The book of Ruth is placed between the book of Judges and the books of 1 Samuel and of 2 Samuel. What is described in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, follows on the book of Ruth. We may see this in the last word of this book. The last word is the name “David”. It’s him that the books of Samuel deal with. The book of Ruth is the introduction to these books. It was probably written during the life of David or just after. The book of Ruth gives us the history and ancestry of the king who is a man after God’s heart. Therefore this king can appear in 1 Samuel without a genealogy, as it were suddenly (1Sam 16:11-1311And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”12So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.”13Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.). That is different from the first king, Saul. When Saul appears, of a genealogy is given (1Sam 9:1-21Now there was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah, the son of a Benjamite, a mighty man of valor.2He had a son whose name was Saul, a choice and handsome [man], and there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people.).
The book of Ruth makes it clear from which family David descents. However, the light is not only on a blessed ancestry that belongs to the tribe of Judah. It is also on someone who as a Moabitess had no part in God’s people and for whom also there was no chance ever to belong to that people.
The book may be historically followed by the books of Samuel, but it does not historically follow the book of Judges. According to the first verse of Ruth 1 the book takes place in the time of the book of Judges (Rth 1:11Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons.). Boaz, one of the main characters of this book, is the son of Rahab (Mt 1:5a5Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.), whom we know from Joshua 2 (Jos 2:11Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there.). The story of Ruth must therefore be historically placed at the beginning of the period of Judges. The time of Gideon has been thought of, because in that time there is a famine (Jdg 6:6,116So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the LORD.11Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save [it] from the Midianites.), and this is also mentioned in the first verses of Ruth.
The era when the judges lead God’s people is characterized by struggle and decay. We find nothing of that in the book of Ruth. It is the history of the family of an Elimelech, an ordinary, inconspicuous family, as there are so many; a family that lives in simplicity in Bethlehem in Juda.
The course of events is generally not determined by such people, unlike rulers and kings – although God, of course, is above everything and ultimately determines history. Regarding this family we hear nothing about idolatry or other national sins that are so often mentioned in the book of Judges.
Although Elimelech’s family is one of many, God puts the spotlight especially on this family because He has a plan with them. He wants to bring His grace to the fore in a special way in this family. When we read the book of Ruth against the background of the time, it is a relief to learn of a family in which God’s grace works in a special way. It is also a refreshment to hear that there was a man like Boaz in those days.
The book of Ruth has a beautiful prophetic meaning. This is related to the purpose of the book and that is to introduce David. Then, of course, we must think of the true David, the Lord Jesus. Boaz, the main character of this book, together with Ruth and Naomi, is also a picture of the Lord Jesus. But who is Ruth a picture of? Not of the church, because the way with which Ruth is connected to Boaz is not the way with which the church is connected to Christ. In Ruth we have a picture of the remnant of Israel.
When the church is caught up, a remnant will be formed by God in Israel. This will happen through heavy trials, through a great tribulation. This remnant will be attracted by the love of the Lord Jesus. The same we see in the book Song of Songs.
However, the remnant as presented in Ruth, the Moabitess, is not connected to the true Boaz through tribulation and trial. Nor is the atonement for guilt – an aspect with which other parts of God’s Word deal – in the foreground. The book of Ruth shows how God forms a seed that can regain possession of His land, from which the people have left. This book is about restoring forfeited and lost blessings. It shows that this restoration does not take place through oppression or through atonement, but as a result of the love between two hearts that are attracted to each other.
The question that arises is: How is it possible that a woman from the nations, and especially from Moab, is a picture of the remnant of Israel? If we realize well what the condition of the remnant is, it becomes clear that there can be no picture more excellent of the remnant than Ruth, precisely because she is a Moabitess. The fact that she is a Moabitess is the clearest expression of the fact that the people have completely lost any right to the restoration of their land and possession of the inheritance. Israel has lost everything, because it has failed in everything. There can and will never again be fruit of the fig tree – the fig tree is also a picture of Israel after the flesh (Mk 11:13-14a13Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went [to see] if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.14He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.).
If there is a restoration, it is because of the counsels, the promises and the grace of God. From the point of view of responsibility, there can be no right on restoration. Israel has become like a stranger, a people of whom God has said it is “Lo-Ammi” (Hos 1:99And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.”
), which means “not My people”. He considers the people as belonging to the nations because of their sins of idolatry and the rejection of the Lord Jesus. If the people, that is, a remnant, come as strangers, in the awareness that they have lost everything through their own fault, they will be accepted as the object of God’s grace.
Ruth returns with Naomi from Moab. Naomi is a widow of a Jewish man and may step into the rights of her deceased husband. Ruth does not have such rights. She needs a redeemer to get her rights. It is remarkable that it also says of Ruth that she, with Naomi, returns (Rth 1:2222So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.), even though she literally never left Judah.
We therefore see two aspects of Israel in the two women. In Naomi we see the former Israel that as a woman has been in connection with God. Thus God says to Jeremiah: “Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, The love of your betrothals”” (Jer 2:2a2“Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD,
“I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth,
The love of your betrothals,
Your following after Me in the wilderness,
Through a land not sown.
; cf. Eze 16:88“Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,” declares the Lord GOD.). In Ruth we see Israel as the wife of God in the future.
Elimelech means ‘my God is King’, a name that indicates Who God is for His people. Naomi means ‘My joy’, a name that indicates what the people are for God. Elimelech and Naomi together represent the original relationship between God and His people.
Elimelech dies because the people reject God. This depicts the separation that has come between God and His people. God cannot take His people to Himself. The divorce was completed, the divorce letter was sent (Jer 3:88And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.). With the old Israel, the fig tree, things never get right again (Mt 21:1919Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He *said to it, “No longer shall there ever be [any] fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.). But God accepts a new Israel. The returned Naomi represents the new Israel. In the daughter-in-law Ruth we see the bride of the future with whom the Lord Jesus joins Himself.
In order to clear the way for that bond, the bride must be redeemed, i.e. detached from her past. Boaz performs this. In Isaiah 50 there is also spoken of a certificate of divorce (Isa 50:11Thus says the LORD,
“Where is the certificate of divorce
By which I have sent your mother away?
Or to whom of My creditors did I sell you?
Behold, you were sold for your iniquities,
And for your transgressions your mother was sent away.
), but there as not given, because it is a remnant. God has rejected Israel, but has always kept a “remnant according to [God’s] gracious choice” (Rom 11:55In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to [God’s] gracious choice.). This remnant belongs originally to the wicked nation, but has to be redeemed by the true Boaz. Thus, in the chapters that follow Isaiah 50, the Lord Jesus is called the “Man” and the “Redeemer” of Israel (Isa 54:55“For your husband is your Maker,
Whose name is the LORD of hosts;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
Who is called the God of all the earth.
What prophetically applies to Israel has a practical application for us. This application concerns not so much us as a church, but more as individual believers. This book answers the question of whether a recovery is possible if we have lost everything and have no more rights. As said, it is not about atonement and forgiveness, but about restoring the enjoyment of what has been lost for those who really do penance and desire to have fellowship with God. The possibility of recovery is there, through grace and the Savior, the Redeemer.
However, this is not about a man, a sinner, who finds rest for his conscience (Mt 11:2828“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.). It is about a believer who finds peace for his soul in the confidence that God is with him (Mt 11:2929Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.). We only find peace for our souls if we turn away from everything that removes us from the Lord Jesus and entrust ourselves to Him.