The Song of Ruth

Rose of Moab, Rose of Sharon

And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be mu people, and thy God my God.—Ruth 1:17

Condensed from "Meggison Notes" by J. A. Meggison

During the time of the Judges, there was no ruler in Israel. God’s chosen people were more free than any nation in the world.

But there was a severe famine in this Land of Promise. Even in Bethlehem, "the house of bread," where olives, pomegranates, figs, almonds, grapes and grain usually grew in abundance, there was nothing.

A Family Flees a Famine

Elimelech ("God is my King") lived in the region called Ephrata ("bearing, fruitful.") Considering the hardship to his family more important than the covenant of his people, Elimelech took them to the very nation which had oppressed Israel, idolatrous Moab—seeking bread.

The sons’ names did not indicate faith, as did their parents’—strange, in a culture where names were significant. Mahlon meant "weak" or "sick"; Chilion meant "pining" or "destruction."

Mother Naomi seems to have lived up to her name—"pleasant, lovely"; she was greatly loved.

God’s Judgments Follow His People

After arriving in Moab, Elimelech died. He had not trusted God’s love in the Promised Land; now, divine judgment smote him in the strange land.

Still, the young men did not return to the land of their birth. Instead, they married heathen women and settled down. Perhaps they hoped to return to Israel when the famine was past; but both sons died before that happened. They did not seem to have considered God’s will nor his Law, for Israel was commanded to stay separate from heathen nations.

Now Naomi was at liberty to make a choice. She no longer had a husband to obey, nor sons to consider. She turned her heart toward home.

Naomi Bids Farewell

Naomi instructed her dear daughters-in-law to return to their mothers’ homes and start their lives afresh. She blessed them with these words, "Jehovah grant that you may find rest, each in the home of a husband. Jehovah deal kindly with you, as you dealt with the dead and me." They had been good wives to her sons, good daughters to her. They shared a beautiful love.

Worshiping Jehovah In Moab

Ruth and Orpah had loved the holy atmosphere of their husbands’ home. Even while Elimelech and Mahlon and Chilion had enjoyed the comforts of Moab, they had continued to worship the true God. The Moabite wives had experienced a great contrast between the purity of Israel’s Jehovah and the abominable idolatry of Moab with its sensual excesses and sinful customs. They did not want to return to the habits of heathendom. They were ready to go with Naomi.

Naomi’s Practical Advice

Naomi had to tell them that no man in Israel would marry them because they were foreigners. The lot of a widow would be hard. By staying in Moab, they could remarry and find the protection and honor of being a wife, so necessary in those days.

"Would You Shut Yourselves Up?"

It would have been acceptable for Ruth and Orpah to marry a brother-in-law to receive continued protection, but Naomi reminded them that she had no son to assume this duty. She added, "Even if I should this night...bear sons, would ye shut yourselves up and wait till they were grown?"

"Shut yourselves up" is an interesting phrase. A bride covered herself with a veil, withdrew from public view and shut herself up. It was like a shutting in by flowers, a shutting in for the purpose of perfection and coronation, being hedged in. Canticles 4:12 speaks of "a garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed."

"Find Rest"

"Find rest [Hebrew, menuchah) in the home of a husband," Naomi had said. Menuchah refers to a resting place. Whereas David had been a man of war, his son Solomon was the first king who could praise God for the complete menuchah gift. (1 Kings 8:56) The Holy Land, when possessed in faith and obedience, was the earthly menuchah to which earthly Israel had come, as the bride to the house of her husband.

Israel’s highest menuchah is their God and his covenant. The world’s final rest and home is mentioned in Isaiah 11:10, "His rest (menuchah) shall be glorious."

Jesus called to men in the Gospel age (Matt. 11:29), Take my yoke upon you and...ye shall find rest (anapanois or menuchah) for your souls—a place of peace, a home for your souls.

Orpah is Convinced

Orpah had a hunger for a resting place, security. She dreaded having to "shut herself up." Although she loved Naomi, she counted the cost and it was too much for her. She represented a class whose love for truth and righteousness is not enough to suffer much. They turn back into the world, as Orpah turned back to Moab.

The Rose of Moab

"Ruth" is derived from a Hebrew word for "rose." This Rose of Moab loved Naomi and Naomi’s God Jehovah. She was like the Christians who sacrifice their earthly father’s inheritance to become God’s people.

Naomi’s Example

Naomi had lived her life so beautifully that her God was reflected in her self-sacrificing love. Let us "be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world." (Phil. 2:14-16) "Be thou an example of believers" (1Tim. 4:12). "Ye are living epistles, known and read of all men" (2 Cor. 3:2, 3).

Naomi’s Sad Homecoming

Naomi and her rose, her priceless jewel, Ruth, left Moab and went to Israel. The old hometown was stirred to see them. The women asked, "Is this Naomi?" They were contrasting her condition this day with that of ten years ago when she had left them in their troubles, hoping to fare better.

"Call me not Naomi, but Mara," she sighed. Naomi was no longer splendid and full of delight. El Shaddai has dealt bitterly with me. Mara means "bitter." El Shaddai referred to the Almighty as gracious, author of fruitfulness and blessing. God had refused to bless them in a foreign land, as they had refused his chastening in Israel’s famine. In the loss of children and family, "Shaddai hath declared me guilty."

Yet, God’s faithfulness and love had reached out into Moab and overruled their affairs to bring them back. "There is a friend that clingeth closer than a brother" (Prov. 18:24). "I drew them with the bands of love" (Hos. 11:4). Shortly, the neighbors returned to their own pursuits, and Ruth went to the fields to glean. It was a miserable task for a once-prosperous widow. A day of distressful heat brought a little barley. Ruth’s love for Naomi gave her strength. And Jehovah directed her steps.

Boaz, a Godly Man

Her lot met her in the fields of Boaz. Boaz’ greeting to his workers shows a God-bent disposition, Jehovah be with you. They reflected his character in replying, Jehovah bless thee. Boaz noticed Ruth’s demeanor. She was industrious, earnest, reserved—not bold, not noisy. He asked the overseer about her.

The Law of Israel provided for Ruth as an impoverished stranger (Deut. 24:19-22). Boaz was obliged to give her this right, but he was not obliged to do more. He was careful not to wound Ruth’s self-respect by offering her charity, but he instructed his binders to drop a handful of grain occasionally so her gleaning would be fruitful. At noon, he invited her to eat with the other reapers, and passed her bits of corn and sour wine for refreshment.

Boaz did not say, "I will help you." He said, "Jehovah recompense thee, and a full reward be given thee by Jehovah.under whose wings thou art come to trust." She would find this blessing as she would seek shelter under the protection of the covenant-keeping God, among a covenant people.

Ruth’s Gratitude

These words were the first ray of sunshine breaking through the grief of many weeks. She was lonely, without family or home. Now she heard the name of Israel’s God spoken with awe-inspiring reverence, as Naomi had felt it—another voice of blessing from another of God’s people.

Kind words to a loving heart are like morning dew on a thirsty field. Ruth said to Boaz, "I have been sad, but you comfort me. I looked for no reward, but you speak to my heart." She returned to her gleaning, not slackening her hand. She worked until twilight, even staying to thresh grain. She took 3-1/2 pecks of barley to Naomi, and food saved from dinner.

Naomi Recognizes Jehovah’s Guidance

Naomi watched the Lord’s providence: Jehovah hath not left off his kindness to the living and the dead. His blessings be on the man who has befriended you.

It was the custom of Israel: Naomi said to Ruth, "Shall I not seek a menuchah for thee?" She desired a home for her ward.

The Law of Israel provided that the nation be preserved in its families. If a man died childless, it was as though a branch had withered. A new branch must be grafted in by the nearest male, the relative marrying the widow. Each family was responsible for keeping the branch alive. No one could redeem the family except a blood relative.

Ruth Had to be a Blood Relative

Just as a redeemer in this Levirate law had to be a blood relative, so Jesus had to become a blood relative of Adam’s race, human flesh, nourished by the body of Mary, before he could purchase the human family.

Ruth Requests Boaz’ Protection

As advised by Naomi, Ruth asked Boaz to "spread thine skirt (protection) over thine handmaid." Boaz was impressed by Ruth’s courage. To save the name of her dead husband from extinction, she was exposing herself to being misunderstood. She might have been considered brazen in her actions. But noble Boaz credited Ruth with noble intentions.

He filled her vail with six measures of barley grain, the number six representing labor. Seven represents rest; Boaz would seek to provide rest for Ruth.

He gathered ten elders and had them sit in the gate with him. Here he laid the case before Elimelech’s nearer kinsman. That man was willing to redeem the land for Naomi, but would not marry a Moabitess, remembering the fate of Mahlon and Chilion.

Boaz knew that Ruth had become an Israelite in faith and left Moab’s gods and customs to join the covenant people. He entered into the ceremony which gve Ruth to him. The other relative removed his shoe and gave it to Boaz.

In Deuteronomy 11:24, a shoe refers to possession. The relative could have had Ruth and done with her as he pleased as long as it was honorable. He showed by this custom that he surrendered all rights and claims of possession. So Boaz redeemed Naomi’s and Ruth’s inheritance, and married Ruth, according to the law of Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

Our Redeemer

Jesus redeemed Adam and all his children and Adam’s inheritance, the earth. He will marry the bride, a daughter of Adam. This contract is witnessed by the ancient worthies in the place of judgment, before the throne of God. He planted his shoe upon the inheritance by walking on the earth for 3-1/2 years. "Over Edom will I cast my shoe" (Psa. 60:8; 108:9). The Lord will claim Edom as his possession, redeemed.

Ruth, Mother of Kings

Ruth represents the Gentiles who come into the family of God by leaving behind home and family. They become the Bride of the Prince, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, a ransom for all. They will be the mother of kings. Ruth gave up her father’s home for the home of a prince of Israel, Boaz; her people were the covenant people; she received the land, Naomi’s inheritance and Boaz. So God deals with the Church.