaries. Even a despised
Moabitess is incorporated into the nation of Israel.
In fact, the royal [and Messianic!] line has Moabite
blood in its veins.
Practical Application Topics
• Widowhood and marriage
• Bareness (infertility) and
• Loss of a child
• Single parenthood
• Ending Well: Growing old and
• Being a godly caregiver
• Happy Wife, Happy Life
• Suffering and the sovereignty of
• Social security vs. God’s safety
• How to choose a spouse
• Dating and romance
• Questioning the goodness of
• How to deal with anger and
• Assimilating into another culture
• Parental decision-making and its
impact on our children
• Racial and ethnic diversity and
• Learning to appreciate God’s
hard providence
• Dealing with our in-laws
• Choosing where to live and work
• How to honor our parents as
• How to be a great boss: being a
servant leader
• Honoring God in our vocations
The Concept of Hesed
• Baer and Gordon, “Hesed,” New International Dictionary of
Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, 1997.
• Botterweck and Ringgren, “Hesed,” Theological Dictionary
of the Old Testament, 1978.
• Clark, The Word Hesed in the Hebrew Bible, 1993.
• Routledge, “Hesed as Obligation: A Re-examination,”
Tyndale Bulletin, 1995.
• Sakenfeld, The Meaning of Hesed in the Hebrew Bible: A
New Inquiry, 1978.
The Concept of Hesed
• The concept of hesed is important to understanding the book
of Ruth since it is used to describe both secular and divinehuman relationships
• No word in the English language captures its exact meaning.
It is variously translated with words like "kindness," "mercy,"
"loyalty," "loving-kindness," "loyal, steadfast, unfailing (or just
plain) love" – words that certainly touch on what hesed
means but by themselves don't begin to do justice to this
powerful, richly laden word
• Hesed is a strong Hebrew word that sums up the ideal
lifestyle for God's people. It's the way God intended for
human beings to live together from the beginning – the
"love-your-neighbor-as-yourself" brand of living, an active,
selfless, sacrificial caring for one another that goes against
the grain of our fallen natures.
The Concept of Hesed
• Two parties are involved
– Someone in desperate need (weaker person) and
– A second person who possesses the power and the
resources to make a difference
• Hesed is driven, not by duty or legal obligation, but
by a bone-deep commitment
– A loyal, selfless love that motivates a person to do
voluntarily what no one has a right to expect or ask of
– They have the freedom to act or to walk away without
the slightest injury to their reputation
– Yet they willingly pour themselves out for the good of
someone else
• It's actually the kind of love we find most fully
expressed in Jesus … hesed is the gospel lived out
Exodus 15:13
“You have led in your steadfast love (hesed) the
people whom you have redeemed; you have
guided them by your strength to your holy
• How is the LORD’s hesed characterized in this
• What other attribute is connected to God’s
love in this passage?
Psalm 118
“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his
steadfast love (hesed) endures forever!” (v. 1)
• What does the psalmist say about the LORD’s
“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can
man do to me? The LORD is on my side as my
helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate
me.” (vv. 6-7)
• What benefits come to believers as a result of
God’s hesed?
Micah 6:8
“He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness (hesed),
and to walk humbly with your God?”
• According to Micah, how do God’s people know to
practice hesed with one another?
• What other concepts does the prophet link to
Romans 8:32
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him
up for us all, how will he not also with him
graciously give us all things?”
• What is the most perfect expression of God’s
Hesed in the book of Ruth
Book of Ruth employs hesed on both divine and human levels
• Divine Use of hesed:
– The Lord's hesed is the factor that eventually leads to the
successful remarriage of Naomi's daughter-in-law, so that it
cannot help but be recognized in the provision of a "kinsmanredeemer" (go’el) for Ruth
– Yahweh's act of "giving" a child in Ruth 4 should certainly be
understood as an act of hesed
• Hesed at human level:
– Interestingly, the only human actors who are explicitly said to have
exercised hesed are Orpah (once) and Ruth (twice) (1:8; 3:10).
Thus, ironically, Moabites (in particular Ruth) are the people who
most clearly manifest hesed in this book.
– Boaz's acts of hesed are only seen by way of allusions … it serves
as the basis for the discussion between Boaz and Ruth as
negotiations are made (3:9-13)
– Human hesed is a reflection of divine hesed, God’s unconditional
grace, mercy, and love through Jesus Christ.

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