Introduction to Ruth


Author and Date

The story of Ruth takes place in the time of the judges (after the conquest of Canaan and before c. 1050 B.C.). No author is named, but the mention of David and his genealogy (4:17–22) places the writing sometime after David became king (2 Samuel 2) in c. 1010 B.C.


Ruth shows how God’s people can experience his sovereignty, wisdom, and covenant kindness. These often come in hard circumstances and are expressed through the kindness of others.

Key Themes

  1. Kindness. Ruth shows kindness to her mother-in-law, Naomi, by leaving her homeland to care for her (1:16–17; 2:11, 18, 23). Boaz shows kindness to Ruth as he welcomes her to Israel, acts as her kinsman-redeemer (4:9–10), and marries her (4:13). Human kindness reflects the Lord’s kindness toward his people (see Ex. 15:13; Deut. 7:8–9; Psalm 136).
  2. Redemption. Redemption is linked to kindness and is at the heart of the story (2:20). The book of Ruth describes two legal practices combined into one: property redemption by a near kinsman, and levirate marriage. Property redemption by a relative assured that land would not remain outside the family (see Lev. 25:23–25). Levirate marriage involved a childless widow marrying her husband’s brother to provide an heir for the deceased husband (Deut. 25:5–6). Boaz, a close relative of Ruth, redeemed the family property for her (Ruth 4:9), married her (4:10, 13), and fathered Obed (4:13, 17), who became heir to the property of Ruth’s deceased first husband.

Ruth and Naomi’s desperate conditions changed for the better (4:13–17) when Boaz agreed to be their kinsman-redeemer (4:9–10). This resulted in blessing for Ruth (marriage and motherhood; 4:13) and for Naomi (happiness in her old age; 4:14–15). Redemption also brought blessing to the community (4:11–12) and, through David, to the nation (4:14, 17). Ultimate redemption would finally come through David’s “son,” Jesus the Christ. In him, redeemed people of all nations, no longer strangers and aliens, become fellow citizens in God’s household (Eph. 2:11–22).


  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)

The Setting of Ruth

A famine in Judah forces Naomi and her husband to leave Israel and move to Moab, where their sons marry Moabite women. When Naomi’s husband and sons die, she decides to return to her home in Israel, and her daughter-in-law Ruth chooses to go with her. Ruth lived during the time of the judges.

The Setting of Ruth