The third woman, Ruth, is known for her loyalty and perseverance, and gets a whole book of the Bible to herself! Ruth’s story is often described as a love story, but it’s truly a story about love, loss, bravery and redemption.
The book follows the story of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, an Israelite who leaves Bethlehem during a famine, with her husband Elimelech and two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. After the death of Elimelech, Naomi’s sons marry Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah, and provide for their mother. The author describes how they all lived in Moab for about 10 years before Mahlon and Chilion die too. After the death of their father-in-law and husbands, Ruth and Orpah are free to remarry and move on with their lives.
A grieving Naomi decides to return to the land of Judah to be with her people. Wanting the best for her daughters-in-law, Naomi frees them of their duty to her. Orpah decides to remain in Moab, but Ruth refuses to leave Naomi. Ruth declares her well-known quote, “For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
Seeing her loyalty to Naomi, the Lord blesses Ruth beyond expectation.
In Bethlehem, Ruth and Naomi struggle to earn a living as they are both widows with no surviving immediate family to provide for them. But one man, a relative of Naomi’s husband, is deemed “a worthy man” (Ruth 2:1): Boaz, son of Rahab.
Loyalty and faith
Ruth begins gleaning in one of Boaz’s fields (picking up ears of grain that have fallen to the ground). He takes an interest in her and assures Ruth she will always have his protection. When Ruth questions why, Boaz tells her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before” (2:11).
Ruth faithfully pursues Boaz on behalf of herself and Naomi, hoping he will fulfill the role of “kinsman redeemer.” Ruth goes to Boaz and lies at his feet, asking him when he wakes to be her “redeemer.” Boaz tells her he is willing, but there is another man even closer kin. If the other man says no, Boaz agrees to redeem her.
Boaz goes to the other man and asks if he is willing to redeem Naomi. The kinsman says he is willing, but changes his mind — for fear of endangering his inheritance — when Boaz mentions he must marry Ruth. Once the other man rejects his claim, Boaz redeems Naomi and marries Ruth. They produce a son Obed, David’s grandfather.
Ruth didn’t have to go with Naomi. Because there was no direct relative to fulfill the Levirate marriage, Ruth was a true widow and free to remarry and stay with her people. But her faithfulness leads to a life she could never have dreamed. To some, because she has no way of knowing if Naomi’s people will accept her, Ruth’s decision to leave Moab and her family to go to a foreign land seems foolish, but the Lord fulfills her, not seeing foolishness but loyalty and faith.