Introduction to Ruth
The Book of Ruth is historically important as giving the lineage of David through the whole period of the rule of the Judges Rut 1:1, i. e. from Salmon who fought under Joshua, to "Jesse the Bethlehemite" 1 Samuel 16:1; and as illustrating the ancestry of "Jesus Christ, the son of David," who "was born in Bethlehem of Judea" Matthew 1:1; Matthew 2:1. The care with which this narrative was preserved through so many centuries before the birth of Christ is a striking evidence of the providence of God, that "known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world." The genealogy with which the Book closes Ruth 4:18, is also an important contribution to the chronology of Scripture history. We learn from it, with great distinctness, that Salmon, one of the conquering host of Joshua, was the grandfather of Obed, who was the grandfather of king David; in other words, that four generations, or about 200 years, span the "days when the Judges ruled."
But the Book of Ruth has another interest, from the charming view it gives us of the domestic life of pious Israelites even during the most troubled times. If we only had drawn our impressions from the records of violence and crime contained in the Book of Judges, we would have been ready to conclude that all the gentler virtues had fled from the land, while the children of Israel were alternately struggling for their lives and liberties with the tribes of Canaan, or yielding themselves to the seductions of Canaanite idolatry. But the Book of Ruth, lifting up the curtain which veiled the privacy of domestic life, discloses to us most beautiful views of piety, integrity, self-sacrificing affection, chastity, gentleness and charity, growing up amidst the rude scenes of war, discord, and strife.
Ruth, from its contents, as anciently by its place in the canon, belongs to the Book of Judges, and is a kind of appendix to it. In the present Hebrew Bible it is placed among the Kethubim (Hagiographa), in the group containing the Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther; but in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate it occupies the same place as in our English Bibles, which was its ancient place in the Hebrew Bible.
The language of the Book of Ruth is generally pure Hebrew. But there are words of Aramaic form and origin , and other expressions unique to the later Hebrew. The inference would be that, the Book of Ruth was composed not before the later times of the Jewish monarchy; and this inference is somewhat strengthened by the way in which the writer speaks of the custom which prevailed in former times in Israel Ruth 4:7. Other expressions, which the book has in common with the Books of Samuel and Kings, and a certain similarity of narrative, tend to place it upon about the same level of antiquity with those Books.
The Books of the Old Testament, to the contents of which reference seems to be made in the Book of Ruth, are Judges, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Genesis, 1 and 2 Samuel, and perhaps Job. Ruth is not quoted or referred to in the New Testament, except that the generations from Hezron to David in our Lord's genealogy seem to be taken from it.
No mystical or allegorical sense can be assigned to the history; but Ruth, the Moabitess, was undoubtedly one of the first-fruits of the ingathering of Gentiles into the Church of Christ, and so an evidence of God's gracious purpose in Christ, "also to the Gentiles to grant repentance unto life;" and the important evangelical lesson is as plainly taught in her case, as in that of Cornelius, "that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of Him." The great doctrine of divine grace is also forcibly taught by the admission of Ruth, the Moabitess, among the ancestry of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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.In the days when the Judges ruled - "Judged." This note of time, like that in Ruth 4:7; Judges 18:1; Judges 17:6, indicates that this Book was written after the rule of the judges had ceased. The genealogy Ruth 4:17-22 points to the time of David as the earliest when the Book of Ruth could have been written.
A famine - Caused probably by one of the hostile invasions recorded in the Book of Judges. Most of the Jewish commentators, from the mention of Bethlehem, and the resemblance of the names Boaz and Ibzan, refer this history to the judge Ibzan Judges 12:8, but without probability.
The country of Moab - Here, and in Ruth 1:2, Ruth 1:22; Ruth 4:3, literally, "the field" or "fields." As the same word is elsewhere used of the territory of Moab, of the Amalekites, of Edom, and of the Philistines, it would seem to be a term pointedly used with reference to a foreign country, not the country of the speaker, or writer; and to have been specially applied to Moab.
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.Marriages of Israelites with women of Ammon or Moab are nowhere in the Law expressly forbidden, as were marriages with the women of Canaan Deuteronomy 7:1-3. In the days of Nehemiah the special law Deuteronomy 23:3-6 was interpreted as forbidding them, and as excluding the children of such marriages from the congregation of Israel Nehemiah 13:1-3. Probably the marriages of Mahlon and Chilion would be justified by necessity, living as they were in a foreign land. Ruth was the wife of the older brother, Mahlon Ruth 4:10.
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.Accompanying their mother-in-law to the borders of their own land would probably be an act of Oriental courtesy. Naomi with no less courtesy presses them to return. The mention of the mother's house, which the separation of the women's house or tent from that of the men facilitates, is natural in her mouth, and has more tenderness in it than father's house would have had; it does not imply the death of their fathers Ruth 2:11.
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?See marginal references and notes. The Levirate law probably existed among the Moabites, and in Israel extended beyond the brother in the strict sense, and applied to the nearest relations, since Boaz was only the kinsman of Elimelech Ruth 3:12.
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.The kiss at parting as well as at meeting is the customary friendly and respectful salutation in the East. The difference between mere kindness of manner and self-sacrificing love is most vividly depicted in the words and conduct of the two women. Ruth's determination is stedfast to cast in her lot with the people of the Lord (compare the marginal references and Matthew 15:22-28).
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, 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:
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 they said - i. e. the women of Bethlehem said. "They" in the Hebrew is feminine.
And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.See the margin. Similar allusions to the meaning of names are seen in Genesis 27:36; Jeremiah 20:3.
The Almighty - שׁדי shadday (see the Genesis 17:1 note). The name "Almighty" is almost unique to the Pentateuch and to the Book of Job. It occurs twice in the Psalms, and four times in the Prophets.
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?The Lord hath testified against me - The phrase is very commonly applied to a man who gives witness concerning (usually against) another in a court of justice Exodus 20:16; 2 Samuel 1:16; Isaiah 3:9. Naomi in the bitterness of her spirit complains that the Lord Himself turned against her, and was bringing her sins up for judgment.
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.