BIBLE STUDY: The Book of Ruth (1)
WEEK 1: WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
Read: Chapter 1:1-5
1. Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons travel from Bethlehem to Moab (verses 1-3). Why did they leave Bethlehem, and what (presumably) did they find in Moab?
2. The period of the judges was a time of depravity, immorality, and anarchy. In the terms of Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was fit in his own eyes.” What reason would have been assumed for God bringing a drought to Judah?
3. Elimelech died, and Naomi was left in gentile territory with only her two sons (verses 3-4). Although marriage to Moabite women was not forbidden, do you think Naomi would have approved of her sons marrying Moabite women?
4. When her two sons also died (verse 5), how do you think Naomi would have felt about her original decision to go to Moab? And, how do you think she felt about where she stood in her relationship with God?
5. Remember a time when a series of things went wrong for you. How did you feel? Describe how your relationship with God felt at the time.
Read: Chapter 1:6-18
6. When Naomi heard that the famine in Judah was over, she and her two daughters-in-law prepared to return to Naomi’s home in Bethlehem (verses 6-7). On the road to Bethlehem, Naomi told her daughters-in-law (twice) to return to Moab (verses 8-13). What reasons did she give?
7. Orpah took her mother-in-law’s advice, but Ruth didn’t (verses 14-17). What are the differences between the reasons that Orpah left, and the reasons that Ruth stayed?
8. Despite what Naomi may have been personally feeling, what does Ruth’s response (verse 16) say about what Naomi had to offer, and what Naomi’s true relationship with God was really like?
9. What does Naomi’s experience teach us about what we may have to offer, even when things, including our relationship with God, seem to be going terribly wrong?
Read: Chapter 1:19-22
10. When Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem they were greeted by the town folk (verses 19-22). Although accepting God’s authority, Naomi remained bitter about what God had put her through. Was her bitterness an understandable response? And was her bitterness appropriate?
11. What conclusions can you make regarding the faith of Naomi? Had her faith really been eroded by the number of tragic events in life? Or had she remained committed to God, despite everything?
12. When we go through rough patches in life, how can Naomi’s experience help us?
Posted: 21st January 2016
© 2016, Brian A Curtis
BIBLE STUDY: The Book of Ruth (2)
WEEK 2: LEVELS OF DEVOTION
Read: Chapter 2:1-9
1. Ruth was a foreigner in Judah, a young woman alone, and consequently very vulnerable. What does she do, and why (verses 1-3)?
2. Under marriage law (Deut 25:5-10), if Ruth were an Israelite, her ex-husband’s nearest male relative would normally have been expected to marry her. Ruth quickly worked out that the field she was working in belonged to Boaz, from the clan of Elimelech. How do you think she would have felt when Boaz noticed her, and how do you think she felt when he started asking questions about her (verses 4-7)?
3. Boaz’s response to Ruth was to approach her, and give her some advice. What did he tell her to do (verses 8-9), and what was the reason behind the advice?
4. Think of a time that you have felt alone and vulnerable, and received advice from someone on how to proceed. Did you do what was suggested?
Read: Chapter 2:10-13
5. Boaz let Ruth know that he was aware of her circumstances (verses 10-12). What does Boaz wish Ruth, and what does he identify as the reason for her devotion to Naomi?
6. Despite Boaz’s glowing report, Ruth’s response was one of humility (verse 13). When people praise us, or they give us a list of our achievements, do we respond with humility too? Just how hard do we find it to remain humble?
Read: Chapter 2:14-18
7. Boaz follows up his glowing report, by going beyond what was required by Israelite law to care for the poor (verses 14-16). Why do you think that he did that? What was his motivation?
8. The amount of barley gathered by Ruth was unusually high. Indeed enough for both Ruth and Naomi’s needs (verses 17-18). After the disasters that they had faced (in Chapter 1), how do you think Naomi would have felt when she saw the amount of grain? And more importantly (in contrast to Chapter 1 verse 20) how would she then have felt about her relationship with God?
9. Think of a time, after a bad patch, when things started to go right for you. How did you feel? And what difference did it make to your relationship with God?
Read: Chapter 2:19-23
10. Naomi got Ruth to detail everything that had happened, and it didn’t take long for Naomi to work out that Boaz could well become Ruth’s second husband (verses 19-22). What attributes did Naomi give to Boaz? And what advice did Naomi give to Ruth?
11. How did Ruth respond to Naomi’s advice (verse 23)? And what does this say about her continuing devotion to Naomi, and her continuing devotion to God?
12. Is there someone, or a group of people, to whom we are devoted? To what lengths are we prepared to go in our dedication? Is this a reflection of our attitude towards God?
Posted: 28th January 2016
© 2016, Brian A Curtis
BIBLE STUDY: The Book of Ruth (3)
WEEK 3: LEVELS OF OBEDIENCE
Read: Chapter 3:1-6
1. During the threshing season it was customary for the landowner to spend the night, near the threshing floor, protecting his grain from theft (verses 1-4). In the absence of any real response from Boaz, Naomi believed it was an opportune time for Ruth to make a move. What did Naomi tell Ruth to do?
2. In a male orientated society, Naomi basically asked Ruth to appeal to Boaz’s obligations under the marriage laws. Naomi told Ruth to prepare herself as a bride, and effectively ask Boaz to marry her. How do you think that Ruth would felt to such a suggestion? What would have gone through her mind?
3. At no stage did Naomi ask Ruth to compromise herself. What Naomi suggested, although probably unusual, may have been in accordance with an early Bedouin tradition. However no sexual impropriety is suggested (verses 5-6). However, given similar circumstances would you be brave enough to do as Naomi suggested?
Read: Chapter 3:7-13
4. Once Boaz had eaten, and was a little drunk, he settled down and went to sleep. It was then that Ruth approached him, and did as Naomi had suggested (verses 7-8). How do you think that Boaz felt when he woke up, and what do you think he would have thought that this mystery woman wanted?
5. When Ruth identified herself, and explained her presence (verse 9-13), Boaz understood clearly what she was doing there. What did he say to her? And what did he promise that he would do?
6. Ruth’s obedience to Naomi, and God’s laws, resulted in Ruth being blessed by Boaz, and with his promise of finding a second husband for Ruth. When you have been obedient to God’s will, what sort of things have you been blessed with?
Read: Chapter 3:14-18
7. Early in the morning, Ruth removed herself from the scene before she could be seen and recognised by others (verse 14). Why were Ruth and Boaz so keen that no misunderstanding should take place? And what difference, if any, would any misunderstanding have had in regard to the promise that Boaz had made?
8. In the morning Boaz, again, went beyond what was legally required to care for Ruth, and then he went to town. What does this say about Boaz’s attitude towards Ruth, and the need to obey God’s laws?
9. When it comes to obeying God’s laws, do we always show the same kind of dedication and obedience that Ruth and Boaz showed? Explain.
10. Ruth would not have had long to wait for Boaz to resolve the marriage law issue. Even so, remembering that Ruth was a Moabite by birth and not an Israelite, consider some of the things that would have been going through Ruth and Naomi’s minds as they waited to hear back from Boaz.
11. Ruth and Naomi were in the process of being blessed because of their dedication and obedience to God, and to each other. What does that tells us about the level of dedication and obedience we need in our relationship with God and with each other?
Posted: 2nd February 2016
© 2016, Brian A Curtis
BIBLE STUDY: The Book of Ruth (4)
WEEK 4: FAITH HAS ITS REWARDS
Read: Chapter 4:1-4
1. Boaz was true to his promise, and sought out Ruth’s nearest (Israelite) male relative. In the light of Boaz’s extra generous responses to Ruth himself, do you think that there was more at stake for Boaz than the simple redemption of Elimelech’s estate (verses 1-4)? If there was, what was more important to Boaz, his feelings for Ruth, or his obedience to God’s laws?
2. When the closer relative accepted his responsibilities, no mention of Ruth had been made. Just what was it, do you think, that the closer relative thought he was redeeming?
3. Have there been times when you have said “yes” to something – before having learnt all the facts? What difference would knowing all the facts have made to your decision?
Read; Chapter 4:5-10
4. Boaz’s response was to spell out exactly what the closer relative would be redeeming. As a consequence the other relative changed his mind (verses 5-6). What does that say about the priorities of the other relative? And what does it say about the other relative’s attitude towards God’s laws?
5. Maintaining family property was a very important issue for Israelite families. At risk may have been the ultimate transfer of their own property to the family of Elimelech, leaving the redeemer’s family property-less (verse 6). But the issues for Boaz and the other family member were exactly the same. What does this tell us about the differences between the two men?
6. The process of renouncing one’s property rights and passing them to another was conducted, publicly, by taking off a sandal and transferring it to the other person (verses 7-10). Boaz, true to his word, redeemed all property owned by Elimelech and his two sons. Doing things that are costly, or are potentially costly, are never easy. How do the examples of Boaz and the other relative, encourage us in making difficult decisions, particularly where God is concerned?
Read: Chapter 4:11-22
7. The response of the elders to Boaz was one of recognition of what Boaz had done (verses 11-12). What did they say to Boaz?
8. As a consequence of their marriage, Ruth bore a son (Obed) (verses 13-15). This resulted, therefore, in the family of Elimelech, not ceasing, but continuing on through Obed. In the light of the tragic beginning to the story, and all the things that Naomi and Ruth had faced, how do you think that they both felt at the birth of the baby? And what do you think that they would have learnt from constantly being obedient to God’s laws, no matter how they felt?
9. Obed was now the heir to Elimelech’s family property on the death of Boaz. As a consequence, Naomi, not Ruth had the responsibility in bringing up Obed (verses 16-17). On top of all the other things she had done, how difficult would it have been to give the baby into Naomi’s charge?
10. As a result of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz’s deep faith and obedience to God’s laws, Obed became one more link in the family line between Perez and David (verses 18-20) (and ultimately in the line between Abraham and Jesus) (Matthew 1:1-16). What does that say about God’s blessings? And what does that teach us about the things that God asks us to do?
11. In the light of Naomi losing her husband and sons (chapter 1), constantly giving Ruth advice and encouraging her (chapters 2 and 3), and ending up bringing up Obed (chapter 4), why isn’t this book called “Naomi” and not “Ruth”? Is there a point to the title of the book, particularly bearing in mind the attitude to gentiles in Old Testament times?
Posted: 2nd February 2016
© 2016, Brian A Curtis