The book of Ruth in the Bible tells a captivating story of love and devotion. At the center of this narrative is Ruth, a Moabite woman who demonstrates incredible loyalty to her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi.
If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: In the Bible, the name Ruth means “friend” or “companion.” Ruth lives up to her name by steadfastly accompanying Naomi to Bethlehem and committing herself to Naomi’s people and faith.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the meaning and significance of Ruth’s name in several contexts within the biblical text. We’ll look at the Hebrew roots of her name, how she exemplifies the traits associated with her name, and the role her name plays in her ancestral lineage leading to King David.
The Hebrew Roots and Meaning of the Name Ruth
Rooted in the Word for “Companion”
The name Ruth finds its origins in the Hebrew language. In Hebrew, the name Ruth (רוּת) comes from a word meaning “companion” or “friend.” This meaning connects beautifully to the biblical story of Ruth, where we see Ruth remain loyal to her mother-in-law Naomi after losing her husband.
Ruth tells Naomi, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay” (Ruth 1:16), exemplifying an unwavering friendship.
The word for “companion” that Ruth likely derives from is רֵעַ (rêaʿ). This word often denotes a close friendship or companionship, much like what we see between Ruth and Naomi. It is heartwarming that Ruth’s name itself seems to foreshadow the steadfast devotion we see in her story.
Additional Meanings and Connotations
While the main derivation links Ruth to “companion,” some sources suggest additional nuances. The name may connect to the Hebrew root רוה (rwh), meaning “to water or saturate.” This could symbolize Ruth being “filled up” with loyalty, commitment, and love. What a poetic picture!
The name Ruth may also relate to the Hebrew word רֵיחַ (rêaḥ), meaning “scent” or “fragrance.” In the Song of Solomon, the woman says of her beloved, “his name is like perfume poured out” (Song 1:3). Perhaps this verse gives us a glimpse of what the name Ruth would have signified – a pleasant fragrance through her devotion and virtuous character.
The loyalty and love we see in the life of Ruth give the name beautiful connotations. No wonder the book bearing her name has captivated readers for centuries! Her steadfast commitment – even leaving her homeland – causes Naomi to exclaim, “May the LORD repay you for what you have done” (Ruth 2:12).
Ruth’s name and legacy continue to inspire.
How Ruth Lives Out the Meaning of Her Name
Devotion to Naomi
After Ruth’s husband died, she showed incredible devotion to her mother-in-law Naomi by refusing to leave her side. Though Ruth was a Moabite woman, she left her homeland to accompany Naomi back to Bethlehem in Judah. She told Naomi, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.
Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). This moving declaration demonstrates Ruth’s commitment to Naomi’s well-being. Ruth selflessly gave up her way of life to care for Naomi in her time of need.
Loyalty to Naomi’s People and Faith
As a foreigner in Judah, Ruth could have easily been mistreated, but she continued serving Naomi faithfully. Ruth exhibited courage and loyalty by gleaning barley to provide food for them both. She worked diligently from early morning, showing resilience and humility.
When Boaz showed her undeserved kindness, Ruth responded with gratitude and obedience. Despite adversity, Ruth trusted God and followed Naomi’s advice. Her virtuous character led to her marriage with Boaz. Ruth was rewarded for her faithfulness with a new family and community.
Integration into the Community
Although Ruth was an outsider in Bethlehem, she gained full acceptance into the community through her marriage to Boaz. This acceptance fulfilled what her name “Ruth” symbolized – a friend and companion. Ruth was no longer alienated but became an intimate friend.
She was grafted into the nation of Israel and became part of the lineage of King David and Jesus Christ. The child she bore with Boaz, Obed, became the grandfather of David. The love and loyalty Ruth showed Naomi opened the door for this outsider to gain a new family and purpose.
Ruth went from poverty and widowhood to security, purpose, and a legacy that impacted history.
The Significance of Ruth’s Name in Her Lineage
Connection to King David’s Lineage
Ruth’s name holds great significance in the Bible as she is an ancestor of King David. As a Moabite woman, Ruth was an outsider who married an Israelite and converted to Judaism. After her husband died, Ruth showed tremendous loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi by accompanying her back to Bethlehem.
There in Judah, Ruth met and married Boaz, a kinsman of Naomi’s late husband. Ruth and Boaz’s great-grandson was King David, who ruled Israel for 40 years around 1000 BC.
The fact that a foreign woman like Ruth appears in David’s family tree shows God’s grace in bringing Gentiles into His kingdom. Ruth said to Naomi, “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
This foreshadows how Gentiles would later be grafted into God’s covenant family through Christ. So Ruth’s name reminds us that Jesus came not only for Jews but also for Gentiles from every nation.
Contrast with Other Foreign Women in Scripture
Unlike most foreign women mentioned in the Old Testament, Ruth did not lead the Israelites astray through idolatry. For example, King Solomon’s many foreign wives “turned away his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4).
And the Moabite women in Numbers 25 led Israelite men into sexual immorality and Baal worship. But Ruth was faithful to the one true God. She told her mother-in-law Naomi, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay” (Ruth 1:16).
Ruth’s commitment to Naomi and the God of Israel sets her apart from other Gentile women in Scripture.
Ruth’s story shows that nationality does not determine one’s standing with God. Ruth may have been a Moabite, but she shared the faith of Naomi and Boaz. Likewise today, God welcomes those from every nation who put their faith in Christ.
Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Ruth’s extraordinary character overshadowed her pagan background, earning her a place of honor in biblical history.
The Enduring Legacy of Ruth’s Name
Inspiration for Virtues of Loyalty and Devotion
The story of Ruth in the Bible has inspired many over the centuries with her remarkable demonstration of unwavering loyalty and faithfulness. Though a foreigner, Ruth chose to stay with her mother-in-law Naomi even after her husband’s death, declaring “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.
Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). This poignant commitment to stand by Naomi no matter what has been a shining example of virtuous devotion for generations.
Ruth’s name has therefore become synonymous with the noble characteristics of fidelity, loving-kindness, selflessness, and sacrifice. Parents have chosen the name Ruth for their daughters with the hope that they will emulate her steadfast support and care for others.
Even today, the name “Ruth” immediately evokes thoughts of a faithful companion or friend. Her legacy lives on as a reminder that true commitment and loyalty stem from a place of deep love and connection.
A Foreigner’s Full Inclusion into God’s People
Not only did Ruth demonstrate remarkable devotion to Naomi, but she was also remarkably welcomed into the Israelite community as a Moabite foreigner. After grieving the loss of her husband and sons, destitute Naomi decides to return to her homeland of Bethlehem.
Rather than staying in familiar territory, Ruth insists on accompanying Naomi, giving up the comforts and security of her home country. This sacrifice ultimately leads to Ruth’s full inclusion into the nation of Israel.
Though originally an outsider, Ruth finds acceptance and is treated with compassion. She catches the eye of a well-respected man named Boaz, who goes out of his way to provide and care for her because he has heard of her faithfulness. They end up marrying, and their great-grandson became King David.
Ruth’s story foreshadows God’s future welcome of the Gentiles into the kingdom of Christ. Just as God demonstrated hesed – covenant love and mercy – to Ruth, so Christ would show this unconditional love toward all people, regardless of race, social status or gender.
The Name Ruth: A Fitting Title for Her Story
The name Ruth has become synonymous with loyalty, kindness, and devotion due to the biblical character. As we explore Ruth’s narrative, it becomes clear why her name is an apt description of her admirable traits.
The Meaning Behind the Name
The name Ruth likely derives from the Hebrew word “reut” meaning “friend” or “companion.” This meaning fits perfectly with Ruth’s character, as she accompanied her mother-in-law Naomi to Bethlehem after both of their husbands passed away.
Ruth refused to abandon Naomi, exemplifying extraordinary loyalty and friendship.
Ruth’s Noble Character
Throughout her story, Ruth demonstrates remarkable strength, dignity, and compassion. Despite her tragic circumstances as a childless widow, she diligently worked to provide for herself and Naomi. Her noble character earned her the love and respect of the Bethlehemites.
When given the opportunity to marry the wealthy landowner Boaz, Ruth continued exhibiting humility and kindness. Their son Obed became the grandfather of the great King David, evidencing God’s favor for Ruth’s virtuous conduct.
An Enduring Legacy
Clearly, the name Ruth matches the woman. Over 3,000 years later, her name still represents the best of human character – loyalty in adversity, courage to do what is right, and pure-hearted love for others.
Though Ruth lived in a time of male-centered culture, her legacy endures as a paragon of timeless virtue.
As we have explored, Ruth powerfully lives out her name, which denotes a loyal friend and companion. By tenaciously committing to Naomi and her people, Ruth embodies steadfast, self-sacrificial devotion. Her story offers inspiration to all people of faith.
Ultimately, Ruth’s name captures the essence of her biblical role. As expressed in her words to Naomi, she clung to her kin with complete and enduring faithfulness: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay… your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).