Bible Study Guides

Ruth

May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge. Ruth 2:12

The book of Ruth is a wonderful story of love and loyalty, in which God shows his faithfulness to the people who are faithful to his covenant. It is set during the distressing era of the Judges, when the majority of the people turned away from God and his Covenant, and instead ‘the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes’ (Judges 21:25). In contrast, Ruth, Naomi and Boaz choose to act in love and faithfulness to each other and to God’s covenant.

We have provided some resources for a small group discussion. There are questions for two sessions and we encourage everyone in the group to read the book before the first session.  You can download these questions in an A5 booklet or A4 format or you can view them online by clicking on the links below. 

 

Resources provided by Bibleworld Museum & Discovery Centre, Rotorua, New Zealand

 

Introduction to 

the Book of Ruth

The book of Ruth is a wonderful story of love and loyalty, in which God shows his love and faithfulness to people who are faithful to his Covenant. It is set during the distressing era of the Judges, when the majority of the people turned away from God and His Covenant, and instead ‘the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes’ (Judges 21:25). In contrast, Ruth, Naomi and Boaz chose to act in faithfulness to each other and to God’s Covenant.

 

Widows: Widows were extremely vulnerable in the ancient world. Without a reliable source of income, they could find themselves homeless, poverty stricken and others within the community could take advantage of them. In the Covenant, God provided the Israelites with the practice of Levirate marriage in order to protect widows (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). The closest male relative would marry the widow to protect her and to provide children to carry on the family name.

 

Moabites: The Moabites were descended from Lot’s son, Moab and had been long term enemies of the Israelites. Their territory lay on the Eastern side of the Dead Sea.

Discussion Questions for the Book of Ruth

Session One

What were your initial impressions of the book of Ruth?

 

This book introduces us to two vulnerable widows. Naomi had faced extreme hardship. She had moved to a foreign country as a result of famine. She had lost her husband and her two sons. She blamed God for her sufferings (see Ruth 1:13, 20-21). What she right to think and feel like this? Was God against her?

 

The widow Ruth also had to make difficult choices. As a widow in Moab she had few options: she could beg, sell herself as a slave, become a prostitute or hope for a decent marriage. By travelling to Israel with Naomi she would have had the same few options, but also the stigma of being a despised foreigner in Israel.  Why do you think she chose to go with Naomi? 

 

When Ruth and Naomi arrive back in Bethlehem, Ruth pursues one of the few options available to her, gleaning. This practice was prescribed by the law as a method of providing for the poor in the land (Deuteronomy 24:19; Leviticus 19:9; 23:22). What was Ruth’s experience of gleaning? What could have gone wrong (Ruth 2:22)? Why do you think things went well for her?

 

Have you ever felt abandoned by God? How did you respond? What did God do in your situation?

 

Discussion Questions for the Book of Ruth

Session Two

When Ruth gleans in Boaz’s field, he gave beyond what the law required of him (see Deuteronomy 24:19) and showed kindness to Ruth. In what other ways does Boaz act admirably? In what ways does he show faithfulness to God? Can you recall a time when you have benefited from someone else’s faithfulness to God?

 

Boaz does not take advantage of Ruth when she comes to him at night. He agreed to be Ruth’s kinsman redeemer and made sure he followed the process of Levirate marriage prescribed by God, even though it meant someone else may have been able to marry Ruth. Have you ever been tempted to take matters into your own hands and ignore God’s ways? What can we learn from the example of Boaz?

 

At the end of the book, a son is born to Ruth and Naomi cared for him. The women of the village recognised God at work in Naomi’s life. Have you had a situation when other people have been able to see God at work in your life? Have you had the experience of God changing a difficult situation in your life to a joyful one?

 

This child, Obed, later becomes the grandfather of King David.  This suggests that God is working behind the scenes to achieve his plans and purposes. In what ways do you believe God wants to be active in your life to achieve his plans and purposes?  What might he require you to do?

 

Suggestions for leading a small group Bible study

We believe there is great value in studying a book of the Bible as a whole, within a small group setting. If you are new to this we encourage you to begin with a shorter book such as Colossians, James or Ruth. We have put together these study guides based on the following five guidelines.

 

1. Encourage everyone in the group to read the book repeatedly.

2. Trust God to help you understand and apply his Word.

3. Focus on what the book reveals about God/Jesus.

4. Focus on what it clearly reveals about how God wants us to live.

5. Don't get bogged down on minor, uncertain or controversial issues. 

 

1. Encourage everyone in the group to read the book repeatedly.

We enjoy a Bible study group when everyone has read the Biblical text and comes along ready to discuss it. It makes for a much more interesting evening than a leader providing a monologue about the Bible! For that reason, we also like to hand out questions to everyone ahead of time, so everyone can come prepared to contribute in a thoughtful way. As a leader we encourage you to try and get everyone in the group to participate if they wish to.

 

There can be a temptation to read books or commentaries about the Bible rather than reading the Bible itself. Books about the Bible can be helpful, but we encourage everyone to spend the majority of their time becoming familiar with the Bible text itself. It may sound like a huge commitment to read through a book of the Bible ten times, but for a 15 minute book like James, this only takes about 2 ½ hours in total.

 

We have used the term ‘read the Bible’ however we are increasingly becoming fans of the practice of ‘listening to the Bible’. We highly recommend that everyone tries out an audio Bible to see how they find it. We suggest checking out the Bibleis app. An audio bible on your phone provides the opportunity to listen to the Bible while waiting, doing housework, commuting or while exercising.

 

2. Trust God to help you understand and apply his Word.

We need to trust that God wants to help us understand his Word. We encourage you to pray for wisdom as individuals and to pray when you come together as a group.

'If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.' James 1:5.

 

3. Focus on what the book reveals about God/Jesus.

God reveals so much about himself through the Bible. We have tried to come up with questions that focus on God - his abilities, his activity in our world and his character.  How does God work in people’s lives? What is important to God? For New Testament books, we are also interested in what we can learn about Jesus? What mattered to him?

 

4. Focus on what it clearly reveals about how God wants us to live.

Try to focus on how the members of your group can apply the message of the Biblical book to their lives. What does this book clearly reveal about how God wants us to live? What can we specifically do? What are the particular challenges that people are facing? What hope does this book provide?

 

5. Don't get bogged down on minor, uncertain or controversial issues. 

Accept that there are things in the Bible that we don't understand. We can waste a lot of time in a small groups on unhelpful discussion. Paul sums this up well in his letter to Timothy: Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments because you know they produce quarrels. (2 Timothy 2:23). There is however a difference between a robust healthy discussion and petty quarrelling. We encourage you to aim for the former and seek to avoid the latter.

 

There is a sense in which the Bible is both easy to understand and hard to understand. It covers over 4000 years of history. It is set in locations on three different continents (Africa, Asia and Europe). It is written in a range of literary styles (history, poetry, wisdom, prophecy, letters, gospels and apocalyptic). Some of the customs and practices of the people are quite foreign to us. However despite these difficulties there is a sense it which the Bible is easy to understand. We have a loving God who has sent his son Jesus so that we can enjoy life to the full and spend eternity with him. If you would like some further help with Bible study, we recommend the book ‘How to Read the Bible for all its worth’ by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.