Ruth is a story of love, devotion, and redemption set in the distressing context of the period of the judges. It presents a Moabite woman who forsakes her pagan heritage in order to cling to the people of Israel and to the God of Israel. Because of her faithfulness in a time of national faithlessness, God rewards her by giving her a new husband, a son, and a privileged position in the ancestral line of David and Christ.


The author of Ruth is not identified by the text. Jewish tradition attributes the work to Samuel, but this is unlikely since David appears in Rth_4:17, Rth_4:22, and Samuel died prior to David's coronation as king. The composition of the book probably dates to the early kingdom period. That David's son Solomon is not mentioned in the genealogy may indicate that Ruth was written during David's reign as king. The anonymity of the work should not, however, detract from its profound spiritual value and literary beauty.


Though the date of composition is uncertain, the story of Ruth itself takes place in the latter part of the period of the judges (c. 1100 B.C.) and covers a time span of about twelve years. This period of Israel's history was generally a desert of rebellion and immorality, but the story of Ruth stands in contrast as an oasis of integrity and righteousness.

Themes and Literary Structure

The brief yet beautiful story of Ruth is crafted with care by its unknown author. As the chart "Ruth at a Glance" demonstrates, the narrative is symmetrical with a structure of parallel elements that meet in the middle of the book (the end of ch. 2).

This literary structure serves to highlight several important themes. Most prominent is the theme of redemption. The Hebrew word for kinsman (goel) appears thirteen times in Ruth and basically means "one who redeems." By buying back the land of Naomi, as well as marrying Ruth and fathering a son to keep the family line alive, Boaz acts as a redeemer. This temporal redemption by Boaz points to God's redeeming work, which reaches its climax in Christ's giving Himself "that He might redeem us from every lawless deed" (Tit_2:14).

Another key term in the story is "kindness," meaning covenant loyalty (Rth_1:8; Rth_2:20; Rth_3:10). Ruth and Boaz illustrate what covenant righteousness and loyalty are in an era when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Jdg_21:25). This loyalty is expressed in the same terms as those describing God's covenant relationship with His people.

The providence of God is also highlighted. Although the book describes common people in common settings, they were being guided by the mysterious hand of God, who was using their uncommon faith to prepare the way for Israel's greatest king, David (Rth_4:22). The name of God occurs twenty-three times in the eighty-five verses of Ruth. No event in the life of God's people is insignificant, because He is constantly involved.