“Introduction to the Book of Ruth,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Ruth,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
In the book of Ruth we read a tender story of conversion, courage, determination, loyalty, and faithfulness. The compassion and love shared by Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth can inspire those who study this book to consider their relationships with others both inside and outside of their families. The book of Ruth can also teach students how the Lord watches over and blesses those who follow Him and obey His teachings.
President Thomas S. Monson said:
“A model of ideal womanhood is Ruth. Sensing the grief-stricken heart of her mother-in-law Naomi—who suffered the loss of each of her two fine sons—feeling perhaps the pangs of despair and loneliness that plagued the very soul of Naomi, Ruth uttered what has become that classic statement of loyalty: ‘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 my people, and thy God my God.’ [Ruth 1:16.] Ruth’s actions demonstrated the sincerity of her words.
“Through Ruth’s undeviating loyalty to Naomi, she was to marry Boaz, by which she—the foreigner and Moabite convert—became a great-grandmother of David and, therefore, an ancestor of our Savior Jesus Christ” (“Models to Follow,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 61).
The author of the book of Ruth is unknown.
Since the author of the book is unknown, it is difficult to determine when it was written. However, there are a few clues that help narrow it to a general time period. The book of Ruth tells the history of the family of Elimelech, who lived during the time of the judges (see Ruth 1:1–2). But because the genealogy of David is included (see Ruth 4:17–22), the book of Ruth may have been written after David’s or Solomon’s time, likely following the Babylonian exile. The book addresses key issues of the postexilic period, including intermarriage with people of other nations, such as Ammon and Moab. The book also addresses the belief held by some Jews of this era that Jews should separate themselves entirely from those who were not of Israelite descent (see Ezra 9–10; Nehemiah 10:29–31; 13:1–3, 23–27). The book of Ruth seems to provide valuable balance by reminding its readers that the great-grandmother of the revered King David was a faithful woman from Moab who converted to Israel’s religion and married within the covenant. Ruth demonstrated kindness to others and loyalty to the Lord. One of the main messages of the book of Ruth is that such faithfulness is more important than ethnicity.
The book of Ruth is one of only two books in the Old Testament named after a woman and presents an example of a woman of faith, strength, and kindness. The book is characterized by hope and optimism, describing Ruth and Naomi’s journey from sadness to happiness and from emptiness to fulness.
One prominent theme in the book of Ruth is that of redemption, which applies to all of us. Ruth was a foreigner, childless, and a 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, a man of Bethlehem. Because of Ruth’s faith-driven actions and the kindness of her redeemer, Ruth married again, was fully accepted as an Israelite, became a woman of some wealth, 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).
Ruth 1 Naomi and her family move to Moab, where her husband dies and her sons marry Moabite women. After Naomi’s sons die, Naomi moves back to Bethlehem. One of Naomi’s daughters-in-law, Ruth, chooses to go with her.
Ruth 2 Ruth works to support Naomi and herself by gleaning in the fields of Boaz. Boaz is generous to Ruth.
Ruth 3 Ruth lies at the feet of Boaz, who then promises to take responsibility for her and Naomi if their nearest kinsman will not.
Ruth 4 The nearest kinsman of Naomi and Ruth allows Boaz to take responsibility for caring for them. Boaz marries Ruth, and they have a son.