The Bible Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

What is an important theme of the book of Ruth?

Expert Answers info

Rebecca Hope eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write1,505 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

One of the most inspiring messages of the book of Ruth is that a person who displays selfless compassion will be rewarded in the end. At the beginning of the book, readers are introduced to Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. After a sequence of tragedies leave all three women as widows, Naomi decides to return to the land of Israel. But Naomi offers to let the young women stay in Moab, their own land. Both women protest, but Orpah eventually concedes and kisses her mother-in-law goodbye. Ruth, however, proclaims her undying loyalty to Naomi, so the two travel to Israel.

Ruth offers to work in the fields as a gleaner to support her mother-in-law and herself. As it turned out, she unwittingly chose the field of Boaz, one of Naomi's close relatives, to work in. Boaz takes notice of her immediately, and after finding out who she is, he praises her for her kindness to Naomi. He says, "May the Lord repay you richly 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."

On Naomi's advice, Ruth presents herself to Boaz for marriage, and he considers her offer a great "kindness" since he is older than she. He goes through the necessary legal maneuvers to claim her as his wife and thereby redeem all Naomi's lost property. The town elders approve the match and shower them with blessings. Those blessings are realized when Ruth bears a son, who later will become the father of King David, putting Ruth, a foreigner, in the genealogical line of Jesus himself.

Ruth's happy ending is due to her loyalty to Naomi, the great kindness she showed her mother-in-law in giving up her own comfort to support her, and the kindness she showed Boaz in seeing past his age and agreeing to take him as her husband. The strong theme that comes through in this book is that kindness will be rewarded.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Inuk Lee eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write4,794 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

There are many important themes in the book of Ruth. The two main themes are: God's providence, and the idea of a kinsman redeemer. 

The book starts off in the time of the Judges. It is a wretched time where people are doing what is right in their own eyes. All you need to do is read Judges to know how terrible the times are. In this context, it seems like God has abandoned his people. But God is silently working in amazing ways. After Naomi loses her husband and two sons, one of her daughters-in-law, Ruth decided to go with her. One of the most famous passages is:

"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 even death separates you and me.'"

When Naomi and Ruth come to Bethlehem, by chance, Ruth collects grain in the field of Boaz, who happens to be a kinsman, who also happens to take notice of Ruth, and who also happens to marry her in time. All of this seems like chance, but it is under the providence of God. This is important, because Ruth bears a son Obed. Obed bears Jessie, and Jessie will be the father of David, Israel's great king. To go back to the original context, the way out of the time of the Judges is through a great king. 

Finally, Boaz through Jewish law is able to redeem Ruth and so he does. In Jewish tradition this is called a kinsman redeemer, and this was done, so that the deceased would not lose all of their land. This union, then, leads to a new epoch in Israel's history, the kings. 

check Approved by eNotes Editorial