Ruth as the ‘Type’ of Israel

Rev. Cornelis Kant - 28 May 2020

The book of Ruth is traditionally read in the synagogue during the Feast of Pentecost (Shavu’ot).

As a Gentile woman Ruth joins her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi, who is returning to Israel and says: “Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Her love for Naomi is stronger than her self-interest. As the story develops, we notice Ruth is being blessed abundantly by God for that attitude. Boaz later confirms this: May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel. Ruth is a symbol, a type, of Christians who love Israel and the Jewish people. Yet the meaning of this beautiful story reaches further. Naomi, a widow like Ruth, is poor and forced to sell her family plot of land. In getting new perspectives for the future, she needs a ‘guardian-redeemer’. A ‘guardian- redeemer’ (Hebrew: go’ël) is someone who buys your family plot back for you until the jubilee year, so it remains your property forever (Leviticus 25:25). Boaz turns out to be the guardian-redeemer. Ruth lies down at his feet on the threshing floor and says to Boaz: “I am your servant Ruth”, she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” This is going to cost Boaz money, a ransom, but he is committed to it with his heart and soul.

Boaz even goes a step further. He doesn’t only offer economic perspective and rehabilitation to Naomi and Ruth; he also marries Ruth as his wife. And that’s where this wonderful story takes on a deeper significance. Isaiah calls God the Redeemer of Israel: Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer (go’ël), the Lord of hosts: I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God (Isaiah 44:6). This also reminds us of the Messiah, Jesus. He is also the King of Israel. In Revelation He calls Himself the first and the last, the alpha and omega. The relationship between God and His people Israel is also described as a marital bond between groom and bride:

“Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer (…) The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit” (Isaiah 54:4-6).

God is the ‘guardian-redeemer’ of Israel, who was like a poor and abandoned widow. But God will restore and marry his people Israel, just as Boaz married Ruth, and will provide Israel a great future.

A wonderful parallel is drawn here between Ruth and Boaz on the one hand and Israel and God on the other hand. This is reflected by the terms King, Redeemer (go’ël), widow and marriage. No longer being a foreigner in Israel Ruth becomes a full part of Israel. The witnesses at the city gate told Boaz: “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel”.

Ruth even becomes David’s great-grandmother. Ruth is a wonderful story with a wonderful message. Ruth is not only a type for Christians who love Israel, but also a type for Israel itself, who will be redeemed and married by the King of Israel.

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