The Book of Ruth and the Festival of Shavuot

Traditionally, people celebrate the festival of Shavuot, or Feast of Weeks, by reading the book of Ruth. But what is the connection between Ruth and Shavuot? Keep reading to find out. 

If you recall, the book of Ruth is set during the harvest season, but it’s also an intimate love story of redemption, loyalty, and sacrifice.

Historically, Shavuot was one of three feasts that the Jewish males went to Jerusalem to attend and offer sacrifices. The Jews offered “firstfruits” offerings of the seven species: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. The offering expressed thanksgiving for all God had provided and would continue to provide for His people. 

The festival is one of harvest, offering, and redemption.

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Summary of the Book of Ruth

Ruth, a Moabite, marries the son of Naomi. Naomi, a Hebrew, moved with her family to Moab during a famine in the land of Israel. Following the move, Naomi lost her husband but still had her two sons. 

They soon married two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. The pagan practices of the Moabites—a national enemy to Israel—created a wider gap between the Israelites and their neighbors. The Jews were strictly prohibited from participating in idol worship commonly practiced by the Moabites.

Some time passed, and Naomi’s two sons also died, leaving her a widow with only two pagan daughters-in-law for support. She decided her only choice was to move back home to Israel. She told the two women, Orpah and Ruth, to stay in Moab, but Ruth’s loyalty and devotion to her new family were strong, so she decided to follow Naomi. 

Once they arrived in Israel, Ruth was sent to glean in the fields. This common tradition instructed in Leviticus allowed the poor to follow behind the grain harvesters and retrieve any grain that was left behind.  

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 23:22

As Ruth found a field to glean, she also discovered it was owned by a distant relative of Naomi whose name was Boaz. Word spread about Ruth’s diligent work to care for her mother-in-law, and Boaz found out. He left extra provisions especially for her in the fields. 

When Naomi heard that Boaz was the landowner of the property Ruth was receiving provisions from and noticed the extreme abundance she was bringing home, she developed a plan. 

One night, late into the harvest season, Ruth was to go and lay down at the feet of Boaz, removing the covering off of his feet. This act would ensure Boaz’s responsibility to provide for Ruth as a “kinsman-redeemer” if there were no other next of kin who would consent to do so.

When Boaz awoke and found Ruth, he was moved with compassion. He promised to care for her if the nearest next-of-kin would not. Even though she was a gentile woman, Ruth’s moral character brought her favor in the eyes of Boaz.  

The story goes on to say that the nearest next-of-kin would not care for Ruth, so as Boaz promised, he kept his word and happily married Ruth. Because of the marriage, the property that once belonged to Naomi’s family was returned to her.  

Can you see the beautiful picture of restoration within the words of this love story? It contains adoption, redemption, sacrifice, and loyalty. The restoration was not only for Naomi’s family but the land was also returned to its original owner. 

Why is the Book of Ruth Read During Shavuot?

It is believed that Ruth’s journey to Israel was at the time of Shavuot. Ruth was also grafted into the Jewish people and accepted God’s instruction upon her move. She was committed to her new journey and submitted herself fully.

“…Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”

Ruth 1:16

Ruth was willing to give up her old self and step into her new family, new identity, and a new calling. 

Ruth trusted God, and He provided her with all she needed while also blessing her with a husband, a son, and ultimately she was in the lineage of Christ.

Shavuot, The Fire of New Identity

Just as Boaz was Ruth’s “kinsmen-redeemer,” the story foreshadows our ultimate Redeemer, Yeshuah HaMashiach (Jesus the Christ).  By being our Redeemer, He also makes us His kinsmen, reconciling us to the Father and grafting Gentiles into the family of God with the Jews as One New Man.

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”

Ephesians 2:14-16 (emphasis added)

God’s sovereignty is seen throughout Ruth’s story. He instructs, guides, provides, and blesses. As we prepare for this wonderful time of Shavuot, let us remember this love story and never fail to see our redemption at the cross and resurrection of Christ.

Shavuot is time to offer your old self to God. Proclaim with your breath that you need a renewal of instruction in your life, and the Holy Spirit’s flame will make beauty from the ashes.