Study Guide

The Book of Ruth

The Book of Ruth Introduction

Romance! Adventure! Grand love affairs! You'll find all this and more in the Book of Ruth.

Well, sort of.

Though it's sometimes billed as a biblical love story, Ruth isn't really about finding that one special shmoopie you can't live without. Our heroine is a widow who leaves her hometown of Moab to follow her mother-in-law to Bethlehem. There, she meets a cute guy and falls in love… oops, we mean asks him to acquire her with some land in accordance with religious tradition. It's très romantique, right?

Not exactly. The Book of Ruth probably won't be turning into a romantic comedy any time soon. (If it were, we'd already be mentally casting Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling to play the leads. Possible ideas for titles: How to Glean a Field in 10 Days, There's Something About Ruth, Pretty Widow, Sleepless in Bethlehem.) Ruth doesn't find love. She finds a relative of her dead husband to marry her and provide for her so she doesn't starve to death. We'd like to see Emma Stone pull off that character arc while still looking cute.

Though Ruth's ideas about love and marriage don't really fit with our modern thoughts on tying the knot, there's still something there for us 21st-century folk. For one thing, Ruth is super devoted—she flat out refuses to leave her grieving mother-in-law even though it means abandoning her own family. She also bravely seeks out a way to support herself without a man in sight. And, in the end, she takes hold of her destiny and snags the ideal husband for herself. Yup, Ruth is pretty rock solid.

Sure, in the midst of all this, a guy and girl still get together. They also happen to admire and respect the heck out of each other. So, while Ruth isn't exactly some grand sweeping love story for the ages, we'll forgive you if the end still has you swooning just a little.

What is The Book of Ruth About and Why Should I Care?

We live in a world full of rules. Yeah, we know it's a bummer, but it's true.

Sometimes we idolize people who break the rules (Galileo, Robin Hood, Rosa Parks, and Gandhi come to mind). But, sometimes we love folks for their rule-following ways. After all, why else would there be referees in sports? Our girl Ruth is a master of both. This heroine works within the rules, but she's also totally willing to bend them a little (okay, a lot) to find her happy ending. Yup, she's got some serious chutzpah.

In a world run by men, Ruth is walking around man-less. As a widow, she has no way to support herself. The rules dictate that she can't work or go to school. That mean's she's gonna have to find herself a husband if she wants to make it. Whoa, all these rules will really get you down, right?

But Ruth's not having it. Sure, she's a good girl by day, but by night anything goes. This little rule-breaker and her mother-in-law, Naomi, hatch a plan. It's one part brilliance and one part whackadoodle, and all parts awesome. Ruth sneaks into Boaz's bed at night! The shock! The scandal! But, it turns out Boaz doesn't mind a little rule-breaking, especially when it's the sexy kind. Thank goodness.

See, Ruth's life revolves around rules—what to eat, where to live, how to dress, whom to marry. But our girl doesn't let those big obstacles stop her from finding happiness. She knows she's gotta work within the rules for the most part, but she also knows when it's right for her to throw caution to the wind and sneak into someone's bedroom at night (Edward Cullen, we're looking at you).

So the next time you get caught without a hall pass or someone tells you there's no talking in the library—tell 'em to stuff it. Well, maybe don't do that. But you can remind them that the Bible says it's cool break the rules sometimes. And no one messes with the Bible.

The Book of Ruth Resources

Websites

The Ruth Institute
This group, created by the National Organization for Marriage, takes its name from the Book of Ruth. Their motto is "One Man, One Woman for Life." But when that one man dies, try to quickly find another. Preferably a close male relative, who will purchase you along with some land. Okay?

Movie or TV Productions

The Story of Ruth
This 1960 movie is loosely based on Ruth's tale. Aside from a pretty awesome love story, it also features "heathen idolatry and the splendor of pagan courts!" Oh, just watch the trailer.

Jacob's Ladder
Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz appear in an episode of this TV show about kids who are transported back to biblical times. It's like Bill and Ted, but with a whole lot more sandals.

The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith
This 2009 movie is all about love, tolerance, acceptance… oh, and Ruth, of course.

Historical Documents

NRSV FTW
The New Revised Standard Version of the Book of Ruth. Read, enjoy, and interpret away.

Video

The Book of Ruth Meets The Office
What if Ruth's story took place at Dunder-Mifflin? It's a bit low budget, but we give them props for a cool idea.

Righteous Ruth Rap
Liz Cutis Higgs finishes her sermon on the Book of Ruth with a super cool rap. Super, super cool.

The Book of Ruth
Check out a complete reading of the Book of Ruth, along with helpful (and humorous) illustrations. Also banjos.

Audio

Torah Gems: The Book of Ruth
Here's an interesting lecture on Ruth if you're looking for a Jewish perspective.

Images

Oh, the Biblical Places You'll Go
This map of the Middle East shows Judah and Moab for all you budding geography buffs.

Fun with Word Clouds
Check out this word cloud of the Book of Ruth. Wow, that Ruth sure does get mentioned a lot.