Introduction to Ruth


The book of Ruth, just as the book of Judges, does not identify its author. However, as noted in the Introduction to Judges, Jewish tradition as recorded by the Baba Bathra 14b-15a holds that the prophet Samuel wrote it:Samuel wrote the book which bears his name and the Book of Judges and Ruth.’” The interested reader can refer to the Introduction to Judges for details of the case arguing Samuel as author of Judges and Ruth. HSCB notes that, “Those who reject the traditional view of Samuel as author typically favor as the author either King Solomon or an anonymous person who wrote the books during David’s reign.”

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible offers the following windows of time for the historical setting of Ruth, “The opening statement of Ruth (1:1) embeds the events of the book in the chaotic era reflected in the book of Judges, when there was no central authority and ‘everyone did as they saw fit’ (Jdg 21:25). Depending on upon when the exodus occurred, the span can be either c. 1400-1050 BC or c. 1220-1050 BC.” Got Questions survey on the Book of Ruth says, “The exact date the Book of Ruth was written is uncertain. However, the prevalent view is a date between 1011 and 931 B.C.”

These uncertainties have led some to question whether the story is historical or fictitious. Yet, NLT Illustrated Study Bible commentators write, “As biblical scholars discover more about ancient history, ancient writing conventions, and everyday life in the ancient Near East, however, we see more fully that Ruth and other accounts from Israel’s early periods are firmly grounded in history. We don’t know who wrote Ruth, and archaeologists may never recover direct physical evidence of Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi, but the account rings true to its time and place. We can conclude that this account from David’s family is historical.”

The NLT Illustrated Study Bible beautifully highlights one aspect of the meaning and message of this book, “God usually works in ordinary events of everyday life; he regularly accomplishes his purposes and blesses his people through routine occurrences. If we learn faithfulness in the everyday, we are equipped to be faithful when crises come…Faith in God involves willingness to take risks.” While this is certainly applicable and motivational for modern day Christians, HCSB aptly points out that this is not the only purpose of the book, “The inclusion of certain statements at the end of each of the books dramatically alters how we are to understand the purpose of each book. In Judges the author declared that in the times about which he was writing ‘there was no king in Israel’ (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). In Ruth, the author presented genealogical records that include the name of King David, a king who lived in the post-judges era (Ru 4:17,22). Thus, rather than being merely guidelines for how to live during difficult times, both books appear to be defending one of two views: (1) living during the present age of kings was better than living in the previous age of the judges…; or (2) despite coming from an insignificant, non-royal family (cp. 1 Sm 16:1, 13; 18:18), David had an excellent heritage, arising from godly grandparents of a family in the messianic line.”

Building on this, the Got Questions Survey elaborates on the implicit foreshadowing in this book, “A major theme of the Book of Ruth is that of the kinsman-redeemer. Boaz, a relative of Naomi on her husband’s side, acted upon his duty as outlined in the Mosaic Law to redeem an impoverished relative from his or her circumstances (Lev. 25:47-49). This scenario is repeated by Christ, who redeems us, the spiritually impoverished, from the slavery of sin. Our heavenly Father sent His own Son to the cross so that we might become children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ. By being our Redeemer, He makes us His kinsmen.”

ESV Archaeology Study Bible provides the following outline:

1. Introduction: Naomi’s Family Dies (1:1-5)

2. Scene 1: Naomi Returns to Bethlehem with Ruth (1:6-22)

3. Scene 2: Ruth Gleans in Boaz’s Field (2:1-23)

4. Scene 3: Ruth, at the Threshing Floor, Asks Boaz to Marry Her (3:1-18)

5. Scene 4: Boaz Arranges Redemption at the Gate (4:1-12)

6. Conclusion: Naomi Blessed with a New Family (4:13-17)

7. Genealogy: Extended Blessing (4:18-22)

Click here to go to chapter 1