Ruth vs Esther

Ruth vs Esther

The two books contain some interesting points that have a great deal in common. Let us discover these interesting points as we put them together for comparison.

1. The main characters of the two books are both female, which are the only books of the Bible that wholly emphasize the feminine role of the bible characters in the entire book.

2.  While Ruth is the foreigner who chose to reside in the land of Israel, Esther is the Jewish lady who was born and brought up in the foreign land of Persia.

3. Both ladies were willing to sacrifice themselves and finally became the notable Bible characters in Jewish history.

(a)  Ruth’s sacrifice

  • Ruth willingly forfeited the right to remarry in her own country of Moab. Instead, she was determined to dedicate her life to take care of her mother-in-law. She chose to follow Naomi wherever she went and said “thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God”. She even swore to be punished by God if she abandoned her mother-in-law in the rest of her life. (Ruth 1:16-17)

  • Ruth was told to lie at Boaz’ body at night. All along she had been keeping herself as a moral woman, not touching any man after the death of her husband. By lying at Boaz’ body, she was sacrificing her morality.

  • Ruth was willing to accept the Jewish tradition of being “purchased” by a kinsman, whoever it was!

(b)  Esther’s sacrifice

  • Esther was willing to sacrifice her life by going into the inner court to meet the king without being called in advance. She could have chosen not to bear such high risk. So long as her Jewish identity was not disclosed, she might have escaped the massacre on the 13th day of the 12th month. Even if her Jewish identity was known, she might be granted amnesty by the king, for she was his beloved queen. But she was willing to bear the risk on behalf of the whole Jewish race, as she said, “If I perish, I perish”. (Esth 4:16)

4. Obedience is the main factor of God’s grace in both books.

(a)  Ruth has shown full obedience as she faithfully followed her mother-in-law and obeyed her instructions to extend the line of her family. God has been graceful to this family due to her allegiance to her Jewish family.

(b)  Esther has obeyed the charge of her “father” Mordecai who treated her like his own daughter. Although she has once been hesitated to see the king, she finally carried out her racial responsibility to attempt to save her own people at the risk of losing her life. God has shown full mercy to her and the entire Jewish race because of her brave act.

5. Both ladies were all along guided by their guardians toward success. They put their full trust to their guardians for guidance.

(a)  When Naomi found that Ruth went to the field of their kinsman and was told to glean at the field until the end of harvest, she told Ruth to do so and Ruth straightly followed and gleaned the corn until the end of barley harvest. (Ruth 2:22-23) Later, when Naomi told Ruth to find chance to lie on Boaz’s body secretly at night, she, without knowing the details of the plan, simply said, "All that thou sayest unto me I will do." (Ruth 3:5)

(b)  Esther was sent by Mordecai into the palace to compete for the honour to be the queen of the Persian king. As Haman’s device of slaughtering the Jews was published all across the country, Mordecai persuaded the queen to seek mercy from the king. What's more, the second time Esther requested the king to reverse Haman’s letters of destroying the Jews (Esth 8:5), Mordecai probably has counselled her to make this second request. Later, the king’s scribes wrote the letters “according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews”. (Esth 8:9) With the wise guidance of the guardian, Esther finally became the rescuer of all the Jews in her times.

6. While Ruth always mentioned ‘the Lord’ throughout the book, it was not mentioned at all in Esther. However, God’s hand and act were explicit in both books.

(a)  ‘The Lord’ or ‘the Almighty’ was mentioned 19 times in four chapters of Ruth. His name or act was openly expressed in the mouths of those who acknowledged Him:

  • As Naomi was heading back to Judah, she blessed her two daughters-in-law with the Lord’s blessing that they might have a new and blessed family in their home country. (Ruth 1:8-9)

  • Naomi admitted with grief that her miserable situation in Moab was the hand of the Lord against her. (Ruth 1:13, 20-21)

  • Ruth boldly asked the Lord to punish her severely if she departed her pitiful mother-in-law. (Ruth 1:17)

  • As Boaz came to his own field, he and his servants blessed each other with the Lord’s blessing. (Ruth 2:4)

  • Due to Ruth's kindness to her mother-in-law and her trust in the God of Israel, Boaz reassured her that the Lord would reward her fully. (Ruth 2:12)

  • Naomi blessed Boaz with the Lord’s blessing because of his merciful treatment toward Ruth and their poor family. (Ruth 2:20)

  • Boaz blessed Ruth with the Lord’s blessing in that she refused to remarry but stuck with her husband’s family line. (Ruth 3:10)

  • Boaz swore by the Lord that he would keep his promise of doing his part of a kinsman to “purchase” Ruth along with Naomi’s land in case his kinsman refused to do his part of so doing. (Ruth 3:13)

  • The elders who witnessed Boaz’s act of taking Ruth blessed Ruth with the Lord’s blessing that the Lord would give Boaz a seed out of Ruth to extend the line of the descendants of Judah. (Ruth 4:11-12)

  • The author expressly stated that the Lord gave Ruth conception so that she bore a son. (Ruth 4:13)

  • The women around Naomi praised the Lord for extending her family line which was certainly a great blessing for Naomi. (Ruth 4:14)

(b)  There are numerous coincidental occasions that led to the salvation of the Jews in Persian rule. Please refer to the article on “Esther”.

7. God executed His will by the hands of his “servants”.

(a)  In Ruth, Boaz became God’s servant. He treated Ruth with full kindness.

  • He urged Ruth to stick with his maidens and follow the reapers. He charged the young men not to touch her. He told her to drink the water drawn by the young men when she was thirsty. When Ruth asked Boaz why he was so graceful to her, he said that he was told of her loyalty and kindness toward her mother-in-law. He even appreciated her allegiance to the God of Israel as she made her decision to leave her own country and migrate to Israel. He reassured her that the God of Israel whom she trusted would give her a full reward. Boaz was acting for God to grant Ruth and her family kindness and mercy. As a faithful believer, Boaz totally reflected God’s kindness and mercy. (Ruth 2:8-13)

  • He provided Ruth with a full meal and treated her like his own servants. He commanded his young men to “let her glean even among the sheaves”, giving her the same quality of grain as that which his servants picked. He even told his reapers to leave behind some grain for Ruth to pick up afterward, saving her time and effort as well as ensuring that she pick up full load of grain which turned into an ephah of barley after beating. (Ruth 2:14-16)

  • He told her to stay and glean in his field and not to visit any other fields. He would ensure her safety in his own field. Besides, he told her to follow his young men and glean until the end of barley harvest. Boaz served as the protector and provider. (Ruth 2:8,21)

  • When Boaz discovered Ruth by his side at midnight, he immediately understood the purpose of it and told her not to fear. He would accomplish her will or the will of her mother-in-law. Once again, he blessed Ruth with the Lord’s blessing, because she “showed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning”  (probably referring to her sacrifice in fulfilling her mother-in-law’s wish). He also praised her that she was “a virtuous (賢德) woman”. Before she quit in the early morning, he measured six measures of barley and put it on her veil (外衣), making sure that she would not return empty-handed. Boaz was actually doing God’s will by fulfilling Ruth’s wish. (Ruth 3:8-17)

  • Without delay, Boaz called on his kinsman to buy Naomi’s field and “buy it also Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance (使死人在產業上存留他的名)”. (Ruth 4:5) When his kinsman turned down his proposal, he executed his promise by doing his part of a kinsman. By so doing, he accomplished God’s will of extending the line of Judah.

(b)  In Esther, King Ahasuerus became God’s servant.

  • He listened to the advice of his princes and abandoned Queen Vashti. Later, he listened to the advice of his servants again and assembled all the fair young virgins to Shushan to select another queen in place of Vashti. That provided the chance for Esther to become the Persian queen.

  • As the king saw Queen Esther standing in the inner court, he did not punish her but granted her permission to see him. Four times he said he would grant Esther’s request. (5:3,6; 7:2; 9:12) He then commanded that Haman and his 10 sons be executed on the gallows and his letters be reversed as the queen liked. He even allowed the Jews in Shushan to protect themselves against the enemies on the 14th day as requested by the queen. He was the one to grant Haman the authority to kill the Jews. He was also the one to grant Esther the authority to save the Jews. He accomplished God’s will of rescuing all the Jews on the day of Purim.

  • He commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles at night. As soon as he found that Mordecai was not rewarded yet for saving his life, he honoured Mordecai by following the advice of Haman. Thus, Mordecai was given the highest honour and his fame immediately spread all over the country.