Handling a crisis via a combination of human initiative and godly direction: insights from the Book of Ruth

19 May 2014

The biblical text introduces Ruth, a Moabite woman, at a time of personal crisis. She faces destitution. Life has handed her multiple blows, amongst them widowhood and childlessness. Her single asset? Naomi, a cranky, elderly but endearing mother-in-law. Naomi, an Israelite and also widowed, is now quite determined to go home to Bethlehem. Ruth joins Naomi’s journey, but for Ruth it is a pilgrimage, for it is at this time that she switches allegiance from the gods of Moab to the God of Israel. As an immigrant facing change on every level – a new culture, a new religion, no friends and no job – Ruth nonetheless triumphs. Within only a couple of months, not only does she marry a prominent and prosperous bachelor, Boaz, but also wins the hearts of her mother-in-law’s friends, the women of Bethlehem. This analysis of her successful pilgrimage offers contemporary guidelines for facing dramatic changes. Using literary method, this article examines one of the Bible’s accounts of how a personal crisis is resolved via a combination of God’s providence and human initiative and courage.