Ruth 1 The Setting of the Story of Ruth
The book of Ruth took place toward the end of the time of Israel’s judges, about 1,100 years before Jesus Christ. It is a sweet story of love and devotion to God and family. This is the setting:
- Elimelech, of the tribe of Judah, took his wife Naomi and their sons, Mahlon and Chilion, from their home in Bethlehem to go to Moab (about 30 miles away), because of famine in their land (verses 1-2).
- In Moab, Elimelech died, his sons married women of Moab (non-Israelites; but likely descendants of Lot, who was Abraham’s nephew). Mahlon married Ruth and Chilion married Orpah (verses 3-4; see also 4:10).
- After about ten more years, Mahlon and Chilion also died, leaving Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah as widows (verse 5).
- The famine in Israel ended, so Naomi determined to return to Bethlehem. Orpah remained in Moab and went “back unto her people and unto her [false] gods” (verses 6-15).
- Ruth had converted to Jehovah, the God of Israel, and chose to go to Bethlehem with Naomi (verses 14-18). Then things become interesting!
Ruth 2-4 Boaz—a Type of Christ
In Leviticus 19:9-10 the Lord commanded the Israelites not to reap the corners of their fields, nor to gather all the grapes of their vineyards, thus allowing the poor to “glean” (harvest the leftovers), in order to feed themselves:
- Read Ruth 2:1-16, 19-20, 23, and consider the interactions between Ruth and Boaz, and between Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi.
- Note that at harvest time, workers were busy threshing (or thrashing) the grain, separating the seeds from the plants. They slept at the “threshing floor” to protect their harvest from theft.
- Now, read Ruth 3:1-13, which recounts the next interaction between Ruth and Boaz (note that “the part of a kinsman” refers to the Lord’s instruction that widows were to be taken to wife by the closest male relative of the deceased husband; see Deuteronomy 25:5). Ruth was courageous enough to propose to Boaz that he consider her as a wife.
- Read Ruth 3:14-18. Boaz was related to Elimelech (Naomi’s deceased husband), and therefore Boaz was Naomi’s “kinsman.” This also creates a family relationship between Boaz and Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law. This put Boaz in line to fulfill the role of “kinsman redeemer,” meaning one who is to “rescue” and care for Naomi and her family; including the duty to marry and produce offspring with Ruth, whose husband Mahlon had died childless.
- The next step for Boaz is to offer to a nearer relative the opportunity and obligation of taking Ruth to wife. Read Ruth 4:1-10, noting the honor of Boaz (see also Deuteronomy 25:5-10).
- Read Ruth 4:11-17, noting the larger spiritual community that nurtured Naomi and Ruth.
- The book of Ruth teaches us about coming unto Christ. Just as Ruth appealed to Boaz for redemption, we too plead with our Lord for redemption and salvation. Just as Boaz kindly took Ruth as his wife, our Savior cares for us, fills our needs, and takes us into His eternal family.
- Do you know someone who can be considered a modern-day Ruth, or Boaz? (One who is kind, honorable, selfless, and generous.)
- The son of Boaz and Ruth, named Obed (4:17), becomes the father of Jesse and grandfather of David. This makes Ruth, a gentile, a direct-line ancestor of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 1:1-16).
- Some have pointed out temple themes in the book of Ruth; for example, see Ruth 3:3, containing the elements of washing, anointing, and clothing.
1 Samuel 1-2 Finally, a Prophet
The book of 1 Samuel contains the lifetimes of the prophet Samuel, king Saul, and king David. Chronologically, it follows the book of Ruth. The book begins with a circumstance we’ve seen before in the Old Testament—a barren woman who longs to have a child, followed by a miraculous birth; in this case, Samuel:
- Read 1 Samuel 1:1-11, 19. How would you describe Samuel’s parents, Elkanah and Hannah? (note that in verse 11 Hannah promises the Lord that she would raise her son as a Nazarite; thus devoted to the Lord—see Numbers 6:1-5). Latter-day Saints are also raised and appointed to be dedicated to the Lord and His work.
- Read 1:20-28. The stage is set for Samuel’s life and ministry. What do you learn from Hannah about setting about to solve problems in your life?
- Read Hannah’s song to the Lord, in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. What stands out most for you? What would your expressions be, if you were to write a poem or song in praise of God?
- As promised, Hannah devoted her son Samuel to God’s service, leaving him in the care of Eli, the high priest of the temple (1:22, 28; it is believed that Samuel was about three years old at this time).
- Unfortunately, Eli’s sons, who also ministered in the tabernacle, were “sons of Belial” (2:12); meaning they worshiped one of the false Canaanite gods, whose name is sometimes used to refer to the devil himself. Children have agency to choose right or wrong, but parents can seek to influence their choices; for example, see Mosiah 4:14-15; D&C 93:40-43.
- Read 2:13-26, noting the contrasts between Samuel and the sons of Eli.
1 Samuel 3 “Speak, Lord”
Verse 1 says that “the word of the Lord was precious in those days,” meaning it was scarce. The children of Israel were in a poor spiritual state and in need of a prophet to lead them. Read verses 1-11, 15-21 and find the things that happened to Samuel (scholars have noted that when the Lord first called him, Samuel was likely about 12 years old). Note the similarities to Joseph Smith and other prophets called by God.
Like Samuel, we must attune our spiritual ears to recognize, hear, and obey the Lord. In the April 2020 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson taught about four ways we can hear the Lord. He said: “As we seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ, our efforts to hear Him need to be ever more intentional. It takes conscious and consistent effort to fill our daily lives with His words, His teachings, His truths….
“We can go to the scriptures [to hear God]…. Daily immersion in the word of God is crucial for spiritual survival, especially in these days of increasing upheaval…. We can also hear Him in the temple. The house of the Lord is a house of learning…. How eager each of us should be to seek refuge there…. We also hear Him more clearly as we refine our ability to recognize the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. It has never been more imperative to know how the Spirit speaks to you than right now…. He will bring a feeling of peace to your heart. He testifies of truth and will confirm what is true as you hear and read the word of the Lord. I renew my plea for you to do whatever it takes to increase your spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation….
“And, finally, we hear Him as we heed the words of prophets, seers, and revelators. Ordained Apostles of Jesus Christ always testify of Him. They point the way as we make our way through the heart-wrenching maze of our mortal experiences. What will happen as you more intentionally hear, hearken, and heed what the Savior has said and what He is saying now through His prophets? I promise that you will be blessed with additional power to deal with temptation, struggles, and weakness. I promise miracles in your marriage, family relationships, and daily work. And I promise that your capacity to feel joy will increase even if turbulence increases in your life.”