It was a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon in June many years ago when I attended a neighbor’s wedding at her church. I was sitting and listening to the scripture readings from the Book of Ruth. At the time, I knew about the Book of Ruth but did not remember especially the verses: “Where
you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge.”
I remember wishing I could recall what the book of Ruth was all about as I sat there in the pew listening to her chosen scripture reading from the Old Testament Book of Ruth.
For a moment, I lingered with the idea of learning more about the Old Testament. I told myself it’s an old book, and it would take a lot of effort to learn it.
Remember how you learn something new?
A number of years ago, I planted a red rose bush in a shaded and not well drained area in my back yard when I lived in Portland, Oregon, the city of roses. I was a new gardener and did not know much about the planting and care of roses. I just wanted some color in the backyard. The rose did not do well.
Now I have moved to a different location in the Willamette Valley. I have more sun in my back yard. I bought some books on planting and caring for roses which help a lot. I now have seven rose bushes and more color in my back and front yards in the summer months.
Naomi and Ruth
A long time ago, around the sixth century BCE, there was a famine in Bethlehem, a town whose name which means “house of bread”. A man named Elimelech and his wife Naomi and their two sons went to Moab to live. The sons took Moabite wives. All three husbands died within ten years, leaving Naomi and her daughter-in-laws, Ruth and Orpah alone.
Naomi waited over ten years to hear that there was food back in her country. She finally left to go home to her religion, culture, and friends. One daughter-in-law, Ruth, begged to join Naomi on her long journey home to Bethlehem.
Naomi said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law. But Ruth said, Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you did, I will die, there will I be buried.” That is the basic story of the Book of Ruth. Those last lines are the ones I had heard at my friend’s wedding. What place does the story of an old women and her daughter-in-law have in a wedding? Trying to learn about the Old Testament books is a lot like trying to find information about growing roses.
Learning the Old Testament: One Book at a time
Let’s say you want to learn more about the Old Testament and decide to start with the Book of Ruth.
When you start a garden project, like planting roses, you want to break it up into small bite size pieces. You need information on how to plant, feed, water, and care for your roses. Having the information and tools for your rose garden success is much like getting to know a Book of the Old Testament.
Three study tools for making the Old Testament more enjoyable
- Read it through to get an overview. Just enjoy the story and don’t try to remember every detail.
- Go back through and write down the names of men, women, and places.
- Go over your notes with some study tools.
I recommend a Bible atlas, The Hammond Atlas of the Bible Lands and the Holman quick source: Bible Atlas with Charts and Biblical Reconstructions. I use these to put the book of the Old Testament in the context of the land and in its time period.
I recommend a Bible Dictionary with Paul Achtemeier as general editor that I enjoy for short descriptions of people, places, and books of the Old and New Testaments.
Finally, The Collegeville Bible Commentary is a single volume commentary on the Old Testament that I like, it provides information on each book of the Old Testament.
Send a comment. Let me know how you are doing in learning about the book you are studying in the Old Testament.