Ruth and Naomi: Women of Faith
Summary: this lesson set includes the following workshops:
- Music/Movement: Sing and do dramatic movement to several songs related to the story.
- Art: Wheat art project.
- Drama: Act out the story.
- Games: Gathering Times Games each week before sessions begin.
- Cooking: Make Banana Muffins and Barley Soup – share with local missions groups
- Computer: Explore Amazing Bible expedition and Life Application Bible software. Write letters from Ruth to her home.
- Video: Watch the story on video (Ruth - Testament).
Note: Extra Activity: Take Barley soup and garden items to local soup kitchen.
Ruth, “The Story of Ruth” Little Kids’ Adventure Bible, pages 104-109
Memory Verse: “Where you go I’ll go. Where you stay I’ll stay. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God.” Ruth 1:16 (page 106, Little Kids’ Adventure Bible)
Friendship, loyalty, courage, love for those who are different? God loves everyone!
Objectives and Life Application:
- Children will locate the story in the Bible.
- Children will define Ruth as a book of history in the Old Testament.
- Children will retell the story in their own words.
- Children will locate the region of Moab and the city of Bethlehem on the map.
- Children will define: gleaning
- Children will identify the following characters in the story: Ruth, Naomi, Boaz, Obed.
- Children will recognize that Ruth was a member of the family tree of David and Jesus.
- Children will explain some of the Old Testament customs of gleaning, treatment of foreigners and kinsman redeemer.
- Children will recognize God’s love for everyone.
- Children will understand that God is with us and will use even difficult or bad situations to bring about good. (Romans 8:28 connection)
- Children will memorize Ruth 1:16.
Where, when and who?
The book of Ruth is found in the Old Testament in the books of history and is actually a historical short story. The author is unknown. The time of the story is believed by most scholars to be during the time of the judges, before kings ruled Israel. The book of Ruth was written to show that God wants everyone to love and care for one another and to live their lives in service and giving to others. It also addresses the issue of how Israel should relate to foreigners. Lastly, the book demonstrates the lineage of David and Jesus. Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David.
Ruth's best known verse
The book of Ruth is often seen as an inspiring story of friendship between Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth’s loyalty is commendable and her famous words “where you go, I will go…” are often repeated at weddings.
A Love Story
The book of Ruth is also often described as a love story. Certainly it is a love story between Ruth and Boaz, but it is also a love story of the many good people who love and care for each other. And perhaps most of all it is a love story about God. Through this story, God demonstrates his great love for all people, even the foreigner, something that was a different concept to the people of Israel at the time.
All things work together for good to those who love God
Alistair Begg, the Scottish Bible teacher, says that the book of Ruth should be studied with the template of Romans 8:28 over it at all times. “All things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” God is active in the world. He actively cares for people. God is behind all the good things that happen to us. “God is working for good even when the bad seems dominant” in our lives and our world.
The book of Ruth begins with a series of tragedies. Naomi and her husband Elimelech live in Bethlehem in the region of Judah. First we hear that a famine strikes the land. This is especially noteworthy, because Bethlehem means “House of Bread” and was known for its great provision. For a famine to strike Bethlehem is significant. Naomi and Elimelech travel to the region of Moab, on the southeastern side of the Dead Sea, seeking food. Now Moab was a pagan land, and much hated by Israel. In fact the Israelites had strict laws restricting intermarriage with foreigners and forbidding foreigners from participating fully in the Israelite community. Many Israelites believed God to be the God of Israel alone, and so foreigners were felt to be inferior and were rejected. But desperate for food, Naomi and Elimelech move to Moab.
There Elimelech dies leaving Naomi with her two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. The sons marry Moabite women and live in Moab for ten years, but then they too die leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah as widows.
Widows in these times were left with no means of support and were dependent upon their families to provide for them. Naomi decides she must return to Bethlehem in hopes that her family will help her. She is feeling totally lost and bereft. The name Naomi means “pleasant” or “agreeable,” but she now tells people to call her Mara which means “bitter.” She urges Ruth and Orpah to return to their families. Reluctantly, Orpah agrees, but Ruth insists that she will not leave Naomi. “Where you go I will go, where you stay, I will stay, your people will be my people, your God my God,” asserts Ruth. Ruth is willing to give up her family, her home, her faith to follow Naomi and to adopt her faith.
Ruth & Boaz
So Ruth and Naomi journey back to Bethlehem. Upon arriving, they create quite a stir. Naomi’s family is impressed with Ruth’s loyalty, and happy to see Naomi, but no one offers to take them in. Ruth is forced to go into the fields to glean for food. Fortunately, they have arrived at the time of the barley harvest (usually in late April). Ruth goes out to the field of Boaz and asks permission to glean. The concept of gleaning means to pick up any of the crops that were dropped during the harvest. Israelite law required all farmers to leave some grain in the fields for the poor. (see Deuteronomy 24:19-21) They were not permitted to do a second run at harvesting. Gleaning was a right for poor Israelites, but it did not extend to foreigners. Boaz demonstrates his kindness by allowing Ruth to glean in his fields. Boaz also shows extra kindness to Ruth, allowing her to eat and drink with his workers and making sure that she is safe while working. He gives Ruth extra grain to take home to Naomi.
The story seems to indicate that Boaz is attracted to Ruth from the beginning. Certainly he is exceedingly kind to her, despite the fact that she is a foreigner. Then the plot thickens as it turns out Boaz is a relative of Elimelech, Naomi’s late husband. Naomi decides to take action. She sets about a bit of match-making. Ruth must fix herself up and go to Boaz at night and ask for his protection as her kinsman redeemer.
Kinsman redeemers were common practices of the ancient Near East. Israelite law required that a widow without a son be cared for by the brother of her husband. He was required to marry her and provide her a son who would be credited to the line of the dead brother and receive his inheritance. This would continue the line of the dead brother and provide care for the widow. In Naomi’s case, the situation is stretched to include a relative (not a brother) of her husband. And Ruth is the one offered, rather than Naomi. Boaz was a close relative. He could be asked to be the kinsman redeemer for Ruth and Naomi.
So Ruth embarks on her night-time journey. What was she thinking and feeling as she approached the field? The end of the harvest was associated with fertility rites and celebration drinking in the pagan cultures and some of these activities seeped into Israelite culture. Certainly the threshing floor could be a wild and crazy place for a young single woman. Ruth waits until Boaz is asleep and then lies down at his feet, uncovering them. Boaz awoke to find Ruth at his feet. She asked that he “spread his skirt” over her, which was a request for Boaz to be her protector in marriage. “Spread your skirt” is translated as God’s wings, the place where one finds shelter. Boaz accepted this offer but noted that there was one kinsman who was a nearer relative than he. Boaz kept her in safety that night and sent her on her way with some extra grain as a sign of his promise early in the morning. Then Boaz made good on his word, approaching the other kinsman who declined the opportunity (glad that Boaz was willing) and so the other kinsman clinched the deal by removing his sandal and handing it to Boaz. This custom was the traditional way business deals were sealed, just as today we sign a contract.
Lineage from Ruth to Jesus
So Ruth and Boaz were married and soon had a son, Obed. This brought Naomi much joy and happiness in her old age. Obed became the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, who was in Jesus’ family line. This lineage is included in the last verses of the book.
In this story, we see how God uses the humble and the weak to accomplish his plan. Ruth, the alien widow, is lifted up as a loyal and true person who becomes an ancestress of the Messiah, the kinsman redeemer of the entire human race! Here in the Old Testament we see the promise that God’s plan is for all the people of the world, not just the people of Israel.
Definitions to know:
- Gleaning – the practice of picking up leftover grain from a field after harvesting, Israelite law required this to care for the poor
- Redeem – buy back, ransom, reclaim
- Kinsman Redeemer – a practice whereby a near relative married a widow, provided a son for her to continue to line and inheritance of the dead husband
Some possible Discussion Questions:
- Where were Naomi and her husband originally from? (Bethlehem)
- Why did they leave Bethlehem? (because of a famine)
- What does Bethlehem mean? (House of Bread)
- Where did the go? (Moab – show on map)
- Why did Naomi decide to leave Moab? (to return to her family in Bethlehem, because she had no means of support)
- How were widows supported in these times? (depended on the charity of friends and family – they had no way to support themselves – the kinsman redeemer practice)
- Ruth was willing to leave behind her family, her faith, her home. Why do you think Ruth decided to follow Naomi?
- How do you think Ruth felt about Naomi?
- What do you think it was like for Ruth to leave her family behind?
- Have you ever been away from your family? What was that like?
- How was Ruth a true friend to Naomi? What characteristics do you look for in a true friend?
- What kind of friend are you?
- How was God present with Ruth and Naomi in this story?
- Who was Boaz? (a relative of Naomi’s husband)
- Why was it so unusual for Boaz to be kind to Ruth in this story? (she was from Moab, a pagan land that the Israelites hated, she was a foreigner, he wasn’t required to help foreigners)
- What does God teach us about caring for others from this story? (God loves everyone, we should love and care for everyone, our differences don’t matter to God)
- How can we care for others as Boaz did?
- What do you think about the Israelite law of gleaning? Was that a good thing?
from First Presbyterian Church, Napa CA
This is an interesting comparison between the stories of Ruth and Jesus – especially good for the older kids).
- What does the word redeem mean? (buy back, ransom, reclaim)
- Who was the redeemer in the story of Ruth? (Boaz) Why? (He married Ruth and took care of her, gave her a home, saved her from a bad life)
Let’s compare the story of Ruth with Jesus. Teacher read the things Boaz did and kids try to think of a comparison of what Jesus did for us (read in a back and forth format).
SAY: Ruth perfumed herself in preparation to meet her Redeemer.
ASK: What is the comparison to Jesus?
(We should be a sweet fragrant offering to Jesus.)
RUTH: told Boaz she would be his servant
US: Jesus wants us to be servants for him
BOAZ: went to the city gates and interceded on behalf of Ruth. He bought and paid for her redemption.
JESUS: Our Savior left heaven. He bought and paid for our redemption. Daily he intercedes on our behalf before God
BOAZ: Told Ruth not to be afraid that he would take care of her.
JESUS; Tells us not to be afraid because he takes care of us.
BOAZ: had to overcome obstacles to marry Ruth
JESUS: overcame all obstacles, even death to be our Redeemer
RUTH: a foreigner, but Boaz accepted her
US: we were lost but Jesus found us and adopted us into his family
Boaz and Ruth: blessed with a child. The child redeemed Naomi from being a poor, lonely widow
Later in that same family lineage another Child is born who will redeem all who receive him – Jesus!
- Ferguson, Barbara. Cokesbury Bible Commentary (Joshua, Judges and Ruth). Nashville: Graded Press, 1988.
- Rust, Eric C. The Layman’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 6 (The Book of Judges, The Book of Ruth, The first and Second Books of Samuel). Richmond: John Knox Press, 1969.
- Alistair Begg, The Billy Graham Training Center – “The Book of Ruth,” seminar, 2002.
- The Children’s Illustrated Bible, by Selina Hastings, DK Publishing
- The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories by Mary Batchelor, Lion Publishing
We used the following bibles with the children, special notes used in lessons from each bible is listed below:
NIrV: Adventure Bible for Young Readers
- Words to Treasure: Memory verse (page 312)
- Let’s Live it: Choose Friends Wisely (page 313)
- People In bible Times: Ruth and Naomi (page 313 and 314)
- Life in Bible Times: Taking off a Sandal (page 315)
- Let’s Live It: Rich Rewards (page 316)
Little Kids’ Adventure Bible
- People in Bible Times: Naomi and Ruth( page 105)
- Let’s Live It: Choose Friends Wisely (page 106)
- Words to Treaure: Our memory verse (page 106)
[September 18, 2013 Volunteer Moderator changed reference of shoe removal to be that of kinsmen not Boaz.]
A lesson written by Jaymie Derden from: State Street UMC
This lesson created and copyrighted by State Street UMC, Bristol, VA, 2004. Permission granted for non-commercial, local church use, provided credit is give to the source.
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