Old Testament Survey - Lesson 14


In this lesson on the Book of Ruth, set during Israel's period of the Judges, you will uncover that despite its title, the book centers on Boaz as he plays a critical role in advancing the lineage to King David and the Messiah. The lesson also examines themes of divine providence, social justice, and personal righteousness. 

Daniel Block
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 14
Watching Now

I. Introduction to the Book of Ruth

A. Title Discussion

1. Predominant focus on Boaz rather than Ruth

2. Placement in various biblical canons

3. Reasons for its naming and placement

II. The Role of Boaz

A. Characterization of Boaz

1. Embodiment of Deuteronomic righteousness

2. Unifying character in the narrative

III. Interpretative Approaches to Ruth

A. Speech-act Theory

1. Different levels of narrative interpretation

2. Implications for understanding Ruth's narrative

IV. Narrative Structure of Ruth

A. Division into Four Acts

1. Act One: The Emptying of Naomi

2. Act Two: Ruth's Encounters with Boaz

3. Act Three: Ruth at the Threshing Floor

4. Act Four: Legal and Familial Resolutions

V. Themes and Theological Insights

A. Providence and Human Agency

1. God's intervention in daily events

2. Use of human schemes to fulfill divine purposes

B. Social and Ethical Considerations

1. Issues of foreignness and gender

2. Application of Deuteronomic laws

VI. Implications and Applications

A. Contemporary Interpretations

1. Feminist and anti-racist readings

2. Covenantal and theological perspectives

B. Textual Influence and Legacy

1. Genealogical significance in biblical narrative

2. Ruth's role in messianic lineage as per New Testament

  • Learning about the First Testament's language, geographical, and cultural contexts, and how these factors contribute to its frequent misinterpretation and underappreciation in modern times.
  • Gain insights into the literary and cosmic foundations of grace and glory in the Torah, understanding its role as more than law.
  • Learn that to be made in God's image entails embodying divine qualities and functioning as His representative on Earth, which extends a universal dignity upon all humans and shapes a theological ethic that influences how you treat others.
  • Genesis 1-3 frames human response to divine creation, emphasizing human dignity, work's moral role, free will's consequences, and the persistent grace amid sin.
  • This lesson reviews the Israelite covenant, understanding its stages, implications, and its role in God's redemptive plan.
  • Gain insights into Abraham's covenant with God, exploring his faith and God's promises.
  • Learn how the Exodus from Egypt marked Israel's transformation from a family to a nation under Yahweh.
  • Understand how the covenant at Sinai transforms Israel from slaves into a treasured nation destined for a divine mission, fulfilling God's ancient promises.
  • This lesson covers the covenantal expectations at Sinai. The covenantal agreement provided a constitutional and ethical framework for societal living, focusing on community rights and responsibilities.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into how the tabernacle was both a physical manifestation of God's presence and a profound symbol of His grace, emphasizing the holiness and detailed guidance He provided to the Israelites for worship and daily life.
  • Gain insights into Deuteronomy, recognizing its focus on teaching rather than legislation, and understanding Moses' role as an instructor of Yahweh's will.
  • In this lesson, you explore how to interpret the First Testament's historiographic writings, emphasizing the divine inspiration and literary artistry that guide the selective storytelling and theological themes.
  • Learn how the books of Joshua and Judges illustrate the fulfillment and failure of Israel's covenant with Yahweh, highlighting divine promise, cultural assimilation, and the cyclical nature of faith and apostasy.
  • The Book of Ruth, highlights divine providence, social justice, and personal righteousness while exploring the role of Boaz as a pivotal figure in maintaining the lineage of King David.
  • Samuel had a significant yet complex role in Israel's history; judge, priest, prophet, and crucial figure in establishing monarchy.
  • Learn of David's central role in the Bible, understanding his unique portrayal and the extensive attention he receives compared to other figures.
  • Learn about the Davidic covenant's role in shaping biblical history and theology, emphasizing its eternal impact on Israel and beyond.
  • The books of Kings and Chronicles use historical events to underline theological themes, highlighting the role of scribes in documenting Israel’s history.
  • In this lesson on 1 and 2 Kings, review the downfall of Israel through kings' forgetfulness of God's covenants.
  • Learn about Solomon's temple's historical and theological significance, its divine design and purpose, and its role in Israelite worship and communal life.
  • Gain insights into the transformation and resilience of the Judean people during their exile in Babylon from 586-539 BC, exploring their struggles and adaptations in a new socio-political and religious context.
  • Learn about Daniel's exemplary life in Babylon, his integrity, and his prophetic visions, which highlight divine sovereignty and the vindication of the faithful amidst calamities.
  • Review the Persian period's impact on the Jewish diaspora, analyze the Book of Esther's literary and theological significance, and reflect on divine providence and cultural identity.
  • Explore the crucial roles of Ezra and Nehemiah in reconstructing the Jewish community and faith post-exile, understanding their historical significance, source materials, and theological insights.
  • Gain insight into the roles and significance of prophets in ancient Israel, learning about their historical context, and their critical function in guiding and correcting the nation through direct communication from Yahweh.
  • Learn about the lives and ministries of prophets Amos and Hosea, their calls for justice and return to divine covenant amidst Israel's political and spiritual turmoil, through prophetic books that blend personal biography with national prophecy.
  • This lesson reviews Jonah's struggle with divine grace and Micah's advocacy for justice and the messianic hope.
  • In this lesson, you learn how Isaiah's vision portrays the Messiah as king, servant, and conqueror, emphasizing his divine roles and global mission.
  • Learn of the political and social contexts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel's exile, including Babylon's rise, Jerusalem's fall, and the crisis of faith portrayed in Lamentations, emphasizing hope amid despair through God's faithfulness.
  • Learn about Jeremiah's life and prophetic ministry, navigating challenges with kings, themes in the Book of Jeremiah, and profound passages on true religion and a future covenant, offering lessons on prophetic burdens, God's faithfulness, and spiritual transformation.
  • Explore Ezekiel's life as a priest in exile, his bizarre actions, and profound messages revealing Yahweh's passion and eternal promises of judgment and restoration.
  • Learn about Nahum and Joel's prophecies on judgment, hope, and Yahweh's character. Explore the day of the Lord and the expansion of the covenant community.
  • Explore Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah's prophecies. Discover themes of judgment, faith, and restoration in God's plan.
  • Gain insight into Haggai's role in motivating temple rebuilding during the Persian rule. His brief yet impactful ministry fosters hope and action amid community disillusionment, recoginizing God's presence and reign.
  • Gain deep insight into Hebrew poetry: its forms, parallelism, acrostics, and emotional depth. Explore its celebration and lamentation of Yahweh's glory.
  • Gain insight into Psalms which reflect diverse emotions and experiences. Structured into five divisions, attributed to various authors, their interpretation involves understanding Torah context, literary devices, and applying timeless principles to life.
  • Explore biblical wisdom's depth: from practical skill to moral insight, rooted in the fear of Yahweh. It contrasts with secular knowledge, emphasizing God's order and universal application.
  • Engage with Proverbs to unravel its diverse wisdom, from aphorisms to discourses. Understand its practical guidance for righteous living and leadership.
  • Discover the Song of Songs, a rich exploration of love's nature. From its allegorical interpretations to its celebration of covenantal love, it examines human relationships with wisdom and depth.
  • The book of Job offers insights into faith and suffering, exploring theological themes and character dynamics. It emphasizes trust in God amid life's most difficult trials.
  • Uncover Ecclesiastes' profound journey from despair to hope. Koheleth's existential ponderings contrast with the narrator's faith, urging a shift from worldly pursuits to finding fulfillment in God's sovereignty.

This Old Testament Survey course offers a deep exploration of the Old Testament's literary structure, divine covenants, and historical context. Lessons cover the Pentateuch, emphasizing its narrative over legalistic interpretations, and extend through key biblical figures like Abraham and Moses. Topics such as the covenant at Sinai, the concept of imago Dei, and the tabernacle rituals highlight the continuity of God's grace and the ethical implications of divine laws. The course critically addresses common misconceptions, the role of the Torah as instruction, and the portrayal of God’s plan, underscoring the relevance and complexity of these ancient texts.

Dr. Daniel Block 
Old Testament Survey
Lesson Transcript


An Oasis in the Spiritual Wasteland of Israel in the Days of Judges, the Book of Ruth. Why is this book called Ruth? Is that right, or should it be called something else? If you take a felt marker and you highlight the conversation in different colors, take different colored felt markers, and so that you represent Naomi's speech with one color, Ruth's speech with another color, Boaz with one color, and the others, something remarkable shows up. This book is predominantly Boaz.

He is the unifying character. He speaks the most often. This book is about Boaz, primarily, and not Ruth.

Why then is it called Ruth? Well, we need to ask the question, where do we find Ruth in the biblical canons? According to the canons of Scripture in the Hebrew Bible, it's in the writings. According to the Septuagint, Ruth is in the historiographic books between Judges and Samuel, and according to our Protestant canon, that's where we have it. That's where our book of Ruth is located.

But when you look at the Hebrew tradition, and the Greek here does represent a Hebrew tradition because it was done by Hebrew scribes who spoke Greek and who gave the Hebrews their Greek Bible. But in the Greek Septuagint, that's the earliest record of the canon that we have, Ruth follows Judges, and it's before Samuel. In Baba Bathra, the Babylonian Talmud, Ruth is ahead of the book of Psalms, which is followed by Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.

In the Ben Asher tradition, that's the Leningrad Codex, Ruth comes after Proverbs, and then in the Ben Chaim tradition, which is represented in the a modern translation, NJPS version, Ruth is after the song of songs and before lamentations. So, it's floating around in the Hebrew tradition. Where does it really belong? I think the reason it's after Proverbs in the Ben Asher tradition of the Leningrad Codex and other texts in that tradition is because the book of Proverbs ends with a phrase, an expression, a noble woman who can find, an Eshet Chayil.

That phrase occurs only once in the rest of the whole of Scripture, and that is in Ruth chapter 3, where Boaz says, all the people of the village know that you are an Eshet Chayil. So, I think that's why it lands up there. To the people who put that codex together, Ruth embodies feminine nobility as specified and described in Proverbs chapter 31.

But I think really it's the Septuagint that has it in its right order, and we need to interpret it, I think, in the light of that order. I mentioned in the first lesson that the First Testament is a veritable library of books which do all sorts of things, all kinds of literature here. But in my view, Ruth represents a form of Deuteronomistic historiography, focusing on a very small and particular topic.

And in my understanding, the author of the book of Ruth perceives Boaz, the principal character, as the embodiment of righteousness as we have it spelled out in the book of Deuteronomy. Remember 1620? The watchword of the third address of Moses is tzedek tzedek tirdof, righteousness, only righteousness you shall pursue. Boaz embodies Deuteronomic righteousness.

A third question we need to ask is, how should we interpret this book? I mean, people have interpreted it in many different ways. This is a fictional story. It is an anti-racist polemic and all sorts of other things.

But in interpreting the book of Ruth, I have found most helpful the assistance provided by speech-act theory. And now I probably need to explain what that expression means. Reading Ruth through the lens of speech-act theory.

With the aid of speech-act theory, we recognize that the book of Ruth operates at two levels. On the one hand, at the surface level, it's telling one story, but at the deep level, it's really about something else. It's doing things with words.

What is the author doing? The story we're all familiar with is the locution. These are the words a person uses. But the point the author is making is the illocution.

This is the meaning a person intends to convey. But then there's a further dimension to this, and that's the perlocution. This is the meaning that hearers, readers attach to people's words.

Now there's no authority in that other than it gives us a window into the interpreter's mind rather than a window into the biblical author's mind. What we want to talk about is the locution of this book and its illocution. At the level of locution, the words the author uses, the story he tells, this book shows how God takes care of two widows who were needy but superficially unlikely candidates for divine and human kindness.

Ruth was a Moabite and Naomi a compromised and syncretistic, if not apostate, Israelite. But this was not the reason the author composed this spectacular short story. While a feminine focus is clear based on the amount of people talk in this book and the core driver in the narrative, this book is really about Boaz, whom the closing genealogy casts as an Enoch figure in the spiritually dark world of the judges.

As in Genesis 5, he is number seven in a ten-member genealogy. In Genesis 5, that seventh person is Enoch. In a wicked world, Enoch stands out like a healthy thumb.

In this period, in the dark world of the judges, Boaz stands out as that godly person. What does the author of Ruth do with his words? Well, at the locution level, he tells a delightful story set in the dark days of the judges of two women in serious trouble, but with incredible determination and a sense of responsibility to each other. They encounter a man with incredible grace and then live happily ever after.

God solves their problems. That's at the locution level. That's the story he tells.

At this level, the theme is about the emptying and filling of Naomi. The book divides into four acts. Act one is chapter one, in the land of Moab, the emptying of Naomi.

Remember, she leaves with her husband and two sons, and they go to Moab. Their lives are full. They've got a family.

There's a famine in the land, but they're going to Moab, and there they will have bread. So, she leaves because her refrigerator is empty. There's a famine in the land of Bethlehem, included in Israel, and they go to Moab.

But the emptiness of her life there was a dietary emptiness, but what happens in Moab is her life is emptied even more when she loses her son. She loses her husband, Elimelech, and she loses her two sons, and all she's left with is two Moabite daughters-in-law. The emptying of Naomi.

The first scene sets the stage for Naomi's emptying, verses one to two. That's the famine in the land. Scene two, the nature of Naomi's emptying.

She loses all the men in her family. Scene three, Naomi's response to her emptying, one, six to nineteen. Ah, she hears.

After a while, we don't know how long, she hears that the Lord has given bread in Bethlehem, the land of bread, or the house of bread. Naomi's response to her emptying is after her sons have died, and eventually when she hears there's food in Bethlehem again, she wants to go back. But then her interpretation of her emptying in verses 19c to 22, where she says, I went away full, but the Lord has emptied my life.

It's God's fault. Naomi is a very compromised person in this chapter, but her life has been emptied, and the story is about refilling that life. Act two, in the field of Bethlehem.

This is Ruth's first encounter with Boaz. Scene one sets the stage for Ruth's first encounter. She says, I would like to go and glean in the field of someone who might be gracious to me.

And of course, that's important, that last addition, someone who might be gracious. This is the period of the judges. Men are treating women horribly in the book of Judges, and so if Ruth, the outsider, is going to go and glean in the field, surely the men are going to mistreat her.

But she says, we need food, so we're empty. We're out of gas, and so she goes to glean in the field, setting the stage. The nature of her first encounter with Boaz, 2, 4 to 16.

This is an amazing story. Not about Ruth. Yes, it is about Ruth.

She is brave enough to go and put her life on the line for the sake of her mother-in-law, but it's about Boaz, and when he finds out that Ruth is gleaning in his field, he establishes what is in my understanding. I don't have exhaustive knowledge here, but in my understanding, this is the first registered anti-sexual harassment policy in history, where he tells his men, take care of her. Don't abuse her.

Don't touch her. Don't be mean to her. Let her come and drink at our fountain or at the water cooler, and then at noontime, they sit down to eat, and he said, come eat with us, and not only does he give her food, but or not only does he say when she takes out her dry bread, here dip it in my sauce.

When they're all done that night, he sends her home loaded with all kinds of resources, and her mother asks, where in the world did you glean today that you came back with this? And that's the significance of Ruth's first encounter, verses 17 to 23. In chapter three, you've got act three, at the threshing floor, Ruth's second encounter with Boaz, and the stage is set this time by Naomi, who says, I'm your mother-in-law. It's up to me to be sure that you find security in a home of a husband eventually.

I mean, in that world, a woman without a male guardian, whether it's father, older brother, husband, whatever, is in a desperate state, and so she has this plan. She says, have a shower, put on your best clothes and your perfume, and then go out to the threshing floor, and look where Boaz sleeps, because in harvest time, the men would sleep out in the fields by the threshing floor to guard the fruits of their labors from other thieves, whether they're two-legged thieves or the creatures that would come around, and so Boaz is sleeping out there. Now, it's a very questionable scheme, but it works.

Ruth goes out there, and she lies down at the feet of Boaz and uncovers his feet, whatever else is going on here, and at midnight, he wakes up. He's cold because he's been uncovered. He shivers, and then he discovers this woman lying at his feet and says, Who are you? And she says, I'm Ruth, your maidservant. 

If he had been a sane man with all his faculties about him in the middle of the night, he'd have said, Get out of here. You are a Moabite. That's why you're here, because they know the Moabite stories of their adulterous and sexual evils from Numbers chapter 25.

That's where the Moabites come from. They're a nasty people, an immoral people, but it's a very difficult story. What is actually happening? Has Naomi proposed an immoral act for her daughter-in-law? Actually, I think it's a clever manipulation of an ordinance in Deuteronomy chapter 22.

If a man is found lying with a woman who is not married or engaged, betrothed to a man in the field, if they are found together, they must marry. He must pay the bride price and they must marry. I think what she's doing here is she has set a trap for Boaz.

Given that ordinance, she is thinking, you know, if we can get them together and they are discovered, Boaz has to marry Ruth. It's using an ordinance for an extraordinary, and I think an actual fact, sinister purpose, but it's clever. The amazing thing is it works.

Boaz wakes up, and he has all his mental faculties about him. Who are you, Ruth? Oh, I know who you are. The whole village is talking about you.

Naomi had said to Ruth, when he wakes up, he will tell you what to do, but when he wakes up, it's the opposite. Boaz wakes up, and he asks Ruth, what do you want me to do for you? Everything is wrong with this picture. You've got a Moabite woman demanding to be married.

Cover me with your garment, which is a euphemism for marry me, a Moabite telling an Israelite that, a poor Moabite telling a rich man that. You've got a woman telling a man that. There's nothing right with this picture, and yet Boaz, he gets it.

Finally, he wakes up to the reality. We have a widowed relative who needs help, and he says immediately, I will do what I can, but you know, there's one complication here. I have an older relative who has first dibs on the estate of Elimelech and all the people that come with it, but we have to settle that case.

But setting the stage, it's Naomi's plot. The scene, the narrative of Ruth's second encounter, this is the conversation they have when Boaz wakes up, and then the significance of Ruth's second encounter. She goes home, and Naomi reassures her Boaz will take care of business in the morning as soon as he has a chance, which leads to act four.

In act four, this act happens in the town of Bethlehem, and it's all about the refilling of Naomi, but it happens in stages. Scene one, it's in the town gate. Boaz calls the court of elders together to resolve the issue because the other person has first dibs on the property of Elimelech and the household, the future of the household, and so what we need to do is solve the legal problem, and as it turns out, the other guy says at first he will happily take Elimelech's estate, claim it, and then Boaz says, oh, by the way, with the estate comes this Moabite woman, and the guy changes his mind, and he says you can have her.

I don't want her. She didn't love me anyway, and he gives up the rights to Ruth, and Naomi, and Boaz is the next in line. The Lord solves the problem, so now we've got them.

What happens next is in Boaz, scene two, Boaz and Ruth's home. This is the genealogical resolution. It's really curious to me that Ruth had been married to Malon for 10 years and no children.

Here, Boaz marries her, and the first thing you know she is pregnant. It worked. The problem is resolved, and then, of course, at the end you have the genealogical legacy of Naomi, really of Boaz in the genealogy at the end of the book where we find Boaz as number seven in the genealogy that leads from David.

He is a new Enoch figure. At the level of locution, if the parade of rascals in the book of Judges leaves us depressed, the book of Ruth provides delightful and inspiring, sometimes comic relief. Set in this period of Israel's history, this is a book about remarkable people demonstrating devotion, kindness, and nobility.

Naomi, who is a very compromised figure, at least at the beginning of the book, her life is emptied by the loss of all the men in her life, but it is filled beautifully with a daughter-in-law and a wonderful grandson. It has all worked out. While many Israelites were turning their back on the God of Israel, look at the book of Judges, Ruth, a foreign woman, committed herself to him.

Your people shall be my people. Your God is my God. She committed herself to him and landed up the ancestress of Israel's first king and ultimately the Savior.

Read Matthew chapter 1. Boaz, a farmer of Bethlehem, demonstrates his nobility by viewing himself as the wings of God under which the destitute may find refuge. I am amazed by chapter 2 verse 12. May you be blessed by Yahweh under whose wings you have sought refuge.

That's an amazing story. That's an amazing statement. He views himself as the wings of God providing refuge for this Moabite widow.

The narrator has cast Boaz as the embodiment of Torah righteousness as defined in Deuteronomy. But the hero of the book is God, who in the dark days of the Judges preserves this family, who will number among its descendants the greatest king of Israel, not to mention the Messiah himself, Matthew 1.5. Boaz, modus operandi, M.O., apparently was guided by Torah, driven by the Spirit. That's at the level of locution.

How about the elocution? Why is this book in the Bible? Why was this book written? It is not just to tell a personal story. There's a far bigger plot that's happening. Here in this event, in Bethlehem, in the providence of God, he is securing royal seed in the dark days of the Judges, and so preserving the ancestral line of David and the Messiah.

The narrator explicitly notes the Lord's involvement only twice. God does stuff in the book of Ruth twice. Naomi heard Yahweh had visited his people and given them bread in Bethlehem.

God is the subject of the verb. Two, Yahweh granted conception, and she bore a son. The Lord is the subject of that verb as well.

But these are the two places. People talk. They pray to God.

They bless in the name of God. But where is God? With hindsight, we see his hand operating quietly behind the scenes in at least five ways. His hand is hidden, but it is evident in the weather.

There's a famine in the land. God has turned off the taps because in the covenant terms, he has said, if you persist in rebellion, I will make the stars like bronze and the earth like iron, and there'll be no rain. God is present in the weather.

In chapter two, Ruth wants to go and glean in the field of a man who would be gracious, and then the narrator says, and this is a literal translation, her chance chanced upon the field of Boaz. Really? If you want to translate it with the equivalent effect, it has to be something like, as luck would have it, or by sheer luck, she landed in Boaz's field. But of course, the author is writing with this with tongue-in-cheek.

There's no such thing as luck. God's hand is present in the twisted and dubious schemes of humans. God lets Naomi plot this moment in chapter three, but in the end, it works.

It works. She uses the law, a loophole in the law for her own advantage, and she bends it to suit her purposes, in my interpretation, but in the end, it works. Then in chapter four, verses one to ten, God's hand is in the legal proceedings.

How is it that this Poloni Almoni, whatever the guy's name was, how is it that he changes his mind about the estate? It's got to be the hand of God, and then we come. God's hand is present in the biological events. Here's where the author actually declares it.

God grants conception. All of these involvements operate in the interest of the long-range goal of preserving the line that would be the source of blessing to the whole world. The genealogy at the end is not a tag-on.

It's the climax of the composition, and we see this elocutionary goal at work in this book. Act one, in the land of Moab, well, this is the crisis for the line, the setting of the crisis, the nature of the crisis, and the response to the crisis, and the interpretation. What's at stake here? God has hand in Deuteronomy 17.

The Lord had said, when you are settled in the land and you've got, the Lord has given you rest from all your enemies, and you say, I'd like a king. You may surely set a king over yourselves, but he must be one whom the Lord chooses. God has had his mind on David from the beginning for a long time now.

Well, that's the plan that's behind it. It's the operating system that is driving this whole story. The line is in crisis because there are no men left out of whom this candidate can come.

Act two, in the field of Boaz, where Ruth and Boaz are introduced to each other, here you've got the possibility of solving the crisis of the line. Namely, we've encountered a decent human being, and by the time we get to the end of the chapter, he actually is a member of that family that God has chosen. In act three, we have the proposition of marriage of Boaz and Ruth, and the point of this one is to get the plot running, and this sets the stage then for the sinal securing the line in the marriage of Boaz and Ruth, and it ends with the genealogical history of Israel's royal line, chapter 4, verses 18 to 22.

The plot of Ruth is complex. It begins by setting the stage. Then there's a complication in chapter 1, 6 to 22.

All the boys die. Then there's a potential solution in chapter 2. Oh, Boaz is a relative. But then there's a complication.

He's not actually entitled to Ruth, and so we have to deal with that and the solution to that problem, and it ends up in that brilliant genealogy at the end. That's the elocution. That's why this book is in the Bible, because it is the story of God's hand in his plan of salvation that leads ultimately far beyond David, the grandson of Boaz, or great-grandson of Boaz.

It leads all the way to Jesus the Messiah. Naomi and Boaz had no idea that that's what would happen to them, but it did. But what's the perlocution? How do people interpret this text? Well, some read it as a beautiful but independent fictional story located in the writings rather than the former prophets.

It's there because, you know, it has no context. It's just a beautiful made-up story. Some read it as a social manifesto pushing a feminist agenda in a patriarchal world or an anti-racist agenda in the world of Ezra and Nehemiah.

But what should we do with this book? Well, perlocution. We need to read the book within its historical context as a bridge between Judges and Samuel, between the darkness of the premonarchic period and the hope represented by David. This explains the rare references to Bethlehemites as Ephrathites.

That's a rare word, but this happened in only four or five places in text, and here the key word, the key text, as we will see in a moment, is Micah chapter 5. We need to read the book within the oldest canonical context we know, inserted into the Deuteronomistic history like Joshua, Judges, and Samuel, and Kings. It's a record of Israel's story read through the theological and ethical lens of Deuteronomy. Boaz is the embodiment of covenant righteousness and love.

We need to read Ruth through the lens of speech act theory. We need to read it also through the lens of covenantal theology and ethics. Elimelech and Naomi are pictures of compromised godliness.

We see it also in the Hebrew word chesed. This is an important word. It's my favorite word in the Hebrew Bible, and when we lived in Kentucky, it was on my license plate, and now in Illinois, it's on my license plate as well.

It's my favorite word in all of Scripture, chesed. What does chesed mean? Chesed means all those positive attributes of love and loyalty that you find in Scripture, love, mercy, kindness, compassion, faithfulness, loyalty, whatever else, which is why translations often use compound words. In the old King James, thy loving kindness is better than life.

Well, loving kindness, or as I do in my own translation of this book, unfailing love. It is not a have, but it has other dimensions to it. It wraps up in itself all the positive attributes of loyalty, faithfulness, and devotion, and kindness.

Hebrew word chesed. The book of Ruth, that word appears over and over again. Ruth is a model of feminine nobility in the Ben Asher tradition of text.

By putting this book after that, some readers of the book of Ruth interpreted this is what that book is about. In fact, she may be a Moabite, but she is a noble woman. She is an awesome woman, and Boaz then is the embodiment of righteousness.

There are some people who look for a messianic figure in this with a Christocentric hermeneutic. I prefer to talk about a Christotelic hermeneutic. I don't find messianic pointers everywhere, but I find stages in the story of God's revelation of the Messiah everywhere.

This book introduces us to an important stage that ultimately culminates in the appearance of Christ as you have it described in the genealogy of Matthew. And in interpreting this book, Micah chapter 5 verses 2 to 5 offers a brilliant commentary. I think actually the author of the book was familiar with this text.

This is one of the rare occurrences of the word Ephrathah as we have it in Genesis in two places and in the book of Ruth. But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.

He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of Yahweh, in the majesty of the name of Yahweh his God, and they will live securely. And for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth, and he will be our peace. This is a brilliant text.

It begins with you Bethlehem Ephrathah, small among the clans of Judah. Where's Bethlehem? Apart from these texts, it's scarcely mentioned anywhere in scriptures. The kings of Israel are in Jerusalem.

They're rarely associated with Bethlehem. This is a most unlikely story of events in a most unlikely place, in which most unlikely characters are participants. Boaz, this godly man, the embodiment of covenant righteousness.

There's Obed, who is a gift to Naomi because she has a daughter-in-law like Ruth. What about Obed? And what about Ephrathah? All of this is part of a story that God is developing on the way in his grand plan of redemption, and for that we give him all the praise and the glory.