The story of Ruth in the Bible is only four short chapters packed with detail of what is basically a real love story – but not romantic love! Ruth was a young woman from Moab, the neighboring country to Israel during the time of the Judges. The characteristics of Ruth demonstrate a model of faithfulness. But how did Ruth the Moabitess become the one to reflect God’s love so clearly?
Ruth the Moabitess
The time of Judges was an era of instability, disunity, and oppression for Israel. There had been hostility with Moab whose land bordered Israel, but during this story there was a more peaceful period.
An Israelite family left Bethlehem because of famine and moved over to neighboring Moab, the land across the Jordan, between the Dead Sea and the Eastern desert. Elimelek, his wife Naomi, and two sons Mahlon and Kilion settled in Moab.
Elimelek left the promised land on his own initiative to escape famine, but changing location did not spare him – and he died in Moab. This left Naomi far from home as a widow with two sons. But all was not lost as her sons were adults, and they married Moabite women.
Mahlon married Ruth, and Kilion married Orpah – their wives came from the community where they lived. Now there was hope for Naomi with the prospect that her family could continue through her sons.
But after they had lived in Moab for about ten years, Mahlon and Kilion also died. Naomi was now without a husband, sons, or grandchildren. She was empty and desolate, and her future looked bleak.
But news came to Moab that the Lord had provided for His people and the famine had ended, there was food again in Bethlehem. Naomi made the decision to return to her hometown. She set out on the journey back to Judah, and her daughters-in-law accompanied her.
But after a short distance Naomi decided it would be better for Ruth and Orpah to go back to their own families. She had nothing to offer them and felt that the Lord’s hand had turned against her.
“It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has turned against me!” Ruth 1:13
What happens next teaches us so much about the character of Ruth who became known as Ruth the Moabitess because she left Moab!
10 Characteristics of Ruth the Moabitess
Loyalty – Why did Ruth Stay with Naomi?
Naomi urged Ruth and Orpah to stay in Moab where they might find another husband. Orpah made the decision to say goodbye, but Ruth clung to Naomi.
“At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.” Ruth 1:14
Naomi told her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab and blessed Orpah as she returned to her own family. But Ruth remained loyal to Naomi, she discerned that regardless of Naomi telling her to leave, she needed to stay!
It can be a test of loyalty to stay committed to a person, or a place, a situation, or a service. Sometimes we need to be able to discern what is required, and what is the right thing to do in God’s sight. That won’t always be the same as what is being said by those around us. But if we listen to the whisper of the Holy Spirit, place our trust in God, and act in love, we see God’s purposes fulfilled…
Devotion – Ruth and Naomi Friendship
Ruth revealed her devotion to Naomi. She chose, what may have looked like the least favorable option for her own future, to support her mother-in-law.
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17
Ruth swears her devotion to Naomi in the name of the LORD – Israel’s God was now her God, and she was committed to Him.
When we are devoted to God, our choices may not always seem the best, or right choice, in the eyes of other people. God’s ways are not always our ways – but we are trusting in His plans and purposes for our future. Even when we can’t see how God is working, we believe that He is working for our good!
Steadfast – Virtue of Ruth the Moabitess
The characteristics of Ruth in the Bible reveal steadfastness by her lack of complaint. Nowhere does she appear to grumble or complain about the fact that she had lost her husband and had no children. And that she had also left all her family behind to travel to a foreign country with her mother-in-law who was increasingly bitter!
When Naomi and Ruth arrive back in Bethlehem, they are the talk of the town, everyone is surprised to see them. When Naomi is welcomed by old friends, this is her response:
“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Ruth 1:20-21
There are times when we need to be the light in a relationship. That is never easy, and to remain unaffected by negativity is a real test which produces perseverance and steadfastness. These spiritual strengths don’t grow in a season of blessing, but through trusting in the faithfulness of God in those times when it’s not visible!
Related Post: Why Did Naomi Change her Name to Mara?
Respect – What can we learn from Ruth?
The Mosaic law instructed landowners, during harvest, not to reap right to the edges of the fields. And those who owned vineyards were not to go over the vines a second time, looking for missed grapes, or to pick up those fallen on the ground. This meant that the poor could glean and gather what was left behind.
Naomi and Ruth arrived back in Bethlehem just as the Barley harvest was beginning. Ruth saw an opportunity to provide for herself and her mother-in-law. But she showed respect toward Naomi by asking for permission to go into the fields to collect leftover grain.
“And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Ruth 2:2
The dynamics of their relationship had shifted, at one time Naomi had been the matriarch inviting Ruth into her household, but now the balance had altered. Taking a little care in what we say, and how we say it, can determine the outcome of any situation! Ruth was able to go out to work with Naomi’s blessing.
Industrious – Possibility for change?
As it turned out, by divine providence, Ruth started work in a field which belonged to Boaz, who was related to her father-in-law Elimelek. Just then, with divine timing, Boaz turned up to check on how his harvest was progressing. He saw Ruth working behind the harvesters in his fields and enquired as to who was this young woman. The overseer replied that this was Ruth the Moabitess who had returned to Bethlehem with Naomi:
“She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters,’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now. Except for a short rest in the shelter.” Ruth 2:7
Ruth was hard-working – manual labor in the heat of the sun was always going to be tiring! But this was an opportunity to do something to relieve the dire situation that they were in. Sometimes God presents us with an opportunity to be part of the answer to our own prayer!
Humility – Story of Ruth and Boaz
Boaz showed his kind and godly nature through his interactions with his workers. He then made a point of talking to Ruth the Moabitess – and began to offer his protection to a vulnerable young woman.
“At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?” Ruth 2:10
Boaz advised Ruth not to go to another field to work but to follow his harvesters where she would be safe from unwanted attention or abuse! He also gave her permission to go and take water from the jars that his men had provided for themselves while they worked.
“I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband – how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.” Ruth 2:11
Ruth the Moabitess had no expectation of favor and was overwhelmed by the kindness shown to her. She was unaware that people were talking about her – you may have heard the definition that true humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking about yourself less!
Gratitude – Ruth and Naomi see possibilities!
Due to the long-standing hostility between Israel and Moab, there was no guarantee that Ruth the Moabitess would be made welcome in Bethlehem.
There is no indication in Scripture that anyone was hostile to Ruth on her arrival in Bethlehem. But there is a difference between being tolerated and being actively welcomed. Boaz put Ruth at ease, he went out of his way to show consideration and kindness, and she was grateful!
“May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant – though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.” Ruth 2:13
Boaz offered hospitality to Ruth, he invited her to join the harvester’s meal. Then he went a step further and instructed his men to make sure that her labor was productive. Boaz told them to leave behind stalks of grain for Ruth to glean. He also advised Ruth to stay in his field until the harvest was over.
When Ruth returned home to Naomi, she brought with her an unusually large amount of grain. Naomi saw how much Ruth had gathered and recognized that she had been blessed. When Ruth told Naomi that she had been working in Boaz’s fields, Naomi’s hope begins to rise.
Naomi was beginning to see God’s providence through the kindness of Boaz toward Ruth – a young woman who was a foreigner and far from home.
Sometimes we are called to be God’s hands and feet, practically revealing His love to those in need…
Wise – Ruth the Moabitess time to try!
Now Naomi’s hope was rising she saw possibilities – and began to plan! The barley harvest was over, and the men would be celebrating down on the threshing floor. As the barley was prepared for storage, they would spend the night at the threshing floor guarding their hard-earned crop.
Naomi’s plan was for Ruth to make an approach to Boaz and to appeal to him to fulfil his obligations as a guardian-redeemer.
“Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.” Ruth 3:3-4
The moral integrity of Naomi and Ruth were not in doubt here, although it seemed like a forward step! Ruth’s actions would reveal that she was seeking a husband and that she would be willing to marry Boaz.
Ruth responded with assent and agreed to do whatever Naomi suggested. She demonstrated emotional intelligence and maturity here by agreeing to Naomi’s plan. Although this may not have seemed like the perfect plan, it had the possibility to be the answer to their prayers.
Somewhere in the journey from hope, to the possibility of change, you have to take the initiative! The time comes to step out, to leave doubts, fears, and despair behind, and move forward. The faith to act, to try, and to do something. Then we wait to see what God will do…
Kindness – Boaz kinsman redeemer
Ruth put the plan into operation and once Boaz was sleeping she uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night, Boaz woke up and found Ruth lying at his feet. She asked him to spread the corner of his garment over her as a guardian-redeemer. This was her plea for protection and provision for the future.
Boaz recognized Ruth’s request and was touched by her plea:
“The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.” Ruth 3:10-11
Boaz saw Ruth’s approach to him as a kindness – due to their age difference! He protected Ruth’s reputation by sending her home early – but with a gift of grain for Naomi. He assured Ruth that he would deal with this matter promptly because he was aware of another relative who was a closer possible kinsman-redeemer.
Faithful – loyal and steadfast to God
Boaz did exactly what he promised, and that morning he went to the town gate. While he was sitting there the relative who was also a possible guardian-redeemer came past. Boaz stopped this man and invited him to sit down while he gathered together the elders of the town. In the presence of witnesses, Boaz asked this man if he was willing to buy Elimelek’s land.
The man indicated that he was – until Boaz pointed out that he would then acquire Ruth the Moabitess as a wife. The Levirate law dictated that Ruth’s firstborn son would keep Mahlon’s name. This would retain ownership of Elimelek’s family inheritance and preserve that name with their property in Israel.
At this, the closer guardian-redeemer declined. If he had a son by Ruth, who was then his only surviving heir, his own family name and property would go to that child under Elimelek’s name. Of course, the same risk applied to Boaz! But he was willing to show kindness and generosity to Ruth and Naomi.
“Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses! ”Ruth 4:9-10
The town elders recognized Boaz’s obedience to God in redeeming Ruth and they blessed their union.
Kinsman Redeemer Meaning
The role of a guardian or kinsman redeemer was to protect the interests of vulnerable members of the extended family. This could include providing an heir for a brother who had died – Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Or buying back any land sold out of the family, or redeeming a relative who had been sold into slavery. Also the possibility of avenging the killing of a relative would be given to the guardian redeemer.
Moral of the story of Ruth in the Bible
These four short chapters reveal God’s love and care, and His divine providence working behind the scenes. We also learn so much about the power of selfless love to touch and transform lives from Ruth and Boaz. But ultimately the moral of the story of Ruth is one of an outsider being welcomed into God’s family!
Participation in God’s kingdom is not dependent on where we are born, or our family, but on faith with obedience, reflected in our commitment to God.Tweet
The story ends with redemption – God redeemed Naomi’s desperate situation and blessed Ruth far more than she could ever have imagined. After a long period of barrenness in her first marriage, Ruth and Boaz have a son who becomes the grandfather of David, king of Israel.
A Hebrew and a Gentile unite to become the family of David, leading to the ancestry of Messiah our Lord Jesus Christ. Here in this story, there was a hint that God was beginning to reveal the mystery of the gospel. Jesus would come as the Messiah, from the line of David, and He would be the Savior of the world – uniting Hebrews and Gentiles to become one in Him!