Ruth in the Bible

Why is the book of Ruth in the Bible?
The Book of Ruth ends in a pedigree: Ruth and Boaz had their son Obed, who fathered Jesse, who fathered king David.
There you go: The cutest story that leads to birth of the greatest king. What more could one be asking for? Does your family have cute love stories of ancestors?

Where is it positioned in the Bible?
That depends. In the Hebrew Bible Ruth is one of the Five Megillot, fairly young liturgical pieces, that are only part of the Ketuvim.
Much later, when the Christian Canon was formed, the very first verse was taken literally: “Long ago, in the days before Israel had a king, there was a famine in the land.” And that is how Ruth ended up between Judges and Samuel in the Greek Septuagint.


Marriage without love

Traditionally marriage has not been an institution of love but protection. In ancient Israel, unmarried women and widows had a difficult time supporting themselves. Since property was owned by men who passed it on to their sons, it was important for a woman to have a husband or sons to protect her and take care of her. Thus Naomi devises a plan to ensure that she and Ruth will be cared for. Oh, and that develops into this wonderful love story…


Inefficiency Mandate

Did you know the Bible has many commandments mandating inefficiency?
The type of work performed by Ruth is known as gleaning. The Law of Moses makes provision for the poor, foreigners, orphans and widows by commanding that parts of the harvest be left behind for gleaners (Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19-21). A harvest must not be 100% efficient!

Did you know? On U.S. farms, gleaning is making a comeback, as a national anti-hunger organization has turned to the ancient practice to help feed the poor.


What’s in a name?

Long ago, in the days before Israel had a king, there was a famine in the land. So a man named Elimelech, who belonged to the clan of Ephrath and who lived in Bethlehem in Judah, went with his wife Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion to live for a while in the country of Moab.
– Those poor boys were set to die from the get-go: The meaning of Mahlon is “sickness”, his brother Chilion means “pining,” “wasting away”.
– Ruth’s name on the other hand means “friend” or “companion” and that’s what she is throughout the story.
– Her mother-in-law changes her name from Naomi (sweet) to Marah (bitter).
What’s your name?