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Biblical People
Ruth (roth). [Heb. Ruth, meaning uncertain; Gr. Rhouth.] A Moabites, the daughter-in-law of Naomi. She married Mahlon, the son of Elimelech and Naomi, while they were refugees in the land of Moab from a severe famine in Judah, their homeland (Ruth 1:1, 2; 4:10). After a time, during which Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chilion died, Naomi with her 2 widowed daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, set out to return to Bethlehem in the land of Judah (ch 1:6, 7). Orpah was persuaded to remain in Moab, but Ruth, in a supreme act of loyalty and devotion to her mother-in-law, returned with Naomi to Bethlehem (vs. 11-18). It is Ruth's unsurpassed spirit of devotion that makes the story recorded in the book of Ruth worth preserving and that doubtless accounts for its inclusion in the sacred canon. Reaching Bethlehem at the time of barley harvest (v 22), probably in early April, Ruth went out into the harvest field to glean, in keeping with the Mosaic law that allotted to the poor whatever the reapers might have missed (Ruth 2:2, 3; Lev 19:9, 10; 23:22). Ruth's fortune was to glean in a portion of the field belonging to Boaz, a relative of Elimelech, who took special notice of her and extended her special favour because of her fidelity to Naomi and doubtless also because of her own winsome ways. Custom, based on the levirate marriage law (Deut 25:5-10; cf. Ruth 1:11-13), required the nearest kinsman of Mahlon to marry Ruth, so becoming his legal heir and perpetuating Mahlon's family inheritance (see Ruth 4:3, 4, 9). However, the nearest of kin had the privilege of excusing himself if he desired (Deut 25:7-10). In this instance the nearest of kin refused to accept the responsibility (Ruth 4:6), which therefore devolved on Boaz (vs. 7, 8), who formally assumed the privileges and responsibilities that fell to him as Elimelech's legal heir, including marriage to Ruth (vs. 9, 10). Obed, the grandfather of David (vs. 13, 21, 22) and a progenitor of Christ, was born of this union. Ruth is honoured by the inclusion of her name in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus Christ (Mt 1:5) -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary.

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