Through the Bible in a Year: Ruth

This Week’s Reading Schedule

Monday, April 23: Ruth 1-4 (whole book)
Tuesday, April 24: Psalm 21-25
Wednesday, April 25: Proverbs 1-4
Thursday, April 26: Proverbs 5-7
Friday, April 27: Proverbs 8-10

Next week we will read Galatians, James, and Romans, which is a lot for one week, but the following week we will go back over Romans chapter by chapter, comparing James and Galatians (and the Gospels).

The overall year’s plan is here.

Ruth 1

It’s not a coincidence that this story is about a family from Bethlehem. Ruth was King David’s great grandmother and thus a direct ancestor of Jesus.

Ruth’s faithfulness to her mother-in-law is often used as an inspiration for Christian women. It is remarked upon several times throughout the book, but we’ll discuss that more in chapter 2.

Ruth 2

Leaving what was missed during harvest for the poor and widows to glean was a law in Israel (Lev. 19:9-10). At this point in history, it appears that Israel was still familiar with the Law of Moses or else certain cultural laws had become set in place as tradition because everything that happens in this book can be found in the Law of Moses (unlike Judges, which we just finished).

Well, there’s at least one exception. No Moabite was to enter the congregation of the Lord (Deut. 23:3). It is possible that prohibition only applied to men or families, as the Israelites were allowed to marry women who had been captured in war.

Boaz shows Ruth favor, and he says he has heard of Ruth’s kindness toward her mother-in-law. Naomi was old, by her own testimony, and it’s possible that she was not able to do the gleaning that Ruth was doing. Either way, Ruth was serving Naomi, worshiping Yahweh rather than the gods of Moab, and ensuring that an elderly widow was not alone.

Boaz calls this favor he’s showing her "wages from the LORD" (v. 12). God notices the kindnesses we do. They do not go unrewarded.

Ruth 3

While we don’t live in the same culture Ruth and Boaz did, it is obvious that the point of Ruth’s visit to Boaz’ threshing floor was to get him to marry her.

This is more than just a daring proposal. When a man died childless in Israel, the Law of Moses made it the responsibility of his brother to take the widow as a wife and have a child which would be considered the deceased brother’s descendant (Deut. 25:5-10). Apparently "brother" is meant in its wider meaning of "relative" because the law is being applied to men that are not Mahlon’s brothers.

Thus, Boaz and the unnamed closer relative bore a certain responsibility to Ruth, though it seems obvious that Boaz was interested in Ruth from the moment he saw her.

Ruth 4:1-15

Boaz finds the closest relative, and he gathers the elders of the city. This is all specified in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Even the removal of the shoe is mentioned there. However, the unwillingness to raise up children for a deceased brother was considered shameful enough that Deuteronomy 25 says that the widow is also to spit in the face of the relative that refused to do it.

Notice, though, that the removal of the shoe in Ruth 4 is over the land, not over Ruth, and it is attributed to custom, not to the Law. It is very likely that all the Law-keeping in the book of Ruth, even the allowing of the widows to glean, was the product of custom, not a knowledge of the Law.

Why do I say that? Because a knowledge of the Law is noticeably lacking from all of Israel’s history in the Scriptures, though there are a few exceptions.

Also, what Mark Twain said is true:

Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment. The penalty may be unfair, unrighteous, illogical, and a cruelty; no matter, it will be inflicted, just the same. (The Gorky Incident, cited by twainquotes.com)

This is a sad truth, but it is a truth. Mark Twain was simply observing exactly what Jesus had said was true among the Pharisees, which is that tradition was held higher than the Word of God (Mark 7:9).

It is a danger to every one of us. And you can be certain that if you choose to stand on the Word of God over tradition, you will be punished by the majority for whom "customs are rock."

Ruth 4:16-22: Hebrew Genealogies

I referred to Ruth as King David’s great grandmother in my comments on chapter one, but that may not be true. Hebrew histories tend to skip generations, and the genealogy given at the end of chapter four certainly skips numerous generations.

How do we know this? Salmon is said to Boaz’ father. Boaz’ mother, however, was Rahab, the harlot from Jericho, according to Matthew 1:5. Some 400 years passed between the fall of Jericho and the beginning of King David’s reign. That is far too much time to allow Rahab to be King David’s great great grandmother. That’s 100 years per generation, and we are no longer in the first 11 chapters of Genesis where the lifespans were so long.

The same thing is true of the previous 400 years, when Israel was in Egypt. Pharez or Perez (v. 18, which spelling will depend on which translation you’re using) was the son of Judah who was the son of Jacob. That only allows 5 generations from Perez to Salmon, which is still too few to span 400 years.

It seems clear that the Israelites did not keep a good genealogy during their time in Egypt because there are even fewer generations between Levi and Moses to span those 400 years. Numbers 26:59 makes Moses to be Levi’s grandson! (See also Ex. 6:18-20.)

Kinsman Redeemer (Advanced)

Boaz is often spoken of as a type of Christ as "kinsman redeemer." In other words, a relative who redeems us from slavery.

I looked at a few web sites, and all of them referred me back to Leviticus 25 rather than Deuteronomy 25 for the law of the kinsman redeemer. Leviticus 25, especially verses 47-55, talks about a brother that goes into slavery, not one that dies and leaves a widow.

Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer. He did redeem us from slavery, and he did it with something much more precious than money. He did it with his own divine blood.

Boaz, however, was not filling the role of kinsman redeemer, but was marrying Ruth under the laws of Deuteronomy 25, so he could raise up a child for the name of Mahlon (Ruth 4:10). I really feel this is more a wonderful story of Ruth’s faithfulness, Boaz’ kindness, and the Lord’s providence in the ancestry of Jesus than a type of Jesus as our Kinsman Redeemer, even though Jesus most certainly is our Kinsman Redeemer. (This ought to startle us, that God would send his Son to redeem us and make us his children and Christ’s brothers—1 Jn. 3:1; Rom. 8:29; Rom. 5:8.)

If I’m missing something, feel free to point it out to me in the comment section.

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