The book of Ruth and the book of Job both deal with God’s faithful people during times of great struggle.
Let’s look at the contrasts.
Job is male; Ruth is female.
Job is a Jew; Ruth is a foreigner (and a hated one at that!)
In the ancient world the roles of men and women are vastly different. Job has the ability to be autonomous and pull himself up by his boot straps, while Ruth, as a female and a foreigner, has less opportunity to provide for herself and her mother-in-law.
Job is wealthy and loses everything quickly. Ruth marries into a starving immigrant family and loses the little she has over time.
Job loses his children, but his wife survives. Ruth loses her husband and has no children.
Job’s wife is not an encourager; neither are his friends. Boaz and Naomi work in Ruth’s best interests.
Job has friends who come to help him (which is a mixed blessing). Ruth has a mother-in-law, whom she helps.
Job is wrongly blamed for his situation. Ruth is praised for her godly actions.
Job’s losses are evident. Ruth and Naomi live in a cave and it is not until Ruth begins to glean that the extended family seems truly aware of how bad off they are.
Job loses his health. Ruth is strong and able.
God speaks to Job. For Ruth, God works through Boaz, a godly man.
So, Job has some advantages. He is male, self-sufficient, married and has friends. Ruth too has some advantages. She is in good health and has her mother-in-law, who owns land.
Both have disadvantages as well…
In addition to the devastating losses both suffer, Job has ill-health, and psychological ‘torture’ from his wife and friends. Ruth has racism and sexism to combat as well as a history of being barren, which makes her a poor marriage choice.
Both Ruth and Job are restored and extremely blessed. What the two accounts show us is that no matter how you end up in difficult situations, and no matter what is stacked against you, God is able to bless you beyond your wildest imagination. Nothing is impossible. Both accounts encourage us to be godly, and to remain godly, despite our circumstances.
Side note: What is interesting to me, at this time, is that Naomi has land. It is likely that the cave Ruth and Naomi are staying in is on her husband’s land, indicating that the house she thought to return to is not in livable condition. It is likely that Ruth and Naomi thought to farm the land, but were unable to produce enough to support them. Naomi may have stayed on the property to tend to their crops while Ruth gleaned. It is also likely that Boaz did not help prior to this time as it may have appeared that Ruth and Naomi were getting along okay. Ruth showing up to glean may have been the first indication the community had that things were not going well for the two women. Just something to think about. When scripture tells us to look out for the widow and the orphan it is implied that we are to know their situation and help as is appropriate. Too often in our society we find people saying, ‘If I had known, I would have….’ As Christians it is our job to keep our eyes open so that those who are in need do not suffer unnecessarily.