Do we know who wrote the book of Ruth?
It is not known for sure who wrote the book of Ruth. The Talmud suggests that Samuel wrote this book. Others believe that Nathan may have written Ruth during the time of King David's reign. Still others believe it to be written during the time when Israel was exiled.
During what time and in what setting was the book of Ruth written?
As Ruth's grandson is King David, we know that the story in the book of Ruth took place two generations prior to his birth.
As you can find by reading the book of Judges, the land was in a period of time where it is ruled by selected leaders that were called judges. These judges included Gideon, Deborah and Samson. These people were usually both judicial officials and military leaders. Two of these judges, Deborah and Samson, were also prophets. The timeframe of the rule of the judges was approximately 1220 BC to 1050 BC. During this time the land of Israel went thru many difficult and sinful times. At the same time, we see stories of truly memorable persons that stand out, as well. These include Ruth, Deborah and Hannah.
It is thought that the events recorded in the book of Ruth probably occurred around 1000 BC. As we see in Ruth 1:1, the story happened "when the judges judged". At its earliest it was completed around the time that David was anointed king and at its latest at the end of David's reign.
To get a true feel for the happenings of the time and the state of the country, read Judges 17-21. I found in reading this that I understood so much more of the challenges that faced persons living during this time and how the country was ruled.
Who are the main characters in the book of Ruth?
Elimelech - Naomi's husband. His name means "My God is King".
Mahlon and Kilion - Naomi's sons.
Orpah - her name means "deer" or "fawn". Ruth's sister, wife to Kilion, and daughter-in-law to Naomi.
Ruth - her name means "friend". Ruth was Mahlon's husband and daughter-in-law to Naomi. Also, great-grandmother to King David.
Boaz - relative of Naomi's deceased husband Elimelech, he later marries Ruth. They have a son Obed, who is the father to Jesse, King David's father.