Arlen L. Chitwood
Israel and the Church
Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion-Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there. (Ruth 1:1, 2)
There are two books in Scripture bearing the names of women who appear as principal characters in the books — the books of Ruth and Esther. These are the only books in Scripture named for women; and an element of mystery surrounds both, for no one knows the identity of the person who wrote either book.
The book of Ruth has to do with events occurring during the days of the judges (Ruth 1:1. Events during the days of the judges began following Joshua’s death and lasted until the time of Samuel the prophet, a period covering about three hundred years (which followed a period covering “about . . . four hundred fifty years,” going back to the birth of Isaac [Acts 13:17-20 Ruthh though cover a much smaller part of the time of the judges, occurring during the latter part of this period (Ruth 4:13-22
The book of Esther, on the other hand, has to do with events occurring about seven centuries later, in Persia (following not only the Babylonian captivity [about 605 B.C.] but also following the time when the Medes and the Persians conquered the kingdom of Babylon [about 538 B.C.]). Events in the book of Esther would appear to have occurred during the first half of the fifth century B.C., about sixty years after the Medes and the Persians conquered Babylon (Esther 1:1; 2:5, 6
The book of Ruth, in its type-antitype structure, has to do with the Church. And the book of Esther, in its type-antitype structure, has to do with Israel. Ruth presents a complete overview of the history of the Church, and Esther presents a complete overview of the history of Israel. But the emphasis in each book is not so much on the past and present as it is on the future
In the book of Ruth, chapters one and two deal with the past and present; but chapters three and four deal almost entirely with future events, beginning with events surrounding the judgment seat at the end of the present dispensation. And these events, along with subsequent events seen in Ruth chapter four
In the book of Esther, chapter one deals with the past and present; but chapters two through ten
In the preceding respect, the books of Ruth and Esther together provide a complete overview of God’s dealings with His people — both the Church and Israel — throughout the last 4,000 years of Man’s Day, leading into the Messianic Era
Then, insofar as the end of the matter is concerned — the realm where the emphasis is placed in both books — these two books together cover exactly the same period of time and deal with exactly the same events seen in the first twenty chapters of the book of Revelation. Ruth covers matters relative to the Church during this period of time, and Esther covers matters relative to Israel during this same period. And, in this respect, if an individual would properly understand that which has been revealed in these chapters in the book of Revelation, he must go back to the books of Ruth and Esther, along with sections of numerous other Old Testament books that would have a direct bearing on the subject (e.g., Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel
There is no other way to properly understand the book of Revelation (or, for that matter, any other part of the New Testament). All of the things opened up and revealed in the New were previously set forth, through various ways and means, in the Old. Different Old Testament books deal with varying and particular facets of the matter — “here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10
The whole of the matterr is by divine design, and only through viewing the whole together — after running all of the checks and balances through comparing Scripture with Scripture — can a person see the complete picture (comprised of word pictures dealing with both the Church and Israel), exactly as God would have man see it.
Events in the book of Ruth, occurring during the latter part of the time when the judges ruled, appear to cover a period lasting no more than about two decades. And, since King David (Israel’s second king) was the great grandson of the two principle individuals in the book — Boaz and Ruth (4:17
Saul ascended the throne about the middle of the eleventh century B.C. (about 1050 B.C.) and reigned for forty years. This would thus place events in the book of Ruth
The period of the judges, during which events in the book of Ruth occurred, is marked by two things: (1) disobedience on the part of the Jewish people, and (2) God’s reaction to their disobedience
During Moses and Joshua’s day, God had commanded His people to drive out all of the Gentile nations inhabiting the land. But, following Joshua’s death, the Israelites gradually began to cease driving these nations out (cf. Deuteronomy 7:1, 2, 16, 22-24; Joshua 23:1-5; Judges 1:1, 19, 21, 27-33). Then, disobedience at this point resulted in other forms of disobedience — something that the Lord had previously called to the people’s attention and had warned them about (cf. Exodus 23:33; Deuteronomy 7:4, 16; 12:30
God, through Moses, had laid down the rules and regulations (the Law) that His people were to follow within the theocracy. But, after failing to drive the Gentile nations out of the land, that which God had warned His people about began to occur. The Jewish people, over time, found themselves gradually being influenced and conforming more and more to the ways and practices of the pagan Gentile nations dwelling in the land with them. And, as a result, rather than the Jewish people following that which God had stated in His Word, this period is marked by a departure from the Word. Scripture reveals one central manner of living on the part of God’s people during this time:
. . . everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6; 21:25)
And God reacted accordingly. God reacted in exact accordance
There is a repeated sequence in the book of Judges relative to the Jewish people’s disobedience and God’s reaction to their disobedience. In chapter two, this sequence is given, setting the stage for that seen throughout the remainder of the book:
a) Israel’s action:
Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORDand served the Baals;
and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers . . . and they followed other gods . . . . (vv. 11, 12a)
b)) The Lord’s reaction:
And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers . . . and He sold them into the hands of their enemies . . .
Wherever they went outt, the hand of the LORD was against them for calamity, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn to them . . . . (vv. 14a, 15a)
c) Israel’s reaction:
And they were greatly distressed [which would lead to repentance]. (v. 15b)
d) That which the Lord then did:
Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. (v. 16)
When the Israelites fell into sin, God reacted through using that which had resulted from His people’s previous failure — Gentile nations remaining in the land, contrary to His command — as a means to bring about their repentance. He delivered the disobedient Israelites into the hands of the same pagan nations that they had previously failed to drive out (2:21-23
Beginning in chapter three, when God raised up the first judge to deliver his people, repentance on Israel’s part is seen first. That is, God delivered His people into the hands of the Gentiles, the people repented, and God then raised up an individual to deliver them out of the hands of the Gentiles. And this same order is continued through eleven of the fourteen judges whom God raised up (3:7-9, 12-15; 4:1-4; 6:1-14; 10:6-18; 11:1ff
Then, following the death of the eleventh judge ((12:15), though the same sequence is seen beginning again (with Israel’s disobedience), certain changes occur in the complete cycle of events this time:
Again the children of Israel did evil . . . and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years. (13:1)
For the first time there was a forty-year period in which the Israelites found themselves in subjection to the Gentiles. “Forty” is one of several numbers used in Scripture to show completeness
In this respect, because of Israel’s disobedience, God gave His people into the hands of the Gentiles (the Philistines) for a complete period of time. And this complete period could only have followed a completion of Israel’s disobedience over the years. That is to say, Israel’s cup of iniquity had apparently become full (cf. Genesis 15:16
However, there is no record of the Israelites repenting and crying out for deliverance during these forty years. Nevertheless, God raised up Samson during this time as the twelfth judge, stating that he would ““begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (13:5b). Full deliverance though could not occur until after the Israelites had repented, something not seen until the days of Samuel the prophet, the fourteenth and last judge (following Eli [1 Samuel 7:3-15
It was sometime during the latter part of the period of the judges that events in the book of Ruth occurred. These events occurred during the latter time of these repeated cycles of Israel’s disobedience, the Lord’s anger being manifested, repentance occurring on Israel’s part, and one or more individuals being raised up to deliver the Jewish people. And these events occurred during a time when probably less and less thought was being given to repentance by the Jewish people (having progressively been hardened to sin over time, as their cup of iniquity continued to fill). But God always remained faithful and raised up deliverers nonetheless.
(E.g., note events surrounding Christ’s first coming. Though the Jewish people were unrepentant at this time [with deliverance contingent upon repentance], God still sent a Deliverer [knowing, in His omniscience, that these unrepentant people would reject and crucify this Deliverer — following a pattern seen in Jewish history, but resulting in the direst of consequences this time (Matthew 23:34-39)].)
Events in the book of Ruth relate different facets of exactly the same story told over and over, time after time, during the days of the judges — sin, followed by deliverance. This is the way in which the book both begins and ends, dealing in this respect with not only Israel and the Gentile nations but with the Church as well. And the book, though beginning with the former, centers on the latter. The book is centrally about Christ and the Church
The book of Ruth begins by showing a Jewish family driven from their own land into a Gentile land because of a famine in the land of Israel (which could only be traced back to Jewish disobedience [cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-25]). Then, prior to anything being stated about the family returning to the land, death1:33, 5
But the complete family was spared from death in a Gentile land. One person, Naomi, remained to return back to the land of Israel when the famine was over. Naomi, in a Gentile land, heard that ““the LORD had visited His people by giving them bread” (1:6); and she returned to the land of Israel, where Boaz resided (a near kinsman, in charge of a field [which points to the world — cf. Matthew 13:38], who would prove to be the deliverer
This brief account relates the complete history of Israel, beginning with the people’s disobedience during the days of Moses and later repeated over and over as recorded in the book of Judges
During this time in the type, as previously noted, three Jews died in a Gentile land. “Three” is a complete number in Scripture, showing divine perfection. In this respect, in the type, the death of three Jews in a Gentile land showed a completeness in God’s judgment because of Israel’s disobedience
The length of time during which divine perfection in God’s judgment would be carried out is also given following the death of Elimelech: “. . . And they dwelt theree [in Moab] about ten years” (1:4b). “Ten” is the number of ordinal completion, showing that they remained in Moab for a complete period of time
And it would be exactly the same today for the Jewish people scattered among the nations. There will be no visitation from the Lord, providing bread, until there is a completeness in God’s judgment, resulting from a past disobedience of the Jewish people. And, as shown by the number “ten” in the type, this judgment will occur during a complete period of time — a set period, predetermined by God in the beginning. Israel will remain scattered among the nations during a complete, predetermined period, which is part and parcel with the Seventy-Sevens that God has “determined” upon the Jewish people in Daniel 9:24-27
(Note something about the death of three Jews in a Gentile land in the type and the death of millions of Jews, throughout centuries of time, in Gentile lands in the antitype:
There should be no Jewish graves in Gentile lands. The Jewish people were not called out of Egypt to dwell in and eventually die in Gentile lands. But the Jewish people and the Jewish graves are there today, scattered throughout Gentile lands worldwide. And they are there for a single reason: Israel’s disobedience. And they bear testimony to one thing: God has remained faithful to that which He stated in His Word relative to Israel’s disobedience.
[God has done exactly what He stated that He would do (Leviticus 26:33-39; Deuteronomy 28:37, 64-67). One can stand in the middle of a Jewish cemetery in a Gentile land, with an open Bible in his hand, and view the history of Israel from the days of Moses to the present day two different ways. He can view this history from the pages of Scripture, or he can view this history from the perspective of the Jewish graves surrounding him. Both bear testimony to and relate exactly the same story.]
Had the Jewish people remained faithful and obeyed that which God commanded, they would have remained in the land within a theocracy. Occupying this position in the land, they would have been established at the head of the nations, with the nations being ruled by and blessed through Israel.
But unfaithfulness and disobedience marked the route that the Jewish people took, time after time. And time after time God allowed the Gentile nations in the land [nations that Israel had failed to drive out] to subdue and rule over them, with deliverance following each time.
All these things occurred in the land itself, but the day finally arrived when Israel’s cup of iniquity became full, in a sense beyond that [or typified by that] seen in the forty-year period of Judges 13:1 [note previous remarks on this forty-year period in the light of Genesis 15:16]. Then, when this time arrived, God allowed Gentile nations from outside the land to come into the land and uproot His people, carrying them captive into surrounding Gentile lands. And from these surrounding lands, the Israelites were subsequently scattered throughout all lands, scattered among the Gentile nations of the earth.
This uprooting and scattering of the Jewish people began to occur over 2,700 years ago (with the Assyrian captivity [about 722 B.C.], continuing with the Babylonian captivity [about 605 B.C.]), with the Israelites still remaining scattered among the nations today. And throughout this time, Jewish graves have appeared in Gentile lands worldwide, during centuries of time, bearing witness to that which has been done by both Israel and the God of Israel.
But this is not where matters end. God’s faithfulness to His revealed Word (cf. Psalm 138:2) must not only involve Israel’s uprooting and scattering but the nation’s eventual restoration as well. The complete outworking of all God’s plans and purposes surrounding Israel can be brought to pass only with a restored nation dwelling in the land covenanted to Abraham and his progeny and, in this land, fulfilling that which God called Israel to do in the beginning.
In this respect, the goal toward which everything moves relative to Israel will occur when the Deliverer one day appears [reappears in Israel’s case], and there will once again be bread in the land. This is seen occurring with respect to one family in the book of Ruth, and it is seen occurring in the book of Judges during a time when the story was repeated over and over with respect to the entire nation.)
As previously stated though, this story of Israel (with which the book opens) is not really the central message of the book of Ruth. Esther is the book that centers on Israel, not Ruth. But, unlike Esther, Ruth also opens with events surrounding Christ and the Church. And though Israel, of necessity
Israel is introduced in a typical manner at the first of the book. Then, Israel is seen in this same typical manner throughout the book for reasons which, from a Scriptural standpoint, can only be obvious.
Apart from Israel, nothing revealed in the book relative to Christ and the Church could exist. “Israel” is the pupil of God’s eye (Deuteronomy 32:8-10; Zechariah 2:8 through the nation of Israell
God revealed early in the book of Genesis that He would deal with mankind at large through a particular segment of mankind. Among the three sons of Noah, God singled out Shem immediately following the Flood as the one through whom such dealings would occur (Genesis 9:26, 27); and slightly over four centuries later, God singled out a particular descendant of Shem, Abraham, through whom His dealings with mankind would continue to be worked out (Genesis 11:10-26; 12:1-3).
And matters of this nature must be carried out in the manner that God has decreed or they cannot be carried out at all. God has decreed that all spiritual blessings are to flow through Abraham and his seed, which is revealed to be through Isaac, Jacob, Jacob’s twelve sons, and their progeny — i.e., through the nation of Israel; God has provided mankind with a Jewish Savior, whose lineage can be traced back to Abraham and Shem; all things about this Savior were foretold in a Jewish book (God’s revelation to man, given through Jewish prophets); and Christians have been grafted into a Jewish trunk, having become “Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” through their positional standing “in Christ,” who is Abraham’s Seed (cf. Genesis 12:1-3; Psalm 147:19, 20; Matthew 2:2; Romans 11:17; Galatians 3:29; Ephesians 2:11-15).
Thus, it becomes a simple matter to see and understand that none of the things revealed about Christ and the Church could exist apart from Israel. And this is why events in the book of Ruth, though not dealing centrally with Israel, cannot occur apart from Israel being seen someplace in the picture throughout the book.
1) Chapters One and Two
Relative to the central message of the book, chapters one and two outline events extending from the time two Gentile women (Ruth and Orpah) become members of a Jewish family to the time one of these women (Ruth) is seen gleaning in the field of a near kinsman (Boaz) during the time of barley and wheat harvest.
Following Elimelech’s death, Mahlon and Chilion both married Moabite women — Ruth and Orpah, respectively. Then, sometime later, Mahlon and Chilion died, leaving Naomi with her two daughters-in-law.
Though death had dissolved the marriage relationship, the family relationship continued. Ruth and Orpah were still members of Naomi’s family. They were still Naomi’s “daughters-in-law” (1:4-6; 2:20).
Thus, the book opens with two Gentile women who had become members of a Jewish family through marriage. And, following the death of their husbands, this family relationship with Naomi then had a connection with death.
Everything following this point in the account is based on an existing family relationship of this nature (widowed Gentile women, who are members of a Jewish family, where death is involved in the family relationship). Matters had to be established in this manner first. Only then could Ruth and Orpah occupy their respective positions seen in the story.
The story through the book though is centrally about Ruth, not about both Ruth and Orpah. Only Ruth chose to cleave unto Naomi and to her God, traveling with her to another land. Orpah chose to turn back to the Moabite people and to their gods, in the land where she dwelled (1:15-17).
Ruth traveled with Naomi to Bethlehem (the house of bread), in another land (1:18-22); and in that land she found herself working in the field of a near kinsman, Boaz (2:1ff). It was the time of barley and wheat harvest, and the whole of chapter two is taken up with Ruth working in Boaz’s field from morning until evening, from the beginning to the end of the harvest.
As two Gentiles in the type occupied a family relationship with Naomi following the death of their Jewish husbands, Gentiles throughout the present dispensation occupy a family relationship with the one which Naomi typifies, Israel, through the death of a Jew. Individuals are saved by Christ’s death and shed blood; and they, through a work of the Spirit during the present dispensation — an immersion in the Spirit — occupy a positional standing “in Christ.” And, within this positional standing, because Christ is Abraham’s Seed, they become “Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29
Then, as in the type, Christians find themselves in a position where they can govern their lives in one of two fashions. They can either look out ahead toward another land (a heavenly) and glean in the field (the world) belonging to the Near Kinsman (Christ), or they can look back to and involve themselves in the things of this present world system. The choice is theirs to make. They can, as Ruth, turn to the things that have a connection with the Jewish people, a land, and a Redeemer; or they can, as Orpah, turn back to the things of this present world system, with its god (Satan). Regardless, their family relationship will remain unaffected, but not so with that seen throughout the remainder of the book of Ruth.
2) Chapters Three and Four
Relative to the central message of the book, chapters three and four outline events extending from the time Ruth prepared herself for meeting Boaz on his threshing floor, relative to both her widowhood and a forfeited inheritance, to the time Boaz had not only redeemed the inheritance but, through this redemptive process, had taken Ruth as his wife as well.
With a view to her widowhood and the redemption of a forfeited inheritance — an inheritance belonging to Naomi’s family — Ruth prepared herself for meeting Boaz (a near kinsman) on his threshing floor. And she prepared herself in a threefold manner. She washed herself, anointed herself, and properly arrayed herself (3:3
On the threshing floor, because of laws governing the Jewish people and because of Ruth’s identity and proper preparation, Boaz was under obligation to do as Ruth requested (which she made known, through her actions, once on the threshing floor in Boaz’s presence).
Then the remainder of the story is taken up with Boaz’s redemptive act at the gate of the city (4:1ff). Boaz redeemed the inheritance, Ruth became his wife in the process, and the book ends with a brief account of the lineage of this union, extending to King David.
Proper preparation for meeting Christ on His threshing floor (at His judgment seat [Matthew 3:12]) would occur during the present dispensation. Christians, working in the field (Ruth 2:1ff) in a proper manner would also be properly preparing themselves in the same threefold manner seen in Ruth 3:3.
Washing oneselff has to do with cleansing (keeping oneself clean from the defilement connected with this present world system), anointing oneself has to do with the filling of the Spirit, and putting on raiment has to do with the wedding garment. This is the threefold manner in which Christians are to presently be preparing themselves, with a view to meeting Christ on His threshing floor.
It is here that faithful Christians, typified by Ruth, will find themselves in the same position in which Ruth found herself on Boaz’s threshing floor. And Christ, in like manner, typified by Boaz, will find Himself at this future time in the same position in which Boaz found himself.
A redemption of the forfeited inheritance will then occur (which will have to do with a territory, as in the type [a “field,” i.e., the world, the earth; cf. Ruth 4:5; Matthew 13:38]); and Christ, as Boaz, will take the one typified by Ruth as His wife in the process (cf. Ruth 4:9-13; Revelation 5:1-19:9
Then, through carrying Boaz and Ruth’s genealogy to King David, regality is seen beyond this point in the type. And this is where matters will end in the antitype as well — when a descendant of Boaz, the one greater than David, takes the kingdom and, with His wife as consort queen, reigns over the redeemed inheritance, reigns over the earth.