Reading Guides

The Garden of Ruth
Eva Etzioni-Halevy



Sitting beneath a tree in ancient Bethlehem, Osnath, niece of the prophet Samuel, examines a dusty scrap of parchment she found hidden in her relative’s scroll room. Scrawled on the decaying page is an intriguing message addressed to Ruth the Moabite—great-grandmother of David, the future king of Israel. Compelled to discover the truth about Ruth’s life, Osnath begins searching for the identity of Ruth’s nameless lover and the secret that is still cloaked behind his anonymity. But as she digs deeper into the past, she finds her inquiries blocked by David’s brother Eliab. What is the long-buried truth he fears will come to light? And what is the threat that Ruth’s story poses to his family’s vast inheritance?

The Garden of Ruth transports readers into the ancient world—and offers a dramatic and thought-provoking new perspective on a well-known tale.



Eva Etzioni-HalevyEva Etzioni-Halevy is a professor emeritus of political sociology at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. She is the author of The Song of Hannah, and lives in Tel Aviv with her husband; she has three grown children.



  1. Why do you think Osnath is so fascinated by Ruth’s story? Why does she relate to Ruth? Why does the mystery of the long-dead woman compel Osnath?

  2. As Osnath begins researching the life of Ruth, Adah gives her the following warning: “…some secrets are so vicious, they lash out at those who reveal them even after several generations” (p. 17). Why does Adah try to dissuade Osnath from examining Ruth’s life? How do others try to convince Osnath to cease?

  3. Why does Osnath prefer David to Eliab at first? In what ways are the two men different? What about David is appealing? What about Eliab seems unappealing? Do you think that Osnath ever truly loves David? Does he love her?

  4. When David returns home to propose to Osnath, she rejects him. Why? Why is being David’s second wife unacceptable to Osnath? Why, later, does she agree to be Eliab’s second wife when she would not do the same for David?

  5. In what ways are Ruth and Osnath similar? What parallel experiences do they have? What personality traits do they share?

  6. Osnath is a very proud and stubborn woman. Do you think that these are flaws or virtues? Why? In what ways do these traits help her? In what ways do they hinder her? Discuss.

  7. Why does Osnath ultimately change her mind about Eliab? What does he have to offer her? Why does his marriage to Adah cause her so much grief and regret? Did you believe her change of heart? Why or why not?

  8. What do you think is the cause of Osnath’s mysterious illness? How does she heal?

  9. Discuss the birth of Adah’s son. Why does Osnath risk everything she has to save Adah and the baby? How does this change her relationship with Adah?

  10. Why is Ruth so taken with Naomi? What does Naomi have to offer her? Why does Ruth stay so close with the older woman, even after her husband dies?

  11. How does prophecy play into both Osnath and Ruth’s lives? Do the women believe the prophecies they hear? How do they let these prophecies shape their destinies?

  12. In the end, do you think Osnath is satisfied with Ruth’s tale? Were you? Why were Ruth’s ancestors so afraid of Ruth’s story? Do you think Osnath’s ancestors would be scandalized in the same ways? Discuss.

  13. Although this book takes place in biblical times, some of the issues Osnath and Ruth deal with—unwanted pregnancy, religious persecution and conversion, the hardships of war—are still relevant today. Discuss these issues as they relate to the time of the novel and the modern day. Have people progressed since biblical times? Are we any more adept at dealing with these situations than Ruth or Osnath are?