Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Book of Ruth

Go To

"For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God."
Ruth 1:16

A short story set in the time of the Book of Judges, detailing how Ruth, a Moabite widow, finds a new husband. That new husband, as it turns out, is a relative of her mother-in-law Naomi's husband, and part of the lineage that would produce King David (and, according to Christians, the Messiah and Savior Jesus Christ).


Structure of the book:

  • Naomi loses her husband and sons and returns to Judah with Ruth (Ruth chapter 1)
  • Ruth finds work reaping the fields of Boaz (Ruth chapter 2)
  • Boaz's nightly encounter with Ruth (Ruth chapter 3)
  • Boaz marries Ruth and the rest of the story (Ruth chapter 4)

"For your tropes shall be my tropes":

  • Adaptation Expansion: The 1960 Hollywood version briefly shoehorns the basic elements of the Bible account into a new tale of espionage, child sacrifice, and escape from slavery.
  • Babies Ever After: The ending. And these are some pretty important babies too, since Ruth is the ancestor of David, and subsequently, an ancestor of Jesus.
  • Batman Gambit: How Boaz ensures he'll marry Ruth, and not the nearer kinsman redeemer. When bringing up the topic with him, Boaz mentions only the land to be reclaimed, and leaves out the detail about also marrying Ruth until the other redeemer agrees. Once the man hears about the sudden marriage detail, he promptly backs out for fear of endangering the ownership of his property.
  • Advertisement:
  • Best Friends-in-Law: Naomi and Ruth are incredibly close.
  • Breather Episode: In the Christian Old Testament, the Book of Ruth, a short fluffy love story, is tucked in between the Book of Judges and Books of Samuel, both rather lengthy tales detailing the violent wars between Israel and its enemies and the slow descent into wickedness of the Israelites. Not so in the Jewish Tanakh, however, as Ruth is in a different section of the Bible alongside other literary books, between the Song of Songs and the Book of Lamentations.
  • Broken Bird: Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law. When moving back to Israel, she tells the other women to not call her Naomi (meaning "pleasant") but Mara (meaning "bitter".) Luckily, her spirit recovers after Ruth's marriage and her gaining a grandson.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: It's only at the end of her story do we find out Ruth's significance; she's David's great-grandmother. And thus for Christians, the ancestor of Jesus.
  • Advertisement:
  • Converting for Love: With a twist. After Ruth's husband dies her mother-in-law, Naomi, advises her and Orpah to return to their old homes and religion. Ruth, however, stays out of loyalty to Naomi. In real life, Ruth's story has been used as a precedent for Jewish converts, particularly, the idea that someone can become a good Jew even if he wasn't born one (as Ruth, despite hailing from a nation long considered Israel's archenemy, became an ancestor to Israel's greatest king).
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Ruth and Naomi; Ruth even abandons her family and homeland to stay with her mother-in-law.
  • Hope Spot: A mostly bright and heartwarming tale, especially when contrasted with the violent and bleak Book of Judges.
  • Loophole Abuse: There's another relative who's more legally eligible to marry Ruth than Boaz is, and is keen to acquire the property that would come with the marriage. Boaz figures out a way around this by persuading him it would be bad for his estate.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Averted (maybe). Despite laws about intermarriage, there is no explicit critique about either Chilion (Naomi's son) or Boaz marrying Ruth. However, in Chilion’s case, he dies, which some interpret as punishment for both leaving Israel and marrying a Moabite. In Boaz’s case, Ruth adopts the Israelite religion, so this is less of a problem.
  • The Matchmaker: Naomi schemes to get Ruth and Boaz together.
  • Mandatory Fatherhood: Boaz, one of Naomi's husband's relatives, was to be the man who would, by the Mosaic Law of levirate marriage (that is, Deuteronomy 25:5-6), be the one who would marry his relative's widow so that he would raise up a son for her dead husband — or so Naomi and Ruth had hoped, until Boaz revealed that there was a relative much closer in relation to Naomi than he, and that he was next in line to him. In chapter 4, when he gets this relative before witnesses to see if he would agree to acquire Ruth as his wife, the relative backs out, citing that it would damage his own inheritance, and thus pulls off his own sandal as an attestation that he was relinquishing the right to marry Ruth to Boaz. Boaz then marries Ruth and fathers a child with her, who becomes part of the lineage of King David.
  • Matzo Fever: Ruth's first and second husbands are both Israelites. Orpah was also married to an Israelite, though she returned back to her religion after he died.
  • May–December Romance: Boaz was much older than Ruth, and says as much. This does not deter her.
  • Meaningful Rename: After Naomi's husband and sons die, she tells her friends to call her "Mara," meaning "bitterness."
  • Nice Jewish Boy: Although Boaz is well older than Ruth, it's implied in the Bible that he didn't ask after women until she showed up working the fields for her kinswoman. Hearing how she's taking care of her mother-in-law Naomi, Boaz sets aside a portion of the best grain for her take home and lets her sit with his table during meals (as a foreign-born, she normally wouldn't have been allowed in those days).
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Inverted, quite famously. Ruth and Naomi get along swimmingly, even after Naomi's son has died. Averted, also, with Orpah, who got on well with Naomi and Ruth, and clearly was torn between leaving and staying.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Naomi loses both of her sons just in the first chapter alone.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: Ruth, which reads like a domestic drama, is set in the action-packed Crapsack World times of Judges.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Boaz had something of a legal obligation to marry Ruth, but there's little doubt they were genuinely in love.
  • Present Absence: In the Christian Old Testament, this is the first book where God takes no explicit actions or directly communicates with any of the people. Nevertheless, God is referenced by Ruth and Boaz, and the closing genealogy suggests to some God’s ultimate control over events.
  • Quote Mine: The familiar verse "Where you go I will go..." is sometimes quoted in marriage services. It does sound very romantic out of context, but in context Ruth is saying it to her mother-in-law. They did evidently have a very close relationship, but (probably?) not that close.
  • Rescue Romance: Boaz catches Ruth's eye by helping save her and Naomi from starving through his generosity.
  • Romancing the Widow: Boaz to Ruth, although Ruth (with Naomi's collusion) did a fair bit of the romancing herself.
  • Romantic False Lead: There's another family member of the tribe that's technically more qualified to marry Ruth and carry on the Levirate duties (i.e., first child born belongs to the family line of the dead husband, not to new hubby), but he backs out of the obligation.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Boaz going above and beyond the laws of generosity is one of his good points.
  • Second Love: Ruth's first husband dies early in the book, and is barely mentioned afterward. Only one verse even tells us specifically which one of Naomi's sons he was (it was Mahlon).
  • Sequel Hook: The genealogy at the end connects this story to the Davidic kingship.
  • Shipper on Deck: Naomi for Ruth/Boaz—she's even the one who teaches Ruth what to do and say to get Boaz to agree to cementing the 'ship.
  • Tomato Surprise: Ruth, a foreign born woman, is the great-grandmother of David, Israel's greatest king.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Naomi goes through this in the first chapter: forced to flee Israel because of famine, her husband dies, and then both her sons die. Naomi lampshades this by renaming herself “Mara,” meaning “bitterness.”

Alternative Title(s): Ruth