Old Testament Lesson 24 (Ruth; 1 Samuel 1–3)
The Book of Ruth and the first chapter of 1 Samuel tell of two courageous women—Ruth and Hannah—who lived during the time period of the Judges. Unlike apostate Israel, whose unrighteous ways are discussed in the Book of Judges, these two women lived lives of virtue and faith.
THE STORY OF RUTH
The Book of Ruth
● The books of Judges and Ruth contain all of the available history of Israel during the turbulent period of time commencing with the death of Joshua and extending to the birth of Samuel—approximately the middle part of the twelfth-century BC.
● Ruth is also one of the 11 books of the Old Testament that belong to the Hagiographa (Jewish “sacred writings”), along with the books of Chronicles (counted as one book), Ezra–Nehemiah (also counted as one book), Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, and Daniel.
● The book of Ruth is a tender story that illustrates loyalty and devotion within the family. It also describes the integration of a non-Israelite woman into the fold of Israel. It is a conversion story, telling how Ruth set aside her former ways in favor of the new and higher spiritual laws of Jehovah. The book’s context is a serene contrast to the pattern of turbulence and disorder that prevailed during the time of the Judges.
Events in Moab
● Ruth 1:1–2 Elimelech and his sons went to Moab, possibly seeking more favorable economic conditions.
● Ruth 1:3–5 While there, Elimelech and both his sons died, leaving Naomi and Ruth as widows.
● Ruth 1:6–18 The inspiring story of Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi.
— The primary god of the Moabites was Chemosh (Molech). While there is no indication that Ruth and her sister-in-law, Orpah, were believers in this false god, two verses say that Ruth was converted to the true God of Israel. In her beautiful expression of loyalty and devotion to Naomi, Ruth said that she not only wished to stay with her mother-in-law but also desired to make Naomi’s people her people and Naomi’s God her God.
● Ruth 2:12 Later, Boaz, praising Ruth’s concern for Naomi, says to her, “A full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” Both of these passages indicate that Ruth was converted.
— Ruth 1:19–22 They returned to Bethlehem—Naomi’s homeland. Naomi here used a play on words based on her name. When, after many years’ absence, the people greeted her in surprise by asking, “Is this Naomi?” (v. 19), she responded by saying, “Call me not Naomi [pleasant], call me Mara [bitter]: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me” (v. 20). This reply was not an accusation, only Naomi’s way of saying that she had endured much tragedy while in Moab.
Events Back in Bethlehem
● Ruth 2:1–3 Ruth supported them by gleaning from the fields of Boaz.
— “Harvesting was difficult work and demanded long hours. Young men moved through the fields grasping handfuls of the grain and cutting through the stalks with sickles. These small bunches of grain were then bound into bundles called sheaves. As the men worked rapidly, a number of stalks fell to the ground. If the men were careful and took the time, these too could be gathered up. However, any stalks that dropped were allowed to remain where they fell.
Poor people, following the reapers, were permitted to ‘glean,’ or gather, the random stalks—possibly all that stood between them and starvation. In addition, the edges of the field, where the sickle was not as easily wielded, were left unharvested. The poor were welcome to that portion, as well. The destitute of Bethlehem now included Ruth and Naomi and Ruth offered to go into the fields and glean.”
● Ruth 2:4–12 Boaz liked and respected Ruth. He permitted her to gather from the entire field, not just the corners.
● Ruth 2:17–20 Ruth gathered 50 pounds of grain at a time, which shows her strength.
● Ruth 3:1–11 Naomi told her that Boaz was “near of kin” to them, and she encouraged Ruth to pursue Boaz as a husband. There was nothing inappropriate about sleeping at his feet. She uncovered his feet—probably to wake him up. Boaz knew of her virtue. And Naomi knew of Boaz’s virtue also.
— “When Boaz awoke from his sleep by the pile of grain, which he was guarding as was the custom during harvest time, he was startled by Ruth’s presence. She was direct in her proposal. The word rendered ‘skirt’ also means ‘wing,’ and her request is not unlike our idiom ‘take me under your wing.’ (endnote: 2) The idiom means “protect me,” or, in other words, “be my protector or husband.”
— Ruth 3:10–11 “ Boaz [who] was an honourable man, and no doubt somewhat advanced in years, praised Ruth for having taken refuge with him, and promised to fulfil her wishes when he had satisfied himself that the nearer [kin] would renounce his right and duty. He acknowledged by his declaration—that under certain circumstances it would be his duty as redeemer to marry Ruth—that he took no offence at the manner in which she had approached him and proposed to become his wife. On the contrary, he regarded it as a proof of feminine virtue and modesty, that she had not gone after young men, but offered herself as a wife to an old man like him. This conduct on the part of Boaz is a sufficient proof that women might have confidence in him that he would do nothing unseemly. And he justified such confidence.”
● Ruth 3:12–18 Rules regarding “next of kin” in Israel would permit Boaz to marry her so long as the “next of kin” refuses to do so—which he did when Boaz confronted him.
● Ruth 4 Boaz and Ruth produced a noble heritage. Obed was born (vv. 13–17) and became the father of Jesse and grandfather of King David. And ultimately, Christ was one of their descendants.
● This story teaches us much about “nobility” in God’s eyes. It is not about race—it is about faithfulness and virtue.
— President John Taylor said to those Saints who had forsaken their homeland to come to Zion: “Thanks be to the God of Israel who has counted us worthy to receive the principles of truth.’ These were the feelings you had and enjoyed in your far distant homes. And your obedience to those principles tore you from your homes, firesides and associations and brought you here, for you felt like one of old, when she said, ‘Whither thou goest I will go; thy God shall be my God, thy people shall be my people, and where thou diest there will I be buried.’ And you have gathered to Zion that you might be taught and instructed in the laws of life and listen to the words which emanate from God, become one people and one nation, partake of one spirit, and prepare yourselves, your progenitors and posterity for an everlasting inheritance in the celestial kingdom of God.”
— President Thomas S. Monson said: “In our selection of heroes, let us nominate also heroines. First, that noble example of fidelity—even Ruth. Sensing the grief-stricken heart of her mother-in-law, who suffered the loss of each of her two fine sons, and feeling perhaps the pangs of despair and loneliness which plagued the very soul of Naomi, Ruth uttered what has become that classic statement of loyalty: ‘Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.’ (Ruth 1:16). Ruth’s actions demonstrated the sincerity of her words. There is place for her name in the Hall of Fame.”
● This period of Israel’s history is covered by two different sets of books:
—1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, which were written by the prophet Samuel himself.
—1 Chronicles, which was probably also written by the prophet Samuel (and possibly others), but focusing on the kings, wars, and other temporal events of that period
● This is very similar to what happened later in America with the large and small plates of Nephi.
The Book of 1 Samuel
● The books of First and Second Samuel are combined as one in the Hebrew Bible but are separated in the Greek Bible. The chronicle constitutes the beginning of the historical account of the kings of Israel.
● Their purpose is to set forth the commencement of the history of Israel under King Saul and his successor, King David.
● They cover the time period from the birth of Samuel (ca. 1125 BC) to the death of Saul and his sons.
The Book of First Chronicles
● First and Second Chronicles were counted as one book in the Hebrew scriptures. These records preserve and communicate Israelite history in broad strokes, particularly religious history.
● First and Second Chronicles provide a concise history of the Lord’s people from Adam down to the return of the Jews to Palestine, with an emphasis on religious events and themes, especially temple worship.
● First and Second Chronicles (counted as one book) are also one of the 11 books of the Old Testament that belong to the
Hagiographa (“sacred writings”) of the Jewish canon, along with the books of Ruth, Ezra–Nehemiah (also counted as one book), Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, and Daniel.
THE HIGH PRIEST ELI AND HIS SONS
● 1 Samuel 2:13–35 Eli’s sons—Hophni and Phineas—were extremely wicked priests.
● 1 Samuel 2:12–17 When Israelites came to offer sacrifices at the tabernacle, they forcibly took the flesh of the sacrificial animals before the fat portions had been burned on the altar. They also took some of the flesh belonging to the offerer for his sacrificial meal. These were serious transgressions of God’s laws, equivalent to robbing God.
● 1 Samuel 2:22 Eli’s sons also seduced women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle, a common practice of priests of Baal and other false gods of the time.
● 1 Samuel 2:22–29 Eli, who was very old, rebuked his sons, but took no action.
● 1 Samuel 3:10–14, 19–20 He did not stop them nor remove them from their priestly duties.
● 1 Samuel 3: 17, 24 This brought the whole ordinance of sacrifices into contempt.
● 1 Samuel 3:27–29 “A man of God” (some unnamed prophet) came to Eli and pronounced a curse upon Eli’s house because he honored his sons more than God.
● 1 Samuel 2:30–35 The Lord honors only those who honor him.
● 1 Samuel 3:1 The Result: “The word of the Lord was precious in those days.”
● 1 Samuel 3:12–13 Parents have a responsibility to restrain their children.
— President Spencer W. Kimball said: “The Lord punished the temple worker Eli, charging him with the serious sins of his sons . . . because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.’ (1 Samuel 3:12–13). In modern times the Lord said, ‘Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness.’ (D&C 68:31) . . . How sad if the Lord should charge any of us parents with having failed to teach our children. Truly a tremendous responsibility falls upon a couple when they bring children into the world. Not only food, clothes, shelter are required for them, but loving, kindly disciplining and teaching.”
— President Joseph F. Smith said: “There should [not] be any of us so unwisely indulgent, so thoughtless and so shallow in our affection for our children that we dare not check them in a wayward course, in wrong-doing and in their foolish love for the things of the world more than for the things of righteousness, for fear of offending them.”
● What message or implication does this example hold for parents and priesthood leaders in the Church today? (D&C 68:25; 90:18; 93:38–49; 121:34–36, 41–43).
THE PROPHET SAMUEL
The Tabernacle at Shiloh
● Joshua 18:1 Before the great temple of Solomon was built in Jerusalem, the tabernacle housing the ark of the covenant was located at Shiloh, where the people of that day came to worship and sacrifice to the Lord.
● Eli was the high priest, and his two rebellious sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests.
Hannah at the Tabernacle
● 1 Samuel 1:4–5 Elkanah took his wives and their families to Shiloh to make peace offerings (). After the fat, kidneys, and other parts were burned, part of the sacrificial animal was given back to the offerer to be eaten in a special feast. It was this meat that Elkanah gave to his wives and children. Hannah received a more choice portion because of Elkanah’s love for her.
● 1 Samuel 1:6–7 Hannah’s adversary was Peninnah, the other wife who “was constantly striving to irritate and vex her, to make her fret”—to make her discontented with her lot in life because the Lord had not blessed her with children. “She was greatly distressed, because it was a great reproach to a woman among the Jews to be barren; because, say some, every one hoped that the Messiah should spring from her line.”
● 1 Samuel 1:9 Eli sat upon a seat by a post of the temple. In the ancient Middle East, it was customary for certain officials to place a stool or seat in a courtyard or near the gate of the city where they could sit in judgment, hearing cases or complaints.
● 1 Samuel 1:10–18 ; Numbers 6:5; Judges 13:5 Hannah was a faithful woman who went to the temple to plead with the Lord for a son. She made a vow, dedicating her future son to the Lord, just as other faithful women before her had done.
— When the high priest Eli accused Hannah of being drunk, she protested that she was not a “daughter of Belial,” meaning a “worthless or profane person (v. 16).”
● 1 Samuel 1:20 Sometime later Hannah conceived and bore a son and named him Samuel, which means “heard of God” or “name of God.” It was a lifelong reminder to both Hannah and Samuel of the special circumstances and commitments of his birth.
● 1 Samuel 1:21–28
Samuel was dedicated unto the Lord as a Nazarite and was returned to the high priest at age 3. “Weaning took place very late among the Israelites . . . Hebrew mothers were in the habit of suckling their children for three years . . . Samuel was to be presented to the Lord immediately after his weaning had taken place, and to remain at the sanctuary forever . . . [where] he was to receive his training at the sanctuary.”
— The Lord then blessed her with three more sons and two daughters (v. 21).
● 1 Samuel 2:1–11 Hannah’s prayer shows her to have been a woman with great faith and love for God. The horn (v. 1) symbolized power and strength and the rock (v. 2) was a representation of Jesus Christ.
— The people of Hannah’s day did not think the world was flat and sitting on pillars (v. 8). That superstition was the invention of the Middle Ages. Hannah was using poetic language to show the power of Jehovah.
Samuel Becomes a Prophet
● 1 Samuel 2:11 During this same period, Samuel served faithfully under Eli.
● 1 Samuel 2:35 The Lord had said: “I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind.”.
● 1 Samuel 3:4–10 The Lord eventually called Samuel as a prophet—at about age 12.
— The Lord communicates with us most often through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, or with a “still, small voice (vv. 4, 6, 8).” Only Samuel could hear the words of the Lord in this instance.
● 1 Samuel 3:19 The Lord honored Samuel’s prophecies as he does for all his prophets.
— President Heber J. Grant said: “You need have no fear that when one of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ delivers a prophecy in the name of Jesus Christ, because he is inspired to do that, that it will fall by the wayside. I know of more than one prophecy, which, looking at it naturally, seemed as though it would fall to the ground as year after year passed. But lo and behold, in the providences of the Lord, that prophecy was fulfilled.”
1: Great People of the Bible and How They Lived, 129.
2: Rasmussen, Introduction to the Old Testament, 2 vols. , 1:157.
3: Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 vols. , 2:1:483.
4: In Journal of Discourses, 14:189.
5: “My Personal Hall of Fame,” Ensign, Nov. 1974, 108.
6: Sweden Area conference, Aug. 1974, 47–48.
7: Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 286.
8: Clarke, Bible Commentary, 6 vols. [n.d.], 2:207.
9: Commentary on the Old Testament, 2:2:26.
10: Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham , 68.