Study Guide

The Book of Ruth Family

Family

A certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. (NRSV 1:1-5)

A certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband. (KJV 1:1-5)

Pretty quickly, our narrator sets the stage for a family drama. In other words, family's what sets this love story in motion. We get all the players in this clan and then we lose half of them, which leaves the remaining women in the family to fend for themselves. Gulp.

"Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." (NRSV1:16)

Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. (KJV 1:16)

Here, Ruth isn't only saying that she'd like to tag along to Bethlehem. She's taking Naomi's family and faith as her own as she plans to leave her own behind. Ruth's family, whoever they were, mean bupkis now that she's got her husband's family to remain loyal to.

Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, "Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!" Naomi also said to her, "The man is a relative of ours, one of our nearest kin." (NRSV 2:20)

Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen. (KJV 2:20)

Wonder of wonders. Ruth has run into the one person—a family member—who can save them both from ruin. Of course it's not so much a coincidence here, as an act of God. He's so very kind, and we know God's a family man, too. Fingers crossed for a successful marriage.

At midnight [Boaz] was startled, and turned over, and there, lying at his feet, was a woman! He said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin." (NRSV 3:8-9)

At midnight, [Boaz] was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman. (KJV 3:8-9)

Wait a second. Which is she—servant or family? We're guessing that since she's a woman, it just might be a little bit of both. And maybe that family connection is what allows Ruth to be so bold here. She knows she can be all like "yoo-hoo, lemme get some of that cloak action," because he's family and can't just kick her out onto the mean streets of Bethlehem.

[Ruth] came to her mother-in-law, who said, "How did things go with you, my daughter?" Then she told her all that the man had done for her, saying, "He gave me these six measures of barley, for he said, 'Do not go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.'" (NRSV 3:16-17)

[Ruth] came to her mother in law, she said, Who art thou, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her. And she said, These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother in law. (KJV 3:16-17)

The Book of Ruth is full of all kinds of familial wisdom, like this little gem: never—and we mean never—go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed. That's a surefire way to get on her bad side for the rest of your relationship. And when you're a biblical lady like Ruth, that relationship is for life. Here again, Naomi refers to Ruth as her daughter, showing the close-knit family bond between the women.

[Boaz] then said to the next-of-kin, "Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it, and say: Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not, tell me, so that I may know; for there is no one prior to you to redeem it, and I come after you." So he said, "I will redeem it." Then Boaz said, "The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man's name on his inheritance." At this, the next-of-kin said, "I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it." (NRSV 4:3-6)

[Boaz] said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech's: And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it. Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance. And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it. (KJV 4:3-6)

Okay, so this family tree is getting a little bit too weird for the other kinsman, and we can't really blame him for finding an out. He'd like the land, but not the lady who goes with it (poor Ruth). He has his own family to watch out for, and having kids with Ruth that belong to a dead man would split up his fortune even more. Plus, think of the awkward family dinners. Luckily, this swift rejection works out quite nicely for Ruth, who's had her hooks into Boaz all along.

Boaz said to the elders and all the people, "Today you are witnesses that I have acquired from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, to be my wife, to maintain the dead man's name on his inheritance, in order that the name of the dead may not be cut off from his kindred and from the gate of his native place; today you are witnesses." (NRSV 4:9-10)

Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, of the hand of Naomi. Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day. (KJV 4:9-10)

How… romantic? Boaz "acquires" Ruth as is wife as part of his obligation to his family. Not exactly a swoon-worthy speech, but it does serve as a handy reminder that in a Bible, family planning is really more about property planning than anything else.

The women said to Naomi, "Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him." (NRSV 4:14-15)

The women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him. (KJV 4:14-15)

Naomi is pumped. Not only does she have a grandson to provide for her, but she has one amazing daughter-in-law. In fact, Ruth is worth seven sons. Coming from a culture that prized sons over anything, this is saying a lot.

Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, "A son has been born to Naomi." (NRSV 4:16-17)

Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi. (KJV 4:16-17)

So this part is a little weird. Though the baby is technically not related to Naomi, she not only accepts him as her grandson, but also as her son. She even nurses the little guy. What does Ruth think about all this? We never know, and we're not sure it matters. The point of the story, after all, is that Naomi finally gets what she wants—a male relative she can claim as her own.

They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed, Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David. (NRSV 4:17-22)

They called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron, And Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, And Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, And Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, And Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David. (KJV 4:17-22)

It's time for the big finish. We finally get the genealogy of the folks involved and find out, low and behold, we've been reading about the great-great grandparents of King David. But here's the question—does this change the way we read the story? Do we feel more justified spending time with little old Ruth now that we know that her offspring are kings? Does it make her story somehow more meaningful?

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