Sweet Sermon – STUDY GUIDE ON THE BOOK OF RUTH 1
Submitted by Dr. GP
You will get the most of your study of the book of Ruth if you follow the instructions below faithfully.
1- Since familiarity with the text is the first rule of proper Bible study, read through the four chapters at one sitting if possible aloud. Have pencil in hand to make your own notes as you go.
2- List key words and phrases or those that are repeated.
3-Note the role of God and the place he has in the lives of the main characters and record all the references to God in the book.
4-Note the many important questions asked in the book and record these.
5- Decide what is the main subject in each of the four chapters and give each chapter a heading.
6- Since Ruth is set in the period of the Judges, compare the story and its tone with Judges.
7- Read the book repeatedly until you can tell the story well, and tell it from the view point of all the major characters.
8- Study the introduction below thoroughly. Download or otherwise copy it so that you can make additions to it when you do further research and collateral reading on the book later in commentaries and other sources.
9- Read the text again and answer the simple study questions assigned in chapter two of this study guide and submit your answers to your group leader or teacher. Refer to the notes at the end of the chapter only after you have completed your first attempt at these questions.
10- Study the notes thoroughly and read other books and commentaries on the book of Ruth. These notes are not meant to be exhaustive, but are given to provide some background to the text, and to stimulate the reader/student to think more on the contents of this exciting short Bible book. The notes are also given with the knowledge that some are unable to easily access proper books and commentaries. For those seeking a text book for Bible classes on Ruth, the author recommends whole heartedly Warren Wiersbe’s Put Your Life Together- Studies in the Book of Ruth. Back To The Bible, Lincoln,NE.1985. For this reason, we have quoted sparingly from this work.
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF RUTH.
In studying any book of the Bible it is generally a good thing to prepare an introduction in which certain features about the book are addressed. In carrying out this exercise for the Book of Ruth, I have added all the snippets of interesting or thought provoking information that I found in my research to add more spice to this study. The student/reader is urged to add to these notes all that will make the appreciation of this important little Bible book to those to whom he presents it.
“Even though the events in Ruth occur during the dismal period of Judges it is in stark contrast to that depressing and depraved era. It is in fact like a pure lily floating on a stagnant pond. Instead of bloody battlefields, we read of blooming harvest fields. In place of the soldier’s shout there is the farmer’s song. The story progresses from a famine, to a funeral, to a field, and finally to a firstborn.” (1) “The calm poetry of those harvest fields of Bethlehem, the eager gleaner among the maidens, the reapers, the lord of the harvest—have all lived in golden sunshine in our imagination from our childhood.” (2)
Ruth is the first of two biblical books named after a woman, and the third of four non-Israelite women to be mentioned in the Lord’s genealogy in Matthew 1:5. The others are Tamar (Matthew 1:3), Rahab (Matthew 1:6), and Bathsheba (Matthew 1:6). She is also the third of three Old Testament women who foreshadow Christ and His church in the New Testament. The other two being Eve (Genesis 2), and Rebekah (Genesis 24).
The three books Joshua, Judges, Ruth tell the story of God’s establishing his people in the land while Israel was still a theocracy. Joshua is the story of their entering in to possess the land. Judges records 332 years of victories and defeats with cycles of sin, apostasy, unrest wars, judgments and sometimes repentance. But there were some temporary periods of deliverance and peace from the affliction and harassment from their enemies. The book of Ruth (the only Bible book that is devoted wholly to the domestic history of a woman) relates the story of one of the brighter periods which reminds us that there was a godly remnant living in this period, just as God has promised. Ruth tells the story of one family which was significant because it was in the Messianic line. “This account of a godly family from Bethlehem reveals something of God’s mysterious and wonderful ways of sovereign grace in fulfilling His divine purposes through a believing remnant.” (3) This reminds us that the promises of God affects families and individuals. It reminds us that God designed that communities and nations and civilizations should revolve around the family with good leadership at the head of each family (Genesis 2). This lovely story is a perfect picture of redemption and the clearest example of Christ as our kinsman redeemer in the Bible.
The book of Ruth though set in the gloomy period of the judges (Ruth 1:1), is in stark contrast to that depressing and depraved era and the two awful stories with which Judges ends, in that it is
a “story of loyalty in a day of anarchy, an example of purity in a time of immorality. In Ruth the narrative moves from the battlefield to the harvest field and from the warrior’s cry to the gleaner’s song. Ruth is a lily in the mud pond of Judges.” (4) “The book was written from a prophetic point of view as is indicated by its moral tone. The standard by which Israel is measured is their relation to God’s law.” (5)
Jensen writes “The story of Ruth is not only a literary gem of matchless beauty but a spiritual reservoir of living water on a bleak desert. Its beauty magnifies the godly traits of its main human characters, but of deeper significance to the reader are its pictures of Christ the Redeemer, as seen in its types, symbols and shadows, not to mention the grand fact of Christ’s ancestry in the Moabitess Ruth.” (6) “This short book is in sweet contrast to the two closing stories [of Judges], but it is clear from the first verse that it belongs to this period.” (7).
Deep study of the little book of Ruth will reveal that there are very many spiritual truths to be gleaned and that there are several vantage points from which this book of great diversity can be approached.
The author is unknown, but it is thought by some scholars that Samuel the prophet or some of his prophetic students wrote both Judges and Ruth some time after 1381 BC.
2. THOSE TO WHOM THE BOOK WAS ADDRESSED
Geisler posits that Ruth, like Judges, was written to the newly formed nation of Israel to remind them of the situation when “there was no king in Israel” and to engender in them the attitude of “See how thankful you can be now that God has given us stability under the Davidic kingdom and that we are not living in those near anarchy conditions of the days of the judges when everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (8
3-TIME OF WRITING
Geisler suggests that Ruth must have been written after 1043 BC, when Saul was crowned, and before 1004 BC when David captured Jerusalem. (9)
4. PURPOSE FOR WRITING
The purposes of the book of Ruth are 1) to set forth the godliness of the remnant during the period of the judges, and 2) to illustrate the law of the kinsman-redeemer.
Jensen suggests that “The chief purpose of the book is to be found in the genealogical table at the end………God was soon to allow Israel to have kings, and so by way of preparation, the book of Ruth introduces the kingly line, Boaz and Ruth being the ancestors of King David through whom came the Savior-King.” (10) “The book introduces a few ancestors of David, the royal lineage of Christ the Messiah. Prominent is the inclusion of a non-Israelite (Moabitess Ruth ) in this line.” Theologically, Jensen teaches that “Underlying the entire book is its relevance of the character and ways of God: His providence, sovereignty, grace, holiness, and His invitation of salvation to all peoples.” Jensen notes that historically “the book describes a few intimate experiences of a godly family of Bethlehem in the period of the judges”, and typologically, he states that “The kinsman-redeemer (Boaz) is the prominent Messianic type. Ruth is then a type of the church, the bride of Christ. Some scholars view Naomi as a prominent type of Israel, [and] other types may be seen in the book.” (11)
Geisler points out with respect to the historical purpose that “The Book of Ruth has an important function in Israel’s history. It supplies an important link in the ancestry of king David and shows how the birth of David into the messianic and monarchial line was providentially guided by God. As such it indicates the divine origin of the Davidic dynasty.” With respect to the doctrinal purpose Geisler asserts that “One very significant doctrinal emphasis of the Book of Ruth is its demonstration of the function of the law concerning the Kinsman Redeemer (Ruth 4; cf. Deut 25:5f). Ruth also presents the doctrine of the divine origin of the kingdom of David and contains one of the finest examples of filial love and piety in literature. Concerning the Christological purpose of Ruth, Geisler teaches that “The Book of Ruth beautifully portrays several messianic purposes. It shows how Christ, our Kinsman Redeemer, purchases us for Himself. It also illustrates the grace of God as Ruth the Gentile is brought into the line of messianic blessing (see Matt 1:5).” (12)
5.TEACHINGS ABOUT GOD, THE FATHER
The nature of God is brought out in Ruth in greater detail than first appears from a casual reading of this romance story. Note that God is seen to be the Lord of the forces of nature as well as the Ruler of all the peoples and nations. Note too, that the famine ended when the Lord “visited His people in giving them food”(1:6b). The deaths in Naomi’s family and all the tragic experiences she suffered were directly attributed to the Lord (1:13,21). When Naomi heard the good news that Ruth had gleaned in the field of their close relative Boaz, her response was “May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and the dead” (2:20a). A strong monotheism is evident in the narrative, and all that happened came from the hand of God. The reader is urged to read the Book of Ruth again with the sole purpose of seeing the hand of God in this book. Some suggestions of attributes to look for include God as the Holy One, as Judge, as the Worshipped One, as the Gracious Lord, as the Rewarder. The fact that God honored a Moabitish woman and bring her into fellowship in Israel, and making her an ancestress of Christ indicates the grace of God. Ephesians 2 indicates that He has done the same for us.