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by Albert Barnes
Introduction to Ruth
The Book of Ruth is historically important as giving the lineage of David through the whole period of the rule of the Judges Ruth 1:1, i. e. from Salmon who fought under Joshua, to “Jesse the Bethlehemite” 1 Samuel 16:1; and as illustrating the ancestry of “Jesus Christ, the son of David,” who “was born in Bethlehem of Judea” Matthew 1:1; Matthew 2:1. The care with which this narrative was preserved through so many centuries before the birth of Christ is a striking evidence of the providence of God, that “known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.” The genealogy with which the Book closes Ruth 4:18, is also an important contribution to the chronology of Scripture history. We learn from it, with great distinctness, that Salmon, one of the conquering host of Joshua, was the grandfather of Obed, who was the grandfather of king David; in other words, that four generations, or about 200 years, span the “days when the Judges ruled.”
But the Book of Ruth has another interest, from the charming view it gives us of the domestic life of pious Israelites even during the most troubled times. If we only had drawn our impressions from the records of violence and crime contained in the Book of Judges, we would have been ready to conclude that all the gentler virtues had fled from the land, while the children of Israel were alternately struggling for their lives and liberties with the tribes of Canaan, or yielding themselves to the seductions of Canaanite idolatry. But the Book of Ruth, lifting up the curtain which veiled the privacy of domestic life, discloses to us most beautiful views of piety, integrity, self-sacrificing affection, chastity, gentleness and charity, growing up amidst the rude scenes of war, discord, and strife.
Ruth, from its contents, as anciently by its place in the canon, belongs to the Book of Judges, and is a kind of appendix to it. In the present Hebrew Bible it is placed among the Kethubim (Hagiographa), in the group containing the Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther; but in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate it occupies the same place as in our English Bibles, which was its ancient place in the Hebrew Bible.
The language of the Book of Ruth is generally pure Hebrew. But there are words of Aramaic form and origin , and other expressions unique to the later Hebrew. The inference would be that, the Book of Ruth was composed not before the later times of the Jewish monarchy; and this inference is somewhat strengthened by the way in which the writer speaks of the custom which prevailed in former times in Israel Ruth 4:7. Other expressions, which the book has in common with the Books of Samuel and Kings, and a certain similarity of narrative, tend to place it upon about the same level of antiquity with those Books.
The Books of the Old Testament, to the contents of which reference seems to be made in the Book of Ruth, are Judges, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Genesis, 1 and 2 Samuel, and perhaps Job. Ruth is not quoted or referred to in the New Testament, except that the generations from Hezron to David in our Lord’s genealogy seem to be taken from it.
No mystical or allegorical sense can be assigned to the history; but Ruth, the Moabitess, was undoubtedly one of the first-fruits of the ingathering of Gentiles into the Church of Christ, and so an evidence of God’s gracious purpose in Christ, “also to the Gentiles to grant repentance unto life;” and the important evangelical lesson is as plainly taught in her case, as in that of Cornelius, “that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of Him.” The great doctrine of divine grace is also forcibly taught by the admission of Ruth, the Moabitess, among the ancestry of our Lord Jesus Christ.
the Fifth Week after Epiphany