From The Editor’s Notebook
Highlights From the Historical Books of the Bible
Ruth: The Book of Rest Through Redemption
Key words: Rest (1:9, 3:1) and Redeem (4:4, 6).
Message: Rest through redemption and union.
Key Verse: “Then she said, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day” (3:18).
Of the book of Ruth, W. Graham Scroggie has helpfully said: “This is one of the only two books of the Bible which bear the name of a woman, and in many respects they present remarkable contrasts. The one is of a Gentile woman, Ruth, who was brought into the midst of Jews, among whom she henceforth lives her life; and the other is of a Jewish woman, Esther, who is taken into the midst of Gentiles, where, with equal fidelity and grace, she plays the part ordained for her by God. RUTH is a lovely pastoral idyll, the tale of a friendship between two women, and the grand climax up to which all is working is the birth of a baby. After reading JUDGES xvii.-xxi., RUTH is like a lovely lily in a stagnant pool. Here, instead of unfaithfulness, is loyalty, and instead of immorality, is purity. Here, instead of battlefields are harvest fields, and instead of the warriors shout is the harvester’s song.”1
F. B. Meyer has said of this Bible gem: ‘The story gives a graphic and admirable picture of the simplicity and beauty of the home life of those early years; and it teaches us that we need never despair of our life, for in ways we know not of, God is bringing good out of evil, and sunshine from the dark and cloudy sky.”2
The human author of the book is unknown, but it is evident that it was written when the rule of the Judges had ended on the introduction of the monarchy (1:1), and after the birth of David (4:22). In view of these things, the author may well have been Samuel. The book covers a period of ten years (1:4).
Dr. Samuel Johnson, the great literary authority of the 18th century, once read it to an enthralled crowd at the London Club, a pastoral which he said he had lately met with, and which they imagined had just been composed. When the members of the club were loud in their praises of its simple and pathetic beauty, he disclosed to them that it was only the story of Ruth which he had read to them from a book most of them despised—the Bible.
The book of Ruth serves as a sort of appendix to Judges, but is quite in contrast to it, being much like an oasis in a desert. It is the only instance in the Bible in which an entire book is devoted to the history of a woman, there being but two books in the Word of God which bear the name of women: Ruth, a Gentile, who married a Hebrew husband: and Esther, a Jewess, who married a Gentile husband.
The basic purpose of the book of Ruth is the tracing of the genealogy of David, and of David’s Lord, while its primary message is that of rest, and this, through redemption and union with one’s redeemer.
1. Ruth Resolving (1)
2. Ruth Responding (2)
3. Ruth Resting (3)
4. Ruth Rewarded (4)
Or as G. Campbell Morgan has in a simple way summed up the book’s message:
1. The Choice of Faith (1-2)
2. The Venture of Faith (3
3. The Reward of Faith (4)
The book of Ruth is a classic love story without ever using the word love, setting forth the power of pure love to overcome all difficulties. Strangely enough, it is not the story of a romantic love between a young man and a young woman, but the story of a young widow’s passionate and devoted love for her mother-in-law.
The book reveals a high ideal of wedlock, married life being treated as a sacred and lofty companionship in 4:11-17.
There is nothing in human literature more beautiful and sublime than Ruth’s address to Naomi in 1:16-17: “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go: and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”
Scroggie has helpfully pointed out and summarized the book’s typical teaching, beginning with the meanings of the names which occur.
1. Bethlehem, House of Bread; Elimelech, My God is King; Naomi, Sweet (?); Mahlon. Song; Chilion, Perfection; Ruth, Satisfied; Orpah, Skull (?); and Boaz, Strength.
2. These three women represent—a saint backsliding, Naomi; a sinner rejecting blessing, Orpah; and a sinner believing and blessed, Ruth.
3. Boaz may be regarded as a type of Christ, as Lord of the harvest (2:3), Dispenser of bread (3:15), Kinsman-Redeemer (2:20), Giver of rest (3:1), Man of wealth (2:1), and our Strength.
Added to the above is the fact that the book of Ruth provides a lovely picture of Christ and the Church.
Further, it is the story of a prodigal family which went to the far country.
The book furnishes the only example of the law of the kinsman-redeemer (goel, Heb.) in action.
It provides the link between the tribe of Judah and David, the genealogy at the end of the book being a most important document (it is found in Matt. 1).
It is noteworthy that Ruth is one of the five women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ. The marvelous, matchless grace of God is revealed, in that, three had bad records (Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba), and three were Gentiles (Tamar, Rahab and Ruth).
The book of Ruth was, and is, one of the Megilloth or Festal Rolls, one of which was publicly read at each festival, Ruth being read at the Feast of Pentecost. One of the primary designs of the book is to trace the descent of David, and to show that the Gentiles are not outside the scope of God’s redeeming love.
In studying the book of Ruth it is well to keep in mind that in the midst of sin and apostasy, as was the case with Israel at that time, God always has those who remain faithful to Him.
The Lord Jesus Christ, typified by Boaz, destroys race and class distinction.
It would be well to study 1 Corinthians in the light of this book.
The LORD JESUS CHRIST is seen in the book of Ruth as our “KINSMAN-REDEEMER”
1 W. Graham Scroggie, Know Your Bible, I, p. 56.
2 F.B. Meyer, Through the Bible Day by Day, II, p.40.
3 Scroggie, op. cit., pp. 56-57.