Synopsis of the Story of Ruth

‘In those days there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’ (Judges 21:25)

With these words the Bible narrative sets the scene for the story of Ruth.  In the nation of Israel everyone is ‘doing their own thing’, and a famine results from the breakdown in society.

Disillusioned, Naomi and her family leave their home-town of Bethlehem to live in exile.  Tragedy strikes repeatedly, with the deaths of her husband and her two sons.  Embittered and angry at God - whom she blames for her suffering - Naomi makes plans to return to her homeland to live out her final years.  Her young widowed daughters-in-law intend to go with her but Naomi persuades Orpah to go back to her own family.  Ruth clings to Naomi and vows to stay with her through thick and thin.

They arrive in Bethlehem at harvest time.  Poverty-stricken, Ruth happens to follow the harvesters on the farm of Boaz, hoping to glean enough grain to feed Naomi and herself.  Boaz is struck by her beauty and, having heard of her loyalty to Naomi, gets his men to drop grain deliberately for her to glean.

Naomi is amazed when Ruth returns with her abundant gleanings, and overjoyed to learn the name of the generous farmer – for Boaz is a relative of her late husband.  The realisation dawns on Naomi that through all her sorrows, God has been with her.

At Naomi’s instigation, Ruth pays Boaz a surprise visit in the middle of the night.  Boaz declares his love for her and undertakes to marry her and to make provision for Naomi.

A man of integrity, Boaz realises that there is another, closer relative who has prior rights and responsibilities concerning Naomi and Ruth.  Not wishing to do just ‘what seemed right in his own eyes’, Boaz gives this man the opportunity to fulfil his obligations but he declines.  The way is now clear for Boaz and Ruth to establish their marriage on a secure basis, and they publicly commit themselves to each other.

Their first child is born amidst scenes of great rejoicing.  Naomi is overjoyed and looks on him as her grandson.  This little boy will one day become the grandfather of David the Shepherd-Psalmist and King of Israel, establishing the line of descent to Jesus Christ.

Naomi’s experience of God’s love for her in her suffering, Ruth’s unfailing commitment to Naomi, and the integrity of the relationship between Ruth and Boaz are the three pivotal themes of the story of Ruth.  These are the qualities which, in their day, changed famine into plenty, led from death to new birth, and out of chaos established a kingdom.