REQUEST: What does Ruth represent spiritually? Why was it included in the Bible? Thank you so much for your interpretation and thoughts.
RESPONSE: The Book of Ruth is one of the most powerful and beautiful love stories in all of Scripture. It is an apparently simple folk tale lifted to great heights by an unknown author with a very sophisticated command of the Hebrew language. Although it is set in an early time – "in the days when the judges ruled" (Ruth 1:1) – scholars believe it was written much later, in the 5th century BCE, when the issue of marriage between Israelites and non-Israelites had become very controversial. Ezra, in particular, was adamant that the Jews returning from Babylonian exile had to rigidly separate themselves from all other tribes and peoples. He even wanted existing marriages to be voided if one party was not an Israelite.
The Book of Ruth is not a political diatribe, of course. It's a short, gentle story – but it very powerfully argues against the new marriage rules. The author emphasizes at every opportunity that Ruth is not an Israelite – she is a Moabite, an outsider. But through the innate love in her heart, and her willingness to be of service, she is clearly a woman deeply centered in her spiritual purpose. And she not only marries the Israelite Boaz; she becomes the great-grandmother of King David himself (and, if we carry the genealogy into the New Testament, a direct ancestress of Jesus).
Ruth thus demonstrates a spiritual truth that Jesus taught frequently. Our relationship to God is a deeply personal matter. It cannot be defined simply by a group we may belong to, or a creed to which we pay lip service. It's all about what we know to be true in our hearts, and the choices we make to bring that truth into expression. Ruth never worried about belonging or not belonging. She was centered in love, she made choices from love, and she became an essential part of the flow of love that brings the Christ into expression.