Ruth and the Woman at the Well

You have no doubt heard the old joke about what happens when you play a country song backwards.  You get your wife, your dog and your truck back,  Grandma is alive and well,  and you get released from jail. In short, all of the myriad hurts and harms of life that form the basis for all good country songs are cured.

When I think about it, that’s a lot like the redemption of Ruth.  Boaz made good on her lack of everything she needed in this world, family, a home, status, food, and  a future for her family to come.  And sometimes I think that’s what we are really looking for when we come to God, we just want Him to play the song backwards because we are in places we don’t want to be.

But, as always, Jesus has other, grander goals for us.

There was another woman in scripture who met a kinsman redeemer and I’d like for us to compare her redemption to Ruth’s and ask some questions about the redemption we are seeking.

In John 4:1-42 we read the story of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman.  How would you compare the woman at the well with Ruth? Here are some ideas to start.


  • Both were women and had a lower status in that society than men.
  • Both were outsiders to Judaism and could have been shunned by Jews.
  • In their own way each were also related to Judaism, Ruth by her marriage into a Jewish family and the Woman by the shared history of the Samaritans with the Jews.
  • Both had serious problems in their lives.
  • Both were looking for the same kind of redemption, the backwards country music kind.
  • Both became a blessing for others even though, at the outset, they had no capacity to bless anyone.


  • Ruth’s problems were immediate.  If there was no one to provide for her she would die of starvation or lack of clothing and shelter.  The story does not say so, but it appears Ruth waited on God, at work through the Law for succor.
  • The Woman’s problems were less immediate, she had taken matters into her own hands to solve them.  Her five previous husbands may have been a legitimate thing.  Life was short and cheap in those days and she could have been widowed 5 times in succession.  But at last, she was too old or had too little to give and had shacked up with someone so that she could eat.
  • Boaz say’s he had heard good things about Ruth.  Jesus said he knew the Woman had compromised her morals.
  • Ruth returned to Israel looking for hope.  Hope came to Samaria looking for the Woman.
  • Although the scope of her redemption was greater than she could have reasonably hoped for, Ruth got the redemption she was looking for.  The Woman got redemption she could not have imagined even existed.

When Jesus said to the Woman that He would have given her Living Water if she had asked, she responded that the well was deep and he didn’t have a bucket.  And besides, who was He to compare Himself to Jacob, the builder of the well.  Jesus responded that the water He would provide would be different in substance from the water from the well.  That while the well would sate thirst for only a while, His water would satisfy permanently and lead to eternal life.

The woman still did not understand, she thought it was a great idea that she’d never have to do the grueling physical labor involved in getting water for herself and her man.

Is that us?  Even when confronted with the Messiah we only want the surface blessings?  We only want the job and the dog back and here is Jesus begging us to take the gift of eternal life.

But Jesus does not allow her shortsightedness sidetrack Him.  He reveals to her that He knows her and still loves her.  Later, the Woman will say of Jesus,”He told me everything I ever did.”  Despite knowing her, knowing us, Hope comes to us in a land of defilement, not the chosen land, to say, “I am the One who offers eternal life, not any of these things”.

Will we settle for the redemption of Ruth?