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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Additional Resources
• Nave's Topical Bible
• Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
Ruth, Theology of
• Easton's Bible Dictionary
Ruth The Book of
• Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Ruth, The Book of
• Hitchcock's Bible Names
• Smith's Bible Dictionary
Ruth, Book of
• International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Ruth, the Book of
Greek - Ruth
Hebrew - Ruth

(ryooth) The woman, an ancestor of David and Jesus, and the biblical book which tells the story of the reversal of fortunes for Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi.

Ruth is a self-contained story and is not dependent on other Old Testament narratives for continuity. The story's time is set in the period of Israel's judges. Story place is given as the agrarian world of Moab and the environs of Bethlehem. It can be divided into a series of scenes or episodes with different narrator's comments. The story begins (Ruth 1:1-5) by telling why Naomi is in Moab and her plight following the deaths of her husband and sons. Episode A (Ruth 1:6-22) narrates her return to and reception in Bethlehem, and how Ruth came to be with her. Episode B (Ruth 2:1-16) finds Ruth and Boaz meeting while she gleans grain during harvest. Episode C (Ruth 2:17-23) shows Naomi and Ruth discussing Ruth's day in the field and identifies Boaz as a kinsman with a certain role to fulfill. Episode D (Ruth 3:1-5) finds Naomi pressing Boaz's role as kinsman. Episode E (Ruth 3:6-13) follows a transition in which Ruth and Boaz encounter each other, and Boaz is confronted by his responsibility as kinsman. Episode F (Ruth 3:14-18) delays the plot's resolution while Naomi assures Ruth that the matter will be settled. Episode G (Ruth 4:1-6) tells of Boaz at the gate settling the matters of Elimelech's property and Ruth, with another kinsman. A narrative aside (Ruth 4:7-8) explains the custom of the sandal. Boaz's actions are witnessed, and he is blessed by the people and the elders for his role as kinsman in Episode H (Ruth 4:9-12). Episode I (Ruth 4:13-17) reverses the fortunes of Naomi and Ruth with Obed's birth, who is declared a child of Naomi. This declaration ensures a name and a future for Naomi's family. A coda (Ruth 4:18-22) ties up the story with a family genealogy.

Ruth is one of the five Megilloth (scrolls read for Jewish festivals), and is read at the Feast of Weeks. See Festivals. Ruth has been understood as a finely crafted historical short story. The literary artistry of Ruth speaks to multiple contexts and is multipurposed. In a social context, Ruth speaks against postexilic particularism by accepting Ruth (a native of Moab) into Israel's genealogical mainstream and the book into the Hebrew canon. See Moab. Ruth is concerned with Israelite family and marriage patterns and obligations. Ruth's plot shows levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) as a family obligation at work. See Levirate Law. Religiously, the book tells the story of the faith of Naomi and Ruth and shows the ways of God in one unique family situation. A framework of devotion is deployed in the story and is variously applied to Ruth, Naomi, Boaz, and Yahweh. The text's final form speaks to political concerns by a genealogy (Ruth 4:17-22) which details David's family background and serves to legitimate him as king on Saul's throne.


I. Trial and Tragedy Seemed to Offer Little Hope for God's Redeeming Grace (Ruth 1:1-22).

A. The trial of famine gave way to the tragedy of death for Naomi (Ruth 1:1-5).

B. The hint of blessing was seen in the tearful parting of Naomi from Orpah and the determined love of Ruth for her mother-in-law (Ruth 1:6-14).

C. In spite of Naomi's urging, Ruth resisted the injunction of her mother-in-law to remain in Moab and accompanied Naomi as she returned to Judah (Ruth 1:15-18).

D. The “emptiness” of Naomi's return to Judah provided the transition to God's grace by means of Ruth (Ruth 1:19-22).

II. In the Ordinary Actions of a Foreigner, God Began to Prepare the Way of Blessing (Ruth 2:1-23).

A. Ruth's initiative provided not only food for the present, but a foundation for the future welfare of her family (Ruth 2:1-7).

B. Ruth demonstrated that inclusion into the people of God is not predicated on birth alone (Ruth 2:8-13).

C. The encounter of Boaz and Ruth opened the way for God to bless in an unexpected manner (Ruth 2:14-23).

III. In More Ways Than One, God Took a Potential Scandal and Made It the Way of Grace (Ruth 3:1-18).

A. Naomi proposed a daring strategy in her matchmaking effort (Ruth 3:1-5).

B. The character of both Boaz and Ruth was demonstrated in the encounter at the threshing floor (Ruth 3:6-13).

C. The blessing of God began to be given to Ruth and Naomi through Boaz (Ruth 3:14-18).

IV. Through Boaz, the “Kinsman Redeemer,” God “Filled” the “Emptiness” of Naomi and Demonstrated His Presence Through the Blessing of His People (Ruth 4:1-22).

A. Boaz became “kinsman redeemer” (Ruth 4:1-6).

B. Before the assembled witnesses, Boaz fulfilled the custom of levirate marriage and received the blessing of witnesses (Ruth 4:7-12).

C. God “filled” the “emptiness” of Naomi through a son born to Ruth and Boaz, a son who was none other than the grandfather of the great King David (Ruth 4:13-22).

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'RUTH'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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