In the Story of Ruth Movie, the first part of the film revolves around Ruth, a pagan idolatress who serves as the spiritual teacher of a young Moabite girl Tebah who is being prepared to be sacrificed to Chemosh, a Moabite deity. High-priestess Eleilat, along with Ruth, orders Mahlon, a Judean artisan, to brush the Tebah’s ritual crown. As Mahlon delivers the crown to Ruth at the temple, he denounces her god Chemosh explaining its nonexistence. This fictional non-Biblical part ends with the site of the Moabite girl being sacrificed, and a frightened, astonished Ruth fleeing to Mahlon and Naomi’s family. The result of this “dishonor” follows Mahlon prisoned along with Elimelech his father and Chilion his brother. Chilion and Elimelech die in the prison, while Mahlon’s punishment is to perform slave work for the rest of his life. After an attempt by Ruth to help him flee from the slave site, causes his death. The Biblical storyline begins now as Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth have widowed. The second part is more based toward the Biblical account found in the Book of Ruth, a subplot is added, that of the Bethlehemites disapproval of Ruth’s pagan past and Naomi’s kinsman rejecting the refusal of Ruth’s hand in marriage pleaded by Boaz.
- Elana Eden … Ruth
- Stuart Whitman … Boaz
- Tom Tryon … Mahlon
- Peggy Wood … Naomi
- Viveca Lindfors … Eleilat
- Jeff Morrow … Tob
- Thayer David … Hedak
- Les Tremayne … Elimelech
- Eduard Franz … Jehoam
- Leo Fuchs … Sochin
- Lili Valenty … Kera
- John Gabriel … Chilion
- Ziva Rodann … Orpah
- Basil Ruysdael … Shammah
- John Banner … King of Moab
- Adelina Pedroza … Iduma
- Daphne Einhorn … Tebah
- Sara Taft … Eska
- Jean Inness … Hagah
- Berry Kroeger … Huphim
- Jon Silo … Tacher
- Don Diamond … Yomar
The full title in Hebrew is named after a young woman of Moab, the great-grandmother of David and, according to the Christian tradition, an ancestress of Jesus:מגילת רות, Megillat Ruth, or “the scroll of Ruth”, which places the book as one of the Five Megillot. Goswell argues that while Naomi is the central character of the book, Ruth is the main character, and so the book “can be considered aptly named.” The only other Biblical book bearing the name of a woman is the Book of Esther. The Book of Judith is not a part of the Jewish or most Protestant Bibles, who exclude the Book of Judith as apocryphal), though it is a part of the Catholic Bible.
Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab by William Blake, 1795
During the time of the Judges when there was a famine, an Israelite family from Bethlehem—Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their sons Mahlon and Chilion—emigrate to the nearby country of Moab. Elimelech dies, and the sons marry two Moabite women: Mahlon marries Ruth and Chilion marriesOrpah.
The two sons of Naomi then die themselves. Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem. She tells her daughters-in-law to return to their own mothers, and remarry. Orpah reluctantly leaves; however, Ruth says, “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following you; 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. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ruth 1:16–17 NKJV)
The two women return to Bethlehem. It is the time of the barley harvest, and in order to support her mother-in-law and herself, Ruth goes to the fields toglean. The field she goes to belongs to a man named Boaz, who is kind to her because he has heard of her loyalty to her mother-in-law. Ruth tells her mother-in-law of Boaz’s kindness, and she gleans in his field through the remainder of the harvest season.
Boaz is a close relative of Naomi’s husband’s family. He is therefore obliged by the Levirate law to marry Mahlon’s widow, Ruth, in order to carry on his family line. Naomi sends Ruth to the threshing floor at night and tells her to “uncover the feet” of the sleeping Boaz. Ruth does so; Boaz awakes and asks,”Who are you?” Ruth identifies herself, then asks Boaz to spread his cloak over her. The phrase “spread your cloak” was a woman’s way of asking for marriage. For a man to spread his cloak over a woman showed acquisition of that woman. Boaz states he is willing to “redeem” Ruth via marriage, but informs Ruth that there is another male relative who has the first right of redemption.
The next morning, Boaz discusses the issue with the other male relative, Ploni Almoni (“so-and-so”) before the town elders. The other male relative is unwilling to jeopardize the inheritance of his own estate by marrying Ruth, and so relinquishes his right of redemption, thus allowing Boaz to marry Ruth. They transfer the property and redeem it by the nearer kinsman taking off his sandal and handing it over to Boaz. (Ruth 4:7–18)
Boaz and Ruth get married and have a son named Obed (who by Levirate customs is also considered a son or heir to Elimelech, and thus Naomi). In the genealogy which concludes the story, it is pointed out that Obed is the father of Jesse, and thus the grandfather of David. This also places Ruth among David’s ancestors.
The mood of the story is fashioned from the start through names of the participants: Naomi, which means “my gracious one” or “my delight,” later asks to be called Mara, “the bitter one”; her two sons are Mahlon, “sick”, and Chilion, “weakening” or “pining” and Orpah, meaning “mane” or “gazelle”, is from the root for “nape” or “back of the neck”, appropriate for the daughter-in-law who turns her back on Naomi and returns to her people. Ruth, meaning “friend”, pledges loyalty to Naomi, and Boaz, “fleetness” or “strength is (in) him” or “he comes in strength” becomes the kinsman redeemer, while Obed’s name appropriately means “servant.”
The marriage of Boaz and Ruth was of a type known as a Levirate marriage. Since there is no heir to inherit Elimelech’s land, levirate custom required a close relative (usually the dead man’s brother) to marry the widow of the deceased in order to continue his family line (Deuteronomy 25:5–10). The case in the book of Ruth is not the simplest type of Levirate marriage (Boaz is not Mahlon’s brother); therefore, some scholars refer to Boaz’s duty as “Levirate-like” or as a “kinsman-marriage.”
Moreover, it seems that an understanding of this kind of redemption among the Israelites included both that of people and of land. In Israel land had to stay in the family. The family could mortgage the land to ward off poverty; and the law of Leviticus 25:25ff required a kinsman to purchase it back into the family. The kinsman, who Boaz meets at the city gate, first says he will purchase the land, but, upon hearing he must also take Ruth as his wife, withdraws his offer. His decision was primarily a financial decision since a child born to Ruth through the union would inherit Elimelech’s land, and he would not be reimbursed for the money he paid Naomi. Boaz becomes Ruth and Naomi’s “kinsman-redeemer.”
The Israelites’ understanding of redemption is woven into their understanding of and appreciation of the nature of the “Almighty One”. God stands by the oppressed and needy. Through his servants, he extends his love and mercy, liberating through hope. God has a deep concern for the welfare of his people, materially, emotionally and spiritually. The redemption theme extends beyond this biblical book through the genealogy. First, in Ruth 4:13 God made Ruth conceive. Second, through the genealogy it is shown that the son born to Ruth is more than just a gift from God to continue her lineage. The history of God’s rule through the David line connects the book’s theme in to the Bible’s main theme of redemptive history.
Hesed, sometimes translated as “loving kindness”, also implies loyalty. The theme of hesed is woven throughout Ruth, beginning at 1:8 with Naomi blessing her two daughters-in-law as she urges them to return to their Moabite families. She says, “May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.” Both Ruth and Boaz demonstrate hesed to their family members throughout the story. These are not acts of kindness with an expectation of measure for measure. Rather, they are acts of hesed that go beyond measure and demonstrate that a person can go beyond the minimum expectations of the law and choose the unexpected. However, the importance of the law is evident within the Book of Ruth, and the story reflects a need to stay within legal boundaries. Boaz, in going beyond measure in acquiring the property (demonstrating hesed), redeems not only the land but both Naomi and Ruth as well. The two widows now have a secure and protected future. However, Ruth’s and Naomi’s story has also occasionally been interpreted as sexual in nature.
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