These small group studies of Ruth contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, teaching points, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Ruth 3 Inductive Bible Study – A Lesson on Mentoring and Courtship
Ruth 3 Video Bible Study
Ruth 3 Audio Bible Study
I. Naomi’s plan to help Ruth get married (1-6)
II. Boaz and Ruth’s conversation in the dark (7-15)
III. Ruth reports back to Naomi (16-18)
I. Naomi’s plan to help Ruth get married (1-6)
- How has Naomi’s attitude changed since chapter one where she despaired of Ruth ever getting married again? Why do you think her attitude has changed?
- What character qualities can we see in Naomi in this passage?
- What plan does she come up with?
- What do you think about her plan?
- Why should Ruth approach Boaz in the dark?
- Is this plan appropriate? Why or why not?
- Should a young lady today do the same to show her interest in a man? What possible dangers are there in such a plan?
- What do we learn about Ruth from this passage?
Verses on Hope
Romans 12:12 – Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Isaiah 40:31 – But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Verses on Mentoring
Titus 2:3-5 – Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Proverbs 13:20 – Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
1 Peter 5:5 – Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.
1. Naomi’s attitude had changed from despair to hope. – In chapter 1 Naomi concluded that if Ruth returned with her she would no chance for ever getting married. Her entire outlook was gloomy and full of despair. Naomi even changed her own name from “pleasant” to “bitter.” There didn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. But what a difference a few chapters makes. Now Naomi starts to take initiative. Instead of sitting around and despairing, she makes a plan to do something about the predicament they are in.
2. Naomi takes the role of a mentor and adviser. –
Naomi sometimes gets a bad rap. Surely she had weaknesses. At the beginning she didn’t react well to the trials she was facing and became depressed and bitter. However, she still maintains faith in the Lord. And in some way Ruth’s good character can be attributed to Naomi. Ruth knew about the Lord and committed to follow Him because of Naomi and her influence. For all of Naomi’s faults, she was a good mentor. Her concern for Ruth’s well-being is evident throughout the entire book.
Young people in the world pridefully declare themselves to be masters of their own destiny and are quick to dismiss the opinion of others while elevating their own opinions. Simply put, many young couples are unwilling to listen to counsel. Most likely they are afraid that counsel will not agree with what they want. But the importance of receiving and following godly counsel is seen throughout Scripture and most notably Proverbs (Proverbs 11:14, 12:15.)
Application: If you are interested in beginning a relationship, then seek counsel. Even people who are objective in most things, are not very objective when it comes to romantic relationships. Often times we see what we want to see. God wants us to humbly seek wise counsel. It is through this way you will have success.
If you are older and more experienced, then open up your life and be willing to share with and help those who are just getting started. Jesus mentored His disciples. Paul mentored Timothy and many others. Who are you mentoring?
3. Naomi comes up with a very odd and potentially dangerous plan. –
A. Her plan shows implicit trust in Boaz’s character, believing him to be chaste and full of self-control. If Naomi had any doubts about Boaz’s honor, it is unlikely she would have suggested such an encounter. The fact that she knew he was a man of honor gave her confidence that she was not putting Ruth at risk.
B. Her plan seeks to avoid potential rumors and gossip. Rumors and gossip can be very destructive to relationships. By approaching Boaz in private, Naomi cuts off any potential problems created by prying eyes and nosy neighbors.
C. Her plan was bold and straightforward. Naomi didn’t mess around trying to drop hints which may or may not be picked up on. She had Ruth go straight to the point.
D. Her plan seeks to put as little pressure on Boaz as possible. It is not manipulative. Naomi could have had Ruth approach Boaz at the city gate while he was on an errand and force him to do the “honorable” thing and redeem her through marriage. But a relationship where one feels coerced or backed into a corner is built on a faulty and fragile foundation. Boaz showed only kindness to Ruth and Naomi and try to manipulate him or use public opinion against him would have been cruel. Naomi’s plan leaves an easy “out” for Boaz if his kind actions toward Ruth had potentially been misinterpreted as something more than simply an act of kindness toward the poor. In the New Testament Joseph sought to quietly divorce Mary when he discouraged she was with child in order not to disgrace. This plan of Naomi’s is similar as Boaz can quietly say “no” without losing face publicly.
E. Her plan was not sensual and did not use Ruth to try to seduce Boaz. – Some liberal scholars may today say that this was a sensual encounter. Where do they get it? They simply get it from their own minds and from modern culture. Sure, in Hollywood you cannot imagine a midnight encounter that ends innocently. Our culture is so twisted and vile and open when it comes to sexual things, that that is where most people’s minds will immediately jump. A person who believes that this encounter is sexual is reading something into the text that is simply not there.
There is no mention of sex and no euphemism for sex. Ruth’s character is praised by Boaz as being noble. Boaz himself continually is talking about the Lord, hardly a name someone whose mind is bent on evil will invoke. Verse 14 clearly says that she lay at his feet, the same place he found her.
It should be noted that Biblical authors are not shy about mentioning the sexual sins of the subjects they write about, even famous heroes of the faith. The Bible does not gloss over it when people stumble sexually, sometimes describing it in great detail. Judah’s sin with Tamar, Abraham’s sin with Hagar, Lot’s sin with his daughters, David’s sin with Bathsheba, and Eli’s sons’ sins with the ladies who came to the tabernacle are just a few examples of sexual sins that are written about in great detail. No, the authors are not shy and do not candy-coat sin. The writer of Ruth mentioned nothing sexual because there was nothing sexual.
F. Her plan should not be copied. – Although there was nothing sexual in Naomi’s plan, neither would it be advisable for young people today to emulate it. The passage here is a narrative. The author tells a story by recording what happened. He does not say, “go and do likewise.” Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his daughter Isaac. David killed two hundred Philistines to win his wife Michael. Jacob worked for seven years for Rachel. Each of these stories has certain principles that we can learn from, but they are not prescriptions for courting.
From the story of Abraham’s servant we can learn about the importance of prayer and clear communication. From the story of David we can learn about resolve and “doing anything” for the one we love. From the story of Jacob we can learn about the importance of hard work and perseverance to win the heart and hand of our beloved.
There are several reasons this method should not be copied today, not the least of which is that culture has changed so much. While at that time Ruth could find Boaz in the field and it was in the open with other workers nearby (thus lessening the chance of temptation), to do the same nowadays locks would have to be broken and security systems deactivated. And in our highly sexualized cultures today, such an action would certainly be misunderstood whereas Boaz seemed to know immediately Ruth’s intention.
What do you learn from this story?
- Having a mentor is very important.
- A mentor can potentially help two people get together who may not always act on their own.
- Communication should be clear.
- Neither side should seek to manipulate.
- Rumors and gossip should be avoided.
II. Boaz and Ruth’s conversation in the dark (7-15)
- What can we learn about the culture at that time from verse 7?
- What specific request does Ruth make of Boaz in verse 9? Did Naomi tell her to say that?
- What observations do you have about Boaz’s communication in verses 10-13?
- Do you think Boaz loved Ruth? Why or why not?
- Was he happy that she expressed an interest in him? How do you know?
- Are there any indications in the text about the possible age difference between Boaz and Ruth? Is this a problem?
- What impressed Boaz about Ruth?
- What decision did Boaz make?
- What does the word “redeem” mean? How is this similar to Christ redeeming us?
Verses on Christian character
Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
2 Peter 1:5-7 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
Colossians 3:12-15 – Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
1 Corinthians 16:14 – Let all that you do be done in love.
1. Sleeping outdoors was normal in this agrarian society. – Naomi knew that Boaz would sleep in the fields. Likely the reason was so that he and the workers could guard the crops which had been harvested, but weren’t yet sold.
2. Boaz still continues to invoke the name of the Lord (even in the middle of the night). – Matthew 12:34 says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” If you want to know if a person curses or not perhaps one way is to startle them in the middle of the night. Boaz was startled in the middle of the night, but he didn’t curse. Instead the first words out of his mouth once he knows this is Ruth are, “The Lord bless you.” As we saw in chapter two when he greeted his workers with a blessing from the Lord, Boaz words are seasoned with salt and give grace to those who hear. It is not a pretense. He didn’t have time here to plan out what he was going to say. It was natural and demonstrated who he was.
Application: When you are startled, shocked, or in pain, how do you respond? Do you also have a habit of talking about the Lord and blessing others with your words?
3. There is apparently a large age gap in between Boaz and Ruth. – Boaz calls Ruth his “daughter” on several occasions. While a large age gap can be a warning flag that something is not right, it is not always so. We can see clearly in this passage that Boaz is not a predator and cares for Ruth first. There is nothing wrong with a large age gap in a couple provided the motives are pure and it is of the Lord.
Since Boaz was already up in years it is possible that he had been married and his wife had died. This could explain why Naomi thought that there was no hope for Ruth to get married because it is possible that Boaz was married when Naomi’s family left Bethlehem for Moab ten years before. Certainly this is not a proven fact, but it is possible and makes sense from what we know in the text.
4. Boaz loved Ruth. – We can infer this from verse 10. He interprets her willingness to marry him as “kindness.” While the closer relative may have considered Ruth a bother, a nuisance, or perhaps even worse, a leech, Boaz responds to her joyfully. Instead of looking down on her as a poor foreigner who would be a drain on his finances, Boaz loved her. Now we can begin to see that the heaps of kindness he poured on her throughout the whole harvest season was perhaps not only motivated out of kindness to the poor (although we can see that Boaz is this kind of man), but was perhaps enhanced because of his love for her.
In verse 10 we can catch a glimpse of what Boaz may have been concerned about and what could have been holding him back. He says, “You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.” Boaz is clearly older than Ruth. Perhaps it is this age gap which made him hesitate before. While he loves Ruth and would enjoy nothing more than to make her his wife, he still had doubts that a man of his age would be desirable to Ruth.
From this we can also see that Boaz is selfless. True love puts others needs and desires first. And Boaz wanted above everything else for Ruth to be happy.
While it is not spelled out in the text, it is reasonable to assume that shrewd Naomi guessed the reason Boaz had held back to this point and came up with this plan primarily to let Boaz know Ruth would be happy with him and he could proceed.
5. It is her character which attracts him. – In the entire four chapters, Ruth’s physical appearance is not mentioned one single time. Why? Was she beautiful? Was she ugly? It is not mentioned because it does not matter. Ruth had lived a hard life. Most field workers show the wear on their faces and their hands are hard and calloused. Much of the content in these four chapters introduces us to Boaz’s and Ruth’s character while there are zero mentions of their physical appearance. Thus we can conclusively say that spiritual character is of the utmost importance and appearance is way way down the list.
God wants your spiritual character to shine. The world says to young people, “show what you’ve got.” The idea is to get the attention of the opposite sex by showing off, normally by wearing immodest and revealing clothes.
But God’s way is not this way.
Revealing your physical bodies will certainly get attention, but the wrong kind of attention. Ladies, the guys you attract by wearing revealing clothing are the wrong kind of guys. They are not marriage material. When you wear immodest clothes you will actually repel godly guys that are looking for godly character. They will see those clothes and rightly conclude that your heart is not in the right place. Instead let your chaste and godly conduct shine forth to glorify God and in the process it can attract attention from Mr. Right rather than Mr. Wrong.
What is the one quality you should look for in Mr. or Mrs. Right? From this passage we can see that it is not physical. The quality you should look for is an obedient heart. Joseph obeyed God by going through with the marriage to Mary even at potentially great cost to his own career and reputation. Mary obeyed God by accepting His plan for her and saying “let it be done to me as you have said,” also at potentially great cost to her future. If you could only write one quality on your list, it should be “a person who obeys God no matter the cost.”
III. Ruth reports back to Naomi (16-18)
- What kind of relationship do Ruth and Naomi have?
- Why is it important for young believers to have mentors like Naomi?
- How can a mentor help protect young couples and keep them accountable?
- Summarize Naomi’s advice to Ruth in verse 18 in one word (patience).
- What inference can we make from this about how Ruth may have felt at the time?
- What character quality of Boaz does Naomi allude to in verse 18?
- What general principles for aspiring couples can we learn from this passage?
Romans 8:25 – But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Psalm 37:7 – Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.
1 John 3:18 – Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
James 4:17 – So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
1. Naomi advises Ruth to be patient – From this statement we can infer that Ruth was likely antsy and nervous about the outcome of Boaz’s meeting. Would this kind man be able to marry her or would she be stuck with her other callous relative, a man she either knew nothing about or knew was callous and uncaring toward her? Most women in Ruth’s situation would be nervous awaiting word from Boaz. Her future was on the line. Boaz had shown great care and love toward her at every turn. These outpourings of kindness would likely have stirred up Ruth’s own feelings toward him. And yet Naomi advises Ruth, wait. Be patient. The ball was in his court. Fretting would accomplish nothing.
The same counsel could be given to many young people today, especially ladies. While it is a very difficult one, patience is an important virtue. It is often hard to practice in the area of guy-girl relationships, but is also one of the most vital areas.
2. Boaz didn’t waste time – A lot of men could benefit from emulating Boaz here. Boaz is already well established in life. He has plenty of money. Ruth is well known to him. Her character is excellent and apparent. Moreover, Ruth likely feels nervous and excited as she is waiting and hoping. There is nothing to be gained by stretching the time out or leading her on. Boaz knows what needs to be done and Naomi is assured that he will quickly do it.
Many men today seem to be afraid of commitment. While they enjoy the company of and attention from a girl, they are unwilling to take that final step and make that final commitment. It may be nerves or fear or a loss of that manly quality of decisiveness, but many men shirk when faced with the responsibility of tying the knot and starting a family.
There are certainly times when it is necessary to take it slow and learn more, but this wasn’t one of those times. Men out there, when it is time to act, be decisive. Don’t waste young ladies’ time and energy if you have no intention to move forward. If the relationship is not from God, end it. But if it is from God, then don’t wuss around.
We want to help you study the Bible, obey the Bible, and teach the Bible to others. We have therefore created a library of almost one thousand (and growing) inductive Bible studies, which are available for free. This takes a lot of time and hard work.
Help us continue to create Bible study resources by supporting Study and Obey for as little as $1.