Women of the Bible - Ruth A Woman of Devoted Love by Kathryn Capoccia Young Adults Sunday School Class
All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. © Copyright Kathy Capoccia 2000. This file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold.
I. Introduction A. Opening Prayer B. Review of Last Week's Lesson/Verse II. Character Profile: Ruth, A Woman of Devoted Love A. Who was she? 1. A woman living in the time of the Judges (RTH 1:1), about 1100 BC. RTH 1:1 " In the days when the judges ruled..." 2. A Moabite RTH 1:2 "...his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. RTH 1:4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth." a) THE Moabites were the descendants of Lot by his eldest daughter (GEN 19:30-38). GEN 19:36,37 "So both of Lot's daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today." b) The land they occupied was mostly on a plateau east of the Dead Sea, about 4,300 feet above the level of the Dead Sea. c) The land was used for viticulture (grapevines), agriculture, and the grazing of flocks and herds, particularly, sheep. d) The prevalent religion seems to have been like the pagan Canaanite practices; A god of war, Chemosh, a despicable deity requiring the sacrifice of one's children, appears to have been regarded as the chief god- also a female deity, Ashtar-Chemosh, was worshiped as a goddess of fertility. These gods were a snare to the Israelites during the period of the Judges. JDG 10:6 " the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines." e) During this time Moabite armies were used to chasten the erring Israel kingdom (JUD 3:12-30) but at the time of Ruth's story there seems to have been peace because of the ease of travel between the two countries (RTH 1:1, 1:22). 3. Named "Ruth" which means: a) "a sight" or b) "a female friend" 4. A widow a) She had been married to Mahlon. 1) Mahlon ("Weakling") was one of the sons of Elimelech and Naomi (RTH 1:2, 4:9). a] Mahlon's family consisted of his parents, Elimelech ("God is King") and Naomi ("Pleasant"), and his brother, Kilion ("Sickly"). b] Mahlon's family had come to live temporarily in Moab in a time of famine in Israel, and thus Mahlon had come to marry Ruth while they were sojourning there (RTH 1:4). RTH 1:4 "... they had lived there about ten years..." c] Mahlon's family originated in Judea, in Bethlehem/Ephrath (RTH 1:1,2). RTH 1:1,2 " In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man's name was Elimelech, his wife's name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. d] Mahlon and Ruth married in Moab RTH 1:4 "They (Kilion and Mahlon) married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth." * In ancient Jewish marriages the groom and bride would often reside in the groom's father's house after the wedding, it having been enlarged to accommodate the new family unit. JOH 14:2 " In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you." Whether Mahlon and Ruth (and Kilion and Orpah) lived thus closely with Elimelech and Naomi or not, it is clear that Ruth and Orpah both knew and deeply loved Naomi. 2) The Law did not prohibit marriage between Jews and Moabites but no Moabite or his sons to the 10th generation was allowed to "enter the assembly of the LORD" (DEU 23:3, because they did not offer hospitality when the exodus took place and they hired Balaam to curse the Israelites.) b) She was widowed while the family still lived in Moab (RTH 1:5). RTH 1:5 ..." both Mahlon and Kilion also died..." c) She was childless (RTH 1:7,22 ). RTH 1:5,6 ..." both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. When she heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there." * Since there is no mention of grandchildren and the two daughters-in-law were leaving Moab with only Naomi, the assumption may be made that the marriages were childless. 5. She was a "young woman" (RTH 2:5). HEBREW: a girl, maiden. RTH 2:5 " Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, "Whose young woman is that?" B. What did she do? 1. She was devoted a) To Naomi, an old (lit. " bearded") widow (RTH 1:3,12). RTH 1:12 " I am too old to have another husband." 1) She was willing to leave her homeland to stay with Naomi (RTH 1:6,7). RTH 1:6,7 "When she heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah." * This act of selfless devotion meant that Ruth was willing to give up remarriage to care for Naomi, her dead husband's mother; and it meant that she was willing to go to an unknown future among people that were, historically, enemies of her own. 2) When Naomi urged her to go back to her own people and family she refused (unlike her sister-in-law, Orpah, who wept over the prospect but went. RTH 1:14.) 3) She took a vow to remain as Naomi's daughter until death (which would mean providing for her), and to become an Israelite (RTH 1:16). RTH 1:16,17 "But Ruth replied, 'Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.'" * Naomi must have been an extraordinary woman to have inspired the devotion of two foreign, young women to the extent that they did not return to their fathers' homes after their husbands' deaths so that they could care for her; they were willing to leave all that they knew to stay with her; and Ruth was so impressed with her faith that she wanted to worship her God too. b) To her God, "the God of Israel" (RTH 1:16). * The text does not say when Ruth's heart was touched to worship the True God and serve Him only, but Ruth was a woman of wholehearted devotion - when she vowed that "your God will be my God" she meant it. 2. She was rewarded a) Materially - God providentially met her needs. 1) She and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem just as the barley harvest was beginning" (RTH 1:22). 2) The Law provided for the poor, the alien, the widow and the fatherless to "glean" in the fields of Israelites in the harvest season in order to survive. LEV 19:9,10 "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God." LEV 23:22 "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God." DEU 24:19 "When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands." 3) When she went out to "pick up the leftover grain" of the harvesters she went to the field of Boaz, who was a near relative of Elimelech's (RTH 2:3). a] He was a kind man, treating his workers well (RTH 2:4,5), and treating Ruth with consideration (RTH 2:8-16). RTH 2:4 " Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, 'The LORD be with you!' 'The LORD bless you!' they called back." b] He was a "kinsman-redeemer", a member of the extended family responsible for protecting the interests of needy members. i] kinsman-redeemers had to provide an heir for a brother that died (DEU 25:5-10). ii] they had to redeem land that a poor relative had sold outside the family (LEV 25:25-28). iii] they had to redeem a relative who had been sold into slavery (LEV 25:47-49). iv] they had to avenge the killing of a relative (NUM 35:19-21). c] He was prosperous (because he had a large field and workers to tend it RTH 2:8.) d] He was not a young man because he contrasts himself to them (RTH 3:10.) 4) Boaz instructed her to continue to glean in his fields with his servant girls, promised her protection from the men workers, and told her to get water from the worker's water jars (RTH 2:8,9). 5) She harvested an abundance of grain in Boaz's field (RTH 2:17). RTH 2:17 "So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah." 6) Boaz provided grain for her by instructing his workers to "pull out some stalks from among the bundles " for her to pick up (RTH 2:16). b) Socially - Ruth gained a reputation as a "noble woman". 1) The people of Bethlehem spoke well of Ruth to Boaz (RTH 2:11). RTH 2:11 " Boaz replied, 'I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband--how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.'" 2) Boaz commended her for her actions toward Naomi and asked the LORD'S blessing upon Ruth (RTH 2:11,12). RTH 2:12 " May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." 3) Boaz again blessed Ruth and told her that she had a sterling reputation (RTH 3:10,11). RTH 3:10,11 "'The LORD bless you, my daughter,' he replied. 'This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.'" c) Emotionally - Naomi secured "a home" for Ruth. RTH 3:1 " One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, 'My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for?'" 1) A husband a] Naomi found a way for Ruth to marry RTH 3:2-4 "'Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don't let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.'" i] She advised Ruth to dress as a bride and appeal to Boaz, as kins-man redeemer, to offer her the protection of marriage (RTH 3:1-4; 3:9.) ii] Boaz responded favorably. He praised her for her obedience to Naomi and for her "noble character"; he promised to redeem her if possible and he sent her home with a generous token of his care- 6 measures of barley (RTH 3:10-15). RTH 3:10-15 "' The LORD bless you, my daughter,' he replied. 'This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.' So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, 'Don't let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.' He also said, 'Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.' When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her. Then he went back to town." b] Boaz settled matters i] Boaz arranged to meet another relative in the city gate, the closest kins-man redeemer to Elimelech, to ask him if he would redeem Elimelech's land and marry Ruth ( and thus to provide an heir for Mahlon. RTH 4:1-4.) RTH 4:1-4 " Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat there. When the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, Boaz said, 'Come over here, my friend, and sit down.' So he went over and sat down. Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, 'Sit here,' and they did so. Then he said to the kinsman-redeemer, 'Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.'" ii] The nearest kins-man redeemer declined and legally turned over his right of redemption to Boaz, with the elders of the city as witnesses (RTH 4:6-12.) RTH 4:6-8 " At this, the kinsman-redeemer said, 'Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.' (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.) So the kinsman-redeemer said to Boaz, 'Buy it yourself.' And he removed his sandal. Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, 'Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon.'" iii] Boaz and Ruth marry (RTH 4:13.) RTH 4:9-11 "Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, 'Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon's widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!' Then the elders and all those at the gate said, 'We are witnesses.'" RTH 4:13 " So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife." 2) A child a] Ruth and Boaz were enabled to have a son, Obed, "a servant who worships" (RTH 4:13). RTH 4:13 " So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son." b] The child became the heir of Mahlon (RTH 4:14-17). RTH 4:14-16 " The women said to Naomi: 'Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.' Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, 'Naomi has a son.'" c] The child eventually became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David, King of Israel (RTH 4:17-22). RTH 4:17-22 "He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David." C. What can we learn from her? 1. God is very concerned about the welfare of widows. JAM 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress ..." 2. God provides for His children. PSA 37:25 " I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread." 3. God accepts anyone who truly seeks Him. JOH 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. * So God brought Obed, and ultimately David and Jesus, from this devoted woman; and He accepted her into the line of believers tracing back to Adam and Eve who came by faith alone to the One who can meet all one's needs. III. What fruits of the Spirit can we see in her? A. love B. kindness C. self-control IV. Memory Verse: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
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