Book of Ruth and Shavu’ot: Return of and redemption for Israel and the nations

Traditionally, the book of Ruth is studied during Shavu’ot in most Jewish congregations. We have studied the surface story of Ruth in the past, but this study will dig deeper. Ruth had no right to an inheritance from God. She disregarded her birth family and follows her mother-in-law, Naomi, and Naomi’s God for the rest of her life.

Chiastic structures in the Hebrew Scriptures

The Scroll of the Gospel of David coverclick image for Google Books search

Sometimes when everything looks black, God is up to something. Elimelech takes his family to Moab to avoid a minor famine and ended up losing everything that they thought Moab would give them when her husband and both of her sons preceded her in death.

There are several texts that stand out to the reader:

  1. Ruth’s declaration to Naomi upon leaving Moab forever (Ruth 1:6)
  2. Boaz’s public prayer for Ruth (Ruth 2:12)
  3. Boaz’s declaration when he redeemed Elimelech’s family holdings, including Ruth herself (Ruth 4:9)

Each chapter has its own chiastic structure.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2 focuses on Boaz’s prayer/declaration that God will repay Ruth’s kindness to Naomi and her family.

The chiastic structure points to verse 12:

  • Ruth 2:1: Boaz is kinsman of Elimelech.
    • Ruth 2:2: After him in whose sight I find favor.
      • Ruth 2:3: field of Boaz
        • Ruth 2:4 from Bethlehem (House of Bread)
          • Ruth 2:7: from morning (gleaning)
            • Ruth 2:8: Do not glean in another field.
              • Ruth 2:9: Drink with the young men
                • Ruth 2:10: foreigner
                  • Ruth 2:11: favored her mother-in-law
                    • Ruth 2:12: The Lord will repay your work.
                  • Ruth 2:13a: find favor in your sight
                • Ruth 2:13b: not like your maidservants
              • Ruth 2:14: eat with the reapers
            • Ruth 2:15: glean among the sheaves
          • Ruth 2:17: till evening (gleaning)
        • Ruth 2:18: gave bread to Naomi
      • Ruth 2:19b: man you worked with today is Boaz
    • Ruth 2:20a: Lord’s kindness to the living and dead
  • Ruth 2:20b: he is our kinsman

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 other emphasizes Naomi’s instruction to Ruth which is an instruction of modesty and obedience and culminates in Ruth asking Boaz to be the protector of her modesty.

The chiastic structure points to verse 9:

  • Ruth 3:1: seek security for you (Naomi)
    • Ruth 3:2: winnowing barley at the threshing floor
      • Ruth 3:3: best garment
        • Ruth 3:3b: Do not make yourself known to the man.
          • Ruth 3:4: Notice where he is and lie down.
            • Ruth 3:4b: He will tell you want you should do.
              • Ruth 3:5: All that you say I will do.
                • Ruth 3:6: She did what Naomi told her.
                  • Ruth 3:7b: She showed kindness, uncovered his feet and lied down.
                    • Ruth 3:9a: your maidservant
                      • Ruth 3:9b: Take your maidservant under your wing. You are a near kinsman.
                    • Ruth 3:10a: my daughter
                  • Ruth 3:10a: more kindness at the end than the beginning
                • Ruth 3:10b: She did what Boaz told her (chapter 2).
              • Ruth 3:11: I will do what you ask.
            • Ruth 3:13a: He tells her what he will do.
          • Ruth 3:13b: lie down until morning
        • Ruth 3:14: Do not let it be known she came to the threshing floor.
      • Ruth 3:15: bring your shawl
    • Ruth 3:15, 17: six ephahs of barley
  • Ruth 3:18: seeks the maker of redemption (Boaz)

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 focuses on the 10 men listed as witnesses to the kinsman-redeemer transaction for Elimelech’s land and Mahlon’s widow, Ruth. Boaz’s declaration of intent to fulfill the role of kinsman redeemer is then tied into the line of Judah from Perez all the way to King David. It also focuses on the 10 men listed as the line of Judah from Perez to King David.

The chiastic structure points to verse 9:

  • Ruth 4:1-2: Ten men of elders, sitting at the gate of the city.
    • Ruth 4:3: Naomi has come back.
      • Ruth 4:4-5: redeem the land and take Ruth as your wife
        • Ruth 4:6: I cannot redeem; ruins your own inheritance and house
          • Ruth 4:9a: You are witnesses.
            • Ruth 4:9b-10a: I acquired the land. I have acquired Ruth as wife.
          • Ruth 4:10b-11a: We are witnesses (of two things).
        • Ruth 4:11b-12: May your house be great.
    • Ruth 4:13: Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife.
  • Ruth 4:14-16: Naomi was restored with a child.
  • Ruth 4:18-22: Ten grandsons of Boaz and the path to the Kingdom (David).

Keys to the book of Ruth

The structure of the book can be summarized from the following verses:

  1. Ruth 1:16-17: Ruth declares her dedication to Naomi’s God.
  2. Ruth 2:12: “May the Lord repay (Ruth) in full for your kindness.”
  3. Ruth 3:9b: Ruth asks Boaz to be her kinsman-redeemer, her savior.
  4. Ruth 4:9-10: Boaz redeems the land and Ruth.

The lesson of Ruth is similar to the lesson of Passover, when God redeemed the people of Israel and made them His people. Israel chose God at Mt. Sinai when the 10 commandments were given.

Ruth chose God when she left Moab and God, in a sense, chose her when Boaz redeemed her.

The one word that is repeated at least 12 times is the word “return” (שׁוּב shub, Strong’s lexicon No. H7725). Return to God and to the land of Israel.

The other word that is repeated even more often than the word “return” is the word “redeemer” (גָּאַל ga’al, Strong’s H1350), which is repeated 23 times. You have to return to God before you can be redeemed. When Ruth was redeemed Boaz gained land and a wife. God does this too, when the 12 tribes return to God and God will take them back as his wife and give the 12 tribes of Israel their land.

Speaker: Daniel Agee. Reader: Dave De Fever. Summary: Tammy.

Photo Credit: Ruth in Boaz’s Field by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1828). Currently held by the National Gallery in London, UK. Wikimedia Commons. 

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