Bible Study #36: The Virtue of Ruth

Bible Study #36: Ruth
Fr. Anthony Perkins, St. Mary’s (Pokrova) in Allentown
22 May 2018

Opening Prayer:
Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

The Book of Ruth

Ruth was a Moabite. Moabites were descendants of Lot. They lived on the East side of the Dead Sea. This history takes place during the time of Judges, about 1300 BC. Ruth, a Gentile, is the great-grandmother of David (and thus an ancestor of Jesus Christ).

Chapter One. The death of husband and sons.
St. Jerome: restrain your grief (comparison for pastoral guidance).
You call to mind [your daughter’s] companionship, her conversation and her endearing ways; and you cannot endure the thought that you have lost them all. I pardon you the tears of a mother, but I ask you to restrain your grief. When I think of the parent, I cannot blame you for weeping, but when I think of the Christian and the recluse, the mother disappears from my view. Your wound is still fresh, and any touch of mine, however gentle, is more likely to inflame than to heal it. Yet why do you not try to overcome by reason a grief which time must inevitably assuage? Naomi, fleeing because of famine to the land of Moab, there lost her husband and her sons. Yet when she was thus deprived of her natural protectors, Ruth, a stranger, never left her side. And see what a great thing it is to comfort a lonely woman: Ruth, for her reward, is made an ancestor of Christ.9 Consider the great trials which Job endured, and you will see that you are over-delicate. Amid the ruins of his house, the pains of his sores, his countless bereavements, and, last of all, the snares laid for him by his wife, he still lifted up his eyes to heaven and maintained his patience unbroken. I know what you are going to say “All this befell him as a righteous man, to try his righteousness.” Well, choose which alternative you please. Either you are holy, in which case God is putting your holiness to the proof; or else you are a sinner, in which case you have no right to complain. For if so, you endure far less than your deserts.

St. Paulinus of Nola. Daughters as a metaphor for The Big Choice. Next pass with eager eyes to Ruth, who with one short book separates eras?the end of the period of the judges and the beginning of Samuel. It seems a short account, but it depicts the symbolism of the great conflict when the two sisters separate to go their different ways. Ruth follows after her holy mother-in-law, whereas Orpah abandons her; one daughter-in-law demonstrates faithlessness, the other fidelity. The one puts God before country, the other puts country before life. Does not such disharmony continue through the universe, one part following God and the other falling headlong through the world? If only the two groups seeking death and salvation were equal! But the broad road seduces many, and those who glide on the easy downward course are snatched off headlong by sin which cannot be revoked.

St. Ambrose of Milan. Ruth as an example for us in the Church. Ruth entered the church and was made an Israelite, and [she] deserved to be counted among God’s greatest servants; chosen on account of the kinship of her soul, not of her body. We should emulate her because, just as she deserved this prerogative because of her behavior, [we] may be counted among the favored elect in the church of the Lord. Continuing in our Father’s house, we might, through her example, say to him who, like Paul or any other bishop, [who] calls us to worship God, your people are my people, and your God my God.

Chapter Two. Ruth and Boaz meet.

Ruth’s virtue include hard work and humility; but they worked with grace to bless her.

Romans 11:19-24. You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. And even the others, if they do not persist in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.

Ephesians 2:11-16. Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands? remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall[a] of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end.

The Orthodox Study Bible argues that the meal Ruth is invited to represents the Eucharist (ft 2:14).

What a beautiful blessing; “And Na?omi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!'” Ruth 2:21.

Chapter Three. The Threshing Floor.

St. John Chrysostom. Virtue. Those things which happened to Ruth should be seen as figures. For she was an outsider and had fallen into extreme penury; but Boaz, seeing her, did not despise her on account of her poverty, nor was he horrified on account of her impiety; even as Christ received the church, who was both a stranger and laboring, in need of great good things. Ruth is not joined with her consort before forsaking her parents and her nation and her native land: never was anyone so much ennobled by marriage. Thus the church was not made loveable to her spouse before she had forsaken her prior customs. The prophet says, “Forget your people.”

Chapter Four. Happily ever after.

Ephraim the Syrian. In praise of virtue. Let Tamar rejoice that her Lord has come, for her name announced the son of her Lord, and her appellation called you to come to her. By you honorable women made themselves contemptible, [you] the One who makes all chaste. She stole you at the crossroads, [you] who prepared the road to the house of the kingdom. Since she stole life, the sword was insufficient to kill her. Ruth lay down with a man on the threshing floor for your sake. Her love was bold for your sake. She teaches boldness to all penitents. Her ears held in contempt all [other] voices for the sake of your voice. The fiery coal that crept into the bed of Boaz went up and lay down. She saw the Chief Priest hidden in his loins, the fire for his censer. She ran and became the heifer of Boaz. For you she brought forth the fatted ox. She went gleaning for love of you; she gathered straw. You repaid her quickly the wage of her humiliation: instead of ears [of wheat], the Root of kings, and instead of straw, the Sheaf of Life that descends from her.

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1?2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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