Growing up, my parents used to read us biblical stories. One of the stories that I have loved to date is the story of Ruth and Naomi. I love this story because I am always big on loyalty. However, Ruth’s loyalty and virtuous nature still blow my mind away every time I read or discuss the book of Ruth. And just how God turned her life around when she thought her story was done amazes me. Though I love this story, I have never been keen enough to internalize it and understand what the character Ruth symbolizes in the Bible. Today, I seek to understand Ruth’s symbolism and meaning. So, what does Ruth symbolize in the Bible?
Though the scripture does not explicitly assign symbolism to Ruth, her life and story reflects loyalty and restoration. After her husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law died, Ruth left her mother and homeland to go with her mother-in-law Naomi to an unknown land. She felt compassion towards Naomi and decided to go with her to take care of her. They settled in Judah, where Ruth worked hard to feed herself and her mother-in-law. She later found favor and got married to Boaz, with whom King David came from their lineage (Ruth 4:7). Christians speculate that this story is a perfect symbolism of God’s redemptive work.
I invite you to join me as we take a deeper look at what Ruth symbolizes in the Bible. I will also discuss what the name Ruth means, what the Bible says about Ruth, and what we can learn from Ruth. Keep reading to learn more.
What does the name Ruth mean?
The name Ruth is of Hebrew origin, and it means “compassionate” or “friend.” It is derived from the Hebrew word “result,” which means “companion” or “friendship.” Ruth is also associated with qualities such as loyalty, kindness, and devotion. These qualities are derived from the biblical character Ruth. Ruth is a significant figure who demonstrates unwavering dedication to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and is admired for her virtuous character.
What does the Bible say about Ruth?
The Bible shares a beautiful encounter with this remarkable woman Ruth. She was a Moabite whole lived during the times of the judges, and she got married to an Israelite while living in Moab. However, according to the Bible, as accounted in the book of Ruth, things were not smooth for Ruth as her husband, father-in-law, and brother to the husband died (Ruth 1). These events put Ruth in a dilemma as she had to choose between going with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to a land she does not know or staying in her home in Moab.
Ruth demonstrated outstanding loyalty and compassion to her mother-in-law and decided to go with her. However, Ruth’s sister-in-law, Oprah, chose to stay in Moab with her people. Ruth, however, told Naomi where she goes, she will go, hence the great loyalty she is known for (Ruth 1:6).
Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi traveled to the city of Bethlehem in Judah, where they decided to live. Even while there, the testimony of Ruth spread, and many were amazed at her moral and loyal nature. Ruth found work in Boaz’s (who owned a field near where Ruth and Naomi settled) field and worked hard to feed her and Naomi. Boaz inquired about her, and one of his servants told him about her hard work in the field and her faithfulness to Naomi. In Ruth 2:8-9, Boaz personally advised Ruth, like his daughter, to stay close to the women in the field, and told her that he had warned other young men from coming near her. In verses 11-12 of Ruth chapter 2, Boaz blessed her for leaving her motherland and homeland to go and settle with a people she knew nothing about because of the compassion she had towards Naomi.
Boaz was highly generous to Ruth, and Ruth went ahead to tell her mother-in-law. Naomi was quite happy to learn about Boaz and said to her that he was a close relative to them. In Israel custom, when your husband dies, his brother is to inherit you as his wife. However, for Ruth, she had no one to inherit her as her husband’s only brother had died too. Therefore, Boaz being a close relative and kinsman of Elimelech (Naomi’s husband), was qualified to marry Ruth (be her kinsman-redeemer).
Naomi asked Ruth to approach Boaz and request him to be her redeemer. Ruth had a teachable spirit and was quite open-minded, and thus did as her mother-in-law advised her (Ruth 3:2-5). Boaz ended up marrying Ruth, and they had a son called Obed. God blessed them with a grandson named Jesse, and a great-grandson, David, who became the King of Israel (Ruth 4:7). Ruth is an excellent example of letting God take charge of your life.
What does Ruth symbolize in the Bible?
Though the Bible does not explicitly assign symbolism to the name or person Ruth, through her story and life, we can derive several symbolisms that she can be associated with. Below are some;
Loyalty: Ruth expressed unwavering loyalty and commitment to her mother-in-law, Naomi. She was faithful and was willing to dedicate her life to be with her. She chose to stay with her mother in her homeland but instead followed her mother-in-law Naomi to a land she knew no one. She worked hard to provide food for her and her mother-in-law. Her character and loyalty to Naomi serve as an example of steadfastness and devotion.
Inclusion: Ruth, as a Moabite, was an outsider in Israelite society. Her acceptance into the community and her eventual marriage to Boaz highlight the theme of inclusion and acceptance of foreigners. Ruth’s story emphasizes that God’s grace extends beyond national boundaries and that anyone who seeks Him can find acceptance and belonging.
God’s providence: The story of Ruth illustrates the concept of divine providence and redemption. Despite Ruth’s difficult circumstances as a widow and a foreigner, God guided her path and orchestrated events that led to her marriage with Boaz. Through Boaz’s act of redemption, Ruth found security, provision, and a place within the covenant community. This redemption is a metaphor for God’s redemptive work in the lives of His people.
Restoration: Ruth’s significance extends beyond her personal story. Not only did God provide for her and Naomi, her marriage with Boaz ultimately led to her lineage being blessed with King David.
5 symbolic meanings of the Book of Ruth
Just as for the name Ruth, the Bible does not also assign any symbolic meaning to the book of Ruth. However, through Ruth’s story that is accounted in the book of Ruth, we can derive some symbolic meanings for the book. The following are just but a few;
- Symbol of hope: The Book of Ruth serves as a symbol of hope amidst challenging circumstances. Ruth’s story begins with loss and hardship but ultimately reveals how God’s providence and redemption can transform lives. It emphasizes that even in times of despair, there is hope for a brighter future.
- Symbol of God’s covenant faithfulness: The relationship between Ruth and Boaz highlights God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises. Through the preservation of the family lineage and the eventual birth of King David, God demonstrates His faithfulness to His chosen people. The book symbolizes God’s unwavering commitment to His covenant and His faithfulness in fulfilling His promises.
- Grace: The book of Ruth can also be associated with God’s grace towards His people. In Ruth’s story, she received blessings and favors that she did not work hard to get. Despite being a Moabite, God blessed her and restored her, and gave honor to her name once again. This symbolizes God’s grace that we get free without working for.
- Symbol of inclusion: Ruth’s status as a foreigner and her acceptance into the Israelite community symbolizes the theme of inclusion and unity. Despite being from different backgrounds, Ruth and Boaz’s marriage illustrates the breaking down of cultural barriers and the unifying power of love, reflecting God’s desire for His people to be united as one.
- Symbol of redemption: The book portrays Ruth’s journey from widowhood and destitution to redemption and restoration. Boaz’s act of redeeming Ruth and Naomi’s family line serves as a symbol of God’s redemptive work in the lives of His people. It represents the restoration of what was lost and the renewal of hope, pointing toward the ultimate redemption found in Jesus Christ.
4 Lessons Christians can learn from Ruth
Christians can gain valuable lessons from Ruth and how she lived her life. Some of the remarkable lessons we can learn from Ruth’s story include the following;
Be willing to let go of your past
One of the remarkable things Ruth did was being brave enough not to let her past hold her back. Ruth left everything that felt familiar to her and moved to a land she knew no one. This was definitely not an easy decision for her because she had also lost her husband, father-in-law, and also a brother in law. However, she did not leave her past to define her or sit in it because it was familiar. Ruth had the courage to dare, and she moved with Naomi and allowed God to write a completely different story about her life. She had many reasons to live in obscurity and shrink, but she did not allow any of this to hold her back.
Have unwavering faith
Another important lesson that we should pick from Ruth’s story is that it is essential to hold onto faith. Even in the midst of challenges and where everything seemed impossible, Ruth had faith to forge ahead and believed God would provide for her and Naomi. Therefore, as Christians, you might not be able to understand what is going on in your life now but trust in God even when nothing makes sense, for he is working for your good.
Have a solid and great character
Ruth was a virtuous woman with a noble character. She exemplified nobleness, kindness, and a determined spirit even when no one was watching her. She had no idea that her testimony was spreading around. She respected and honored her mother-in-law and worked hard to provide for her and Naomi. Boaz noticed her integrity, and God used this opportunity to restore her. Therefore, as Christians, integrity and character are things that we should uphold.
Blindly believe in God’s redemption
Just as God turned Ruth’s story upside down, He is able to turn yours. As Christians, the story of Ruth should teach us that even if all the odds seem to be against us, God has the power, and He is faithful enough to do the impossible in our lives. He is a miraculous God, and all we have to do is walk blindly in faith and believe in His redemption. It does not matter who you are and where you are; God can still use you.
Why was Ruth important in the Bible?
Ruth was important in the Bible as her story illustrates the redemptive work of God. Ruth made a hard decision to go with her mother-in-law to a land she knew no one and to start a new life. Her story portrays redemption and sacrificial love despite many odds being against her. Ruth’s unwavering commitment to go with her mother-in-law Naomi displays a beautiful image of Christian conversion. Just like Ruth left separated from her past life and went to a new land with Naomi to start a new life, that is who becoming a follower of Christ is. It involves making a pivotal decision to break from your past habits and be a new being in God.
And just like God worked His way through Ruth and redeemed and restored her, we get that when we decide to follow Jesus Christ. By leaving her homeland, Ruth renounced her Moabite citizenship to join a new Kingdom. Similarly, following Christ requires us to denounce the Kingdom of darkness and join the Kingdom of light. Ruth completely denied her people. The scripture even says that she clung to Naomi (Ruth 1:4). Therefore, her story is important and quite significant in illustrating God’s work in our life (redemption and restoration).
What is the spiritual meaning of Ruth?
The spiritual meaning of Ruth can vary depending on cultural and religious contexts. In the Bible, the story of Ruth spiritually symbolizes virtues like faith, loyalty, compassion, and selflessness. Ruth’s story is associated with the importance of making choices based on love and kindness, even in challenging circumstances. Ruth’s commitment to Naomi and her willingness to embrace Naomi’s people and faith can be interpreted as acts of profound devotion and righteousness.
Furthermore, the story of Ruth is also associated with divine providence, as she is rewarded for her faithfulness and finds favor with God. This is a reminder that acts of kindness and virtue can lead to blessings and a positive spiritual outcome. In addition to the biblical narrative, Ruth is also associated with perseverance, resilience, and the ability to overcome adversity.
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.