“‘Look,’ Naomi said to her, ‘your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.’ But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” — Ruth 1:15-17 NLT
Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi, is a Moabite woman and the widow of one of Naomi’s sons. Naomi is the widow of Elimelech, a man from Bethlehem. When Elimelech moved Naomi and his sons to Moab, one of his sons married Ruth before Elimelech and both his sons died over time.
When both of Naomi’s sons died, she had to make a choice. She could stay in Moab, where she had no family or social support, or she could move back to Bethlehem. Naomi chose the latter and urged Orpah — her other daughter-in-law — and Ruth to stay with their families, where they might have the chance to marry again. Though Orpah stayed behind, Ruth refused to leave Naomi’s side.
She left Moab to go to Bethlehem, where she would be part of Naomi’s family and serve God rather than her own gods. That is where her story of unconditional love and faithfulness begins, and where we can look to get a picture of God’s faithfulness on Earth.
In This Article:
Unconditional Love in the Book of Ruth
After the death of Naomi’s husband and sons, Naomi, Orpah and Ruth entered a desperate situation. They had no men in their family to support them, and so were seemingly doomed to a life of poverty. Fearing that her daughters-in-law’s situation might worsen if they moved to a different country with Naomi, away from their families and potential husbands, Naomi requested that Orpah and Ruth stay behind.
Though Orpah ultimately elected to stay behind, Ruth’s love for Naomi compelled her to stay. She gladly gave up her family, homeland and chance at a marriage to follow Naomi and serve God.
When Ruth expressed her unconditional love for Naomi, she received unconditional love in return. This began with Ruth’s offer to gather extra crops in the fields for Naomi. This was a stipulation in God’s law for those who were poor, especially widows, orphans and those from a foreign land. They were permitted to gather any crops dropped on the ground or left during the harvest as a form of social support, and all farmers were required to allow them to do it (Deuteronomy 24:19-22 NLT). Ruth did this to support herself and Naomi, and while she worked, she met the owner of the land and the kinsman-redeemer of her family, Boaz.
Ruth’s unconditional love for Naomi spread throughout the town, inspiring Boaz to treat Ruth with kindness. Eventually, Boaz arranged for Ruth to marry him, redeeming her and Naomi from a life of poverty and providing Naomi with a grandson to carry on Elimelech’s family name.
A Picture of God’s Faithfulness on Earth
Ruth’s unconditional love for Naomi was not the only form of love present in the Book of Ruth, nor was Ruth and Boaz’s relationship. The real story is present in how God orchestrated it all.
Looking back at the beginning of Ruth, we can see the desperation evident in Ruth and Naomi’s situation. After Naomi’s family left Bethlehem, her family fell apart with the deaths of her two sons and husband. Suddenly, there was no man to support the family, leaving Naomi, Ruth and Orpah to fear that God had left them. God hadn’t left them, though — he had a plan in the works all along.
First, he led Naomi back to Bethlehem and compelled Ruth to join her. There, a kinsman-redeemer was waiting: a relative of Elimelech, whose job was to redeem his relatives when they faced trouble of many sorts. This included buying back a family member sold into slavery, buying back sold land (Deuteronomy 25), and marrying a family member’s widow to have children on the dead man’s behalf and carry on his name (Ruth 3).
When Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem, God sent Ruth to Boaz’s fields, where she would meet him and experience his kindness. Once Ruth met Boaz, God arranged for Ruth and Boaz to marry according to Jewish law and gave them a son. Their son, Obed, was not only another redeemer for their family, but later became the grandfather of King David and one of Jesus’s ancestors.
Throughout Ruth’s life, we see the hand of God redeem her from a desperate situation and slowly guide her to a life of blessing. Her struggle turned into an opportunity for God to show his faithfulness on earth, and it all started with Ruth’s unconditional love for Naomi and obedience to God’s commands.
Approved by the local outreach coordinator of the Office of Spiritual Life on June 1, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.