What a relief and contrast it is to read Ruth after the relentless chaos and evil of Judges. Naomi, Ruth and Boaz stand out as people of character and wholesomeness.
Naomi, Orpah and Ruth are all widowed in the land of Moab. Naomi returns to Bethlehem and Moabites, Orpah and Ruth, are faced with a choice as to whether they too will return or stay in their native country. Ruth’s selflessness and love for her mother-in-law contrasts with Orpah’s desire for her own family. Ruth goes to Bethlehem and remarries, finds family and security and becomes the Great Grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus Christ. Orpah disappears into obscurity, remembered now only as the one who did what she thought was best for herself. Ruth’s faithfulness and dedication endures in those famous words, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (1:16)
I like that in today’s world, where men are so often portrayed as incompetent, devious, irresponsible, juvenile and simply idiotic, we can read the story of Boaz, a kinsman-redeemer, who takes his family responsibility seriously and acts as a real man should, in providing for Ruth and Naomi. He contrasts with the other man, who had first responsibility towards Ruth but chose to protect his own property instead. He disappeared, unnamed, into obscurity along with Orpah. It’s not that they were especially bad people, but perhaps they could have been great people.
The witnesses to the interchange between Boaz and the other kinsman pray a blessing on Boaz and Ruth:-
Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” (4:11-12)
… and it was, and even more so!