My daughter’s favourite story in the Bible is the story of Ruth. The story has everything: adventure, romance, and intrigue. What this story also has is a change of what Ruth was before, In Moab, and what she was after, in Bethlehem. In today’s post, I am sharing a simple guide: Who is Ruth in the Bible?
Who is Ruth in The Bible?
We first meet Ruth in the first couple of verses of the book of Ruth.
In those verses, Ruth 1:1-5, we learn that Ruth
- Lived in Moab and was a Moabite (she did not leave Judah, but was from Moab)
- Married a man from Judah who had left and moved to Judah
- Her husband died, and she was now a widow
Ruth was a Moabite
One of the first things we learn about Ruth is that she lived in Moab. Since she lived there, we can assume that she is from Moab or from an area surrounding it.
The key thing to remember here is that She is not from Israel or Judah and has no connection to Israel.
Why is this important?
This minor detail about Ruth is extremely important.
- They did not encourage Jews to marry non-Israelites
From scripture, we know God does not permit Israel to marry outside of Israel.
1 Kings 11:2 They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.
We know from this verse, and many examples of intermarriage in the bible, that this verse is true.
Even though intermarriage with a Moabite was not forbidden, it was cautioned against.
Read more about Intermarriage and Jews here.
- Exclusion From the Assembly
In the Old Testament, there are a few scriptures that talk about Moabites not being able to enter the assembly of the Lord.
- Deuteronomy 23:2-3 2 No one born of a forbidden marriage [b] nor any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation. 3 No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation.
According to the enduring word commentary, the assembly is probably referring to “the nation gathered before the LORD in worship, such as when they were gathered at Mount Sinai.. And maybe were barred not from the religious life of Israel, but from the political life of the nation.
Some of these laws are not very clear and it’s hard to know whether they meant these passages for individual people or for the general nation.
But these laws and traditions were set in people’s minds and hearts and any inclusion of a Moabite into a town would have been hard for people to accept.
Israelites would have held prejudice against people from Moab.
Summary of Ruth’s Old Identity
Even though Ruth was an amazing woman, she would have been seen as an alien from a country who had married one of their men (even though they discouraged it).
Because of where she came from, Israel would not legitimize any of her children. Meaning that none of her children (for 10 generations) would be recognized as fully Jewish and would have been excluded from gatherings.
Ruth had no way of changing her lineage or where she was from. Looking at where she was from and knowing Jewish law and tradition, one would guess that her mover to Bethlehem would not go well and that she would not amount too much.
But God had a different plan.
Related Blog posts
- Who am I? Discover who you are in Christ, 7-week bible study
- Rahab’s identity in Christ: a reward for faith
- How does knowing God change me?
- 19 verses about our identity in Christ
- Who am I in Christ as a woman?
The Story of Ruth
Ruth’s identity in Christ changes when she comes to Bethlehem. Once she gets to this unknown country, we see God’s intervention and care for her.
1. Ruth makes use of the Law of the Land
Once Ruth and Naomi get to Bethlehem, they have nothing. They have no home, no money and no way to provide for themselves.
Naomi remembers Jewish law and tradition and encourages Ruth to glean from the land of Boaz.
Ruth 2:1-3 There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. 2 So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.”And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
Even though Ruth was a stranger in the land, she could still access God’s provision for her.
God has always loved the stranger, and the downtrodden and made sure to provide for them in the law.
Leviticus 19: 9 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.
Ruth had no family and no other way to provide for her. But even so, being in Bethlehem made it possible for her to gather enough harvest to feed herself and Naomi.
Had they left to go to another city- one outside of Israel- these provisions may not have been there and they could have starved.
2. Ruth is welcomed by a well-renowned man
Ruth 2:8-16 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”
11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
13 “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”
14 At mealtime, Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”
When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. 15 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. 16 Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”
After reading this passage, we find out that Boaz is the owner of the fields. Not only does he allow Ruth to glean there, he asks his men to make sure she gets extra. He also welcomes her to join the others and gives her food to eat.
This is generous hospitality. The law required Boaz to let Ruth glean, but he went a few steps farther.
He provided more than he needed to.
This passage also hints that Boaz knew other fields may not be as safe and wants to protect Ruth. He knows his men would not harm her and he wants to make sure that she can do her work.
This part of the story reminds me of the story of the good samaritan. Both men went beyond what they needed to, to take care of a stranger.
Reading this part makes me question how hospital I am to people and how willing I am to share what I have with others. Even those people I don’t know and may not agree with.
3. Ruth marries a man of Israel
The book of Ruth is known as a romantic book and a true love story. But the reality might not be so close to that.
Ruth would probably have been in her mid-20s and Boaz would have probably been in his 50s.
Boaz would have married out of duty and Ruth, being a woman, would have married out of a need for provision and security.
This type of marriage was common in the OT and it was part of Jewish customs for widows to be taken care of by their closest relatives.
The OT is full of laws and regulations to help people live good life. It was the job of the closest relative to marry a widowed woman.
Deuteronomy 25:5-10 5 “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.
7 But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’
9 then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’
In Ruth chapter 4, we see Boaz marries Ruth. Boaz was doing what he should do and followed all the traditions of the land.
Sorry if that bursts your romantic bubble.
But even though this book may not be as romantic as thought, it’s still an amazing book.
Ruth is a stranger in the land and therefore is not encouraged to be married to a man of Israel. But God overlooks all of that and still provides Ruth with a marriage to an honourable man.
Boaz always seems to do the right thing and is extremely generous.
Boaz overlooks where she comes from and goes off Ruth’s reputation.
In Ruth 2:11, we read that Boaz has heard what Ruth has done for her mother-in-law. I am sure her arrival in town made all the ladies of the town talk.
4. Ruth becomes part of the Lineage of Jesus
One thing I find amazing about this book is that God takes a Moabite and elevates her to be part of the lineage of Jesus.
According to Deuteronomy 23:2-3, no one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation. 3 No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation.
In Matthew chapter 1:1-17, The book of the genealogy [a] of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: 2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king. ….17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until Christ are fourteen generations.
Ruth was the mother of Obed who was the grandfather of King David. We know that David is a key person in the lineage of Jesus.
Even though Ruth was not a “legitimate” Jew, there are enough generations between her and the birth of Jesus that no one could take the law and say that Jesus was not Messiah because He was an illegitimate heir.
I find it amazing that God legitimizes Ruth by giving her this amazing legacy.
Her faith in God and trust in His provision made her part of this bigger story.
Summary of Ruth’s Identity in Christ:
Once Ruth comes to Bethlehem, she is careful to listen to her mother in Law and follow the customs of the land. Her hard work and trust soon pay off.
It’s hard to know how long she was in the land before she met Boaz, but this story would have happened over one planting/harvesting season (at least).
Ruth starts as widowed with no prospects and soon married a wealthy man who is respected by the community.
Not only that, but someone who should not have been “allowed” to marry a Jew or even produce legitimate airs becomes part of the lineage of Jesus.
Ruth’s identity in Christ is now complete. She is no longer an outsider, but one that many people would look to for encouragement and direction.
4 Things we can learn from Ruth’s identity in Christ
1. God has always taken care of His people and He always will.
In the OT, God incorporated laws to provide for the needy. In the NT, Jesus reminds us that we are not to worry about what we should eat.
Matthew 6:26-30 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one [a] cubit to his [b] stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not [c] arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
If God can provide for the birds and the lilies, then He will also provide for us.
It may not look pretty. It was hard work gleaning in the field, but God provides.
2. God always intended for Salvation to be offered to everyone
When you read the OT, it’s clear that God has chosen the nation of Israel for Himself. He separates them from the world and blesses them. People who are not part of Israel are not given the same blessings. So there are some promises in the OT that are only for Jews and not for everyone.
But, one thing that is for everyone is salvation.
It was always God’s plan to offer salvation to all.
1 Timothy 2:4-6 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time
3. Small acts of trust have large (good) consequences
Ruth watched Naomi and saw her faith in action. The only thing Ruth knew about God was what she learned from Naomi.
Our walk with God can have a huge impact on the lives of others. We can turn people to God by what we do and say.
In the same way, Ruth acted in faith by doing what Naomi asked her to do. Her simple trust led her to Boaz and started her journey into an amazing inheritance.
As a mom, I sometimes get discouraged with how “little” I do to share my faith with others. But then I remember my heritage. There are at least 4 generations of Christians before me.
I think about that one person who trusted God and raised their children knowing God. They had no way of knowing that their life of obedience would lead to me growing up in a Christian home and trusting God for myself.
Just the fact that I raised my children to know God could affect generations after me.
It’s hard to know what minor acts of faith can lead to. But each time we obey God, we bring Him joy. Knowing that is enough for me.
4. Our past does not define us
Ruth’s identity in Christ was not based on her past, but on God’s intervention in her life.
So often people let their past define who they are. But, with God- none of that matters.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
This verse clearly spells out that heritage, gender and status do not define our position in Christ.
In Christ, we are all one, and we are together.
By our standards, Ruth would have become a nobody. But God’s standards and plans are beyond our own.
God chose Ruth to be part of the lineage of Jesus to show that all are welcome into His kingdom. Our family’s history, our nation’s history does not keep us from God’s grace.
All that He asks is that you come.
In the comments below, share your thoughts about Who is Ruth in the Bible?