Ruth is a family story.  The family is struck by tragedy when the father (Elimelech) and his two sons (Mahlon and Kilion) die, leaving behind three widows (Naomi, Ruth and Orpah).  In the Ancient Near East, women were economically dependent on the men in their families.  Thus Ruth and Orpah can return to their parents' homes for security, but Naomi is abandoned.  Orpah decides to go to her parents, but Ruth decides to go with Naomi despite her desperate situation.  The pair leaves Ruth's native Moab to go to Bethlehem where Naomi is originally from.


Ruth's decision is all the more remarkable because she is a Gentile while Naomi is an Israelite.  Ruth not only forsakes her homeland and her family, but her religion as well (1:16).  Her whole-hearted devotion is subsequently rewarded in the story.  Upon their return to Bethlehem, Naomi asks that her name be changed from Naomi, which means "pleasant," to Mara, which means "bitter," because of the suffering she has endured (1:20).


As soon as they get settled in Bethlehem, Ruth seeks work to provide for their needs.  She goes to glean in the fields and happens to work in the field of Boaz (2:3).  Gleaning is the process of picking up leftover grain by hand after the initial harvest is completed using scythes.  Once Boaz finds out who Ruth is, he is impressed by her faithfulness to Naomi and so invites her to keep coming to his field to glean (2:8).  This invitation is an act of great generosity because Boaz's grain is his own income.  Boaz even allows Ruth to eat the food provided for the harvesters at mid-day.  She stays gleaning in Boaz's field for the whole harvest season (2:23).


After the harvest is over, Naomi tells Ruth to go to Boaz at night where he will be threshing grain.  Threshing is the process of separating kernels of grain from their outer husks.  Naomi wants Ruth to find a husband so that both of them will be kept from poverty.  In ancient Israel, there was a practice called levirate marriage.  According to this Mosaic practice, if a married man died without children, his closest male relative was required to marry his widow and raise up heirs.  Since Elimelech and his sons all died without heirs, Ruth's new husband would gain their property.  Yet Ruth's children would legally be the heirs of Mahlon not of her new husband.


Ruth asks Boaz to marry her and provide for her and Naomi (3:9).  Boaz wants to marry her, but there is another relative who is closer and has the legal right to marry Ruth (3:12).  This other relative is not named in the book.  Boaz offers Elimelech's property to him, which he accepts (4:4).  Then Boaz informs the relative that in order to get the property he must marry Ruth, which the relative does not want to do.  He gives up his right to Boaz (4:6).  Boaz then marries Ruth and the two become the great-grandparents of David, the king of Israel. The book ends with David's genealogy, which is an essential part of the story (4:18-22).  The genealogy connects the faithful Ruth with the faithful king.  It relates the story to the present time of the original readers.


The book illustrates the Lord's faithfulness to those who love him like Naomi and Ruth.  It also shows that God had mercy on the Gentiles, like Ruth, even during Old Testament times.  It foreshadows the gift of salvation to all the Gentiles which Jesus brings.  When people are faithful to the Lord, he is faithful in return. 


By Mark Giszczak


Ads by Google
(What's this?)


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea

Liturgical Calendar

December 22, 2014

Advent Weekday

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 21:23-27


Daily Readings

First Reading:: 1 Sam 1: 24-28
Gospel:: Lk 1: 46-56

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »


Homily of the Day

Mt 21:23-27

Text only

Follow us: