Book of Ruth Outline and Summary

The biblical book of Ruth begins with a story of famine. It ends with the joy of birth and celebrating the genealogy of King David. In between it relates acts of kindness and dedication which have inspired generations.

An outline can help us focus on a topic and quickly see the flow of the different sections. Even a “simple” story like the book of Ruth can be outlined in different ways.

I’ve included here 3 outlines I found in different commentaries on Ruth. I’ve also included my own outline. The outlines are similar, but do emphasize different points.

Daat Mikra Outline

This is from the Daat Mikra commentary on the Bible.

  • 1:1-5 Elimelech and his family in Moab
  • 1:6-18 Naomi returns and Ruth’s devotion
  • 1:19-21 When they came to Bethlehem
  • 1:22 – 2:23 Harvest time
  • 3:1-18 At the threshing floor at night
  • 4:1-12 At the city gate
  • 4:13-17 The good ending
  • 4:18-22 Genealogy of David
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Outline by Rabbi Yaakov Beasley

This is from a commentary he wrote after giving classes on Ruth in a Jerusalem yeshiva.

He bases his outline on these 2 verses:

Ruth Chapter 1

8. And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, Go, return each of you to her mother’s house; the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead, and with me.
9. The Lord grant you that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband.

Naomi blesses her daughters-in-law with 2 blessings.

  1. God should deal kindly with them while they are in their mother’s home.
  2. God should grant them rest in their husband’s home.

The fulfillment of these blessings is the central theme of Ruth.

  • 1:1-5 Prologue: the loss of family
  • 1:6-22 From Moab to Bethlehem: Naomi is bereft of sons; Ruth remains while Orpah leaves.
  • 2:1-23 Fulfillment of Naomi’s first blessing: God’s kindness becomes evident in her mother (in-law’s) house as Ruth finds favor while gleaning in Boaz’s field.
  • 3:1-18 Fulfillment of Naomi’s second blessing: Ruth finds rest in her future husband’s house as she convinces Boaz to marry her.
  • 4:1-12 From the fields to Bethlehem: Naomi is blessed with offspring and family; Boaz stays while Ploni Almoni leaves.
  • 4:13-22 Epilogue: Ruth gives birth and the creation of the royal family.

Steinsaltz HaTanach HaMevoar

This outline is from the marginal notes in the Steinsaltz commentary.

  • 1:1-5 Elimelech’s family in Moab
  • 1:6-22 The return from Moab to Yehudah
  • 2:1-23 Ruth’s first visit to Boaz’s field
  • 3:1-18 Ruth goes to the threshing floor
  • 4:1-12 The redemption of the field and of Ruth
  • 4:13-17 Ruth’s marriage and the birth of her son
  • 4:18-22 David’s genealogy

My Outline

I wrote this outline to serve as a basis for the chapter summaries that are coming next.

  • Chapter 1: From Bethlehem to Moab to Bethlehem
    • 1:1 – 1:5 Elimelech moves his family to Moab
    • 1:6 – 1:7 Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem
    • 1:8 – 1:13 Naomi tells Orpah and Ruth to return to Moab
    • 1:14 – 1:17 Orpah returns, but Ruth goes with Naomi
    • 1:18 – 1:22 Naomi and Ruth come to Bethlehem
  • Chapter 2: Ruth gleans in Boaz’s fields
    • 2:1 – 2:2 Ruth asks Naomi permission to go glean
    • 2:3 – 2:7 Ruth gleans in Boaz’s field
    • 2:8 – 2:13 Boaz meets Ruth and tells her where to glean
    • 2:14 – 2:16 Boaz shows Ruth more kindness
    • 2:17 – 2:20 Naomi reveals that Boaz is a close relative
    • 2:21 – 2:23 Ruth gleans during barley and wheat harvests
  • Chapter 3: Naomi coaches Ruth
    • 3:1 – 3:5 Naomi tells Ruth how to approach Boaz
    • 3:6 – 3:8 Ruth does what Naomi suggested
    • 3:9 – 3:13 Ruth asks Boaz to redeem the property and marry her
    • 3:14 – 3:18 Boaz sends Ruth home with a gift of barley
  • Chapter 4: Boaz marries Ruth
    • 4:1 – 4:5 Ploni Almoni has priority to redeem the property and marry Ruth
    • 4:6 – 4:8 Ploni Almoni refuses to marry Ruth
    • 4:9 – 4:13 Boaz acquires the property and marries Ruth
    • 4:14 – 4:17 Ruth gives birth
    • 4:18 – 4:22 The lineage of David

Ruth Summary by Chapter

The purpose of this section is to give a summary by chapter of the Book of Ruth.

The chapter divisions in the Hebrew Bible are of non-Jewish origin and have no intrinsic meaning. Even so, the chapters in the Book of Ruth are well done and useful.

This summary will focus on the events but will not give much detail about the individuals. I will write another article with more details about them.

Chapter 1

Elimelech moves his wife Naomi and their two sons from Bethlehem to Moab because of a famine. Elimelech dies in Moab. His two sons marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. The two sons also die in Moab. They do not have any children.

Naomi hears that the famine has ended and decides to return to Bethlehem. Orpah and Ruth want to go with her. Naomi tries to convince her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab. Orpah stays. Ruth insists that she will go with Naomi and fully accept Jewish practices and customs.

Naomi and Ruth come to Bethlehem. The women of the town recognize Naomi and are shocked by what they see. Naomi proclaims that they should call her Mara (bitter) because of what happened to her in Moab.

The last verse in Chapter 1 tells us that they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. This provides the setting for what will happen in Chapter 2.

Book of Ruth - gleaning in the field

Chapter 2

Ruth asks Naomi if she can go glean in the fields. Naomi consents.

Ruth finds a field that is being harvested and asks permission to glean. It turns out that the owner of the field is Boaz, a relative of Elimelech.

Boaz comes from Bethlehem is see how the harvest is going. He sees Ruth and asks about her. Boaz hears a positive report about Ruth’s humility and work habits. Boaz praises Ruth and tells her that she should only glean in his fields.

Boaz permits Ruth to eat the food provided to his harvesters. He warns them not to harass her in any way.

After a successful day of gleaning, Ruth returns home to Naomi. Ruth tells Naomi that she gleaned in Boaz’s field. Naomi blesses Boaz and urges Ruth to continue gleaning only in his fields.

Ruth gleans in Boaz’s fields during both the barley and wheat harvest.

Chapter 3

The harvest has ended and the time of winnowing has begun. Naomi knows that Boaz will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor.

Naomi wants Ruth to approach Boaz and tell him that he should redeem Elimelech’s property and marry Ruth. Naomi tells Ruth exactly what to do. Ruth is reluctant to be so assertive, but she does what Naomi suggested.

Ruth comes to the threshing floor that night. Boaz is startled and asks her who she is and what she wants.

Boaz agrees that he is a close relative and able to be a redeemer. But there is another man who is a closer relative and therefore has priority.

In the morning Boaz gives Ruth a gift of barley to take back to Naomi. Ruth tells Naomi everything that happened during the night. Naomi assures Ruth that the matter will be settled that day.

Chapter 4

Boaz goes to the city and waits at the city gate. He sees the other relative, Ploni Almoni, and calls him over.

He explains the situation to Ploni Almoni and gives him the first chance to redeem the property and marry Ruth. Ploni Almoni is willing to redeem the property, but he will not marry Ruth.

Therefore, Boaz declares that he will redeem the property and marry Ruth. The city elders and the other residents ratify Boaz’s declaration. They bless Boaz that his marriage should be fruitful.

Boaz marries Ruth and she gives birth to a son named Obed. Obed is the grandfather of David who established the royal family in Israel.

Further Reading

This article is part of a series on the Book of Ruth. You will find an overview of Ruth and links to all the other articles here.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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