This lesson is part of our series How to Study the Bible. You can view the previous three lessons here.
As we begin let’s review the five keys for studying the Bible. As we go through Ruth 1, we will note these as they come up.
- Jesus and the Story of the Bible
- Reality and Commands
- Read According to the Literature
- Whole, Parts, Whole
With that in mind we turn our attention to Ruth 1. Ruth’s genre, the type of literature we are reading (Key #4) is Narrative. It is important that we understand how to read narrative because it comprises 43% of Scripture.
Narrative follows a set structure. “A setting in history, which gives rise to a specific situation, in which a problem or crisis arises, leading to a turning point in the drama, which then brings it to a resolution.”
If you think about other stories you see this structure as well.
In addition to this there are a few items we need to keep in mind as we study narrative that frame our observation interpretation, and ultimately our application.
- Narrative conveys actual, historical events that happened. We see this from the quote on the screen.
- OT narratives are “the outworking of God’s covenant promises.” God has always related to His people through covenants. Today He relates to us through the New Covenant Jesus purchased with His blood. OT narrative then looks back to the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and looks forward to its ultimate fulfillment in Christ. So, we see that Key #1 and #2 are in play here. We read narrative and every other passage considering the context of the whole Bible (1) and Jesus and the Story of the Bible (2).
- Studying narrative requires us to read the text as it is and not to spiritualize the passage.
- The events the author records tie in with their reason for writing. Therefore, in Samuel through Chronicles, you may have the same events covered but a different emphasis in each.
With that in mind we turn our attention to Ruth. As you read this week were you able to detect an overall theme of the book?
We need to look to the end to understand why Ruth was written. Bear in mind that most of the books of the Bible were written to be read out loud. Most people could not afford a scroll as we can a book today. Therefore, you may not find out the reason for writing until the end. The theme is God’s sovereign work to keep His promise which we see in the birth of King David (See Ruth 4:13-22).
The overall theme of Ruth, this is where key #5 comes into play, is that God in His grace is keeping His covenant promise. With the first verse of chapter one God’s amazing grace is on display as we see the setting for these events.
Remember our three-step-process for studying the Bible is observation, interpretation, and application. If all we can get through tonight is observation do not worry. This is the most important and foundational step. As we read tonight keep asking, “what do I see?” We need to have “aggressive attentiveness” as we look at the passage. We want to ask a lot of questions, questions that will help us understand what we are reading.
We will cover the first five verses tonight and will cover the rest of the passage next Wednesday.
The first key to look for with narrative is the setting. When and where did this account happen? This may change many times throughout the book. In Ruth we have our first setting in 1:1 but when we come to chapter two the setting shifts, for example.
- In the days when the judges ruled.
- What do we know about the days of the Judges?
- Why is this important?
- In your Bible you may have a little number or letter next to the word judges. These are important for you as you study. The cross reference is for Judges 2:16. So, from the beginning we see we need some context outside of the book to help us understand the events of Ruth.
- Let’s read Judges 2:8-16.
- There are two more verses that will help us understand the setting of Ruth and specifically Ruth 1.
- Judges 17:6; 21:25
- This does not only tell us what time in which these events happened but the theological background for it. This happened when there was no king in Israel and everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes. Because of this the people of Israel were ruled by foreign powers, they would ask for a rescuer and God would send a judge, they would repent, and the foreign power would lose. Then the cycle would repeat.
- There was a famine in the land.
- What observation questions do you have here?
- Given the theological context, why was there a famine in the land?
- Keep in mind that narratives relate God working out His covenant promises. God promised that if His people did not obey Him there would be consequences, one of which would be famine.
- Lev. 26:18-20, And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.
- If the people would repent the land would again yield its produce, Deut. 30:9, The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers,
- Why is the land important?
- And a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
- Based on what we know about the story of the OT to this point what about this phrase is off?
- They left the promised land for the unpromised land.
- What does the word sojourn mean?
- They did not plan on staying long, this was meant to be a temporary stay.
- To understand the word Moab, we need to expand our context a little bit.
- Origins: Gen. 19:36-37
- Numbers 22-24, Moabite king tried to get a prophet to curse them.
- Judges 3:12-30, the oppressors of Israel for a time.
Verse 1 is the setting and verse 2 gives us the situation. Now we are going to learn about the circumstances that this man and his wife and their two sons are in.
- What do we first learn about them in verse 2? (Their names)
- What is repeated in verse 2 from verse 1?
- They are from Bethlehem in Judah
- They went to Moab
- Is there anything different about the situation as it is recorded in verse 2 compared to verse 1? (Sojourn versus remain). They stayed in the country of Moab. This temporary visit has turned into a permanent residence it seems.
The keys we are looking at for narrative are the fabric of most stories. This pattern is not unique to biblical narrative. With every good story there is a problem. In this case it is a rather sad problem.
- What do you see in verses 3-5?
- There are two crises in these verses what are they?
- The husband and the sons die.
- Why does the author record that the sons married Moabite wives?
- See Deut. 7:1-4
- How long did Naomi, her sons, and their wives live in Moab?
- Why was it a big deal that Naomi was left without her husband and her two sons?
Pause and Record Observations
Up to this point we’ve looked at the setting, situation, and the problem.
Take a moment to reflect on these quesions.
What have we seen so far? What do we see in the text?
Based on what we see what do these first five verses mean? (Interpretation)
What application can we make for our lives? (Application)
- Why is the type of literature important when we read and study the Bible?
- In the past, how have you viewed the narrative portions of Scripture? Have you seen them as the outworking of God’s covenant?
- How do the five keys we learned in our previous lesson come into play in narrative?
- Narrative typically has multiple characters. Why is it important to keep in the front of our mind that God is the main character?