Ruth is a cameo story of love, devotion, and redemption set in the black context of the days of the judges. It is the story of a Moabite woman who forsakes her pagan heritage in order to cling to the people of Israel and to the God of Israel. Because of her faithfulness in a time of national faithlessness, God rewards her by giving a new husband (Boaz), a son (Obed), and a privileged position in the lineage of David and Christ (she is the great-grandmother of David).

Ruth is the Hebrew title of this book. This name may be a Moabite modification of the Hebrew word reuit, meaning friendship or association. The Septuagint entitles the book Routh, the equivalent of the Hebrew name. The Latin title is Ruth, a transliteration of Routh.

The author of Ruth

The author of Ruth is not given anywhere in the book, nor is he known from any other biblical passage. Tulmudic tradition attributes it to Samuel but this is unlikely since David appears in Ruth 4:17, 22, and Samuel died before David's coronation (1 Sam. 25:1). Ruth was probably written during David's reign since Solomon's name is not included in the genealogy. The anonymity of the book, however, should not detract from its spiritual value or literary beauty.

The time of Ruth

Ruth divides neatly into four distinct settings:
(1) the country of Moab (1:1-18)
(2) a field in Bethlehem (1:19-2:23)
(3) a threshing floor in Bethlehem (3:1-18)
(4) the city of Bethlehem (4:1-22).
The setting of the first eighteen verses is Moab, a region northeast of the Dead Sea. The Moabites, descendants of Lot, worshipped Chemosh and other pagan gods. Scripture records two times when they fight against Israel (Judg. 3:12-30 and 1 Sam. 14:47). Ruth takes place about two centuries after the first war and about eighty years before the second. Ruth 1:1 gives the setting of the remainder of the book: "Now it came to pass, in days when the judges ruled." This is a time of apostasy, warfare, decline, violence, moral decay, and anarchy. Ruth provides a cameo of the other side of the story - the godly remnant who remain true to the laws of God. Because Ruth is written more to tell a beautiful story than to give all the historical fact of that period, the assignment of time is some what difficult. Utilising the same fourfold division noted above, the following can be assigned:
a. Ruth 1:1-18 The country of Moab (c. 10 years)
b. Ruth 1:19-2:23 A field in Bethlehem (months)
c. Ruth 3:1-18 A threshing floor in Bethlehem (1 day).
d. Ruth 4:1-22 The city of Bethlehem (c. 1 year).

About Ruth

Ruth is the story of a virtuous woman who lives above the norm of her day. Although it was probably written during the time of David, the events take place during the time of the judges. This period in Israel's history was generally a desert of rebellion and immorality, but the story of Ruth stands in contrast as an oasis of integrity and righteousness.

Ruth was "a virtuous woman" (3:11) who shows loyal love to her mother-in-law Naomi and her near-kinsman Boaz. In both relationships, goodness and love are clearly manifested. Her love is demonstrated in chapters 1 and 2 and rewarded in chapters 3 and 4.

Ruth's love is rewarded (3 and 4): Boaz takes no further steps toward marriage, so Naomi follows the accepted customs of the day and requests that Boaz exercise his right as kinsman-redeemer. In 3:10-13, Boaz reveals why he has taken no action: he is older than Ruth (perhaps by twenty years her senior), and he is not the nearest kinsman. Nevertheless, God rewards Ruth's devotion by giving her Boaz as a husband and by providing her with a son, Obed, the grandfather of David.