The book of Ruth is a quick and useful read after the Pentateuch. It is a short historical story set in the time of the Judges and apparently aimed at introducing the lineage of King David.
Naomi and her husband and two sons leave Israel for Moab to escape a famine. While in Moab, Naomi’s husband and two sons die leaving behind their wives. Ruth, one of Naomi’s daughters-in-law refused to leave her mother-in-law and so they returned to Israel together, getting there just as the barley harvest was beginning. The law required farmers not to harvest crops on the edge of their fields or go back for crops they missed so that the widows, orphans, the poor and foreigners could take those for food – gleaning (Lev 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut 24:19-22 ). This is what Ruth did.
While gleaning, she met Boaz, a rich landowner who treated her kindly and helped her with his harvest. As God would have it, Boaz was a close relative of Ruth’s late father-in-law. The law required a close relative (known as Guardian-redeemer) to marry a man’s widow if he had no children in other to provide him an heir. (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) So, when Naomi remembered Boaz, she sent Ruth to remind him of his duty. Boaz wasn’t the closest relative, but he offered to inform the man who was. That man had no desire to marry Ruth (The rule was that since Ruth’s husband had no children, in order to preserve his name, whatever child was born to Ruth by a Boaz (or whatever relative married her) would bear the name of Ruth’s late husband. The child would also receive a huge portion of Boaz’s assets as inheritance, effectively depriving Boaz’s other children of them. The closest relative did not want that, so he gave Boaz permission to marry Ruth. For more explanation, go here.
They were married and eventually had a son, Obed, who was the grandfather of King David.
At first, the story seems unimportant because it seems to talk about two random women from the whole of Israel. But it makes more sense once you realize that Ruth was the grandmother of David and a Moabite, no less.
The story speaks specifically of two of God’s provisions for the care of the poor: the gleaning requirement, and the provision of a guardian-redeemer. Without those, Ruth and Naomi would have been destitute. Being widows, they apparently, didn’t have enough to provide for themselves.
Also worthy of note is that the end of the famine was also one of the times when the Israelites were serving God. References to him were scattered throughout and reverence was offered to no other god.
Boaz’s greeting to his workers (2:4)
Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!”
“The Lord bless you!” they answered.
His admonishment to Ruth (2:11, 12)
Boaz replied, “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. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
His response when she informed him of his duty as guardian-redeemer (3:10 – 13)
“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. Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I.Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”
The response of the elders to Boaz’s announcement that he would marry Ruth (4:11)
Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.
The response of the women when Ruth gave birth (4:14, 15)
The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel!He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
Ok, I’ll admit it. I quoted all those passages because I just like quoting passages that talk about God. But it’s a nice story. You should read it.