Composed by Catherine McMichael (b. 1954)
“And Ruth said, ‘Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.’” —Ruth 1:16-17
These words have been spoken at countless wedding ceremonies, but in actual fact were spoken by a young Moabite woman to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi had lost not only her husband in Moab, but also her two sons. There was famine in the land, and Naomi had decided to leave and return to her home in Judah, in hopes that there might be food, and perhaps shelter with kin. She told her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to return to their mothers’ houses, to find rest and perhaps eventually another husband. Orpah did return to her home, but Ruth was steadfastly determined to go to Bethlehem with Naomi. The two women travelled together back to the land of Judah.
When they arrived in Bethlehem, hungry, homeless and destitute, Ruth gleaned Boaz’s fields for food for herself and her mother-in-law. Boaz was impressed with Ruth’s devotion and care of Naomi and invited her to eat with him, admonished his field workers not to harass her as she gleaned, and sent extra food home with Ruth to sustain both women. Ruth learned that Boaz was actually kin of Naomi. He was kind to both women, and eventually married Ruth. They had a child, whose name was Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, who became Israel’s great king after Saul.
Ruth’s devotion to Naomi could be seen as God’s handiwork, ensuring the line of David, into which Jesus was born. Some also interpret the book as a symbol of God’s devotion and unshakeable loyalty to mankind.