The Book of Ruth is set in an indeterminate time “when the Judges ruled.” That period is better remembered for stories of warfare and lawless violence, often enacted on the bodies of women. The Book of Ruth, in contrast, highlights the actions and faith of two women whose trust in God and each other opens a way to overcome their precarious circumstances.
Naomi and her husband Elimelech had escaped famine in Israel by moving to Moab, where their sons married local women. When her husband and both her sons died, Naomi decided to move back to Israel, counseling her daughters-in-law to seek husbands among their own people. One of them, Ruth, refused to leave Naomi’s side.
The two women returned to Israel—one of them a foreigner—with no means of support apart from gleaning the fields. Nevertheless, there would be a happy ending. With Naomi’s encouragement, Ruth attracted the attention of a wealthy kinsman, who agreed to marry her and thus redeem the name of her dead husband.
And so Ruth, by her faith and love, was incorporated into the house of Israel; in fact, she became a grandmother of David, and a foremother of Jesus. In the story of Ruth and Naomi, there is no violence, no “mighty deeds.” Just two women, trusting in one another, hoping in the God who watches over the weak, who fills the hungry, and restores life.
“Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”