There are three main characters in the story of Ruth, namely Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Each of them plays a critical role in the story. The Lord can be regarded as the “director” of the story.


Naomi learned the hard way of knowing God.

Naomi admitted that what she and her family experienced was the hand of God turning against her (1:13, 20). She and her husband left for Moab due to famine in Judah. Probably they made the wrong decision of moving to a place God resented. As it turned out, after her husband died there, her two sons married Moabite girls. So, they intermarried with foreigners in a foreign land. They were determined to settle down in Moab, never thinking of returning to the land of Judah at that time. It is obvious that their whole family had already departed themselves from God. Not until the two sons died did Naomi consider returning to Israel and her home town, Bethlehem. The more important reason for her tendency to depart Moab is: When Naomi encountered hard times there, she heard that God had been merciful to the Israelites and given them food.  At this time, she started to remember God and recognize her family’s failure of seeking God’s will and guidance. She finally decided to return to God for help after living in Moab for ten years. God indeed desired that they did not continue to live in a foreign land, or they might continue to forget Jehovah and worship idols.

God began to show her mercy as she returned to the God of Israel:

  1. God granted her a loyal help, “a daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons.” (4:15)

  2. God provided her with food to keep her from starving.

  3. God let her parcel of land be redeemed and her daughter-in-law be married to next-of-kin. She had a grand child to nourish too. What a comfort to a once lost family!

  4. God let her family line become renowned instead of being cut off in her hometown.


Ruth is a peculiar lady, extremely different from any other women. Being a foreigner, she has many good qualities:

  1. She did not consider herself and follow the same decision as Orpah, another daughter-in-law of Naomi. She only thought of living together with Naomi and was willing to suffer with her—“where you lodge, I will lodge” (1:16).

  2. She did not follow the god of Moab but turned to the God of Israel—“your God my God” (1:16).

  3. She even allowed herself to be assimilated into the Israel culture and to be one of the inhabitants in Judah, strictly following Jewish traditions—“your people shall be my people” (1:16).

  4. She was willing to devote her whole life to take care of Naomi. She could have stayed in her own country and married another man of her own race. She could have lived a better life. She needed not follow an old lady empty-handed and suffer together with her. But she gave up a better prospect and even put her life at risk in a foreign place. Though she knew Naomi’s God was harsh to them, she was not afraid. She had no fear of being despised by the Israelites due to racial discrimination and impoverishment. All she possessed was the sacrificial love for Naomi. She not only had pity for her, but actually treated her as her mother. She was willing to stay by her side to support her in her remaining life. She swore that only death could separate them.

  5. She was diligent and bold enough to go to a stranger’s field and pick the ears of grain. She had also sought permission from the reapers beforehand.(2:7)

  6. She was hard-working, picking grain from early morning till evening, “without resting even for a moment”.(2:7)

  7. She had shown full trust in Naomi when told to lie down on Boaz feet in secret night, even though Naomi did not give her any explanation how that would provide her "security".(3:1) In fact, she might not feel secure by following her instruction. She was simply an obedient kind of woman—“All that you tell me I will do” (3:5). She knew with confidence that what Naomi planned for her was good for her.

  8. She was truly loyal to the tradition of Israel by giving herself to a next-of-kin.(3:9,10) She proved her allegiance to Israel with action. Her whole life was devoted to a foreign land, regardless of her national identity.

  9. She was an honoured woman in town, in spite of the fact that she was a foreigner. (3:11)


Boaz was a good man:

  1. He did not despise a foreign woman.

  2. He was generous enough to let Ruth, a foreigner, continue to glean in his field until the end of harvest season. (2:21)

  3. He was thinking of her security as a single woman working among strangers. That’s why he told her to stay close with his young women, and gave the order to the young men not to harass her.

  4. He was considerate and had pity for her, letting her drink what’s provided for the other reapers. He offered her the same treatment as his own workers.

  5. He was a devout follower of God. He appreciated Ruth’s faith of leaving her own place and going to a foreign land for living. She did not forsake her mother-in-law. She was loyal to her husband’s family. He believed that she was the kind of woman God was pleased with. He had a compassionate heart of God. He felt responsible for taking care of her family’s living.

  6. Boaz was kind and tender-hearted toward Ruth. He provided her with food to make sure she did not leave in hunger. He even secretly arranged for his servants to save more grains with better quality for her, to ensure that she had more than enough to take home, and that she had high quality grain and needed not exhaust herself.(2:14-16) He maintained this arrangement until the harvest period was over. (2:23)

  7. Boaz managed to keep his moral purity and refused to take advantage of Ruth in a secret night. Rather, he carefully protected Ruth’s reputation, yet not forgetting her essential need of food.

  8. Boaz was not selfish but impartial. He upheld the tradition and yielded to a closer next-of-kin for his prior decision of redeeming land and taking Ruth.

  9. Boaz was faithful to his promise of taking Ruth.

  10. Boaz was willing to sacrifice himself by redeeming the land of Elimelech and taking his son’s wife in order to “maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance and that the name of the dead may not be cut off from his kindred and from the gate of his native place.”(4:10) In other words, Boaz preserved Elimelech’s name in his hometown at all costs.

The Lord

The Lord has shown mercy to Ruth:

  1. He guided her to Boaz’s field to glean grain.(2:3, “As it happened”)

  2. He let her meet a nice gentleman Boaz.

  3. He protected her wherever she went.

  4. He raised up her social status and increased her fame in the Israel neighborhood.

  5. He granted her a blessed family again, with a husband and a son.

  6. He saved her life eternally and let her receive the blessings of the descendants of Abraham.

  7. He allowed a foreigner to extend the line of Jacob to King David. 


  1. God has an exit for all who repent and return to Him for mercy in times of trouble.

  2. God shows His kindness to all mankind and welcomes them to receive His eternal inheritance.

  3. God has no preference over the nation of Israel for their race. He cherishes every individual who shows his/her determination to desert other gods and follow Him faithfully. 2:12 is a blessing for His followers: “May the LORD reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!”


Note: The above Bible verses are quoted in NRSV.