Lesson 80: Ruth 3–4
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“Lesson 80: Ruth 3–4,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 80,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 80

Ruth 3–4


Following the instruction of Naomi, Ruth asked Boaz, a near kinsman, to marry her. Boaz followed the procedures of the law of Moses by first inviting a nearer kinsman to fulfill his duty to marry Ruth. When that kinsman declined, Boaz married Ruth. They had a son named Obed, who would become the grandfather of King David.

Suggestions for Teaching

Ruth 3

Ruth proposes marriage to Boaz, but he is unable to accept

Invite students to share a favorite story about a couple becoming engaged to marry. Examples might include the engagements of their parents, older siblings, or even characters in books they have read or in movies they have seen.

  • What qualities are you looking for in the person you want to marry someday?

You may want to write a few of these qualities on the board. As students list these qualities, ask follow-up questions to help them explain why they think these qualities are important.

Invite students as they study Ruth 3–4 to look for qualities that they hope to have in a future spouse, as well as qualities they would like to cultivate in themselves.

Remind students that Ruth was a widow who was taking care of her mother-in-law, Naomi. They had moved to Bethlehem, Naomi’s former home, and were struggling to gather enough food to live when they were assisted by Boaz, a relative of Ruth’s deceased husband.

Invite a student to read Ruth 3:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Naomi wanted for Ruth. (To help students find what Naomi was proposing, suggest that they look at verse 1, footnote a, to discover that the word rest implies marriage.)

  • What did Naomi want for Ruth? What quality did Naomi demonstrate through her concern for her daughter-in-law?

Explain that under the customs and cultural laws of the Israelites, if a husband died childless, it was the duty of the husband’s brother or nearest male relative to marry the widow and raise up children to the dead man’s name (see Deuteronomy 25:5–10; see also Bible Dictionary, “Levirate marriage”). Naomi was suggesting that Ruth marry Boaz.

Invite a student to read Ruth 3:3–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Ruth was to let Boaz know she was interested in marriage. (You may need to explain that the threshing floor was where the workers separated the grain from the rest of the stem and the chaff after the harvest.)

  • How was Ruth to let Boaz know she was interested in marriage? How might you have felt if you had been in Ruth’s situation?

Summarize Ruth 3:6–8 by explaining that Ruth did as Naomi suggested. While Boaz slept next to the grain, Ruth lay down at his feet.

Explain that Ruth’s uncovering of Boaz’s feet was a sign of submission and an action signaling that she wanted him to be her protector and husband.

Invite a young man and a young woman to come to the front of the class and read aloud the dialogue spoken by Ruth and Boaz in Ruth 3:9–11. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Boaz reacted to Ruth’s request for marriage. (After they read verse 9, you might want to explain that the phrase “spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid” means that Ruth was asking him to take her under his protection and provide for her and was Ruth’s way of proposing marriage to Boaz.)

  • How did Boaz react to Ruth’s proposal?

  • What admirable characteristic did Boaz and the people notice in Ruth? (Ruth was virtuous.)

  • How will others view us if we live virtuously, as Ruth did?

  • What blessings did Ruth receive because she chose to live virtuously? What principle can we learn from Ruth’s example of living virtuously? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we live virtuously, then we can have faith that the Lord will bless us.)

Write the word virtuous on the board.

  • What do you think it means to be virtuous?

To help students understand what it means to live virtuously, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Sister Elaine S. Dalton, who served as the Young Women general president. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Sister Dalton defined and described virtue.

Dalton, Elaine S.

“Virtue ‘is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards’ [Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004), 118]. It encompasses chastity and moral purity. Virtue begins in the heart and in the mind. It is nurtured in the home. It is the accumulation of thousands of small decisions and actions. Virtue is a word we don’t hear often in today’s society, but the Latin root word virtus means strength. Virtuous women and men possess a quiet dignity and inner strength” (“A Return to Virtue,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 79).

  • What does it mean to live virtuously?

  • What are some “small decisions” you can make that can help you be virtuous?

  • Why is it important to look for virtue in the people you date and may one day marry?

Invite a student to read Ruth 3:12–13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for why Boaz could not immediately promise to marry Ruth.

  • What did Boaz need to do before he could marry Ruth? (According to the law of Moses, Boaz needed to give the nearest kinsman the option of marrying Ruth.)

  • What did he promise to do if the nearest kinsman declined? (Marry her himself.)

Explain that in Ruth 3:14–18, we read that Ruth stayed near Boaz until the early morning. Then Boaz sent her home with a gift of grain for herself and Naomi.

Ruth 4

After the kinsman refuses, Boaz marries Ruth

Summarize Ruth 4:1–2 by explaining that Boaz met the nearest kinsman at the gate of the city, where legal agreements were made. He employed 10 elders of the city as witnesses. Boaz knew that according to the custom and levirate marriage rules of their day, the nearest male relative of a deceased man could marry his widow and receive all of his property. The kinsman mentioned in Ruth 4 was the nearest living relative to Mahlon, Ruth’s deceased husband.

Invite a student to read Ruth 4:3–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the kinsman responded to Boaz’s offer.

  • According to verse 4, how did the kinsman first respond to the opportunity to acquire or redeem some land from Naomi? Was the kinsman willing to redeem it?

  • According to verse 5, what did he learn that changed his mind? (He discovered that if he inherited the land he would also need to raise up children with Ruth.)

In Ruth 4:7–8 we learn that the kinsman gave his shoe to Boaz, signifying that he would not or could not fulfill his obligation to raise up children to his relative (see Deuteronomy 25:8–10). Invite a student to read Ruth 4:9–10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what qualities Boaz demonstrated in relation to his obligation to Ruth.

  • What quality do you see in Boaz?

  • How did Ruth’s actions bless both her and Naomi?

Explain that one of the prominent themes of the account of Ruth is that of redemption, which relates to all of us. Ruth was a foreigner and a poor and childless widow, which left her in complete poverty with no source of support. Nevertheless, Ruth faithfully accepted the gospel and joined the Lord’s covenant people. Though she could not deliver herself from her destitute condition, she was ultimately “redeemed” by her kinsman Boaz. Because of Ruth’s faith-driven actions and the kindness of her redeemer, Ruth married again, received an inheritance, and was blessed with children. Like Ruth, we cannot save ourselves but must rely on a Redeemer from Bethlehem, one who is able to lift us from our fallen state and secure our happiness as part of His family. Given this theme of redemption, it is interesting to note that Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of Israel and of all mankind, was one of Ruth’s descendants (see Matthew 1:5–16).

  • In what ways is Ruth’s redemption symbolic of our redemption?

Invite a student to read Ruth 4:11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the two women the Israelite elders prayed for Ruth to become like. Remind the students that Rachel and Leah were prominent ancestors of the house of Israel.

Invite a student to read Ruth 4:13–14, 17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Ruth’s son would play a role in building the house of Israel.

  • Which of Ruth’s descendants would play a large role in building the house of Israel? (King David would be her great-grandson.)

Review with students what we know about Ruth’s background before she was married to Boaz: Ruth was a non-Israelite (Ruth 1:4), a widow (Ruth 1:5), and a convert to the worship of Jehovah (Ruth 1:16). Point out that although Ruth was neither an Israelite by birth nor a person of any wealth, from her came the royal line of the house of Israel.

  • What is more important—our family background or our current willingness to follow Jesus Christ? What truths can we learn from the account of Ruth? (Students may identify a variety of principles, but make sure it is clear that how we live is more important than where we come from. Consider writing this truth on the board.)

  • Who are some people who exemplify this truth?

You may want to suggest that students write Matthew 1:1–16 as a cross-reference in their scriptures next to Ruth 4:17. Ask students to quickly scan through the ancestors listed in Matthew 1:1–16 and call out names that they recognize.

  • Who else was Ruth the ancestor of? (Jesus Christ.)

Ask the students to take a few moments and record in their class notebooks or scripture study journals the answer to one or more of the following questions (you may want to write the questions on the board):

  • How did Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi bless Israel in their day and in the future because of their faithful obedience to the covenants of God?

  • How will the strength of your commitment to keep your covenants bless your family and your ward or branch?

  • What qualities exemplified by Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi would you like to live better in order to help build and strengthen the house of Israel? What specific efforts will you make to live this way?

After sufficient time, consider inviting one or two students to share what they wrote with the class.

You may want to conclude by sharing your feelings about the truths taught in today’s lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Ruth 3:1–9. Levirate marriage

“A kinsman had the right to purchase (redeem) the land of a deceased relative, marry his widow, and produce offspring—the first of whom would be the heir of the man who had died [see Bible Dictionary, “Levirate marriage”]. Thus a ‘redeemer’ could restore to a widow a degree of security and status she could not of herself attain and even provide for continuation of the seed. Understanding this deepens our appreciation for the prophets’ use of the word redeemer to characterize our Savior (TG, “Jesus Christ, Redeemer”)” (Ellis T. Rasmussen, A Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament [1993], 227).

Ruth 4:1–10. Why did the kinsman refuse to marry Ruth?

“The writer [of the book of Ruth] has not even preserved the name of that kinsman who was willing to redeem the property but not to marry the widow and raise up a son to the name of the dead. The heir of the dead man would get the redeemed property, and thus it would not increase the redeemer’s estate; hence he said selfishly, ‘I cannot redeem it, lest I mar mine own inheritance’ (Ruth 4:6)” (Ellis T. Rasmussen, A Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament [1993], 228). Boaz, on the other hand, was willing to take the unselfish step of marrying Ruth and ensuring her safety and well-being as well as Naomi’s. In this and other ways, Boaz is a type of the Savior, who redeemed all of mankind without thought for His own benefit.