God’s plan in preparing a Family – Ruth
This week we begin a series of readings that introduce us to Ruth. Her story comes in a short book early in the Old Testament, set in the times before there were any Kings in Israel, probably around 1200 BC. The land was governed by various strong individuals who are called ‘Judges’, but were much more akin to local Tribal leaders.
Geographically, the story begins in Bethlehem, moves round the Dead Sea to the area inhabited by the Moabites, and then back to Bethlehem. The little book is thought to have been included in the Hebrew Bible because it added to the story of King David – one of their great heroes – and his family connections with Bethlehem.
This week we focus on the town of Bethlehem itself, which has connections with Jesus too!
v 1. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him.
The story of Ruth has a thoroughly inauspicious opening. We have a very ordinary family from Bethlehem trying to find a better life by getting away from a time of famine in Israel. Such a decision has many parallels in our day and age as people try to escape from hardship and war. Elimelech packed up his home and family and journeyed to Moab – probably about 70/80 miles round the southern end of the Dead Sea. The Moabites were not reckoned to be Jews; they were descended from Lot, Abraham’s nephew, and were often at war with Israel. (2 Kings 3 gives one example). So this would have been a hazardous venture for Elimelech and his family – not something they would have undertaken lightly. The principal person in the story, Ruth, was a Moabite woman, so the story is all the more unexpected as she married one of Elimelech’s sons, a true-born Jew from Bethlehem.
This all happened in the time of the Judges in Israel, an era typified by lawlessness and social unrest, before the nation was unified under King David. And here we have a clue as to why the story was preserved in the ancient Bible text, which only becomes apparent in the last couple of verses of the book. Having been widowed, Ruth, who married into a Hebrew family, travelled with her Mother-in-Law Naomi back to Bethlehem, and married Boaz – and here is the significance of this delightful story of love between the Moabite widow Ruth and the Hebrew farmer, Boaz.
Boaz was the father of Obed, Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of David. (Ruth 4:21-22)
So we encounter Ruth again in the New Testament as one of Jesus’ ancestors in Matthew chapter 1:
Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David.
God’s providence in watching over Ruth is all part of His preparation for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, the Perfect Jew.