31. “Types of Us” (1 Cor. 10:6)
Whilst there is no known indication in the New
Testament that the events and characters in the Book of Ruth are of any special
typical significance, quite a number of details suggest that such a view is not
out of place. Certainly, with Paul’s exposition of the allegory of Sarah
and Hagar to teach a lesson of humility it would be folly to assert dogmatically
that no such typical significance either was intended or is to be found in the
story of Ruth.
The following tentative outline suggestions may
be of interest:
- Elimelech (= “My God is King”), leaving Bethlehem
in time of famine to seek security in Moab is a type of God’s people,
Israel, throwing off God’s authority and abandoning the Source of Life
(Bethlehem = “The House of Bread”) to join with those who are shut
out from the people of God (Deut. 23:3). Israel, God’s firstborn, became
through apostasy illegitimate (cp. the origins of Moab: Gen. 19:36,37). Mahlon
and Chilion (= “weak” and “pining”) illustrate the state
of Israel’s faith.
- The deaths of Elimelech and his
sons can be interpreted as the visitation of divine wrath on Israel, culminating
in the eventual scattering of the nation (cp. Jesus’ cursing of the
- Naomi represents the faithful remnant in
Israel returning to God.
- In Orpah and Ruth are figured
two classes of Gentiles — those who hear the gospel but turn away from it,
and those who thankfully acknowledge their privilege in being allowed to break
old associations in order to join “the Israel of God”. (But note:
the break with the old life must be made.) Naomi’s discouragement
of Ruth has its counterpart in the understandable reluctance of the early Jewish
preachers of the gospel to include the Gentiles in their ministrations: e.g.
Peter before he went to Cornelius.
- Naomi’s poverty
in her return and her lament that her lot is bitter (“Marah”)
suggest that even the devout Israelite in accepting divine forgiveness must
acknowledge that at best he can only come empty-handed, driven by bitter
experience to acknowledge the unwelcome fact.
- The name
and character of Boaz (= “Strength”) makes him fit the type of the
Man whom God “made strong for himself”. “When we were yet
without strength....Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom.
- Ruth’s gleaning foreshadows the
Gentiles’ eagerness for the spiritual “crumbs” (Matt. 15:27)
from Christ’s work. The special portion given her anticipates the
spiritual food and drink provided in Christ and also Gentiles taking
Israel’s place of privilege.
- The form of
Boaz’s blessing upon Ruth suggests that the godly Gentile has become seed
of Abraham. “If ye are Christ’s then are ye (Gentiles)
Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the
- Naomi’s recognition of Boaz as the
“redeemer” corresponds to the acknowledgement by godly Jews of Jesus
as the Messiah.
- All these things happened at barley and
wheat harvest, i.e. at Passover (the death of Christ) and Pentecost (the time of
the giving of the Holy Spirit). Does the threshing of the barley represent the
sufferings of Christ? If so, Boaz’s sleep by the heap of corn at the end
of his labour would typify death and resurrection. (How many more instances in
Scripture of sleep and waking being a figure of death and resurrection? Gen.
2:21; 15:12; Ps. 5:3; Jer. 31:26; Dan. 8:18; 10:9-11; Lk. 9:32; Rev.
- Ruth’s coming — washed, anointed and
clothed in her best — to claim the right of marriage shows the Gentiles to
be acceptable now through the death of Christ, but they must come washed from
their sin, anointed with the Spirit and arrayed in garments of righteousness.
That this was done at night at the threshing floor shows (like the deep sleep of
Adam that he might receive his bride) that apart from the death of Christ this
acceptance of both godly Jew and Gentile would be
- ‘Lie down again.’
These two sleeps at the feet of Boaz correspond with (a) baptism - the
figurative burial with Christ, and (b) the sleep of death in him until the day
of glorious resurrection.
- The six measures of
meal intimate that the perfect rest of God is near. Ruth gained more by the
free gift than all her laborious application to duty could ever bring
her! But what is the meaning behind the fact that these six measures represent
just twice what was waved before the Lord on the resurrection morning
— according to the Rabbis (Lev. 23:10,11), and also twice what was used in
the spiritual baking in the parable (Matt. 13:33)?
other kinsman disowning his right of marriage is a signal intimation that Moses,
with first opportunity, could not by his Law bring redemption. This near kinsman
who does not redeem echoes the failure of the Son of Judah (Gen. 38) in a
comparable responsibility. Hence the tracing of the genealogy back to Pharez
(Gen. 38:29; Ruth 4:18).
- Ruth’s marriage to her as
yet unmarried “redeemer” has its counterpart, of course, in the
Marriage of the Lamb. The details of the greeting and blessing accorded to Ruth
again suggest the fulfilment of the ancient Messianic promises given to Jacob
and to Judah. The mention of Pharez especially is a reminder of the
“Seed” who was grudgingly acknowledged.
child of the marriage, Obed, has a name which means ‘Serving’. The
glorified saints of God are made happy in continuing service to the one who
redeemed them. In the figure of Revelation “they serve him day and night
in his temple”.