The book of Ruth is a tale of charm and delight. It tells about very ordinary people facing very ordinary events. We meet Naomi, who underwent hardship in famine and bereavement but eventually won peace and security. We meet Ruth, a young foreign woman from Moab who attached herself to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and to Naomi’s God. And we meet Boaz, who, by marrying Ruth, fitted into God’s purposes for history. Both King David and Jesus are numbered among their descendants.
Goethe calls it “the loveliest complete work on a small scale, handed down to us as an ethical treatise and an idyll.” Another writes, “No poet in the world has written a more beautiful short story.” David Atkinson demonstrates clearly that the story of Ruth, theologically, is a story about God’s providence.
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“The book of Ruth is a story about very ordinary people facing very ordinary events. We” (Page 25)
“One of the most important features of faith in God’s providence is that it teaches us that even our accidents are within his care.” (Page 59)
“Christians have believed that God not only created the world so that we his creatures are dependent on him for our existence; he also sustains and rules his world, so that we are continuously dependent on him for ‘life and breath and everything’” (Page 12)
“All this illustrates, therefore, that to act as goel in these circumstances would be very costly. It involved personal sacrifice. The goel would have to give part of his own inheritance (the cost of the land) for the sake of others (Elimelech’s family name and the inheritance of Elimelech’s property). This would have to require an act of love and sacrifice which this kinsman was not in a position to offer.” (Page 114)
“But whatever lack of faith or expression of discontent with Yahweh Elimelech’s action implies, the rest of the book of Ruth amply demonstrates that God’s gracious providence is not bound by man’s foolishness.” (Page 34)
David J. Atkinson is retired as assistant bishop in Southwark Diocese. Previously, he was a fellow of Corpus Christi College in Oxford, England, an assistant curate of The Cathedral Church of St. Andrew, archdeacon of Lewisham, and bishop of Thetford. He is the author of several books and commentaries, including Pastoral Ethics: A Guide to the Key Issues of Daily Living.