This isn’t a very long post because this is one of the shortest books in the Hebrew Bible. It’s purpose is to demonstrate the geneology of the great king of Israel, David of Bethlehem, after the more general adventures of the national tribes in their possession of the Holy Land in the books of Iosue/Joshua and Judges. We’d last seen that line begin with Iuda, the fourth son of the patriarch Jacob, in the thirty-eighth chapter of Genesis. There we discover a story of incest, which resulted in Iuda having two sons by his daughter-in-law Thamar: Phares and Zara.
The story of the book of Ruth is of a man of Bethlehem living in Ephraim (a little to the north) called Elimelech, who had land in Bethlehem of Juda. In a time of famine, he fled over the Jordan to Moab, which today holds the modern state of Jordan. While there, Elimelech’s two sons took Moabite wives, and ten years later, died without children. Their father, Elimelech, also passed away. The question of inheritance raised its head, as their mother Noemi returned to Bethlehem to dispose of the property of her husband and live the rest of her life alone. She tried to dismiss her Moabite daughters-in-law, but one of the two, Ruth, was very attached to Noemi and refused to leave her side. Now, Noemi contrived to find a future for Ruth. When Ruth happened to meet a landlord Booz, while looking for food, Noemi reveals to her that Booz was related distantly to Elimelech and that he might be able to give her the children her husband couldn’t. This was a requirement of the Law, that kinsfolk take to wife the widows of their dead relations who had not conceived sons to inherit land and property; the kinsman would provide the widow with those children on behalf of her dead husband. The rest of the book is about Booz dealing with the inheritance laws, in order to take Ruth as his wife, and give posterity both to her and through her to her mother-in-law Noemi. This take place through an odd custom involving a shoe:
“So now Booz said to the rival claimant, ‘Untie thy shoe;’ and as soon as he had done so, made appeal to the elders and to all that were present. ‘You are witnesses,’ he said, ‘this day, that I have reclaimed all the possessions of Elimelech, Chelion and Mahalon by purchase from Noemi: and moreover, that I have taken Mahalon’s widow, Ruth the Moabitess, to wife. I mean to hand on the dead man’s property to heirs of his own, so that his name may never be lost to his family, his kindred and his people. Of all this, you are witnesses.’ So the elders made answer, and all that were present made answer, ‘We bear witness of it. Take thy bride home, and may the Lord make her as fruitful as Rachel and Lia, that gave a posterity to Israel. May Ephrata know her worth, and Bethlehem tell her praises…'” – Ruth, 4:8-11
And then we find the continued line from Juda to King David. For us Christians, it is also the line of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here it is: And now we come to the line of Obed: Juda → Phares → Esron → Aram → Aminadab → Nahasson → Salmon → Booz → Obed → Jesse → David. Now we continue on to the legend of Samuel, the last of the judges of Israel. Judges were vicars of God, Who was the real king of Israel. In the continuation of the story, Samuel is chosen by God to judge the people and eventually to anoint a king for them. The kingdom(s) of Israel were not to last for very long, for God Himself would return one day to be the king of Israel, and he would elect judges again to rule that people. We would call the judges of the latter day Apostles and bishops.