13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. 18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
In 1962, Roald Dahl, the beloved author of works like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach, published a short story entitled “Genesis and Catastrophe: A True Story.” The story begins with the delivery of a baby boy in an inn some years ago. The doctor seeks to comfort the wife with the news that she has had a boy and that the baby is perfectly healthy. The mother, however, is worried, for, as she explains to the doctor, she had lost three children already and was fearful she would lose this one as well. The doctor assured her that such a thing would not happen in this case, that the baby was perfectly healthy if somewhat small. After some moments, Dahl describes the husband coming into the inn where his wife has just delivered.
Slowly, the mother turned her head and looked at the small, incredibly serene face that lay on the pillow beside her.
“Is this my baby?”
“Oh…, oh…but he is beautiful.”
The doctor turned away and went over to the table and began putting his things into his bag. The mother lay on the bed gazing at the child and smiling and touching him and making little noises of pleasure. “Hello, Adolfus,” she whispered. “Hello, my little Adolf.”
“Ssshh!” said the innkeeper’s wife. “Listen! I think your husband is coming.”
The doctor walked over to the door and opened it and looked out into the corridor.
“Come in, please.”
A small man in a dark-green uniform stepped softly into the room and looked
“Congratulations,” the doctor said. “You have a son.”
The story ends with the woman repeating her deep desire for her newborn son to live after her rather callous husband expressed real pessimism about that prospect.
The doctor walked over to the husband and put a hand on his shoulder. “Be good to her,” he whispered. “Please. It is very important.” Then he squeezed the husband’s shoulder hard and began pushing him forward surreptitiously to the edge of the bed. The husband hesitated. The doctor squeezed harder, signaling to him urgently through fingers and thumb. At last, reluctantly, the husband bent down and kissed his wife lightly on the cheek.
“All right, Klara,” he said. “Now stop crying.”
“I have prayed so hard that he will live, Alois.”
“Every day for months I have gone to the church and begged on my knees that
this one will be allowed to live.”
“Yes, Klara, I know.”
“Three dead children is all that I can stand, don’t you realize that?”
“He must live, Alois. He must, he must. . . Oh God, be merciful unto him now…”
And thus the story ends. It is a jarring story. It is jarring, I think, because it ends with the birth of a baby that we the readers know will go on to become one of the most evil men in human history. It ends with a note of dread, bad news for mankind, and despair, to such an extend that the reader is forced to contemplate how much agony might have been spared the world had the baby Adolf Hitler not survived. That is the genius and troubling nature of this memorable little story.
What strikes me about Dahl’s story is that is takes the reader on the exact opposite emotional journey than the book of Ruth does. Dahl’s story begins with good news then ends with very bad news surrounding a baby who has been born. The book of Ruth begins with bad news and ends with good news surrounding a baby who has been born. Mark Dever says of Ruth, “The book starts very down, and ends very up.” Dahl’s story descends into despair. The book of Ruth consistently ascends into joy. The stories have certain surface similarities, but the ultimate contrasts could not possibly be starker.
We now reach the apex of joy in the book of Ruth, the triumphal of glorious conclusion toward which we have been climbing all along. Ruth’s transformation is now complete: she has become Boaz’s wife and now bears him a son. “In ‘becoming [Boaz’s] wife,’” writes Daniel Block, “Ruth’s social progression is completed. She had graduated from the status of nokriyya, ‘foreigner’ (2:10), to sipha, ‘lowest servant’ (2:13), to ‘ama, ‘maidservant’ (3:9), and now to ‘issa, ‘wife.’” Naomi’s transformation is now complete: she has passed from bitterness to great joy. Even Boaz has had a kind of transformation: he has passed from being an older man struck by the beauty and character of mysterious Ruth to now being Ruth’s redeemer and husband.
There are many transformations in this book, and all of them are related in some way to this birth of this child here in text.
A child is born who brings hope to a people in need.
The little boy who is born at the end of Ruth is a child who brings hope to a people in need. The description of Ruth’s entry into the world is told quickly, but these few verses are rich with meaning.
13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse.
There are numerous clues in our text to suggest that this baby was special and that he would play a part in God’s great plan of redemption. Consider:
- He was a baby who was a gift from God. (“the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son”)
While Ruth is never called “barren” in the book of Ruth, we do note in chapter 1 that after many years of marriage she did not have any children.
3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
At that time this likely would have been marked by the public as a less than positive sign. After years of marriage to Mahlon, Ruth did not have a child, but in quick succession she married and bore a son to Boaz. We also note the author’s language, “the Lord gave her conception.”
Why she did not have a child with Mahlon is really not the point. The point is the contrast in the two unions: Mahlon and Ruth produce no children after many years. Boaz and Ruth produce a son quickly. Thus, again, regardless of the question of barrenness, Ruth takes her place along the other Old Testament matriarchs who initially were unable to have children but who then were blessed by God to do so: Sarah (Genesis 11:30), Rebekah (Genesis 25:21), Rachel (Genesis 29:30), Hannah (1 Samuel 1:2), and Samson’s mother (Judges 13:2).
- He was a baby who would provide for Naomi. (“Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer.”)
This baby, then, was the tangible evidence that God had not abandoned Naomi. This baby was the reason why Naomi could now pass from despair to joy!
- He was a baby who would be significant for the future of Israel. (“and may his name be renowned in Israel”)
Furthermore, this child was to have national significance. His importance transcended the merely local. Perhaps the women meant this as merely a blessing, the kind of thing they might say over any child. Even so, their words meant more than they likely realized. This child would indeed go on to have national significance.
- He was a baby who would bring restoration and nourishment. (“He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age”)
In a certain sense, this child was also the difference between life and death for Naomi. When she returned to Bethlehem from Moab, her prospects were bleak to say the least. Being a destitute widow with a tag-along foreign daughter-in-law at this time in history was not ideal. But now, through this baby, the line and name of Elimelech would continue and she, Naomi, would have someone to care for her in her old age.
We see, then, that on the bottom level of the story a child has been born who changed everything. Simply his birth gave hope and life and encouragement. Beyond that, he would go on to play a significant role in the life of Israel.
A child is born who points to a greater One to come.
On the upper level of the story, the level of salvation history, this child pointed to a greater One to come. This is most evident in the provided genealogy.
17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. 18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
Katherine Doob Sakenfeld has offered some interesting insights on the structure of ancient genealogies that come to bear on our interpretation of this text.
The seventh position in a genealogical list is often significant in ancient Near Eastern tradition, being reserved for an ancestor due special honor; here the name of Boaz is in the seventh position. The tenth slot, here given to David, may also be a numerical indication of special honor…[I]t seems likely that the genealogy was designed deliberately to place Boaz and David in their numerical positions, and so to draw the readers’ attention to the upright behavior of Boaz, the central male figure of the story, as well as to the significance of the story itself as a part of King David’s heritage.
The high points of the genealogy provided are therefore Boaz and David. This is understandable for the fact that Boaz was David’s great-grandfather is the great reveal of Ruth. That is, the stage was hereby set for David to come. But the stage being set for King David meant also that the stage was set for a greater King than David. This King was oftentimes referred to by David’s name. Consider.
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”
22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?”
22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”
30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”
9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.”
Son of David! Son of David! The book of Ruth, then, establishes the preface: Boaz the great-grandfather of David. Then revelation unfolds until we come to the New Testament and see the even bigger reveal: Jesus the “son of David.” This title meant that Jesus came in the Davidic line, that He was indeed the King above the king, the true champion of Israel. All the story of Ruth, then, is the establishment of the lineage out of which the true King would come: Jesus!
Church, we must begin to develop a longer memory. Do you see that the story of Ruth is the story of Jesus is the story of us? Do you see that what happened way back there in Bethlehem, then Moab, then back in Bethlehem has a direct causal relationship to what is happening now in North Little Rock, Arkansas? Why? Because it was here that David’s great grandmother gave birth to David’s grandfather Obed, from whom Jesse came, from whom David came, from whom, eventually, in human terms anyway, Jesus the son of Mary came! This point is emphasized again in the very beginning of the book of Matthew.
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.
Do you see? Through David’s lineage Jesus, begotten by the Holy Spirit, comes into the world through the Virgin Mary…and you and I, through Jesus, are grafted into the amazing and unlikely story of God’s salvation of a people! We are here, because Ruth was there…and Ruth was there because the Author of the story knows what He is writing! And here is the beauty of it: the Author of this story is also the Author of your story and He has made a way for you to come home, for you to join the amazing unfolding story of His love for His people.
You join that story by joining yourself to Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Let all who weary and bitter and tired and broken and rebellious and wayward and grieving and rejoicing come! Let us all come to the King of Kings! He will not turn us away.
 Mark Dever, The Message of the Old Testament. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), p.241.
 Daniel I. Block, Judges, Ruth. The New American Commentary. Vol. 6. Gen. Ed., E. Ray Clendenen. (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1999), p.725.
 Old Testament professor Dr. Claude Mariottini has written an interesting post entitled “Was Ruth Barren?” that is worth considering. https://claudemariottini.com/2010/05/12/was-ruth-barren/
 Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, Ruth. Interpretation. (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1999), p.85.