As the book of Judges draws to a close, the scenes of Israel’s collapse are gruesome and shocking. An Israelite creates his own religion. Priests are bought as good luch charms by individuals and tribes. Innocent and helpless people are murdered. A woman is gang raped and killed, and then dismembered by her husband and her body parts sent throughout Israel as a protest against those crimes. This is the destiny of every society that refuses to yield to God and chooses instead to allow every person to do what is right in his own eyes.
Everything looks hopeless.
But the book of Ruth picks up the story and shows how God can turn things around.
An Israelite man and his family move in time of famine from Israel to Moab. His two sons married Moabite women (against the law of God – 1 Kings 11:2 – by the way). In time, the man and his sons died. His widow, Naomi, and one of her daughters-in-law (Ruth) return to the land of Israel (all in chapter 1). There Ruth meets an Israelite, Boaz, the descendant of a well known prostitute. Chapters 2-4 detail their courtship and marriage, but most important of all, they conclude with the note that these are the ancestors of Israel’s greatest King, David.
The point is, when things look the bleakest for God’s people, He is still working among them to bring about His purpose and blessing. As one more modern writer puts it: “God loves forever.”
In all probability, Judges and Ruth were written during the rule of David to show the need for righteous leadership and to point out that David was the answer to their prayers.