A Study Through Ruth

Shortly before the Coronavirus pandemic, I began pastoring a church in North Texas. As we worked through what our mid-week Bible study would look like amid the virus, we decided to hold an online Zoom Bible study. I was skeptical to say the least. To my surprise we have seen a consistent number every week, one that is actually lager than when we were doing our mid-week study in person.

Once we established the platform, I then had to determine the content. I spent some time praying about what would be an encouraging study during this particular season, and landed on the book of Ruth. I began providing detailed study notes for our time together and since I am hurting for content here, I though this might be a good place to share. We will be in our sixth session this Wednesday, so I will post on Tuesdays and Thursdays until we are current. At that point I will release the study notes every Thursday evening after the Wednesday study.

My prayer is that these notes will be a blessing to you as you study the riches of God’s word. Do not just read them as a typical blog post, rather deeply engage the Scriptures  with the aid of the notes. My our Father by glorified through this study. If you have any questions, please reach out via social media or the contact me tab at calebfleming.com (soluschristus.org).

The first post will cover introductory matters:

An Expositional Study Through: Ruth

            My desire is that these notes, in conjunction with our mid-week gatherings, will give you a platform to do some deeper digging and to ask some productive questions. The format will be as follows: I will provide notes for our study on Wednesday night. These notes will cover the content of that week’s study. We will spend the first 30-45min in study and then facilitate questions at the end. When our time is over on Wednesday, you will be encouraged to take the notes and dig a little deeper into the text. This will contribute to the ongoing study for the following week. As we take off into this study, I will be prepared to provide expositional study techniques and tips for those who desire them. For those who simply want to enjoy the fellowship and Bible-study, please do not feel intimidated by the depth of study.

-Introduction: The purpose of this set of notes is to provide you with an introductory tool you can use and refer back to as you begin the study of Ruth. These notes will equip you with important information regarding authorship, date/scope of the book, the overall purpose of the book, the covenantal implications of the book, as well as an outline that will be used in the study of the book. I will provide citations as well as a bibliography of sources as we progress. Again, this is to aid you as a student.

-Authorship: We cannot know who in-fact wrote the book of Ruth, as the book itself gives no indication of authorship. There is well documented Rabbinic tradition (Babylonian Talmud) that indicates the author was Samuel. While this cannot be totally confirmed it is not out of the realm of possibilities, based on different dating options.

-Date/Scope: Dating the book of Ruth is quite difficult. There is a wealth of debate surrounding when this book was written and even where it should be placed within the canon of Scripture. Late critical scholarship argues for a dating as late as early post-exilic. This argument is based on technical linguistics found within the book itself (this is an element of study we will not delve into too much). While this critical argument found momentum in the rise of textual criticism, it has easily crumbled within traditional argumentation.

For the purposes of this study, we will work from the perspective that Ruth was written sometime during the early monarchy. This position recognizes a few important elements we find in the text itself. First, 1:1 indicates the events of the book took place during the time of the judges but was written after the fact. Second, the inclusion of the Davidic genealogy in 4:18-22 would indicate this book was possibly written as an apologetic for the legitimacy of the Davidic throne. To this it would seem, at least plausibly, that Samuel could have been the author. That said, we might date this book to about 1000B.C.

The scope of events covered in the Book of Ruth are a little bit easier to identify. If we again look at 1:1 we are given the context for the events of the book, during the time of the judges. In fact, it is often argued that Ruth was included in the book of Judges. Even though Josephus does not specifically indicate this to be the case, the famed Jewish historian assumes it in his recounting of these events (Antiquities V.IX.1-4). Dr. Constable goes as far as to provide a possible dating of the actual events to correspond with the judge at the time:

Conservative dates for David’s lifetime are about 1041-971 B.C. David was the “seventh” son born to his father “Jesse” (1 Chron. 2:12-15), who may have been born 35 years or more earlier. Boaz might have been born about 1150 B.C. and his son, Obed, by Ruth, about 1100 B.C. Since most of the events recorded in Ruth took place shortly before Obed’s birth, we might conclude that these events happened around 1100 B.C. This would place Ruth living in Israel during the judgeship of Samson (ca. 1105-1085 B.C.) and the ministry of Samuel (ca. 1115-1021 B.C.).

Some scholars date Ruth as a contemporary of Gideon (ca. 1180-1140 B.C.). Some do this because of Judges 6:3-4, which refers to a lack of food during Gideon’s judgeship. However, that shortage was not due to a famine, but to the yearly invasions of the Midianites. Moreover, it seems likely that there would have been several famines in Israel during the approximately 300-year period of the judges. Merrill believed that Ruth lived about 1200 B.C. This would place her within the judgeship of Deborah (ca. 1230-1190 B.C.).

While there are difficulties presented with this technique, it does present the student with an interesting parallel with which to study the context of the events of Ruth.

-Purpose: Many commentators would agree that the purpose of Ruth is to point the reader to the promise of a redeemer. While this conclusion is not at all wrong, it does seem overly simplistic. To demonstrate this let us examine briefly the character list of the book: Naomi (Mara see 1:20), Ruth, and Boaz. These would typically be the main characters identified in the book. Naomi, the heart broken widow who has no offspring to carry on her family’s name. Ruth, the Moabitess and faithful daughter-in-law of Naomi. Boaz, the noble kinsman who redeemed Ruth and provided offspring for Naomi’s family line. But there is another, Obed.

This is where I think we see the totality of the redemption of the book played out. Obed is the son of a redeemed Moabitess who ends up being the grandfather of the covenantal king, David (more on this in the implications section). In this we see the purpose of the book was not simply to highlight Naomi’s sorrow, Ruth’s faithfulness, or Boaz’s nobility. No, we see the purpose is to demonstrate God’s providential moving to bring about His purpose during a difficult and trying time.

-Implications: There are dramatic covenantal implications found within the intentional study of this book. To begin, we see a Jewish family leaving the land of promise during a difficult time because there is a perceived hope elsewhere. This is indicative of the overall though of the Jews at this time. A people who found themselves in this sin cycle throughout the book of Judges, a day when everyone did what was right in their own eyes. It is here we must begin our study. God did not (and does not) intend for His people to do what is right by their own standards. He rightly expects His people to do what is right by His standards alone.

We see heart ache befalls the family of Elimelech as they left their home in search of greener pastures in Moab. This ultimately results in the embittered widow and her widowed daughter-in-law returning to their home in Israel. The only hope they have is to glean crops on the edge of the field of a family member. A family member who then becomes the hero of the story as he is willing to redeem the family from their misfortune.

By the end of the book, not only has Naomi changed her tune (4:13-17), but the women around her call her blessed. Therefore, we see tragedy turned to blessing by the providence of God who is working all things according to His plan!

This is where the covenantal implications come to a peak. As we see God providentially working this situation according to His plan, we see the main character of the book, Obed. Obed becomes the grandfather of David, the king after God’s own heart. The king who would establish his kingdom after the Lord. The king who would be promised to always have an heir to the throne. It is in the redemption of Ruth we have a direct line to the Redeemer, Christ (Matt. 1:2-6).

In short, the covenantal implications of the book of Ruth demonstrate the futility of human thinking and sovereign plan of God to redeem His people from the bondage of sin, death, and the devil.

Bibliography

Block, Daniel Isaac. Judges, Ruth. Vol. 6. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.

Coleson, Joseph, Lawson G. Stone, and Jason Driesbach. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: Joshua, Judges, Ruth. Edited by Philip W. Comfort. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012.

Cundall, Arthur E., and Leon Morris. Judges and Ruth: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 7. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1968.

Franke, John R., ed. Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Jewish Publication Society. Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1985.

Koehler, Ludwig, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson, and Johann Jakob Stamm. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000.

New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

Richter, Wolfgang, Christian Riepl, and Johann Peter Rechenmacher. Biblia Hebraica Transcripta. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.

Whiston, William A.M. The Works of Flavius Josephus: The Learned and Authentic Jewish  Historian and Celebrated Warrior. Philadelphia, PA: Porter and Coats, [187?]

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