The story of Ruth is another beautiful love story of redemption from the Bible. A severe famine in the land of Israel forces Naomi, her husband and two sons to move to the land of Moab seeking food. There her two sons take Moabite wives: one is Orpah and the other, Ruth. When her husband and two sons die, Naomi is left destitute with her two daughters-in-law and no heir, and no other sons to offer them. Hearing the famine is over in Israel, she decides to leave them and return home. The two widows try to go with her but she turns them back. “Should I have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, would you wait for them till they were grown?” (Surviving brothers are to take the wives of their deceased brothers to maintain their inheritance.) Naomi feels that God has dealt bitterly with her and simply wants to return to her land, even though she returns empty. Orpah kissed Naomi good-by, but Ruth clung to her, delivering what has become a traditional wedding vow for centuries:
Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.
– Ruth 1:16-17
Then follows one of the greatest understatements of the Bible: “When [Naomi] saw that [Ruth] was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her [to stay].”
When someone speaks with such eloquence that it is remembered and written down to be followed for centuries, it is the end of the matter. Language is a powerful thing when coupled with emotion and accurate to what the heart feels. Ruth was not to be denied.
Ruth ends up being the key to Naomi’s redemption and the continuation of the lineage of sons that lead to David, and finally Christ. Back in the land of Israel, Ruth ends up gleaning wheat in the field of Boaz, a distant relative of Naomi’s husband. Boaz sees her in the fields, enquires about her, and instructs his servants to load her up with extra grain to take home. Buoyed by his kindness, Naomi instructs Ruth to go by night and lie down at the feet of Boaz; a sign that she is asking him to take her as his wife as he is a close relative. Boaz is flattered that she has chosen to humble herself before him instead of going after younger men. He promises that he will do what is right although there is one relative closer who must legally be given the opportunity cover her. This showed that he had already noticed Ruth and looked into the matter.
The next day, Boaz finds the closest relative sitting at the city gates where transactions are made public. He asks the closest relative if he wants to buy the field belonging to Naomi. He says he does. Then Boaz adds that also with the deal he gets Ruth “to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.” At which point the other man says he cannot purchase it lest he ruin his own inheritance. The two men pass a sandal between them, a sign that the other is passing up his right as closest relative, and Boaz gets Ruth, the real prize he was after. Later, she will bear him a son who will be the grandfather of King David. Naomi’s bitterness is over. She has a grandson, and little does she know he is of the line of kings, and the King of kings.
By the way, Boaz was the son of Rahab, the prostitute who hid the Jewish spies in Jericho. You can see why Boaz was quick to accept and embrace an outsider. Rahab and Ruth are two of only three women mentioned in the lineage from Abraham to Jesus listed in Matthew 1, and neither of them were Jewish by birth. And that they are listed says how important it is to God that we notice how He welcomes outsiders in.