Pentecost and the Book of Ruth

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Pentecost and the Book of Ruth

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The book of Ruth is a delightful story of romance, simplicity and purity. It conversationally tells of a mother bereft of husband and sons, yet still faithful to God. Also described is a daughter-in-law widowed of her husband (and childless) who demonstrates outstanding devotion to her mother-in-law and God. Further included in the narration is an upright and generous farmer blessed both by employees and God alike. The historical setting is Bethlehem in Judah in the days of the Judges around 1100 B.C.

A study of the book of Ruth is worthwhile for gleaning great principles and truths.

Although a specific purpose is not clearly stated, there is considerable connection with the meaning of the biblical festival known as the “Feast of Weeks,” the “Feast of Firstfruits” or “Pentecost” (Exodus 23:16 Exodus 23:16And the feast of harvest, the first fruits of your labors, which you have sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when you have gathered in your labors out of the field.
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; 34:22; Acts 2:1 Acts 2:1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
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). A study of the book of Ruth is worthwhile for gleaning great principles and truths.

Ethnically, Ruth was a Moabitess, only distantly related to the Israelites through Lot, Abraham’s nephew (Genesis 11:27 Genesis 11:27Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
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; 19:37). She didn’t grow up worshipping the God of Israel. However, the book of Ruth shows that, in God’s sight, conversion to God’s true religion is incomparably more important than one’s ethnicity.

Royal lineage

Ruth’s marriage into the royal Davidic line foreshadowed the eventual composition of the larger Church to come. The book foreshadows how gentiles would be called to join with “spiritual Israel” upon repentance and faith. In Ruth’s life we also discover how God at times circumvents the norm.

The book foreshadows how gentiles would be called to join with “spiritual Israel” upon repentance and faith.

The author takes care to trace David’s ancestry all the way back to Perez to encompass Abraham’s blessing (Genesis 49:10 Genesis 49:10The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and to him shall the gathering of the people be.
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). Interestingly, Perez is the illegitimate, yet chosen, son of Judah and Tamar. This “unexpected” type repeats again with Boaz. He was the son of Salmon by Rahab (Matthew 1:5 Matthew 1:5And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;
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). Then later, still contrary to convention, we have David, who wasn’t the eldest son but the youngest. Finally, David’s heir, Solomon, is not the eldest either and was born through inauspicious circumstances of Bathsheba.

Ruth herself was a Moabitess who by marriage to Boaz now symbolically reunites the wayward clan of Lot’s son (Moab) back into Abraham’s family. Ruth thus becomes a vital link to David as his great-grandmother.

God’s generous providence is exhibited by the inclusion of a gentile into the royal lineage of the Messiah. When Ruth says, “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” and “The LORD do so to me, and more also, if…’ (Ruth 1:16-17 Ruth 1:16-17 [16] And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you: for where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge: your people shall be my people, and your God my God: [17] Where you die, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part you and me.
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), her words imply that Ruth, who once lived by the gods of Moab, now lives by the standards of Israel’s God.

The setting of Bethlehem, too, is interesting. It is here later that Jesse and David will live. And it is also here, in Bethlehem, that Christ our “Redeemer” is born.

A near kinsman

Boaz acted as the Old Testament “kinsman redeemer,” which also serves as a Messianic type. His actions were based on the “levirate law” given in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 Deuteronomy 25:5-10 [5] If brothers dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without to a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in to her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother to her. [6] And it shall be, that the firstborn which she bears shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. [7] And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuses to raise up to his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother. [8] Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak to him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; [9] Then shall his brother's wife come to him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done to that man that will not build up his brother's house. [10] And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that has his shoe loosed.
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. The Hebrew word gaal describes the one who fulfills this function. The book makes it clear that the gaal alone possessed the right to redeem, yet was under no obligation to do so. The graciousness of God towards sinful humans is a type of the love and generosity exhibited by Boaz towards Ruth.

We are told that Boaz was a righteous man who kept the law (Ruth 2:20 Ruth 2:20And Naomi said to her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said to her, The man is near of kin to us, one of our next kinsmen.
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, 9, 11-12; 3:9, 12). But there were others who did not. Boaz encourages Ruth to continue gleaning (according to the law in Leviticus 19:9 Leviticus 19:9And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.
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) but acknowledges the dangers for a young woman to do so on her own in some fields (Ruth 2:8 Ruth 2:8Then said Boaz to Ruth, Hear you not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens:
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). Bethlehem appears to have been an exceptional town, considering the chaotic period of the Judges—generally characterized by idolatry, syncretism (mixing of paganism with true faith), social injustice, intertribal rivalries and sexual immorality. However, the way the people of Bethlehem greeted one another (verse 4) shows a degree of conscious allegiance to God.

God is often portrayed in the role of Israel’s near kinsman, because He is the Creator, Redeemer and Savior of His people.

God is often portrayed in the role of Israel’s near kinsman, because He is the Creator, Redeemer and Savior of His people. Redemption from Egypt was not only an act of purchase but also the action of a kinsman moved by love. God told the Israelites, “I have remembered My covenant [with Abraham]… I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem [gaal] you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:5-7 Exodus 6:5-7 [5] And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant. [6] Why say to the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: [7] And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, which brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
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).

When Israel became God’s by redemption as well as by creation, they could trust Him to deliver them in the future. Believers today can also count on God. As our Redeemer, He has made us His own and will act to deliver us.

The near kinsman had to be a blood relative, and Christ became our Brother by the virgin birth to become a human being. The kinsman had to have the money to purchase the forfeited inheritance (Ruth 4:9 Ruth 4:9And Boaz said to the elders, and to all the people, You are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, of the hand of Naomi.
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). Christ alone has the worth to pay the price for sinners. The kinsman had to be willing to buy back the forfeited inheritance (verse 6), even as Christ laid down His life of His own free will. The kinsman also had to be willing to marry the wife of his deceased relative (verse 10), a type of the bride-and-groom relationship between Christ and the Church.

The Day of Pentecost

From this standpoint, the four brief chapters of Ruth are most instructive concerning the redemptive and saving work of Jesus.

God’s Spirit has been available from that first Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection to all who truly repent and are baptized (Acts 21:1 Acts 21:1And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course to Coos, and the day following to Rhodes, and from there to Patara:
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, 38-39). The Day of Pentecost is an annual reminder that God poured out His Spirit to establish His Church, the group of believers redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice and led by His Spirit. With these marvelous truths in mind, a study of the small book of Ruth can be uplift and strengthen us as we think about our “near Kinsman” who acts on our behalf.