What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Book of Ruth? Naomi and Ruth? Ruth and Boaz? Reading the Book of Ruth during Shavuot (a.k.a. Feast of Weeks and Pentecost) is a Jewish tradition. Why? The story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz occurs during the spring harvest. You can find references to both the barley harvest (First Fruits) and the wheat harvest (Shavuot/Pentecost) in the Book of Ruth.
THE BARLEY HARVEST/FIRST FRUITS
When they [Naomi and Ruth] arrived in Bethlehem, the barley harvest was just beginning (Ruth 1: 22b, GNT). The beginning of the barley harvest is First Fruits, which occurs the day after the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (In the New Testament, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ occurs on First Fruits. This is why Paul refers to the resurrected Messiah as “the first fruits of those who are asleep”–I Corinthians 15: 20, NASB.)
THE WHEAT HARVEST/SHAVUOT, FEAST OF WEEKS, PENTECOST
Shavuot or Pentecost is a celebration of the wheat harvest. The counting of the Omer, which begins at First Fruits, ends 49 days later at the beginning of the wheat harvest or Shavuot. The spiritual significance of Shavuot may not be obvious at first, but it is a joining of Jews and Gentiles in the Messiah. Consider the following: “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering [First Fruits], count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD (Leviticus 23: 15-17, NIV).
TWO LOAVES, ONE BODY
The loaves represent Jew and Gentile one in Messiah. In Ephesians 3: 6 (NIV), the Apostle Paul writes that “through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”
Paul wrote, “In as much as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you [Gentiles], though a wild olive shoot have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root [Israel]supports you” (Romans 11: 13b-18, NIV).
Notice the references to “dough” and “firstfruits.” First fruits is a term used for both the barley harvest and the wheat harvest.
Ruth was not only a Gentile but also a Moabite. The Moabites were enemies of Israel, but Ruth was an exception. She believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. In that regard, she was “grafted in” to Israel and became the great-grandmother of King David, whose descendant is our Lord and Savior, Yeshua Hamashiach, Jesus the Messiah.
THE TANAKH FORESHADOWS THE BRIT-HADASHAH
The Tanakh, the Old Testament, foreshadows the Brit-Hadashah, the New Testament. Many see Boaz, Ruth’s kinsman redeemer, as a Christ figure. The Book of Ruth is a story of redemption. Her name stands out–along with Boaz’s–in the first chapter of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament. Matthew begins with the genealogy of Yeshua Hamashiach, our Redeemer. His Hebrew name means salvation.