The Book of Ruth is one of the most fascinating and important short stories that anyone has ever written. As a piece of literature it is almost perfect. The German poet Goethe called it “the loveliest complete work on a small scale” ever written. Alexander Schroder, a literary critic, wrote: “No poet in the world has written a more beautiful short story.” The eminent archaeologist W. F. Albright wrote: “The delicacy of the story of Ruth remains unsurpassed anywhere; Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law, the scene between her and Boaz in chapter 3, and the final episode with Naomi (4:14-17) are gems of world-literature.” Yet, as a revelation from God, it is equally impressive.
There are two books in the Bible named after women. Esther was a Jewish girl who married a prominent Gentile. Ruth was a Gentile woman who married a prominent Hebrew. And both were part of God’s redemptive history for the nation of Israel. God used Esther to save His people from physical destruction and He used Ruth as an important genealogical link to perpetuate the line of the Messiah who would save His people from their sins.
One writer argued that “Naomi” is the main character in the plot, “Boaz” is the main character in the dialogue, and “Obed” is the main character in the purpose of the book. But this book received its title in honor of the heroine of the story.
Some scholars have concluded that the main theme of Ruth is redemption. While the book illustrates the theological concept of redemption beautifully, it also reveals how God often works providentially behind the scenes, bringing His will to pass.
The theological message of the Book of Ruth may be summarized as follows: God cares for needy people like Naomi and Ruth; he is their ally in this chaotic world. He richly rewards people like Ruth and Boaz who demonstrate sacrificial love and in so doing become his instruments in helping the needy. God’s rewards for those who sacrificially love others sometimes exceed their wildest imagination and transcend their lifetime.
We belong to a loving, faithful, and powerful God who has never failed to care and provide for His children. Like Ruth and Boaz, we are called to respond to that divine grace in faithful obedience, in spite of the godless culture in which we live.