Author and Date
The author is unknown. Jewish tradition points to Samuel, but it is unlikely that he is the author because the mention of David ( ) implies a later date. Further, the literary style of Hebrew used in Ruth suggests that it was written during the period of the monarchy.
Theological Theme and Message
The importance of faithful love in human relationships among God's kingdom people is powerfully underscored. The author focuses on Ruth's unswerving and selfless devotion to desolate Naomi ( ; ; ; ) and on Boaz's kindness to these two widows (chs. Ruth 2 - Ruth 4). He presents striking examples of lives that embody in their daily affairs the self-giving love that fulfills God's law ( ). Such love also reflects God's love, in a marvelous joining of human and divine actions (compare with Ruth ). In God's benevolence such lives are blessed and are made a blessing.
It may seem surprising that one who reflects God's love so clearly is a Moabitess (see map). Yet her complete loyalty to the Israelite family into which she has been received by marriage and her total devotion to her desolate mother-in-law mark her as a true daughter of Israel and a worthy ancestress of David. She strikingly exemplifies the truth that participation in the coming kingdom of God is decided, not by blood and birth, but by the conformity of one's life to the will of God through the "obedience that comes from faith" ( ). Her place in the ancestry of David signifies that all nations will be represented in the kingdom of David's greater Son.
As an episode in the ancestry of David, the book of Ruth sheds light on his role in the history of redemption. Redemption is a key concept throughout the account; the Hebrew word in its various forms occurs 23 times. The book is primarily a story of Naomi's transformation from despair to happiness through the selfless, God-blessed acts of Ruth and Boaz. She moves from emptiness to fullness ; ; see notes on ; ; , from destitution ( ) to security and hope ( ). Similarly, Israel was transformed from national desperation at the death of Eli ( ) to peace and prosperity in the early days of Solomon ( ; ) through the selfless devotion of David, a true descendant of Ruth and Boaz. The author thus reminded Israel that the reign of the house of David, as the means of God's benevolent rule in Israel, held the prospect of God's promised peace and rest. But this rest would continue only so long as those who participated in the kingdom -- prince and people alike -- reflected in their daily lives the selfless love exemplified by Ruth and Boaz. In Jesus, the great "son of David" ( ), and his redemptive work, the promised blessings of the kingdom of God find their fulfillment.