The Book of Ruth is a small text from the Old Testament of the Bible , written in the Hebrew language . Its protagonist is Ruth the Moabite, who became the ancestor of King David of Israel and Jesus Christ .
The Hebrew Bible includes this book in the third section of the canon, in the group of the Writings (Ketubim) .
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- 1 Author and date
- 2 Book
- 3 Historical framework
- 4 Synopsis
- 5 Contribution to theology
- 6 Outline of content
- 7 Sources
Author and date
Rabbinic tradition maintains that Samuel wrote this book in the second half of the 11th century BC. n. and. Although recent criticism suggests a post-exile date (around 500 BC), the language used in the book, as well as its references to the customs and conditions prevailing in the 12th century BC. n. e., recommend the acceptance of Samuel as the author of the book of Ruth. Who witnessed the decline of Saul’s reign and was led by God to anoint David as the chosen heir to the throne of Israel .
The beautiful story became part of the oral traditions of the people, and the final genealogy would serve the purpose of establishing a link with the patriarchs, providing a satisfactory answer to all those Israelites who wanted to be sure of their king’s family ancestry.
Map of Israel in Ruth’s time
With this little gem of biblical literature, the Hebrew narrative genre goes back to one of its highest artistic levels. The book takes the reader to the violent and troubled times of the “judges” of Israel (1.1); but, in contrast to the restless climate that characterizes the history of those warrior heroes, Ruth (= Rt) is presented as a delightful song to peace and serenity of peasant life.
The great German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , described Ruth as “the most beautiful story written in small format.” This impressive, fascinating and historically significant narrative can be called the most precious jewel in the Old Testament .
Once established in Canaan , Israel , under the direction of the Judges , had to fight to consolidate its territory, while striving to maintain the alliance of its tribes. Along with this unstable political situation, frequent droughts plagued crops and presented national calamities that forced many to emigrate. Relatives of Ruth’s husband lived through this time.
Both the date and the author of this book are uncertain. However, it is evident that it was written in a time after the judges because it includes David in his genealogy (4.17–22) and because he refers to the judges as a fact of the past (1.1). On the other hand, it cannot be after David, because in that case Solomon would have been included in said genealogy. It is concluded, therefore, that it was written in the first part of the United Kingdom and that its author, for the same cause, belonged to this time.
Ruth, a girl from Moab, is the main character in the story. Married to an Israelite, the son of Naomi, she soon knew the bitterness of widowhood. Naomi, from Bethlehem in Judah , had migrated with her husband and two children to Moabite lands, where they three died, leaving Naomi “helpless, without her two children and without her husband” (1.5). In that dramatic situation, he resolved to return to Bethlehem; and she did so, accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth, who in a gesture of extraordinary loyalty had declared:
Imaginary representation of Ruth (since it was not described in any text).
Your people will be my people and your God, my God.
Ruth Book , 1, 16
Ruth a young woman endowed with the most beautiful qualities: affectionate, determined and hard-working, ready even to question her honor in order to perpetuate the name of her late husband. Ruth’s personal charm attracted in Bethlehem a relative of Naomi’s husband, a certain Boaz, who, according to the laws and customs of the time, took her as his wife.
With the birth of Obed, his first son, the survival of the family name was assured (4.10; cf. 1.11–13). A few final notes in Ruth’s text reveal that Obed was David’s paternal grandfather (4.17,21–22); so Ruth, a foreigner (2.10), was not only incorporated into the people of God, but, even more surprisingly, into the very lineage of the Davidic monarchy.
Along with Ruth’s rich personality, that of Naomi comes into play, a generous and wise woman in her councils (1.8–13; 2.22; 3.1–4), who with full trust in the Lord faces a destiny determinedly and courageously others painful.
The third of the main characters in the book is the landowner Boaz, affectionate man, well imposed on his rights and determined to assert them. In addition, he shows that he fulfills all the commitments that his status as a relative of Elimelech obliges him, among which is the marriage with Ruth (4.3–12).
Contribution to theology
Ruth’s message transcends the immediate purpose of offering David’s genealogy . Ruth presents several important themes, each of them deserves to be explored and elaborated.
1) The book of Ruth introduces the universal dimension of God’s redemptive purpose. The inclusion of the Moabite Ruth, as a Gentile participant, in the genealogy of the kings of Israel, presents the love of God encompassing all the nations of the earth.
The Lord not only includes the Gentiles in his plan of salvation, but he employs people who do not belong to the chosen people as instruments of his redemptive work. Ruth’s message is opposed to exclusivisms, either those that existed at that time, or those that still manifest themselves in any of the trends or groups.
2) Ruth’s book highlights the beauty of dedication and friendship and highlights family values. Both things have great significance and must be strengthened.
3) Ruth is a book full of images about redemption. The divine principle manifested through the levirate tradition (Dt 25.5–10) dramatically reveals God’s purpose that human beings can always recover from their losses and extend that possibility to those in need. Although, technically speaking, in the book of Ruth no such marriage takes place (according to the levirate tradition), this is the principle on which Boaz’s action rests and which serves to illustrate one of the ways in which the Spirit of God in his redemptive purpose.