The painting shown here is by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld. It was painted in 1828 and the title is Ruth in Boaz’s Field.
1. Ruth is one of the shortest books in the Jewish and Christian scripture. It has only four chapters.
2. The text does not identify the author but tradition states Samuel wrote it. Scholars, of course, have other ideas. Chapter one opens by stating, “Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled…”, so it might be argued that the story actually occurred during the time of Judges (prior to Samuel and David), but was written long after. Regarding Samuel and David one source states:
Samuel died before David become king, and the way in which the author writes the genealogy in Ruth 4: 8-22 supposes that the lineage is well known. In addition to the way chapter one begins, Ruth 4:7 states that the legal custom of taking off a shoe to seal the agreement is no longer in use. Only a generation exisits between Samuel and Boaz; therefore, it is unlikely that the time span would require this explanation.
Some scholars think the author might be a woman. First, the story centers on the life journey of two women. They find themselves in desperate straits in a male-dominated society, and the story to be from the viewpoint of a woman. Second, Naomi and Ruth’s ingenuity and assertiveness propels the story line. However, female authorship is conjecture, supported by only circumstantial evidence.
3. Since the story shows Iraelite acceptance of marrying converts to Judaism some believe the book was written during the Persian period around 500 B.C. However, there is no definitive piece of evidence that points to a date or time period.
4. Ruth is a narrative story with certain style elements that indicate the author had writing talent. It is not a simply list of facts. The story reads more like a drama in four acts with an epilogue and prologue.
5. The first act shows Naomi telling her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to stay in Moab following the deaths of Naomi’s sons. She intends to return to her people. Orpah agrees, but Ruth decides to follow Naomi (1:8-22).
6. In the second act Ruth is gathering barley in the fields of Naomi’s relative, Boaz. He shows special concern for Ruth (2:1-23).
7. Naomi convinces Ruth to hide at the threshing floor in the third act. Ruth hides until Boaz falls asleep and then she goes and lies at his feet. Once Boaz is awake Ruth expresses her desire to marry Boaz. Boaz has to tell Ruth another kinsman has prior claim (3:1-18).
8. Finally, in act four, at the city gate the other kinsman renounces his claim, and Boaz marries Ruth (4:1-12).
9. The epilogue relates Naomi’s joy and then lists some of Ruth’s descendants, including David (4:13-18).
10. The mood of the book can be determined by knowing the meaning of the names used in the story. Elimelich’s name means “my God is king” and is explained in the fact that his line continues through David and eventually leads to Jesus. Naomi’s name means “my gracious one” and later she wants to change her name to Mara which means “bitter one”. Mahlon and Chilion, the names of the sons means “sick” and “weakening” respectively. The name Ruth means “friend” as she remains loyal to Naomi. Boaz means “he comes in strength” and Obed, Ruth and Boaz’s son means “servant”. Think about the names of the characters and what they mean to the story when you revisit the book of Ruth.
11. One of the theological themes of the book is redemption. The Israelites believed that people and land could be redeemed. It was important for land to stay within the family. People could be redeemed through a levirate marriage, one that occurred when a close relative married a widow of a deceased relative in order to continue the family line. This is a duty that is taught in Deuteronomy 24:5-10. Though Ruth is not Elimelich’s widow and Boaz is not Ruth’s husband’s brother scholars refer to their marriage as a levirate marriage. While many were willing to take the land they were not willing to take Ruth as well.
12. The theme of hesed is also shown in Ruth. Hesed is seen when a person goes beyond the expected…beyond the requirement of the law. Boaz went beyond what was required of him when he married Ruth.
13. The Book of Ruth also shows how God is concerned with families during the good times and the bad. He is also the God of the Gentiles as well as the Israelites. Through the acts of hesed His plan is enacted through ordinary people.
You can see other 13s HERE.
You can see more of my fact lists about the various books of the Bible HERE.