Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah ° went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
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 Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.
Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.
And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.
The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.
And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons;
Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.
And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.
And Ruth said, Entreat 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:
Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.
So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?
And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?
So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.
 

Introduction to Ruth

The book of Ruth is one of the two books in the Bible featuring a particular woman, the other being the book of Esther. Oddly enough, Ruth was a Moabitess, whose people were almost perpetual enemies of Israel, the chosen people. Still more surprisingly, Ruth actually appears in the genealogical ancestry of Jesus (Matthew 1:5), having married Boaz, who was (assuming no gaps in the recorded genealogies) the great grandfather of King David (Ruth 4:21,22).

The book was written by some unknown author, and its final edited form must date from the time of David (note Ruth 4:7, as well as 4:18-22). It is possible–perhaps even probable–that the prophet Samuel, or David himself, was this final, inspired editor.

The historical setting of the book is in the times of the judges (Ruth 1:1), but whether early or late in that period is uncertain. The Jewish historian Josephus says that Ruth lived in the time of Eli, when Samuel was young, and this would correlate with the implication of Ruth 4:21,22, that she was David’s great grandmother. On the other hand, if Salmon was both the husband of Rahab and the father of Boaz (Matthew 1:5, Ruth 4:21), that would make Rahab a mother-in-law of Ruth, and this would seem to place Ruth rather early in the period of the judges. Since that period surely lasted 300 years or possibly 450 years (Acts 13:20) or even longer, it seems there must be a significant gap somewhere in this genealogy. If Josephus was right (and he was much closer to the time than we are) that gap most likely is between Salmon and Boaz. Thus Salmon begat Boaz in the ancestral sense, rather than the immediate sense.

The story of Ruth is beautiful and inspiring. Even in the turbulent time of the judges, God was providentially looking after His people, and yet was also still concerned about those individuals in other nations (even Moab) whose hearts were open to Him. It also provides a striking type of Christ in the person of Boaz, who became the “kinsman-redeemer” for Ruth (4:1-12). He brought her into the family of God’s people by paying the price for her redemption, just as the Lord Jesus purchased us with the price of His shed blood (Ephesians 1:7) in order that we might become part of the eternal family of God.

1:1 when the judges ruled. These introductory verses, as well as the closing genealogy (Ruth 4:17-22), make it clear that the book of Ruth was written after “the days when the judges ruled,” during the days of the monarchy. Possibly Samuel, or even David (who was said to be Ruth’s great grandson and thus may have heard the story from his parents) may have written it. Ruth’s husband, Boaz, was said to be the son of Rahab (Matthew 1:5), the converted harlot who had joined with the Israelites at the fall of Jericho. The story of Ruth, therefore, possibly took place during the early part of the judges’ rule. However, see discussion in the Introduction.

1:1 Bethlehem-Judah. Bethlehem means “house of bread.” The home of Elimelech and later of Ruth was also destined to be the birthplace of King David (I Samuel 16:1) and, eventually of the Messiah (Micah 5:2). It was first noted in Scripture as the place of Rachel’s death (Genesis 35:19; note also the reference to Rachel and her children in Matthew 2:16-18).

1:2 Ephrathites. Ephrata (meaning “fruitful”) was the same town as Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19; Micah 5:2). In a spiritual analogy, one could note that the Messiah’s home was both the house of bread and the field of the fruit of the vine, as the Messiah would become both “the bread of life” in His broken body and “the true vine” in his redeeming blood (John 6:48; 15:1). Bethlehem-Ephrata was thus an appropriate “place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob. Lo, we heard of it at Ephrata; we found it in the fields of the wood” (Psalm 132:5,6).

1:2 Moab. The country of Moab was the place of the Moabites, who were descendants of Lot, and such enemies of Israel that they had been banned from the “congregation of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 23:3). Yet, as a measure of God’s grace, upon repentance and faith in the true God, Ruth the Moabitess not only found a place in the congregation of the Lord, but a place in His genealogy (Matthew 1:5).

1:4 of the other Ruth. The name “Ruth” probably means “friendly.”

1:8 deal kindly. The word translated “kindly” here in regard to Ruth’s love for Naomi is rendered as “kindness” in Ruth 2:20, speaking of the Lord’s love toward Ruth (even though she was a Moabitess) and of Ruth again (Ruth 3:10) in the case of her choosing Boaz over a younger man in order to provide Naomi with a legal heir for one of her deceased sons. It is most often translated “lovingkindness” or “mercy.”

1:16 thy God my God. Naomi was such a faithful witness and godly mother-in-law that both Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, loved her dearly even after their husbands were dead. However, when Orpah had to choose, she returned to her pagan nature-gods (centered in Chemosh, “the subduer”). Ruth, evidenced true conversion to the God of creation, not only by taking God as her own Savior but by going with the people of God and entering the family of God’s people.


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