“Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. He slept with her, and the Lord granted that she conceive, and she bore a son.” (Ruth 4:13)
In St Matthew’s version of Christ’s family tree, he includes four women, one of whom was Ruth, the wife of Boaz (Matthew 1:5). Her presence in Christ’s ancestry is particularly interesting in that she was not Jewish. This is a clue that Christ, being descended from both Jews and foreigners, came to save everyone.
Ruth’s story is told in the Old Testament book named after her. She lived in the land of Moab, which is in modern-day Jordan. When her husband died young, she decided to move back to Bethlehem with her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi. She told Naomi: “Wherever you go I will go, and wherever you live I will live. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” (Ruth 1:16)
Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the harvest. For food, Ruth regularly went to collect wheat and barley from the fields of a man named Boaz, who was a rich relative of Naomi. Boaz was kind to her and the two got on well. Later on, Ruth married Boaz and they had a son, named Obed. Obed became the father of Jesse, who in turn was the father of King David.
This is the origin of Bethlehem in the Christmas story. Ruth, like her descendant the Virgin Mary, gave birth to a son in Bethlehem. From the same town, as we shall see, came other significant ancestors of Christ, including Jesse and King David.
This stained glass window picturing Ruth gathering sheaves is found within the church of Corpus Christi, Brixton. It was designed by John Francis Bentley in the late 1890s and is part of a series of windows featuring women from the Old Testament. The window pictures Ruth as a symbol of the Virgin Mary; the wheat sheaves in her hand are also a symbol of the bread of the Eucharist.
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