The book of Ruth was written around 1100BC, which was a century or two before King David's reign. The author is unknown, but wrote the book about 150 years AFTER the events took place. During the time of the writing, Israel was one nation, ruled by judges, and surrounded enemies, including the Moabites.
The central character of Ruth is Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law. Naomi loses her husband and her two sons, and is left with her two Moabite daughters-in-law. The story shows the redemption of Naomi through Boaz.
Ruth is an unlikely book because of the title of the book and Its story, the characters, and how the book points to another unlikely person.
Ruth is not an Israelite - the only book in the OT that is named after a non-Israelite. Moreover, she was a Moabite. The country of Moab came to be as a result of Lot's incestuous relationship with his daughter. The Moabites also wouldn't allow the Israelites to pass through their land during their wilderness journey to the Promised Land. They were a hated people by the Jewish people. Also, this unlikely book is read in its entirety during Shavuot because this book and the Torah, which was given on Shavuot, are all about the extraordinary kindness of God - the Chesed of God. Chesed means, "love, kindness, mercy, favor and goodness, and represents a word that means an action without regard for any return action.
examples of chesed:
Ruth 1:8 -"May the Lord deal kindly (chesed) with you...
1:16-17 (Ruth); 2:5-12 and 3:10 (Boaz); 2:20 and 3:1 (Naomi); 4:14-15 (the townspeople)
Another theme that is present is the grieving process. Many have studied the stages of grief, and it was published by Kubler Ross' famous book called On Grief and Grieving. We know the five stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Instead of this being a linear progression, it is often messy. The author of Ruth is very familiar with grief and shows us these five stages through Naomi.
DENIAL/NUMBNESS (1:8) She tries to send her daughters-in-law back to Moab. They wouldn't be accepted there (or in Israel)
ANGER (1:13, 2:20-21) She is bitter.
BARGAINING (2:20-22) She is trying to figure a way out of the situation.
DEPRESSION (3:1) There is no mention of Naomi's future- she has none.
ACCEPTANCE (4:13-17) Obed is born as a "son" to Naomi, even though he is a grandson.
The author understands that the line of David is still open, but probably didn't know that Jesus would be that Kinsman Redeemer! Jesus has some Moabite blood in Him. The chesed of God through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus would give us all hope and ultimate acceptance.
We are all a Ruth, an outcast in desperate need of hope. We are all a Naomi, in desperate need of a kinsman redeemer. We all need Jesus.
To Discuss Today:
1. Discuss a time when you have felt hopeless and in need of a redeemer. What happened?
2. When has someone shown you chesed?
3. As we move into the Christmas season, ask God to show you where you can be a blessing to someone in need without wanting anything in return.