God was ‘the Father’ of the nation of Israel (“Israel is my firstborn son”: Exodus 4:22); the Israelites were the LORD’s ‘family’, his “children” (Deuteronomy 14:1). The LORD highly valued all his “children”, so he wanted every Israelite extended family, clan and tribe to continue having and experiencing life, land and joy.

Thus, ‘family’ mattered (& still matters) greatly to God. This is one of the reasons why Israelites in poverty or other vulnerable or desperate situations were to be cared for by other Israelites (their ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’).

• Thus, the fatherless, widows and foreigners were allowed to glean in the fields (Dt. 24:19-21).

• This is also one of the reasons why land was not allowed to be sold permanently to others. If a poor Israelite sold their land, their closest relative was to buy the land, so the person kept their property. (Lev. 25:25). If the person could later repurchase their land, they were allowed to (v26-27). Even if they didn’t get enough money to repurchase their land (it was still regarded as “their own property”; v27), their land returned to them in thefiftieth year (“Year of Jubilee”); v28.

• However, land could not be sold permanently, because it ultimately belonged to God, the “Father”, not to the ‘sons and daughters’: “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (v23). Ultimately, God owns all.

God’s great love for all his ‘family’ is one of the reasons for a law that we can find very strange: the law of Levirate marriage (‘Levir’ means ‘brother-in-law’). Under this law, a brother-in-law should marry his deceased brother’s widow if they did not have a son, so the widow can have a son and the deceased brother’s name continue in Israel (Dt. 25:5-6). God does not want any of his people to be forgotten; he loves them all; his whole family matters greatly.

These specific laws don’t apply to any nation as a whole now (no country today is ‘God’s people’ as ancient Israel was), and, also, many countries are not rural- based as ancient Israel was. However, there is still a principle of not just loving your neighbour but specifically, deeply loving your fellow brother and sister in God’s family (Galatians 6:10).

Knowing these things should help you understand and appreciate Ruth

Chapters Three and Four more: Happy reading!