The significance of our book lies in its aims. One of its aims is to demonstrate that true faith and love is valid before God without respect of race, and that therefore believing Ruth, though a Moabitess, was accepted of God and His people. Thus our book is a plainest commentary on the words of the apostle atthat “he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God”. In the Old Dispensation the Jews were not God’s people, but God’s people were Jews and the Ruths and the Rahabs, in a word, as many of the heathen as it pleased God to transport out of the (darkness of heathendom into the light of His Kingdom. Though there is no ground in Scripture for saying that their number was large, yet they were there. And the law made provision for them. So at , “And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover of the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is home born, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.” The coming to the light on the part of these “strangers” was pre-indicative of the calling of the Gentiles in fulfillment of the promise of God to Abraham that in him are blessed all the families of the earth. The evidence that Ruth was truly (converted to God abounds. The love which she portrayed was genuine. It was the reflection of the love of God shed abroad in her heart by Christ’s Father. And the tie that binded her to Naomi was spiritual. And her faith was richly rewarded. Boaz fulfilled to her the law of Israel, and married her. And from her sprang the son, of whom David, king of Israel, was the grandson. God blessed her in superabundant measure because she confessed His name in love. But the aim of the book is not to glorify David’s great Son, the Christ of God. For how could His descent from one such as she—a heathen apart from God’s grace—redound to His praise. But the fact of Christ’s descent from her approves the faith by which she acted.
It is possible to determine, approximately at least, the time in which the book can have been written. It is not likely that the book was written after Solomon. At Solomon is rebuked for having married many wives of Moab, Ammon, Edom, Zidon, and Heth, “nations concerning which Jehovah said to the sons of Israel, ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in to you.” To Rehoboam’s dishonor the sacred narrator relates that his mother Naamah was an Ammonitess (). It was, doubtless to accentuate the depravity of the heathen that the Book of Chronicles, , informs us that one of the murderers of king Joash was the son of a Moabitess and that the other sprang from an Ammonitess. Ezra says (), “Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives;” and he wrote down the names of those whom he commanded to separate from their wives. Nehemiah (ff) adhered strictly to the law that “no Ammonite or Moabite should come into the congregation of God forever.” It is said that these negations of the heathen refute the view that the book of Ruth, written in praise of a Moabitess who did enter the congregation of God, was perhaps composed after the time of Solomon, or during the exile, or when the spirit of Ezra or Nehemiah was in the ascendant. But the fact is that these negations do not refute this view. As far as these negations are concerned, the book might have been written after Solomon. Ezra and Nehemiah, certainly, were as ready to receive a truly converted heathen as were the believers who accepted Ruth. Ezra and Nehemiah were not bigoted Jews, but true servants of God who knew that turning away a heathen who truly wanted Israel’s God was as contrary to the law as admitting a heathen who clave to his idols. Yet everything is against the view according to which the book of Ruth was written after Solomon. The primary author of the Scriptures is the Spirit of God. Why should He have brought our book into being many centuries after the events which it narrates took place? The book contains valuable instruction for God’s people. If so, why should the Spirit have waited so long a time in giving this book to the church- Thus in all likelihood the book was written shortly after Ruth’s decease, perhaps during the time of David. The book itself suggests that it may have been written by David. We call attention to the following. David was not only a warrior king, who fought Jehovah’s wars but also a prophet. He was one of those holy men through whom God prepared for the church the infallible Scriptures. From the very beginning of his public career he displays the faith of a true Israelite. Yet he was distrusted by Saul, who drove him into exile. It is a noteworthy thing that, in his hours of distress, he had many heathen as his benefactors. With a view to placing his kin beyond the reach of Saul, and doubtless mindful of the fact that his great-grandmother was a Moabitess, he went to the (king of Moab and said, “Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth and be with you, till I know what God! will do with me” (). Accordingly he leads his father and mother thither. And they remained in Moab until David received the kingdom. At a later time, he remembers the kindness that the king of Ammon had shown him ( ). While he was hiding in the cave of Adullam, many warlike people attached themselves to him, from whom he recruited his “mighty men” and later his bodyguard. Their names Kerethi and Pelethi ( ) indicate that they were foreigners. He dwelt a long time in the Philistine city of Gath ( ); there, too, bands of brave men collected about him, and they were for him in his last great distress, brought on by Absalom ( ). Uriah, who fell by David’s sword, was a distinguished person in Israel. And he was a Hittite or descendant of Heth ( ). The warriors of David included other foreigners. There was an Ammonite named Zelek ( ). It was in the house of a Gittite, that is, a man from Gath, that David placed the ark. In the hour of Absalom’s revolt, it was foreigners who remained true to him. An Ammonite provided him with provisions in his flight ( ). Hushai the Archite (of Arke, in Phoenicia) did him well by destroying the counsel of the traitor Ahithofel ( ). Remarkable was the faithfulness of Ittai, the main of Gath. David said to him ( ff): “Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king, for thou art a stranger, and also an exile. Whereas thou earnest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may; return thou and take back thy brethren; mercy and truth be with thee.” David here speaks like Naomi. The answer of Ittai shows that he, like Ruth, had come to trust under the wing of Israel’s God. “As Jehovah liveth, and as the lord my king liveth, surely in what place the lord my king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also ‘will thy servant be.” “And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over.” David, the man according to God’s heart, the anointed king of Israel, loved by heathen men. Here, too, the tie that binded was spiritual. Never again in Israel’s history do such attachments come to view. The conclusion is warranted, therefore, that the book of Ruth, the aim of which is to set forth a Gentile’s love of God and His people, was written during the reign of David. The book may have been written during the summit of David’s glory, when he had peace on all sides. At that time a contemplative view of David’s history gave rise to the book.
The position of the book in the Canon. The Septuagint attached the book closely to the book of the Judges. This is correct, as, according to the first verse the events which it narrates took place when the judges ruled. What is more, the book is also a genealogical narrative introductory to the history of David.
But Jewish tradition assigned it to a place between Job and the Proverbs and thus gave it an independent position, the reason being that they had respect to the Messianic doctrine contained in it and which gives to it a higher idea, of which the birth of David is the crown. The book recognizes that also spiritual Israelites like Ruth could become children of the kingdom. And its Messianic doctrine is that “All the families of the nations shall bow down before thee; for the kingdom is Jehovah’s and he rules among the nations” (). It is especially in the Psalms that the relation of the Gentiles to the kingdom of Christ is unfolded.