What is the Book of Ruth About?

Read this 3-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and inspire you to read Ruth!


Historical Context

No author is named.

From Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Genesis for your good and to lead you into joy.

The story of Ruth takes place in the time of the judges (after the conquest of Canaan and before c. 1050 BC). No author is named, but the mention of David and his genealogy (Ruth 4:17–22) places the writing sometime after David became king (2 Samuel 2) in c. 1010 BC. 

The Setting of Ruth

A famine in Judah forces Naomi and her husband to leave Israel and move to Moab, where their sons marry Moabite women. When Naomi’s husband and sons die, she decides to return to her home in Israel, and her daughter-in-law Ruth chooses to go with her. Ruth lived during the time of the Judges. 

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Message Series

God of the Ordinary by Alistair Begg

Check out this phenomenal 10-part message series by Alistair Begg. In short 40-minute messages, Alistair Begg walks us through the story of Ruth, painting the backdrop of this beautiful biblical story through careful study so that we can absorb all the wonderful details of this romance and redemption story.

Ruth Dictionary

As you read through Ruth, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know!

To praise or make holy. The word bless is used in different ways in the Bible: (1) When God blesses, He brings salvation and prosperity and shows mercy and kindness to people. (2) When people bless, they (a) bring salvation and prosperity to other persons or groups; (b) they praise and worship and thank God; (c) they give good things or show kindness to others.

(1) In the Old Testament, an older man in a family, tribe, or town. (2) Also in the Old Testament, a member of a group of older men in a town. The town elders made major decisions for the town. (3) In the first four books of the New Testament, the Sanhedrin—the group of men who governed the Jewish people in Jesus’ time. (4) In the Early Church, the church leaders.

A time when there is not enough food to keep people and animals alive. Famines can be caused by lack of rain, wars, insects that eat crops, and bad storms.

To pick fruits or grain that the harvesters missed. The Bible told farmers to leave some crops in the field for hungry people to glean.

To gather ripe fruits, vegetables, grain and other crops from fields, vineyards and orchards.

(1) All the rules God gave to help people to know and love Him and to live happily with each other. The Ten Commandments are part of God’s law. (2) The first five books of the Bible. These five books are often called the Law. (3) The entire Old Testament. Sometimes the Old Testament is referred to as the Law. (4) Any rule that must be obeyed, whether it was decided by God or by people. (5) God’s rules in the Old Testament plus other rules added by Jewish religious leaders. (6) The conscience of an unbeliever who knows he or she has not followed his or her own moral code (see Romans 2:14-16).

A person from the country of Moab, located just east of the Dead Sea. Moab often fought against Israel and at times was under the control of Israel’s kings. Ruth, an ancestor of David and of Jesus, was a Moabite.

A person who watches over and takes care of others. Joseph was an overseer; he watched over and directed other people who worked for Potiphar. In the New Testament, leaders in the Early Church were sometimes called overseers. Paul told these leaders to take care of the people in the Church in the same way a good shepherd cares for his sheep.

To buy back. In Bible times, a person could buy a slave and then set the slave free. The slave had been redeemed by the person who had paid the price and then given the slave freedom. The New Testament tells us that by dying, Jesus paid the price to buy us back and set us free from our slavery to sin. See also ransom.

A person who buys back. The term is used in the Old Testament to refer to God and to the Messiah who was promised to come.

A place of safety, away from danger; a shelter. See also city of refuge. (One of six cities set aside by Moses where a person who had accidentally killed someone could stay until a fair trial could be held. While the person was in a city of refuge, he or she would be safe from family or friends of the dead person who might want to kill him or her.)

A bundle or bundles of cut grain stalks.

The place where grain was trampled by oxen or beaten with a stick to separate the heads of grain from the stalk. A threshing floor was usually a large, flat rock or a large area of clay that was packed hard. Threshing floors were usually built where wind would blow away the chaff and leave the heavier grain. See also winnow and chaff.

To separate the kernels of grain from the worthless husks removed from the grain. Winnowing was done by tossing the grain into the air during a strong breeze. The breeze would blow away the light husks and the heavier kernels of grain would fall to the ground.

(1) A person who tells what he or she has seen. (2) To tell others what has been seen. Jesus told his followers to be witnesses. We are to tell what we have seen Jesus Christ do in our own lives.

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

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