Ruth Character Bible Study Background and Lessons
Meaning of name: Elimelech (my God is King), Naomi (pleasant, lovely), Mara (bitter), Mahlon (puny), Chilio (pining, sickly), Ruth (friend)
Ancestry and family life: Ruth was a Moabitess. She was a Gentile, hated by most Jews since they worshiped foreign gods and were unclean. Generally when a foreigner married a believer the foreigner dragged the unbeliever down into idolatry. Ruth was the opposite and she assimilated into Jewish culture and accepted the true God as her own. She gave up her own country, people, and gods in order to follow her mother-in-law back to Israel. Later she married Boaz and became an ancestor of both David and Jesus.
When and where she lived: She began her life in Moab, an enemy of Israel. These two countries often fought together. Eventually she moved to Israel. Ruth lived approximately 1000 B.C. She lived during the time of the judges. This was a tumultuous time in Israel. There were wars continuously. No king or authority ruled over the land. It was as if there was no law and everybody did what was right in their own eyes.
During this time period the people followed the custom of Levirate marriages. This meant that if a woman’s husband died, leaving her childless, the husband’s brother or closest male relative had the responsibility of marrying her to raise up an heir for the deceased. Land rights were also passed on under this custom and land was supposed to stay in the family from generation to generation.
God also had laid down laws for the provision of the poor. Those with fields were to leave the corners un-harvested so that the poor could come and harvest a small portion for food. This provided for the poor and also made it so they had to work for their own food.
Events surrounding birth: No info.
Training and occupation: No specific info. Ruth was probably a housewife as most were at the time and the death of her husband forced her to go out in the fields and glean for a living.
Place in history: Ruth is known as one of the most godly women in the Bible. God honored her decision to leave her own country and she is one of the most prominent women in David’s and Jesus’ genealogy.
Special traits: No special abilities are mentioned, but it is special that she was one of a very few Gentiles in the entire Old Testament that gave up their own lifestyle, people, country, and idols in order to follow God.
Weaknesses: There are no weaknesses in her life recorded in text though she obviously must have had some/many.
Strengths: Numerous strengths can be seen in Ruth’s life. In 3:11 Boaz said, “for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence”. See Proverbs 22:1. Ruth was respected for being a godly woman, which is better than being famous or wealthy.
Loyalty (1:16-17)- This proclamation is probably the deepest expression of loyalty in the Old Testament. Ruth was willing to give up everything she knew in order to follow Naomi into a foreign country: her family, her people, her home, her country, her gods, her position in society (Gentiles were normally looked down on in Jewish society), and her chance to be re-married.
Obedience (3:1-5)- Ruth followed her mother-in-law’s advice down to the letter. She didn’t trust herself, her own opinion, or her feelings, but followed the older and wiser Naomi, even in such an important matter!
Love (2:10-11, 4:15)- Ruth showed great love to her mother-in-law. At any point in time she could have left Naomi and pursued her own goals. But she didn’t. She cared and provided for Naomi to such an extent that it was well-known throughout the town. The people even said Ruth was better than seven sons to Naomi!
Diligence (2:3)- Ruth was a very diligent young woman. She went out to the fields to harvest food both for herself and Naomi. She worked hard throughout the days to sustain them. She didn’t sit and wait for help to come to her and Naomi, even though they were poor.
Important acts and events: Important acts/events in her life were leaving Moab, marrying Boaz, and giving birth to Obed (the grandfather of David).
Lessons from her life: Of course we can learn from all of the strengths in her life, but there are other lessons we can learn as well.
God always cares for believers and always honors their decisions to follow Him and put Him first. Ruth made a huge sacrifice to do what was right. God blessed her for that. These blessings don’t always come on this earth, but for her and Naomi they did. God never forgets His children or forsakes them!
Skin and race is not important in God’s sight. Historically many people, even believers, have placed a high emphasis on skin color and ethnicity. It is not important in God’s sight. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. Don’t let people’s outward appearance affect our judgment of them.