Summary of the Book of Ruth

The book of Ruth is one of the greatest ancient narratives known today, and focuses much of the story on one Jewish family during Israel‘s time of the judges. This is after the Joshua’s conquest of God‘s promised land, and before the nation demanded a king. When The nation would begin to fall away from God’s desire for them, He would send a judge to put them back on course. Important themes and events of The Book of Ruth include God’s sovereignty over Israel and the Messiah’s ancestry, application of God’s commands in the Law and how they can positively impact lives and the nation, and that God’s redemptive plan includes the Gentiles as well as the Jews (Harbin 209).

The Book of Ruth begins with the family of Elimelek, Naomi, and their two sons leaving Bethlehem in Judah to live in Moab during a famine. After Elimelek dies in Moab, their two sons marry Moabite women. One of the brides is named Ruth. After they had lived together for about ten years both of the sons die, leaving Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws. Naomi hears the Lord has provided food for her home and plans to leave Moab. She offers for her daughters-in-law to return to their families, but Ruth chooses to stay with Naomi and states she has accepted Naomi’s God as her own. Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem at the time of the harvest and Ruth proposes she will pick through the leftover grains in a nearby field. This was in accordance with the Law given by the Jewish prophet Moses as a means to feed the poor and starving. The field belongs to a relative of Elimelech, Boaz. He notices Ruth and her to dedication to her mother-in-law and makes sure she is able to collect all that she is capable of carrying. When Ruth tells Naomi where she acquired all the grain Naomi realizes Boaz is an eligible kinsman redeemer, and plots a plan for Naomi to ask Boaz to marry her. God’s Law to the Jews included a means to keep family land from changing hands to a new owner. A close relative was allowed to take the land for the deceased. The Law also allowed for a close relative who is not married to take as his wife the widow of his relative in order to provide children for the deceased lineage. There was one redeemer, who was more closely related to Elimelech, but he refused to take Ruth because she was a Moabite, and Boaz redeems both the property and Ruth. Ruth and Boaz have a child named Obed who is the grandfather of Israel’s King David. This means Ruth, a Moabite, is an ancestor to Jesus the Messiah (Harbin 210).

We should not confuse the Book of Ruth to be an allegory of God’s love for Israel or the Church. The events in the Book of Ruth took place, and they are recorded so that we may better understand God’s ability to create an outcome. Make no mistake, God would fulfill his promise of a Messiah and he would orchestrate history to provide a lineage for mankind’s savior. This Old Testament gem has been preserved so that we might marvel at God’s faithfulness through history.

 

Advertisements

Interpreting the Epistles

The New Testament epistles provide much of our understanding of new covenant living. They were written by early church leaders to believers around the world as Christianity spread. The epistles seem easy to read, but can be difficult to interpret without a good contextual understanding of the writing. It is important to interpret the epistles within their historical context. “The first thing one must try to do with any of the epistles is to form a tentative but informed reconstruction of the situation that the author is speaking to.” (Fee & Stuart p.59) For this, a Bible dictionary or commentary would be beneficial to learn as much of the setting of the epistle as possible. You are not looking to learn every little detail, but you must grasp the big picture to understand what was being said.

The next principle involved in interpreting the epistles is reading the work within its literary context. Where the historical context wanted to know who the writing was from, who it was to, and what was going on; the literary context is concerned with what is said and why it was said (Fee p.65). Literary context allows us to trace the arguments being presented to understand the answer (Fee p. 64). An important technique to remember when looking at the literary context is to read and think about the writings in paragraphs. This will more easily allow you to break down the context and understand the flow of the writing (Fee p.64).

The third principle of our study consists of the hermeneutical principles of the epistles. Hermeneutics is the understanding of what is important to the reader. We all exercise hermeneutic reasoning even though we may not recognize that we are. “Very simply, we bring our enlightened common sense to the text and apply what we can to our own situation. What does not seem to apply is simply left in the first century” (Fee p.72). This principle causes many of or disagreements on scripture, and we must choose to be consistent in our interpretation if we are to properly understand what was being said. There are two rules when it comes to hermeneutics. The first rule, referred to as the basic rule, is that the text can never mean what it could not have meant to its authors or readers (Fee p.74). This rule does not add a great deal of insight into what a passage does mean for us, but it should prevent us from imposing a thought process that was never intended. The Second Rule supports our understanding of scripture that speaks to all believers. “Whenever we share comparable particulars (i.e., similar specific life situations) with the first-century hearers, God’s Word to us is the same as His Word to them.” (Fee p.75) When we properly understand our situation to match the situation written about in the epistle we have clear and definitive instruction from the text.

 

Reading The Prophets

To the average Bible reader, reading the prophetic books can become a challenging task. Many find it difficult to comprehend them because of an inaccurate understanding of the word “prophecy”, an inadequate awareness regarding the purpose of the prophets, and a large disconnect created by the historical distance of ancient Israel. The prophetic books require a degree of previous knowledge to fully appreciate what God has protected.

The very word “prophecy” can be a hurdle for contemporary readers of the Bible. We often think of prophecies as being events that will unfold in the future, and then assume they are future still. However, most of the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Israel’s past, and many within a short period of time of their expression. We must not lose sight of God’s message to the people of that day, or try to create a new meaning in our own lives.

Another difficult aspect of the prophetic books can be found in their spoken nature. The prophets functioned as God’s representatives and served as enforcers of the His Law that had originally been given through Moses. “To see the prophets as primarily predicators of future events is to miss their primary function, which was to speak for God to their own contemporaries.” (Fee p.182) These writings are the chronicles of ancient “street preachers” whose message of God’s blessings and curses were intended for an audience including the rulers and inhabitants of Israel and Judah.

A third characteristic of the prophetic books that often creates problems for contemporary readers can be summed up in the term “context.” When reading the prophetic books, it is imperative that we have a solid understanding of the historical, religious, political, and cultural life of ancient Israel. When we read these passages from the context of their historical events we are able to better understand what was going wrong and how God was attempting to direct Israel back on course. “The prophets can serve constantly as reminders to us of God’s determination to enforce his covenant” (Fee p.204). In that sense, the prophetic books offer contemporary readers a picture into the importance of obedience to God’s commands.

%d bloggers like this: