Ruth (biblical figure)

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Portrait of a woman as Ruth (c. 1853) by Francesco Hayez Hayez A woman as Ruth.jpg
Portrait of a woman as Ruth (c. 1853) by Francesco Hayez

Ruth ( /rθ/ ; Hebrew : רוּת, Modern: Rut, Tiberian: Rūθ) is the title character of the Book of Ruth. In the narrative, she is not an Israelite but rather is from Moab; she marries an Israelite. Both her husband and her father-in-law die, and she helps her mother-in-law, Naomi, find protection. The two of them travel to Bethlehem together, where Ruth wins the love of Boaz through her kindness. [1]


She is one of five women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew, alongside Tamar, Rahab, the "wife of Uriah" (Bathsheba), and Mary. [2]

Book of Ruth

Ruth in Boaz's Field by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld- Ruth im Feld des Boaz.jpg
Ruth in Boaz's Field by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld
Boaz and Ruth by Rembrandt RembrandtBoasRuth.jpg
Boaz and Ruth by Rembrandt

Elimelech, a man of Bethlehem-Judah, with his wife, Naomi, and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, went in time of famine and sojourned in the land of Moab. [1] There Elimelech died, and the two sons married, Mahlon taking Ruth as his wife, and Chilion taking Orpah—both women of Moab, where both sons likewise died. [1] Naomi heard that the famine in Judah had passed, and determined to return home. [1] Ruth, in spite of the dissuasion of Naomi, accompanied her mother-in-law to Bethlehem. [1] The two women arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest in a state of dire poverty. [1] Elimelech had an inheritance of land among his brethren, but Naomi will be compelled to sell it unless she can find a Goel, that is, a kinsman of Elimelech who could assert Elimelech's inheritance rights. [1]

Elimelech had a prosperous relative in Bethlehem whose name was Boaz, and who, like others, was engaged in the harvest. [1] Naomi sent Ruth to glean in his fields, and, after he had spoken kindly to her and shown her some favors, she, still acting upon the advice of her mother-in-law, approached Boaz at night and put herself in his power. [1] Boaz was attracted to her, but informed her that there was a kinsman nearer than he who had the first right to redeem the estate of Elimelech and that it would be necessary for this kinsman to renounce his right before Boaz could proceed in the matter. [1] Accordingly he called this kinsman to the gate of the city before the elders and told him of Ruth's situation and his right to redeem the estate and to marry Ruth. [1] The kinsman declared that he did not desire to do so and drew off his shoe in token that he had renounced his rights in favor of Boaz. [1] Boaz bought the estate from Naomi and married Ruth. [1] Ruth and Boaz became the parents of Obed, who became the father of Jesse, the father of David. [1]

Ruth and Naomi by William Blake 1795-William-Blake-Naomi-entreating-Ruth-Orpah.jpg
Ruth and Naomi by William Blake

Religious interpretations

Jewish perspectives

Boaz of Judah blessed Ruth for her extraordinary kindness both to Naomi of Judah and to the Judean People (Ruth 3:10). "And he [Boaz] said, 'May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter; your latest act of kindness is greater than the first, not to follow the young men, whether poor or rich.'" Commentary of Rashi (c. 1040-1105 CE) regarding the first act of kindness: "that you did with your mother-in-law".

Ruth's kindness as noted in the Book of Ruth by Boaz is seen in the Jewish Tradition as in rare contradistinction to the peoples of Moab (where Ruth comes from) and Amon in general, who were noted by the Torah for their distinct lack of kindness. Deut. 23:5: "Because they [the peoples of Amon and Moab] did not greet you with bread and water on the way when you left Egypt, and because he [the people of Moab] hired Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim against you, to curse you." Rashi notes regarding Israel's travels on the way: "when you were in [a state of] extreme exhaustion."

According to the Ruth Rabbah, Ruth was Orpah's sister and the two were daughters of Eglon, the king of Moab; according to the same text, Eglon was the son of Balak. [3] Tamar Meir of the Jewish Women's Archive writes that Ruth and David being descended from these two men is seen as a "reward" for them. [3] For Balak, it is his reward for building altars and for Eglon, it is his reward for "arising upon hearing the name of God from Ehud son of Gera". [3] The same text says that Ruth did not convert during her marriage to Mahlon, contradicting other rabbinic literature, which says that Ruth formally converted to Judaism for the sake of marrying Mahlon but did not fully accept the faith until later. [3]

Josephus viewed the Book of Ruth as historical and referenced it in his Antiquities of the Jews . [4] Yitzhak Berger suggests that Naomi's plan was that Ruth seduce Boaz, just as Tamar and Lot's daughters all seduced "an older family member in order to become the mother of his offspring." At the crucial moment, however, "Ruth abandons the attempt at seduction and instead requests a permanent, legal union with Boaz." [5]

Christian perspectives

Ruth is one of five women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew, alongside Tamar, Rahab, the "wife of Uriah" (Bathsheba), and Mary. [2] Katharine Doob Sakenfeld argues that Ruth is a model of loving-kindness ( hesed ): she acts in ways that promote the well-being of others. [6] In Ruth 1:8–18 , she demonstrated hesed by not going back to Moab but accompanying her mother-in-law to a foreign land. [6] She chose to glean, despite the danger she faced in the field ( Ruth 2:15 ) and the lower social status of the job. Finally, Ruth agrees with Naomi’s plan to marry Boaz, even though she was free of family obligations, once again demonstrating her loyalty and obedience ( Ruth 3:10 ). [6]

Barry Webb argues that in the book, Ruth plays a key role in Naomi's rehabilitation. [7]

Ruth is commemorated as a matriarch in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod on 16 July.

Tomb of Ruth

Tomb of Jesse and Ruth in Hebron The tomb of Jesse and Ruth (7705253158).jpg
Tomb of Jesse and Ruth in Hebron

Francesco Quaresmi in the early 17th century reported that Turks and Orientals generally believed that the structure contained the tombs of Jesse and Ruth. [8] [9] According to Moshe Sharon, the association of the site with Ruth is very late, starting in the 19th century. [10] It receives numerous visitors every year, especially on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, when the Book of Ruth is read. [11] Haim Horwitz in his 1835 book on Israeli holy sites Love of Jerusalem [12] discusses the oral tradition that the tomb houses the grave of Ruth as well as that of Jesse, who is mentioned in earlier writings. Menachem Mendel of Kamenitz [13] wrote in 1839, "Also in the vineyard was a shelter with 2 graves: one of Jesse, father of David, and one of Ruth, the Moabite." [14]

Cultural influence

Ruth is one of the Five Heroines of the Order of the Eastern Star.

Ruth was played by Elana Eden in Henry Koster's The Story of Ruth (1960); the film depicts Ruth as a pagan priestess prior to her religious conversion. [15] Sherry Morris portrayed her in The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith (2009). [16]

In English literature, John Keats in "Ode to a Nightingale" references Ruth as isolated and grief-stricken when laboring in exile: "Perhaps the self-same song that found a path/Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,/She stood in tears amid the alien corn;" [17]

Genealogy: the descent of David from Ruth


See also

Related Research Articles

Book of Ruth book of the Bible

The Book of Ruth is included in the third division, or the Writings (Ketuvim), of the Hebrew Bible; in most Christian canons it is treated as a history book and placed between Judges and 1 Samuel.

Rahab Biblical figure

Rahab was, according to the Book of Joshua, a woman who lived in Jericho in the Promised Land and assisted the Israelites in capturing the city by hiding two men who had been sent to reconnoiter the city prior to their attack. In the New Testament, she is lauded both as an example of a saint who lived by faith, and as someone "considered righteous" for her works.

Moab ancient country

Moab is the name of an ancient kingdom that is today located in the modern state of Jordan. The land is mountainous and lies alongside much of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The existence of the Kingdom of Moab is attested to by numerous archaeological findings, most notably the Mesha Stele, which describes the Moabite victory over an unnamed son of King Omri of Israel. The Moabite capital was Dibon. According to the Hebrew Bible, Moab was often in conflict with its Israelite neighbours to the west.

Boaz major figure in The Book of Ruth in the Bible

Boaz is a biblical figure appearing in the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible and in the genealogies of Jesus in the New Testament and also the name of a pillar in the portico of the historic Temple in Jerusalem. The word is found 24 times in the Scriptures, two being in Greek.

Jesse person in Hebrew Bible and New Testament; father of David

Jesse, or Yishai is a figure described in the Bible as the father of David, who became the king of the Israelites. His son David is sometimes called simply "Son of Jesse". The role as both father of King David and ancestor of Christ has been used in various depictions in art, e.g. as the Tree of Jesse or in hymns like "Lo, how a rose e'er blooming."

Tamar (Genesis) biblical character; wife of Er and Onan (Genesis 38)

In the Book of Genesis, Tamar was the daughter-in-law of Judah (twice), as well as the mother of two of his children: the twins Perez and Zerah.

Naomi (biblical figure) Biblical figure; Ruths mother-in-law

Naomi is Ruth's mother-in-law in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Ruth. The etymology of her name is not certain, but it is possible that it means "good, pleasant, lovely, winsome."

Orpah biblical figure in the biblical book Ruth

Orpah is a woman mentioned in the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible. She was from Moab and was the daughter-in-law of Naomi and wife of Chilion. After the death of her husband, Orpah and her sister-in-law Ruth wished to go to Judea with Naomi. However, Naomi tried to persuade both Ruth and Orpah to return to their people and to their gods. Ruth chose to remain with Naomi, however, but Orpah chose to return to her people and her gods..

Matthew 1:5

Matthew 1:5 is the fifth verse of the first chapter in the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. The verse is part of the section where the genealogy of Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, is listed.

Matthew 1:3

Matthew 1:3 is the third verse of the first chapter in the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. The verse is part of the section where the genealogy of Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, is listed.

Mahlon and Chilion were two brothers mentioned in the Book of Ruth. They were the sons of Elimelech of the tribe of Judah and his wife Naomi. Together with their parents, they settled in the land of Moab during the period of the Israelite Judges. On foreign soil, Mahlon married the Moabite convert Ruth while Kilion married the Moabite convert Orpah.

Ruth Rabbah

Ruth Rabbah is an haggadic and homiletic interpretation of the Book of Ruth. Like the midrash on the four other "megillot", it is included in the Midrash Rabbot.

Eglon (king)

According to the Book of Judges, Eglon was a king of Moab who oppressed Israel.

Matrilineality in Judaism or matrilineal descent in Judaism is the tracing of Jewish descent through the maternal line. Jewish communities have practiced matrilineal descent from at least early Tannaitic times to Modern times. The origins and date-of-origin of matrilineal descent in Judaism are uncertain. Orthodox Jews, who believe that matrilineality and matriarchy within Judaism are related to the metaphysical concept of the Jewish soul, maintain that matrilineal descent is an oral law from at least the time of the covenant at Sinai. Conservative Jewish Theologian Rabbi Louis Jacobs suggests that the marriage practices of the Jewish community were re-stated as a law of matrilineal descent in the early Tannaitic Period.

<i>The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith</i> 2009 film

The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith is a 2009 Christian film directed by Stephen Patrick Walker. It is based on the Book of Ruth, and was aired January 8, 2010 on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The film stars Dan Haggerty, Lana Wood, Eleese Lester, Carman, and Sherry Morris as Ruth.

<i>The Story of Ruth</i> 1960 film by Henry Koster

The Story of Ruth is a 1960 American historical romance film directed by Henry Koster, shot in CinemaScope and DeLuxe Color, and released by 20th Century Fox. The screenplay, written by Norman Corwin, is an adaptation of the biblical Book of Ruth. The film stars Stuart Whitman as Boaz, Tom Tryon as Mahlon, Peggy Wood as Naomi, Viveca Lindfors as Eleilat, Jeff Morrow as Tob, and introduces 19-year old Elana Eden as Ruth.

Ruth 2

Ruth 2 is the second chapter of the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, part of the Ketuvim ("Writings"). This chapter contains the story of Ruth gleaning in the fields of Boaz, her deceased husband's near kinsman, and he notices her, Ruth 2:1-7; Boaz shows her great kindness, and blesses her, Ruth 2:8-16; Ruth brings what she got to Naomi; and tells her about Boaz; Naomi gives God thanks, and exhorts Ruth to continue in the field, Ruth 2:17-23.

Ruth 1

Ruth 1 is the first chapter of the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, part of the Ketuvim ("Writings"). This chapter contains the story of how Elimelech, Ruth's father-in-law, driven by famine, moved into Moab, and died there ; Naomi returning home, Ruth accompanies her ; They came to Bethlehem.

Ruth 3

Ruth 3 is the third chapter of the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, part of the Ketuvim ("Writings"). This chapter contains the story of how on Naomi's advice, Ruth slept at Boaz's feet, Ruth 3:1-7; Boaz commends what she had done, and acknowledges the right of a kinsman; tells her there was a nearer kinsman, to whom he would offer her, and if that man refuses, Boaz would redeem her, Ruth 3:8-13; Boaz sends her away with six measures of barley, Ruth 3:14-18.

Ruth 4

Ruth 4 is the fourth chapter of the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, part of the Ketuvim ("Writings"). This chapter contains the story of how Boaz goes up to the city gate, calls his kinsman; inquires whether he would redeem and marry Ruth, Ruth 4:1-5. He refuses, Ruth 4:6-8. Boaz, with the people witnessing and congratulating, buys the inheritance, and marries Ruth, Ruth 4:9-12. She gave birth to Obed the grandfather of King David, Ruth 4:13-17. The genealogy from Perez (Pharez) to David, Ruth 4:18-22.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Barton, George A. (1936). "Ruth, Book of". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Co.
  2. 1 2 Weren, Wim J. C. (1997). "The Five Women in Matthew's Genealogy". The Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 59 (2): 288–305. JSTOR   43722942.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Meir, Tamar. "Ruth". Jewish Women's Archive . Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  4. "Book of Ruth". Catholic Encyclopedia . Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  5. Berger, Yitzhak (2009). "Ruth and Inner-Biblical Allusion: The Case of 1 Samuel 25". JBL . 128 (2): 268. Emphasis original.
  6. 1 2 3 Katherine D. Sakenfeld, Ruth (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1999), 11–12.
  7. Barry G. Webb, Five Festal Garments (Leicester: Apollos, 2000), 43.
  8. Claude Reignier Conder, Herbert Kitchener,The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology, Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, London, 1883, Vol 3 pp.327-8.
  9. Franciscus Quaresmius, Historica theologica et moralis Terrae Sanctae, 1639, vol 2 p.782.
  10. Moshe Sharon, Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, Vol 5, H-I BRILL, 2013 pp. 45–52.
  11. "Converts pay homage to Ruth at her Hebron tomb". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  12. " Sefer Detail: חבת ירושלים – הורביץ, חיים בן דבריש". Retrieved 28 January 2016.[ page needed ]
  13. "The first Holy Land hotelier". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  14. Cook, David G.; Cohen, Sol P. Book of the Occurrences o f the Times to Jeshurun in the Land of Israel. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  15. Crowther, Bosley (22 December 1960). "Screen: 'Story of Ruth':Biblical Tale Opens at Two Theatres". The New York Times . Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  16. "The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes . Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  17. Vendler, Helen (1985). The Odes of John Keats. Harvard University Press. pp. 102ff.