RUTH CHAPTER 1.
Ruth Accompanies Naomi to Bethlehem.
elimelech and naomi in the country of moab. — V. 1. Now, it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, some hundred and fifty years before the reign of David, that there was a famine in the land, an affliction threatened by the Lord, Deut. 28, 22-24, and sent from time to time as a punishment of Israel's iniquity in committing idolatry. And a certain man of Bethlehem-judah, the town afterward famous as the birthplace of our Lord, went to sojourn, to live as an alien, in the country of Moab, literally, "in the fields"; for the entire territory was conceived to have been divided into fields for agricultural purposes, he, and his wife, and his two sons. It may well have been that importations of grain from Egypt were cut off by the hostility of the Philistines, and that the inhabitants of Judah, therefore, were almost obliged to turn to the country east of the Dead Sea, although the Moabites belonged to the ancient enemies of Israel. V. 2. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah, natives of the region, Ephratah being the ancient name of the city and its vicinity. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there, they were there for some time. V. 3. And Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left and her two sons. The first affliction which befell her was that her husband died in the strange country. V. 4. And they took them wives of the women of Moab, an act surely not in conformity with Deut. 23, 3. 4, although the Moabites are not expressly mentioned Deut. 7, 3; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelled there about ten years; that was the total length of the sojourn of Naomi. Although the sojourn of this Jewish family in the Moabite country did not prove productive of the blessings which they had anticipated, as the undertaking evidently was not in accordance with the will of God, yet the result was one highly beneficial to at least one of the Moabite women, so that, by God's merciful kindness, it served a great end. V. 5. And Mahlon and Chilion died also, both of them, Naomi thus having neither husband, sons, nor property, nor were there grandchildren. And the woman was left of her two sons and her husband. Thus God often lays a cross upon His children and chastises them severely, in order to bind them more securely to Himself.
the return of naomi with ruth. — V. 6. Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for it was understood that the younger women were merely to accompany her for some distance, perhaps to the boundary of the country; for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited His people, in mercy, in giving them bread, in delivering them from the ravages of the famine. V. 7. Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, where she had been an alien, where she had not been at home, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah, they took the road leading to Canaan. V. 8. And Naomi said unto her daughters-in-law, after they had traversed some distance. Go, return each to her mother's house, the usual place of refuge for young widows; the Lord deal kindly with you, in showing them merciful kindness, as ye have dealt with the dead and with me. The relation of these former heathen women, not only toward their husbands, but also toward their mother-in-law had been one of the most tender affection and service, a model, in this respect, to this very day and hour. V. 9. The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, quiet and safe happiness, an asylum of honor and freedom, each of you in the house of her husband, in a second happy marriage. Then she kissed them, as the signal of parting; and they lifted up their voice and wept, unwilling to leave Naomi, whom they had learned to love so dearly. V. 10. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. They found the parting so hard that they preferred to stay with Naomi on her solitary walk through life. V. 11. And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters; why will ye go with me? It was her great love for them which prompted her to deter them, if possible. Are there yet any more sons in my womb that they may be your husbands? She was not pregnant with possible sons, who would then be able to perform the duty of levirs toward Ruth and Orpah, Deut. 25, 5; Gen. 38, 8. V. 12. Turn again, my daughters, go your way; her love was great enough to bear the sacrifice of their parting with her, since she had only their happiness in mind; for I am too old to have an husband, she was past the age when the normal consequence of marriage might be expected. If I should say, I have hope, if she should expect the apparently impossible to happen, if I should have an husband also tonight, and should also bear sons, v. 13. would ye tarry for them, hope to be married to them, till they were grown? Would ye stay for them from having husbands? Should they let this very uncertain possibility keep them from becoming happily married in their own country? Nay, my daughters, for it grieveth me much for your sakes, that was the bitterest drop in her cup of sorrow, that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me, in taking both her husband and her sons. She did not even mention another possibility, namely, that of a marriage in the land of Judah, for her delicacy kept her from mentioning what would probably prove a disappointment, since the sentiment in Israel was strongly against marriages also with Moabites, Deut. 7, 3. 4. V. 14. And they lifted up their voice and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, convinced that the way pointed out by her was the best; but Ruth clave unto her, clinging to her all the more closely now that Orpah was leaving. V. 15. And she, Naomi, said, Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people and unto her gods, for the one implied the other; return thou after thy sister-in-law. Naomi's love for Ruth was so great that she desired her earthly welfare even at the sacrifice of her company. V. 16. And Ruth said, as the climax of a scene of wonderful delicacy and unequaled tenderness, in a rivalry of affection which is without a parallel in human annals, Intreat me not to leave thee or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people and thy God my God; v. 17. where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried. She will not be swerved from her intention to cast her lot with that of Naomi. It was not the affection of a daughter to her natural mother nor that of a wife to the husband of her choice, but it was her love toward Naomi which had knit their hearts together. And the highest stage of the devotion which she yielded to Naomi for life was reached in the confession that she had found the God of Israel to be the true God, a fact which implied the highest unity of spirit. The Lord, Jehovah, do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me. It was an oath inviting the severest penalty on the part of Jehovah if Ruth should prove fickle in her affection and devotion. V. 18. When she, Naomi, saw that she was steadfastly minded, that her resolution was unshakable, to go with her, then she left speaking unto her, she no longer attempted to dissuade her. V. 19. So they two went until they came to Bethlehem, the end of their journey. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, there was great excitement on account of their return, and they, chiefly the women, said, Is this Naomi? It was not a cry of surprise over the fact that she was still alive, but rather an expression of sympathy that she had returned bereft of both husband and sons. V. 20. And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi (lovely, gracious), call me Mara (bitter); for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me, He had inflicted sorrow upon her, as her obvious bereavement showed; the God of fruitfulness and life had withheld His blessings from her. V. 21. I went out full, rich, as a wife and mother, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty, with neither husband nor sons; why, then, call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, had declared Himself her opponent by depriving her of her loved ones, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? God had made sorrow her portion, to teach her to trust in Him all the more implicitly. V. 22. So Naomi returned, such was the nature of her return to the city of her fathers, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab. The curiosity of the Bethlehemites was satisfied, and their interest soon died down, since Naomi had sunk into poverty and no longer could take her place with the influential people of the town; but Ruth remained faithful, standing by her mother-in-law in her misery. And they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley-harvest, about the latter part of March or the beginning of April, fortunate for them, since they were now dependent upon the portion of the poor to get a livelihood, Lev. 19, 9. 10; 23, 22. Thus Ruth, in denying herself the advantages which she might have had in her home country, became a partaker of the blessings of the true God. Whenever we are placed before a decision such as she made, the way which points to the service and worship of the true God must be our choice without hesitation, for in Him we find the eternal blessings of His mercy.