The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4

Ruth 1

Rth 1:1

See Lesson, Josh--Samuel, typical history.

Introduction: (1) "Who can find a virtuous (noble) woman?" (Pro 31:10,29; cp Rth 3:11). (2) A parable of the Kingdom: the Book of Ruth links work of Joshua (Savior, leader, paving way) with work of Samuel and David (preparation, Kingdom). An ideal example of individual living, in midst of wickedness (ie Jdg 17; 19), of true faith in quietness and confidence (Rom 8:28). (3) Ancestry of David, esp link with Moab. (4) Lessons of redemption: see esp Rth 4:6-9. (5) Read at Pentecost: Rth 2:23n. (6) "Seek first the kingdom of God" (Mat 6:33); spiritual concern leads to material benefits.

IN THE DAYS: Heb denotes always a time of trouble, ending in blessing and deliverance. Found in Gen 14:1; Rth 1:1; Isa 7:1; Jer 1:3; Est 1:1; 2Sa 21:1.

WHEN THE JUDGES RULED: Heb "shaphan" = to judge, discern, regulate, direct, as deputies of Yahweh, the real king (Jdg 8:23). Then, however, many revolted against his rule (note Jdg 17:6; 18:1; 21:25: no king in Isr). A nation engrossed in a selfish indifference to God at best, and criminal wickedness at worst.

RULED: May mean "began to judge" (as in 2Sa 15:10). In which case, like Jdg 17-21, Ruth's story belongs to the generation soon after Joshua.

FAMINE: Lit "hunger": to punish Isr's sins (Psa 105:16; Lev 26:18-20), and their failure to worship (Joe 1:10; Mal 3:8-11; Amo 4:6-10; Pro 3:9,10). Typ famine of word (Amo 8:11; Mic 3:6).

BETHLEHEM IN JUDAH: "House of bread and praise". Same as Ephratah = place of fruit (Gen 35:18-20). A small village (Mic 5:2), but in very fertile area. The land of life and blessing. Birthplace of Benjamin (Gen 35:18-20), David, and Jesus.

WENT TO LIVE FOR A WHILE: Note Rth 1:2,4. Three steps in a gradual deterioration (cp Psa 1:1). As in Abraham's experience, leaving the land of promise was a mistake (Gen 12:10).

IN THE COUNTRY OF MOAB: "Sometimes we gaze across the great gulf that divides the ecclesia from the world and see how green the pastures of Moab are. Sometimes we look around us in what should be the house of bread and see little or no sustenance. In our moment of weakness, the temptation may be great to forsake the house of bread. But don't be fooled for a minute. Death and ruin await. The death of which I speak won't be financial, but spiritual" (KT).

MOAB: Sig "son of a father" (related to Lot's incest: Gen 19:37). Hostile to Israel (see Isa 15; 16n; Num 22:7; 25:1-3). Prohibited from Isr' congregation (Deu 23:3). Land of sin and death. With later Jews, sym spiritual sons of a "father the devil" (Joh 8:44). "Let my outcasts dwell with you" (Isa 16:4n).

Would this sojourning in Moab be possible after Jdg 3:29,30? The early part of Jdg 3:14 has been suggested.

Rth 1:2

ELIMELECH: Sig "My king is El" or strength. Israel as a theocracy. Elsewhere, men whose name includes "melech" were men of consequence.

NAOMI: Sig "pleasantness or favor", Israel as a covenant people, the wife of God (Isa 54:5; all of Song).

MAHLON AND CHILION: Sig "sickly" and "wasting". Two divisions of Israel in captivity.

EPHRATHITES: "Fruitful". Sig Israel as God's vine, but producing no fruit (Isa 5:1-4).

Rth 1:3

Irony: the family goes to Moab to be safe, but all men die! see Pro 16:33.

ELIMELECH... DIED: Sig Kingdom overturned (Eze 21:25-27).

SHE WAS LEFT: Israel in dispersion, widowhood: Isa 47:9; Lam 1:1,2. But ultimately to return in joy. Ct Isa 54:4.

Rth 1:4

A further backward step: marriage with alien: Deu 23:3; Ezr 9:2; Deu 7:1-3; Neh 13. Thus Israel absorbed foreign customs, teachings, and gods. "May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out" (Psa 109:14): the rabbis refer this curse to Rth 1:4!

ORPAH: Sig "back of neck": 2Ch 29:6; Jer 2:27; 19:15. Those who refuse Truth, or become apostate from Truth.

RUTH: Sig "tender, comely". "My dove, or my friend" in Song 1:9,15; 2:2,10. Wife of Mahlon (Rth 4:10), but perh wife first of Chilion and then of Mahlon by Levirate law (Deu 25:5-10). Sym Gentile ecclesia drawn to Naomi's (Israel's) hope. The wild olive: Rom 11:7.

ABOUT TEN YEARS: Like Lot, Gen 19:9, finally settling down in the land of the alien. (Notice: Ruth is childless for 10 years.)

Rth 1:5

A foreigner in a hostile land: 2Ki 13:23; 17:20.

Rth 1:6

THE LORD HAD COME TO THE AID OF HIS PEOPLE: Or "visited" (as in Luk 1:68). God's guiding providence in giving them the bread of life (Christ: Joh 6:33).

PREPARED TO RETURN: Lit, "returned". All three began (Rth 1:10). Orpah "turned back" (Isa 55:7).

Rth 1:7

Like the prodigal son, Naomi remembered her father's house while in a far country: Luk 15:13,17.

Rth 1:8

YOUR MOTHER'S HOUSE: Those who follow Christ must leave house of mother: Eph 5:31,32.

KINDNESS: See Rom 11:22.

Rth 1:9

REST: Menuchah: rest, safety, shelter, esp with husband (cp Rth 3:1n).

Rth 1:10

A compliment to Naomi's character. Willingness to leave comforts of home, for a new and strange land. Type of one's declaration at baptism.

Rth 1:11

The motives of every professed disciple must be tested. The depth of our conviction must be measured not just by what we grasp, but by what we are prepared to let go of.

Going back: Lot's wife had looked back (Gen 19:26). But Rebekah left her father's house, and did not look back (Gen 24:52-61). Cp teaching in Mat 10:37-39; Luk 9:57-62; 1Ki 19:19-21.

The LM provided for Levirate marriage (with kinsman of deceased husband: Deu 25:5; Gen 38:26; Mat 22:24), but they were Moabites, presenting a great difficulty (Rth 4:5,6; Deu 23:3).

Rth 1:13

Naomi's desire for future welfare of daughters-in-law.

BITTER: "Mar": sw Rth 1:20. Same construction as threat of Sodomites upon Lot, who sojourned among heathen also (Gen 19:9).

HAS GONE OUT AGAINST ME: Naomi recognizes God's hand of providence in daily affairs. Adversity is to punish an erring child: see Lam; Psa 103:13,14; Heb 12:5-11.

Rth 1:14

Kiss: peace (Isa 9:6; Eph 2:14), pardon (Luk 15:20), submission (Psa 2:12), marriage (Hos 2:9,10), friendship (1Sa 20:41), affection (Rth 1:14).

Orpah's conviction was such that she was willing to leave -- she did begin the journey! But she was not truly ready to "let go". Bethlehem was in her eye, but Moab was still in her heart! Her heart pulled her body back: to the land of false gods and false hopes, and death.

"Both of them had an affection for Naomi, and therefore set out with her upon her return to the land of Judah. But the hour of test came; Naomi most unselfishly set before each of them the trials which awaited them, and bade them if they cared for ease and comfort to return to their Moabitish friends. At first both of them declared that they would cast in their lot with the Lord's people; but upon still further consideration Orpah with much grief and a respectful kiss left her mother in law, and her people, and her God, and went back to her idolatrous friends, while Ruth with all her heart gave herself up to the God of her mother in law. It is one thing to love the ways of the Lord when all is fair, and quite another to cleave to them under all discouragements and difficulties. The kiss of outward profession is very cheap and easy, but the practical cleaving to the Lord, which must show itself in holy decision for truth and holiness, is not so small a matter" (CHS).

Rth 1:15

// Joh 6:66-68.

"Are you sure you want to go? Be sure about your commitment!"

YOUR SISTER-IN-LAW IS GOING BACK: Fulfilling the meaning of her name. The Kdom is gained only thru trial and probation.

GOING BACK TO... HER GODS: Baal-Peor, Chemosh! (Josh 24:15) -- and the prospect of a husband.

Rth 1:16

Forsaking of country, people, religion, and hope. Gentiles' acceptance of Christ involves a like separation (Act 15:14; 2Co 6:17). Turning from idols (1Th 1:9,10).

YOUR PEOPLE WILL BE MY PEOPLE: Abrahamic covenant: Gen 17:7,8. Cp Exo 3:6,7; Jer 32:37,38; Eze 11:20. By this stmt, Ruth shows she has become the dau of Abraham! Cp Rom 4:12,16,17; Gal 3:8,9; Heb 11:8.

Rth 1:17

AND THERE I WILL BE BURIED: And she could have added, 'And there I will be resurrected!'

MAY THE LORD DEAL WITH ME: Ruth meant it! She seals her vow with an oath taken on the covenant name of Yahweh! An irrevocable oath. "May the LORD deal with me" ref to the sacrifice over which an oath is taken: ie, 'May I be put to death!' See Lesson, Covenant-victim, the.

Rth 1:19

A notable event. Return of Naomi, destitute and alone, except for one Gentile companion. Sig return of Israel from suffering, accompanied only by well wishes of Gentile ecclesia.

UNTIL... BETHLEHEM: At least 50 miles, journey of 3 days. Crossing 2 rivers: Arnon (Isa 16:2) and Jordan.

STIRRED: Great excitement: cp 1Sa 4:5; 1Ki 1:45.

CAN THIS BE NAOMI?: In other words, "Is this THE Naomi?", ie the one we once knew. Such a change!

Rth 1:20

MARA: Sig "bitterness", as in Rth 1:13n; Exo 15:23.

ALMIGHTY: Shaddai, from rt to be strong, as in "to destroy" (Pro 11:3; Psa 17:9; Isa 13:6; Joe 1:15). Another rt is "shad", sig "breast", thus to nourish (ie Gen 49:25; Job 22:25). "Behold goodness and severity of God" (Rom 11:22).

"The divine name Shaddai, by which she chose to acknowledge the rebuke of God, may have been used in ironic allusion to its meaning in the promises to the fathers about a multitudinous seed (Gen 17:1,2; 28:3; 35:11; etc). But in the poetical books 'Shaddai' also means 'Destroyer'. Perhaps that is what Naomi meant.

"There is a marvellous dramatic irony about this, for, had she but known it, Naomi returned more full than when she went out. How could she realise that every word of God's glorious promises to Abraham was going to be fulfilled through this helpless but devoted stranger returning with her from Moab? At this moment she saw herself only as an undefended prisoner-at-the-bar, with the powers of the universe arrayed against her both as counsel for the prosecution and as a judge on the bench: 'The Lord testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me!' But before very long she was to marvel at the work of God on her behalf" (WJR).

Rth 1:22

Cp return from captivity: Jer 25:5; 31:21; Lam 3:40.

BARLEY HARVEST: Time of Passover. Thus remembering the first deliverance (see Jer 16:14,15).

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